The black and white TV | Mark’s Remarks


The recent hot weather forced us to stay inside much of the afternoon and find things to do. At one point, we watched an old black and white television show, which prompted a lengthy discussion about black and white versus color.

I’m wondering if I’m at the point where my diatribes are boring to most of my kids. The 8-year-old still seems moderately fascinated by my tales, no matter how mundane or boring.  The other kids, and Michelle, often say “You told me this before.”

When I was very young, many of the shows I watched were in black and white, but color TV had been around a few years before I was born. My  parents had a late 1960s color television that had a round screen. When you turned it on, you had to wait for it to warm up and it came on rather slowly.

We had that TV until the 1980s, when it was replaced by a square screened version with a fancy on/off switch.  

When I was in second grade, we were jealous of any kid who bragged about having a TV in their room.  Most of us were in the same boat, and while none of us were considered poor kids, we still didn’t have a lot of the luxuries kids have now. We got by with fewer choices. And we were happy.

My dad was always rather impetuous when it came to money. He is one of those guys who was always an impulse buyer. I haven’t checked in on his spending habits lately, but I’m thinking he’s mellowed bit in that department. 

Occasionally, though, dad would make a good buy and it was even better if mom agreed with his purchase.

There was an estate sale down the road from my grandparents’ house and I stayed at grandma’s while dad, mom and grandpa went up to the sale. I will never forget being out in the yard at grandma’s when my grandpa’s truck came down the road with grandpa and mom in the front seat.  Dad was standing in the bed of the truck, steadying a console television set.

I soon found out this TV set was to be mine and would be placed in the tiny bedroom I shared with my brother. We had bunk beds, and mom had already figured out a way to change the floor plan of our little room to find a place for this new purchase.

Now, this television was most likely a steal, purchased at an estate sale/auction for a bit of money.  It was an old-fashioned console, plus it was black and white. It was in great condition though, and I couldn’t wait to brag and strut around when I got to school. I was the envy of my pals for about a week.  Some of the neighborhood kids even came over and watched TV in my room one hot afternoon. 

A luxury, I tell you.

I remember spending quite a few hot summer afternoons in my room, watching cartoons or other shows on my new old television. We played outside more than we watched TV, but it was always fun to cool off or relax in my own room watching stuff from the three networks, PBS, or… well, that was it.

I must mention here that we DID also get KPLR Channel 11 out of St. Louis. Now, we were a good two hours from St. Louis, and the reception was a bit fuzzy. My grandpa used to come into town from the farm and watch the Cardinals on warm summer nights. A good memory. 

KPLR was a great “go to” in those days. Back then, they showed cartoons and kid shows in the morning, followed by sitcom reruns and old movies in the afternoons. On weekends, they showed all types of cinema flicks from the past and I think that’s where I started liking old movies.  

All thanks to KPLR.

Some of you reading this will remember: Abbott and Costello, Charlie Chaplin, John Wayne, Ma and Pa Kettle, Charlie Chan, Shirley Temple and many more. The sitcoms we watched varied, but I remember “Love, American Style” and “I  Love Lucy” as being a couple  of favorites.  They showed “The Gong Show” later and at night, “The Benny Hill Show” and “Prisoner: Cell Block H.” You could watch KPLR all day if you wanted.

Even though my kids have put up with stories of the past and growing up with vintage TV shows, they can’t fully grasp what we experienced.

I wonder what life would be like if we still had only three networks, PBS and KPLR?

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