In a previous post, one of the things I reminisced about was television, and that’s what my mother always told me. I guess she didn’t happen to see this picture
which shows a mother and her two children watching TV in 1950. Happily, science has given the lie to this old wives’ tale.
That said, the image is from a wonderful LIFE magazine photo essay entitled “World Television Day: LIFE watches TV.” The entire essay is intriguing; the very first image shows RCA executives watching a prototype television in 1938:
Notice that the image is being reflected in a mirror, the screen being on the top of the set instead of in the front. Charles Addams drew a set like this once, and I always thought it was very strange, never having seen a television like this.
But however it looked, TV was a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. When I was around 4 or 5, I’d watch Superman religiously:
That theme music would come on, and I’d stand on my chair:
With my legs on the arms, in the same position as George Reeves (my mother had even made me a wonderful Superman costume that I would put on for the event) and along with Superman, fight for truth, justice, and the American Way.
When I wasn’t watching Superman, there were other shows: Popeye cartoons by Max Fleischer, Mighty Mouse, Gerald McBoingBoing, Tom Terrific, just to name a few. And there was Winky Dink, which featured in the LIFE essay:
Six-year-old girls use a “Winky Dink” drawing kit on their home TV screen as they watch the kids’ program, 1953. The show, which aired for four years in the 1950s, has been cited as “the first interactive TV show,” especially in light of its “magic drawing screen” — a piece of plastic that stuck to the TV screen, and on which kids (and, no doubt, some adults) would trace the action on the screen.
I had one of those. I remember using that kit to help Winky Dink save the world on more than one occasion.
As I grew older, mom was gone a lot and I recall fondly watching The Late Show (there were also the Late Late show and the Late Late Late show, which I would sometimes make myself stay up for), as well as the Million Dollar Movie, which often featured monsters and horror, as you can see in this lovely tribute:
New York television had its own home-grown kids’ shows:
Here we see Captain Allen Swift from the Popeye show (I cried when he was replaced by Captain Jack McCarthy), Officer Joe Bolton from the Three Stooges, and of course, Bozo the Clown.
Then there was Sandy Becker – the photo above also appears on the Wikipedia article, and happens to feature yours truly as a guest on the Sandy Becker Show, thanks to some judicious string-pulling by my theatrical mother. Sandy’s show was introduced with Bert Kaempfert’s “That Happy Feeling” – if it sounds strangely similar to “Swingin’ Safari,” that’s no coincidence, since Kaempfert wrote that one too.
Not to be forgotten was Claude Kirschner’s Three Ring Circus, proudly sponsored by Junket Rennet Custard (which I don’t think I ever tried), Cocoa Marsh, a competitor to Bosco (that’s Kirschner doing the voice-over), and Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy, the latter of which has made a miraculous and most welcome comeback. Like many of the TV shows of the era, a lot of it was live and impromptu, and when cartoon time came around, Claude would often not know what was being shown; I recall he’d make something up on the fly like “Clowny’s Friends.”
But one of my very favorites was, of course, Captain Kangaroo – my generation’s “Mr. Rogers.”
“Puffin’ Billy” will forever conjure up images of dear Bob Keeshan in my mind.
This is a rabbit hole I could follow forever, the memories just keep coming back in waves. Rabbit hole? Why, that makes me think of Crusader Rabbit… but I’ve got places to go and a dairy assignment to fulfill, so I’d better wrap this up or I’ll be here all day.
The Old Wolf has spoken.