Thursday, March 4, 2010

First TV in Town

"Come on up to my place and I'll show you my etchings." That's the invitation every girl feared way back when.

In the late 1930's the invitation might have been "Let's go over to watch Bea Mesick's front-load Bendix washing machine." That was the first washing machine with a window on the front where someone could watch unmentionables going around and round as they were laundered.

But then there was the mid to late 1940's - and I was guilty of another invitation. "If you come over to my house I'll show you my test pattern."

Up to 1947 home television sets were few and far between. Home entertainment was mostly games, reading, socializing, and listening to the radio. Radio was something you could become enveloped in; your imagination was filled with mental images of Tom Mix or Jack Armstrong as they tried to right all the wrongs of the world. I was desolate when the actor who played the Lone Ranger died in an automobile accident -- I was convinced that the Lone Ranger was dead and gone - and then I realized that someone else could play the role. Radio was a time and era when people found their imaginations being honed and mental visions became 'real'.

Early television left a lot to the imagination - for instance what was behind a tiny screen full if snow with a flickering images or a test pattern (see picture above) or people like Uncle Miltie (Milton Berle) who did a weekly variety show. If I was lucky (and I mean LUCKY) I could get one station and that was a snowy picture even with a high and complex antenna.

We had the first TV set in town - a seven-inch Teletone portable which was about the size of a medium-size suitcase. It weighed 30 or 40 pounds and cost around 150 dollars (nearly a thousand in today's dollars) and I was being paid 35 dollars a week. (everything came out of that - rent, food, taxes, entertainment, train fare home most every weekend -- AND -- the television payment).

My mother and dad inherited the TV set when I moved to a new job in a town that did not have TV reception. It was a momentous occasion when we invested in a 'fresnel' lens that boosted the picture size from 7 to 10 inches. Instead of watchingfrom 5feet away all the way up to 7 or 8 feet away which meant a larger crowd could come in and watch whatever was on (and that might be the afternoon test pattern).

Today we take television for granted. Where, with radio, everything was left to the imagination, television today leaves little to the imagination. Today we take for granted 150 or more channels
or more high definition crystal-clear channels via satellite or cable.

What a difference 60 years makes, and what an impact has been made on society by television. Love it or hate it - we can hardly live without it.

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