Archives for the month of: March, 2014

As the children born in the 1940s embrace binge watching television and being able to watch what we want when we want, it’s funny to look back.  How old am I, for gosh sakes!

I remember our first television set, but not exactly how it looked.  Probably something like this back in the late 1940s-1950s.

images-1In my feeble recollection, we had it on a stand and we all gathered around it.  The test pattern was on until late afternoon.

UnknownThe news was important, because you only saw it once or twice a day and the people who read it were serious about it.  Weather reports and sports weren’t added until later.  Entertainment news?  You got that from the movie magazines or the newsreels at the movies.  We laughed at I Love Lucy and Sid Caesar.   So many funny shows.

Television for children developed on Saturday mornings with Buffalo Bob and Howdy Doody and the cast of characters.  We sat around in our pajamas, delighting in this new media.  Black and white, of course.  Or gray, as one of my grandkids called the first B&W show he saw.  One show that was really unique was Winky Dink and You, an interactive show for kids.  We had a Winky Dink kit, which included a plastic sheet that stuck to the television screen and special crayons.  The host drew things on his screen and we completed them to help Winky Dink in his adventures or just to draw.  It was fun and the only show like that I ever heard of.

Television was a big hit.  My grandmothers both loved Saturday night wrestling, yelling at Gorgeous George and the bad guys.  I mostly delighted in watching both of them, because I never saw them like that at any other time.  They laughed at the acts on Ed Sullivan and Red Skelton, but I never saw that same reaction.  Even my granddad didn’t react like they did.  My parents rolled their eyes.  Sports hadn’t hit tv in a big way yet.  Here’s George…scary, hunh?  He transformed my otherwise sweet grandmothers.

UnknownWe got more sets.  Our first portable ones looked like this, complete with rabbit ears that we constantly adjusted and sometimes wrapped with foil for better reception…or any reception.

Unknown-1Did I mention that we had to get up and go to the television and manually change the channels?  Hard to imagine kids today understanding that you had to do that to turn the TV on and off.  Or correct the color or get the lines off the screen.

After I’d been married a few years, we were the proud owners of a cabinet model television.  We were big time adults now!

imagesBut, we still had to get up and walk across the room.  Then came cable television.  Wow!  A new revolution.  Over twenty channels and a cable box to change them.  Still had to walk over and turn it on and off, but we could change channels from wherever the cord on the cable box would reach.  And the kids fought over the cable box, except when Daddy was home.

images-2Anyone reading this probably knows all that has happened since then.  Remote controls, hundreds of stations, and now streaming shows on our personal devices.  It’s a whole new world.  The speed of technology never stops and the obsolescence of what we have today is probably just a couple of years away.  I’m happy to see what it is, but it’s nice to look back to the days when we had time to enjoy each new phase and lock it into our memories before the next one rushed at us.

There was great television then and there is great television today.  There’s just a whole lot more to enjoy now than I have hours in the day or years in my life.  A surplus of choice.

My daughter-in-law and granddaughter have started having a Friday night movie tradition, where they watch movies and sleep in the living room.  It’s not exactly an all-nighter with a four year old, but it’s something they look forward to.  It all takes me back to the late 1970s when we got our first VCR and changed our movie watching forever.

Our first machine was kind of clunky, expensive, and just an inkling of new technology to come.  We could record shows and watch them later or record movies we loved to watch over and over.  It was before they even sold the commercial VHS tapes.  HBO was our best source and the first movies we recorded were two of our favorites, “Star Wars” and “Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas.”  I still have those original tapes even though we have the movies on commercial DVD or VHS.

When my son was probably 8 or 9, he and his father started their own Friday night ritual.  We would get a pizza and they would settle in to watch “The Beastmaster.”  If you’ve missed this treasure, it featured Marc Singer in all his naked muscles in a loincloth and his animal friends, an eagle, a black tiger, and two ferrets, battling some bird-man creatures, along with a half naked girl and some other people.  What I remember is the funny scenes with the ferrets and the animals to the rescue and the bird-men raising their wing-arms to attack.  Whatever.  Mostly I remember how much fun my guys had watching.  They knew every line and waited for their favorite parts.  My husband, all 6’4″ of him, would rise up in imitation of the bird-men, which delighted my son.  They never seemed to tire of this craziness.  I have no idea how long this went on, but my son possessed a poster from the movie when he got older.  It was obviously a good memory for him.

beastmaster_poster_01“Top Gun” was also a favorite which we could all share on our own levels as our girls grew into teenagers.  Emmet Otter was a holiday tradition, so much so that our daughters watched it with their prospective husbands.  Fortunately, they all passed the test and at least acknowledged that it was going to be a part of their life from then on.  There was a run of teen classics, “Sixteen Candles” being one that my youngest daughter could recite verbatim.

