Theme Thursday: Television

Ah but she was a beauty. With a light gray case, she sat upon a wobbly stand, gold tone painted spindly legs that ended in little plastic wheels. The early definition of “portable.”

The dial to change the channels was made of actual metal. It had saw tooth ridges on it. All the better for gripping and turning, I suppose.

The on-off button was also the volume knob. Tug that knob, and give ‘er a few minutes while the tube warmed up.

Soon a clear bright black and white picture emerged from a small dot in the middle of the screen. All three channels plus PBS!

“Karen! Change the channel!” Click, click, click. Turning the channel knob was a tactile experience.

That black and white Zenith was a purchase from the early years of my parent’s marriage. We’re talking 1950’s here. As a child in the seventies, it became a fixture in our living room.

One of my very, very early memories is from being toddler age. I would stand right in front of that television and grip its gray plastic bezel for balance. I didn’t grip too hard, because it would slide off, but just tight enough to keep gravity from winning.

I remember Walter Cronkite. He was giving a news update and showed a fairly clear film clip of soldiers carrying guns. This wasn’t a movie, it was the news.

I didn’t know what it was then, but it seemed bad. Walter’s face was serious. I stared at those men with guns rather intently. This image is still fresh in my memory. It took until adulthood to think back on it, on the timeframe that this must have occurred, to realize it was a news update on the war in Vietnam. I would have been three or so.

That Zenith with the stylized logo, the Z like a lightening flash, electricity zooming through the letters bring pictures to my screen, was where I stood too close to the screen and watched Dick Knipfing present the news of Albuquerque and New Mexico.

It was where I watched Sesame Street and soap operas and the Not Ready For Primetime Players on the first seasons of Saturday Night Live.

In the early 1980’s, my mom made a bold decision. It was time to invest in a color TV. This was long after most of our friends and neighbors had long since brought color screens into their lives.

Mom shopped and compared and finally she and Dad decided on a model from Sears. It had this fancy way of changing channels, you simply touched this little metal nub by the number of the channel you wanted! No turning a knob, simply a quick touch.

It was splendiferous!

And with the incoming color TV, the old Zenith black and white had to find a new home. So we carted it to our “Lake House,” really a single-wide trailer on a permanent concrete pad on a patch of land in Logan, New Mexico.

Logan is on the east side of the state, so the antenna on top of that trailer picked up the stations out of Amarillo. The Zenith black and white now reported ranch stock futures and the market price for pork and sides of beef. It entertained us after a day out swimming in the lake.

In fact, when my folks sold the place in Logan, that Zenith TV went with it. It still worked, by the way, though it took a heck of a long time for that tube to warm up.

They sure don’t make ’em like they used to.

Today’s Theme Thursday is: Television

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  • Ur Bro

    20 July 1969, we all gathered round that same TV in the den of our little house in Las Vegas Nevada and watched Neil take one giant step for mankind as he took a stroll on the moon. But of course you would not remember that… That is a pretty profound memory for me…

  • Meryl

    I don’t remember out TV’s although we watched as a family. What I do remember is going to sleep but hearing my dad watch Perry Mason as the theme song played…

  • Olivia

    Your post reminded me of the first television my parents had bought! I was a Weston make.. everything remains same excepting that the 2nd channel was launched very late.. the rest of the channels came into being only after cable took over..

    You have missed not even a single “feature” of that one. Ours was a stylish sliding cabinet door on 4 legs. The golden detailing remained as it is till my uncle sold it off! Mom had declared emergency.. :(

    Anyway life moves on..
    Wonderful write Karen!

    Many Hugs xox

  • Ur Bro

    BTW it is tubes plural. This sort of TV had a number of vacuum tubes (kinda like light bulbs) that had to warm up. The CRT actually did not take much to get going, it was the rest that took a while.

    Dad I would take all the tubes out of the TV and go down to Radio Shack every couple years or so. We would stick the tubes into a tube tester and then replace the ones that were not up to snuff.

    As a side note, electric guitar players, myself included, tend to prefer the tone of vacuum tube amps. So even today I find my self replacing vacuum tubes occasionally.

  • Beth

    I liked how those old TVs turned off: the picture would shrink until it was a tiny pinhole of light and then that would disappear. It seemed more dramatic than today’s “instant off” TVs (although color is definitely better than black and white!).

  • Shanae Branham

    Great tribute to the old TV’s.

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