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Monday, March 13, 2017

GLANCING AT TV HISTORY

Although the early days of television hurt the movie business, they didn’t ruin it like they did radio. Sure, starting in the late 1940s TV was new and exciting even if it was on a 7” to 16” black and white screen. However, not every home had one for two main reasons:  Sets were very expensive and they were hard to get.

As a kid in Cincinnati, I can remember our first TV. It was a 16” B&W “National” and it cost about $500. Those were big bucks in 1949 and there was no remote, just 3 channels, and “rabbit ears” on top of the set for an antenna. When reception got bad, a little Reynold’s Wrap around the antenna helped a bit except when an airplane passed over. Nothing could help that but it at least was just a brief interruption.

Most of the shows were local but NBC from New York had a network followed shortly after by CBS and ABC. One of the events responsible for the great interest in TV in the late 1940s was NBC’s successful broadcast of the 1947 baseball World Series. One of the popular showcases for TV was the local bar. Almost every one of them had a TV and packed in the customers who wanted to watch sporting events.
It took about six months to get a set as the demand was high. Everyone was in the business including brands you probably never heard of like Muntz, Hallicrafters, and Capehart. I mentioned above our National was $500 but if you wanted an “entertainment center” you could get a 7” TV, 78 rpm record player, and AM radio combination for about $800!

TV broadcasts in the early ‘50s usually came on about 5:00 in the afternoon and signed off at about midnight or 1:00 a.m.  Popular network shows were the Texaco Star Theater with Milton Berle (Uncle Miltie), Arthur Godfrey, and Ed Sullivan’s “Toast of the Town” which, a few years later, would cause a controversy when Elvis appeared with his swiveling hips. The camera could only show him from the waist up because of protests.

For the kids, there was Howdy Doody. Before we had a set, the kids in my neighborhood would crowd every afternoon at 5:30 into the living room of a girl up the street and watch Howdy Doody, Buffalo Bob, and the Peanut Gallery. The TV was a 14" Admiral B&W table model but it looked like a 60" color flat screen to us.

A 1956 Emerson 16" Black and White screen set
If you turned on the TV before “sign on” you would see a “test pattern” which was a bullseye looking thing usually with an Indian’s head that showed on the screen accompanied by an annoying hum.

It all sounds primitive now, but at the time it did a lot of damage to theater ticket sales. From 1948 to 1953, home ownership of TVs in the US increased from 1% to 50% and by the 1960s was 90%. Suddenly, color films were flowing out of Hollywood in response to the black and white one eyed monster in all those living rooms across America.

In 1952, a gigantic screen with three projectors and a superior
sound system made its debut in select theaters. It was called Cinerama and was followed closely by 3-D with its flimsy cardboard glasses. Other attempts by the film business to thwart TV were Cinemascope and Vista Vision.
Cinerama was discontinued in 1962 and 3-D only lasted a couple years in the 50s. Both systems plus the more standard wide screen stuff were basically stopgap methods used to try to win customers back into the theaters. Eventually, both genres found their niche and gimmicks gave way to more quality films while the movie studios started working with TV making “made for TV” films.
The dust had settled.

(Please leave comments below)

35 comments:

Rick Kepple said...

I love mysteries, Jimmy. The show, NCIS is my favorite. The Rockford Files was probably the most realistic in life.

Jen and I were discussing this local case and just how I should proceed. The female victim worked hard to get off meth and her boyfriend hired two meth cooks and she is now in a secret location. I ain't even supposed to be doing these things anymore. Blood pressure, you know. Supposed to be relaxing these days. No drama.

Nice blog, Jimmy. Very relaxing. Old TV. John Wayne made Hondo in 3-D just as it was going out.

I've been watching a lot of old documentaries and Westerns. Napping.

Rick Kepple said...

As a kid growing up on the farm, we rarely had a TV. Kids at school often spoke of new TV shows on the three channels that most folks had. The rich kids had larger outhouses and huge towering antennas. As time progressed, bathrooms came in style in the 60's!

