Mattias, not only were the televisions sets a lot different when I was a kid, but the programming was also a lot different from what you see now. For one thing, there wasn’t nearly as much to choose from – when we first got our TV, we only had three channels. For another thing, programming wasn’t available 24 hours a day. The first news programs came on around 6:00 am, and the broadcast day ended at midnight with the playing of the National Anthem as Old Glory fluttered in the breeze. After a few minutes, the flag was replaced by a test pattern and a steady tone that went on all night.
The programs themselves were different, too. There were no ratings, but if there had been,
everything would have been rated G. There were no four-letter words or foul language of any kind, and the comedy was upbeat and slapstick rather than dark or suggestive. The most violent shows we watched were Mighty Mouse and the Road Runner where poor Wiley Coyote was always being squashed by a piano or an Acme safe. There were lots of westerns, but the most raucous fist fights never left split lips or black eyes. And when someone got shot, he clutched his chest and fell melodramatically to the ground, but there was no blood. The only couples who lived together were married, and even they had twin beds. All the children said Yes Ma’am and No Sir – even Eddie Haskell who was rather devious when the adults were not around.
Children’s programming was limited to certain times of the day. Romper Room and Captain Kangaroo came on in the morning, and Howdy Doody and Mickey Mouse Club came on after school. Later we got American Bandstand with Dick Clark. It was cool, but no one danced too close together, and the boys usually wore coats and ties. Saturday morning was devoted to cartoons and the lighter westerns like Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger. Instead of ads for action figures and other program-related paraphernalia, the commercials were for things like Tang, Nestles “Very Best” Chaaaawclate, and Ipana toothpaste.
I’m sure there were sports programs then, but I don’t remember much
except an occasional Harlem Globetrotter basketball game and wrestling. We were wrestling fans in those days, and it was very different. The wrestlers wore regular wrestling gear and were mostly clean-cut, although there were a few “bad boys” on the circuit. Our favorite was Pepper Gomez – he was one of the good guys. And then Duke Keomuka came along with his “claw” hold, and things began to change. Instead of standard wrestling moves, they started doing strange things like standing on the corner posts and jumping on their opponents, and they started wearing costumes and trash talking before the matches. We gradually lost interest in wrestling and switched to other programs like Your Hit Parade and Bonanza.
Your Hit Parade was Mom’s favorite, except for Lawrence Welk, of course. It was the 50s version of MTV, with a countdown of the top ten songs of the week performed live by a Gisele MacKenzie, Snooky Lanson and friends. It aired on Saturday night and was good, clean fun. Bonanza, on the other hand, was the end of society as we know it according to many sermons on misplaced priorities. It aired on Sunday night, and along with Wonderful World of Disney, it enticed the faithful to sit in front of the TV instead of in a pew.
I could go on, but you get the idea. The next time you can’t find anything interesting to watch on 120 channels, get your dad to pull up an old I Love Lucy episode or a Mighty Mouse cartoon on Hulu. You might be surprised just how entertaining some of the oldies can be.