When I was a child and a teenager the TVs were a lot different than the ones today. For one thing it took four people to move one because they were full of vacuum tubes, and all were supposed to look like furniture, so the exterior was made of wood. My mother used to wax ours with Lemon Pledge. She would also put decorations on top, like a bowl of wax fruit – apples and a banana.
Another thing is that for years TVs were black-and-white, so when color arrived, many of the programs were still in black-and-white. Some were in color, so when a color program was going to come on, our new color TV would announce, “In Living Color.”
The picture would also roll, so there was a horizontal knob to turn that would make it stop rolling. There was also a vertical knob but that was almost never used. And when the programs stopped at about midnight there would be a picture of an Indian all night.
Then there was the problem with the reception. TVs, which were supposed to be furniture, all looked ridiculous with rabbit ears on top. Some people opted for the cost of an outdoor antenna, which were usually about 20 feet tall and which today I still see in rural areas, along with aboveground septic tanks and outdoor clotheslines.
My dad only got the rabbit ears, which weren’t all the good. Sometimes they worked fairly well…and other times they didn’t.
When the reception was bad I became the human antenna. My father, who would not move from his recliner, would make me stand by the TV and manipulate the rabbit ears until the reception was clear.
Okay, it’s fine,” he’d say. “Now let go.”
I’d let go and the reception would go all fuzzy, since by grabbing the antenna I became a bigger antenna.
“YOU MOVED THE ANTENNA!” he’d scream at me.
“No, I didn’t,” I told him, “When I grab the rabbit ears I become the antenna. When I let go the picture gets fuzzy.”
“NO YOU MOVED IT!!”
So I’d have to stand there for ten minutes, moving the rabbit ears millimeter by millimeter, letting go, moving them again, until finally the picture was clear.
On top of all this aggravation, I was also the remote control. “Go change the channel,” my father would order me.
“Why can’t you change it?”
“DON’T SMARTMOUTH ME I BROUGHT YOU INTO THIS WORLD AND I CAN TAKE YOU OUT OF IT!!”
The TVs in those days had rotary dials. So to piss off my father I would spin the dial, brrrip.
“DON’T DO THAT YOU’LL BREAK IT! TURN IT SLOW!!”
Click, click, click, click.
“IF YOU BREAK IT YOU’LL PAY FOR IT!!”
“With what? My dollar a week allowance?”
“DON’T SMARTASS ME I’LL BEAT YOU LIKE A RUG!!”
“I thought you were going to kill me. You know, you brought me into this world, blah blah blah.”
“GET OUT OF HERE GET OUT OF HERE RIGHT NOW!!!”
“I HOPE YOUR KIDS TREAT YOU THE WAY YOU TREAT ME!!”
All parents say that. It’s as common as kids wondering if they were adopted, thinking, “These people really CAN’T be my parents!”
On top of all this, there were only six channels altogether. Three national and three local, although one of them was PBS, which was boring and no one watched except when it had National Geographic specials with naked women.
It may sound like an arid wasteland to you, but it wasn't. There wasn't anything better at that time, so you can't miss what you don't have. Besides, some of those programs are now considered classics.
Still,I much prefer the TVs of today. I do miss those rabbit ears, though. I also wish I had kept ours, along with my Secret Sam Attaché Spy Briefcase.