We read a lot in the evenings when everyone else was watching black and white TV's. People paid well for a TV to slap on the side or the top to stop the rolling picture. I preferred reading mysteries and hunting/fishing magazines where I dreamed of one day living in the north woods, having retired as a writer with a dog at my feet.

Some days, we cut out fancy dinners from magazines and we pretended that we were in a fancy New York City restaurant and not a care in the world! Until someone had to throw some coal in the living room stove. Winter sleeping often meant frozen breath.

Rick Kepple said...

TV watching is about all I do anymore. The dismal numbers in the video aren't worth the trouble of making anything. No one comes by to play music anymore. I don't even play guitar anymore. I'm unsure if I'm watching the history of stone age man again, NCIS, or old Westerns. In contrast to the old days, I can watch some topic on YouTube and fall asleep then wake up to another subject entirely!

Gardening entails walking through it and realizing that those days are past. If you can't breathe, you can't work. I helped Dell Mack and that's the last I'm gonna help in the music business. I did it to prove that I could have done well in the mainstream music world, but they wanted pretty writers instead of talented ones.

Westerns it is.

Jim McAllister said...

This is Jim McAllister's latest blog. Please let me know of you have already subscribed.
John

Jim McAllister said...

Thanks for the publicity, Doc. Glad you enjoyed the blog. Great memories for guys like us.

Jim McAllister said...

Thanks Jim! Great stuff!!!! Let's do a story about Harold Gavagan! We will drink some bourbon for that one! I'll buy!

Jim McAllister said...

Thanks for the comment, Mike. Hope all is well at "the Truck."

I don't know Harold but the bourbon sounds like a good deal! Glad to do a something on him.

Rick Kepple said...

Gosh Jimmy, this is by far the best blog that you've ever written. Except for that one on azcentral. You know ... that one. The one where you wrote what a great writer that I was and how you were buying my farm and everyone thought you were moving to Missouri! You wanted to make amends for the past. But it was merely just a story.

I love TV and thankfully there are more than three channels now. Props made out of kitchen utensils gave way to Green Screen and more imagination. The evolution of entertainment became population control - party like a rock star!

I grew up poor, Jimmy. I think the most Mom and Dad paid for a tiny little black and white TV was fifty bucks. But my parents wanted me to get a good education and TV was back then, just a distraction. Now it's educational!

Mike Slater said...

Jim,

Great blog as usual. I remember the old black and white TV's with the rabbit ears. Later on my Dad installed a roof antenna which made the reception much better.

The first time I saw a color TV was in 1959. My Aunt and Uncle had one. I still remember the show that was on, Bonanza. I thought it was cool to see a show in color.

Jim McAllister said...

Rick,

"Rockford Files" was of the best ever. James Garner and cast always did a great job of combining a good story with wit and humor. Tom Selleck made a few appearances as "Lance White", a great put on role for him.

Jim McAllister said...

Mike,

Thanks, Mike. Glad you liked it.

We had a roof antenna in Cincinnati when I was growing up and every time a plane went overhead, the picture would flutter. Our old "National" set also had adjustments for about everything like brightness, contrast, vertical, horizontal, etc. but we thought we were in heaven with that 16 inch B and W set.

I never owned a color set until about 1973 when I got a 10 inch table mode with big rabbit ears. Wow! It was like being re-born watching shows in color.

Mike Slater said...

Jim,

You mentioned kid shows. Here in Arizona we had a show called "The Wallace and Ladmo Show". It was the longest-running kids show in television history. It began in April 1954 and lasted until December 1989. It was mostly slap stick comedy but both kids and parents enjoyed it. My Dad would come home from work and watch it with us.

My first TV was a 19 inch black and white in 1971. I didn't have a color TV until 1976. Color is much better.

We have a 60 inch flat screen on the wall with surround sound now. It's almost like being at the movies.

The best invention ever had to be the remote control. I love the mute button so I don't have to listen to all the annoying commercials.

Rick Kepple said...

I dozed on and off watching everything from stone age man, crop circles and Westerns on Youtube last night. I have no idea how it skipped around on its own.