We didn’t stop going to the movies, but movies at home were definitely changed.  Today there are so many ways to share your favorites and have your own movie nights with family or friends.  It’s a case where the industry had to adapt to the public’s adoption of all the new technologies.

As for me, I love it all.  But, mostly, I remember those Friday nights with my family, watching them enjoy their favorites.  “The Beastmaster” makes me smile every time.

It’s almost Spring officially and I’d put off raking the leaves covering my flower beds as long as I could, so I enlisted the help of my 4 year old granddaughter and went at it.  She learned to use the leaf blower, which was fun for her but she didn’t have much of a plan for blowing other than the laugh out loud joy of making the leaves fly.  She was better at raking until she said she was sweaty…


While I made a big pile, all the time thinking I probably should have done this last fall even though I hauled bags of leaves out then, she decided to make a nest, feathering it with plumes from an ornamental grass and sticks.  This was quite the project and she absolutely did have a vision for this.


While I raked, she nested, finally taking a fake nap for my benefit.


It’s ok that I didn’t get these raked last fall.  We uncovered tulips about to bloom and made room for the other spring plants to reach out to the sun now that the temperatures are getting above freezing.  In the fall, she jumps in the piles.  In the spring, she makes a nest.  I wonder if that’s some primal instinct.

I was thinking about raking leaves when I was her age.  We had a big brick incinerator in our back yard where we burned them.  You can’t burn leaves in the city now, but the smell of those burning leaves stays with me.   I do miss that smell, a smell of my childhood.

We stirred up a lot with our leaf play.  A lot of dust and smells, a lot of imagination, and a lot of memories.

My oldest grandchild turns 17 today.  Already?  It was just the other day that I was 17, wasn’t it?  About 51 years ago to tell the truth.  It doesn’t seem that long. . . except for everything that has happened since then.

Part of me is still 17 as I remember it.  I was well into my senior year in high school on my 17th birthday.  I still had braces on my teeth.  I had fallen in love with the boy who would be the older boy I married a few years later.  I was trying to figure out college and keep my grades up and was active in school activities and I played a lot.  At 17, we were the leaders of the school, the promise of the future.  Until we got to college and had to start over again.

When I was 17,  I worked a little, mainly tutoring, but most of my friends didn’t have jobs.  We studied and played.  We were the lucky ones.  We never knew what really went on in some of our classmates’  homes until many years later.  It was a time when people kept family secrets, when horrible things weren’t mentioned.  Life wasn’t as innocent as we were led to believe.

Seventeen was the end of my sheltered years, when I left home for the first time for college.  It was the end of the innocence for our country when our President was assassinated and we watched it all on television, over and over, although it wasn’t the 24 hr news cycle we have today.

When I was 17, we still used rotary dial phones and had to call the operator to make a long distance call.  We wrote letters to tell our grandmothers what was going on in our lives because long distance calls were special.  No direct dial long distance yet.  Technology was having a long cord on your phone so you could take it into a closet for privacy.  We walked a lot because not everyone had a car.  We went to the library for information because there were no computers.

Seventeen was a year of introspection for me.  I read a lot, a lot of heavy thoughts.  I was in the throes of being a new intellectual.  Mixed with being a fun-loving teenager.  How does that work – being an intellectual teenager?  Really?  And, I’m sure my parents didn’t understand me at all, because what parents ever do?

Mostly, seventeen was fun.  When I watch the movie “American Graffiti,” I see my senior year.  Move the scene from Los Angeles to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and you have my high school years, accurate to the dress, the music, the dances, the kids.   All the fun and angst and watching the world from a new perspective as you move from adolescence into pre-adulthood.  Some friends were getting there faster, getting married, getting jobs, having babies.  It was a time of change.

I’m lucky to have had a life that I can remember with such affection.  Very lucky.  I can see that now, looking back all those years.

My advice for my grandkids as they turn 17 is simple.  Enjoy, take it all in.  Learn from what you see and take it all with you on this exciting journey of life.

When I was 17. . . it was a very good year.

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