Hello Dear Readers! Welcome to this edition of My Brain, Peanuts, Remembers.
Today’s Topic: Television
Back in the 50’s, before there was nothing good to watch on hundreds of satellite and cable TV channels, we had to make do with nothing good to watch on only three measly little channels, ABC, NBC and CBS.
Ah the Simple Days!
Watching TV in the 50’s couldn’t have been simpler. First of all, there was no remote to bother with. We never had to spend upwards of a half hour rummaging around the Naugahyde davenport cushions trying to find the remote control.
Instead, my brothers and I would spend upwards of a half hour arguing over who should change the channel because they were the closest one to the television set.
I have one vivid memory of me and my little brother, Ricky, and my older brother, Peter, plastering ourselves against the back wall of our living room, each trying to make ourselves farthest away from the TV. I can’t even imagine how many episodes of Ruff and Ready were wasted in this way.
Changing the channel in those days was pretty simple. You simply walked over to the TV and turned the dial until it would clunkily kachunk onto either 2 (ABC), 4 (CBS) or 6 (NBC). The dial had way more numbers on it than 2, 4 and 6. (It might have gone up to 11 now that I think about it.)
Obviously, TV manufacturers were the visionaries of the 1950’s. They kept their eyes focused on a day in the not too distant future when there might actually be more than snow to watch on all those other channels.
But in the 50’s, because there wasn’t that much on TV and because we were all so giddy about television viewing, we were all pretty much okay with watching snow.
My grandmother, who lived way out in the country and had no cable connection or antenna reception, claimed she got channel 13. She’d proudly turn on her TV set and turn the dial to channel 13. There would be nothing but snow on the screen. But if you listened closely enough, you could occasionally make out the sound of voices although it was impossible to figure out what they were saying.
I remember visiting my grandmother and sitting in front of her TV set watching the snow and listening to the random voices. Her TV set was pretty fancy. It was in a blond wooden cabinet that had shuttered doors. I’d sit in front of it, watching the snow and listening for voices while my grandmother would watch from her new white Naugahyde couch while she crocheted colorful afghans (the blankets not the people). My grandmother was totally on board with mid-century decor.
The Thrill of Saturday Morning Cartoons
My brothers and I would get up at the crack of dawn on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons. But if we were too early, we would turn on the TV and watch the snow because all the stations quit broadcasting at midnight and didn’t resume broadcasting until about 7 a.m. in the morning.
So every night at midnight, all three stations would broadcast a recording of The Star Spangled Banner and then sign off. Everybody was a lot more patriotic in those days.
Maybe because there was a cold war going on, and you never knew if tonight would be the night that Nikita Khrushchev would get tanked up on vodka and accidentally pass out on the atomic bomb button that was aimed directly at your hometown.
It’s little wonder that TV programmers figured it was probably a good idea to send everybody off to bed with a good dose of patriotism.
Anyway, on Saturday morning, my brothers and I would watch the snow until the thrill of the test pattern came on:
Once the test pattern came on things really got exciting. It meant we were almost to the beginning of actual television broadcasting and one minute closer to watching the cartoon adventures of Ruff and Ready!
The test pattern was accompanied by a long tone like you would hear during an emergency broadcast warning. Then an announcer would come on and explain what the colors of the test pattern were. One of the colors was magenta. Every week my brothers and I wondered what color magenta was.
Sometimes while we were waiting for the cartoons to start, my brothers would scrape the frost off the freezer box in the refrigerator and eat it like a snow cone. I never cared much for the frost on the pre-defrost-free refrigerator freezers. I always felt it had a funny aftertaste. But my brothers seemed to enjoy it.
Ah yes! TV in the 50’s. I often ask myself if there’s anything today that compares to that long-ago thrill of hearing the theme song to Ruff and Ready while eating freezer snow cones . . . and the answer, Dear Readers, is yes . . . practically everything!
Until next time . . . I love you