Then this morning, I delivered a CD with an interview on it to the cops. Meth addicts/dealers are stupid. I got a landlord confessing that his tenant sold a pound of meth a week and he's got two meth cooks living with him now. It wouldn't even make a decent Rockford Files episode. They messed with my kin.

The Rockford Files predicts the NSA fiasco https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuQGtZNlFtE

Jim McAllister said...

Mike,

Wallace and Ladmo were huge from what I hear. Like you, many have told me stories about the show and most mentioned the famous "Ladmo Bags" that they used to hand out to the kids. I moved here in '89 so i just caught the tail end of what the show was about.

Sometimes I think of that old GE 10" color set we once had in 1971. Like you, we have the big screen; quite a difference. TV has come a long way. Not only with the picture and advances in color but with the stereo sound too.

Jim McAllister said...

Rick,

Sounds like a good episode got Jim Rockford, Beth, and Angel to handle. "Rockford was one of the best.

Jim McAllister said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rick Kepple said...

You tell SN, that I've got a perfectly good studio that she can use at no cost. Dell Mack can produce her work. We'll get her some of the finest musicians who have played with the best to back her up on the album. I helped Dell Mack at my own expense and I can help her. I don't want any money from her. I just hate it when someone says they're gonna do something and then they don't do it. I treat people with respect and I expect the same in return. What the hell am I gonna do with a garden tractor at my age? If SN has no money, I'll finance her album out of my own studio.

I come from the age of three channels, neighbors helping neighbors and faith in God. That's all we had back before computers and the Internet. You did, because you could. And it was an honor to help Dell Mack, cause my parents liked his music. I happen to like SN's tunes. Swampland boogie. Freddie Fender, Dolly Parton, Dell, many more.

Jim McAllister said...

Rick,

I haven't heard much of Stevie these days. Is she working?

Freddie Fender, Dolly and Dell are three of the best. I would love to hear them do something with Stevie.

Mike Slater said...

Jim,

When my son was in the Cub Scouts they were invited to be on the show. He didn't get the "Ladmo Bag" but had a great time.

I spend much more time listening to radio than watching TV. I rarely turn on the TV until at least 5 or 6 at night. Radio allows me to get work done around the house.

As you know College Football is my big thing in the fall. Every Saturday I'm glued to the TV all day long.

Rick Kepple said...

Stevie? I don't know. It's been a bitter pill to swallow so I don't often read about her these days. It's like it's forbidden. Jen wanted to see her in concert and nobody wants to be seen with me in public. Not even Jen. Her concerts are on YouTube.

Hey, I watched some OLD Westerns today. Amazon Prime has a ton of them! I started watching a 1953, Marshal of Cedar Rock. It's $11 a month and you can order food delivered to your door and watch old movies for no extra charge. No colorized stuff!

Jim McAllister said...

Out of Mayo for a few hours today.

How many of your readers have seen a Dumont TV lately?

Back in to Mayo for two more weeks of chemo and more tonight and 12 hours on Monday. Ugh, but I’m still alive.

Jim Johnson

Jim McAllister said...

Hi Jim,

"Dumont" brings back a lot of memories from the early 50's. They made sets and even had a network which carried some big time entertainment like Jackie Gleason.

Thanks for reviving that memory and best of luck with the treatments.

Jim McAllister said...

Mike,

There was a local show in the afternoon on WKRC-TV in Cincinnati when I was a kid called "Circle 11 Ranch Store." I was on it along with a lot of other kids in 1950 when I was in the 4th grade. Basically it was typical kid's stuff like Wallace and Ladmo but it was quite a thrill to be on live TV.

TV was really unsophisticated in those days. I remember my mom and I going down to the Channel 11 studio on the bus. We got here early and this guy who had a talk show on before the kid's show asked my mom to be on his show. It was an hour long show and all he did was shoot the shit with her the whole time. Typical of early TV; not much planning or organizing in those days!

Rick Kepple said...

Sorry to hear about Mr. Johnson in Mayo. My late friend, Joe McGinness went to the Mayo to battle his own cancer in the final months of his life. Joe and I became friends during the last fear years and he died in 2014. Nice guy. Bought that house next to Sarah Palin, if you recall.

UCLA did a 30 year study of marijuana as they were paid to find something wrong with it. Instead, their evidence proved that it prevents and in some cases cures cancer. But there can be no alcohol use and definitely no tobacco use at all! If there are lung problems, it appears that one joint a day will heal what ails you.

The TV series, Wild Bill Hickok with Andy Divine. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0K3e12MfCw

Jim McAllister said...

Thanks, Rick. Mr. Johnson appreciates your thoughts.

Jim McAllister said...

Rick, Thanks for the Wild Bill Hickok excerpt. A lot of great westerns in the 50s on TV.

Mike Slater said...

Jim,

I had my 15 minutes of fame being on TV back in the 80's. At the time I was a cable repairman and companies like COX and others were laying cable for TV and in the process were cutting our cables all the time.

I got a call one day to fix our cable in an alley. Of course it was the middle of summer and hot as hell. I had to hand dig the cable up and make a pit to fix it.

While I was repairing the cable I heard a car pull up and people get out and started asking me questions. They wanted to know who had cut our cable and I told them it was the GD cable TV company.

Turns out the local ABC gave the feed to Good Morning America in New York. I didn't know it until I went home and the wife said I was on GMA.

The higher ups at the company didn't like it and I was told never to talk to the news ever again.

The sad part was I never got to see it.

Jim McAllister said...

To all:

The great Chuck Berry has died in St. Louis at age 90.

Chuck was a rock pioneer and a great contributor to Rock'n Roll. I'll sure miss the guy but I'm happy for him that he was able to make it to 90.

"Roll over Beethoven." "Early in the mornin' I'm a given you the warnin' don't you step on my blue suede shoes!

We'll miss you, CB.

Rick Kepple said...

Years ago, I was told that Chuck Berry refused to record at the studio, because of my having been blacklisted from entertainment in 1981. Not everyone was told to shut up.

It's tough to find a good black and white Western movie that I like and there are many of them. I'm test driving, Red Sundown (1956). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CM5705QL0-c

Mackenzie's Raiders is a cool old TV show. The true story of the secret wars against the enemies of peace! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYOTr5b57Vc

Jim McAllister said...

Rick,

Check these out for great B&W westerns. Definitely some of the best.

http://www.mademan.com/mm/10-best-black-and-white-cowboy-movies.html

Jim McAllister said...

Mike,

Interesting story and funny! We common people enjoy sticking it to the big guys once in a while just so they know we are around and that it isn't all about them. You kept those guys on their toes! Good job!

Mike Slater said...

Jim,

Thanks, I thought you might enjoy it.

Rick Kepple said...

I have been watching the Senate Hearings on Russia. POTUS made false statements on Twitter, verified by FBI Comey. Legal experts said if that happened, it would end Trump, IF Congress wanted to move forward with impeachment. We're talking about a Do-Nothing Congress.

In an old Western, the sheriff would tell Trump to reach for the sky! So much simpler.

Rick Kepple said...

I watched the opening of the Trump/Russia hearings and that guy is toast. He insulted the intelligence community, the Fourth Estate, NATO and he adores Russia. And plus the FBI, NSA, CIA, etc. all hate Communists aka, The Reds! J. Edgar's ghost. I talk about SN when I'm under stress. I can't imagine what POTUS is listening to right now. It's not really his fault, Jimmy. It's easy once you know how the system works. White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WANNqr-vcx0

So in the Classified Hearings, otherwise known as the "Who The Hell Is That?" meetings. [The Video for this has been redacted] Look! A communist! Behind you!

Gary Cooper responding to allegations of Communism https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkViHgIs2WM

Rick Kepple said...

Black and white TV, shut off at Midnight like it or not, and back on for the dawn farm report. People read back then. Literature was popular. Seeking knowledge was nerdy, but considered to be a great investment for oneself! A great actor became a great President in real life and a reality star behaves like it's a movie part.

But I found evidence of what's really going on, Jimmy. A clip from Idiocracy will explain it, Jimmy. It will also confirm your suspicions and frankly, I think it's a real possibility. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-N9nVLXMhPc

Video games should be shut off at Midnight.