50s: Howdy Doody, B/W etc.

I was three years old. I sat in a basement family room straining to see a small black and white television set. The big kids, four and even five years old, mostly blocked my view. One of them was my older brother Chip. I was there only because he let me tag along. I watched spellbound as Howdy Doody bobbed back and forth and talked to Cowboy Bob, a middle-aged man in a stylized cowboy jacket with leather tassels down the sleeves. Clarabell the clown came on and off the screen, talking.

Television was new and exciting. It wasn’t just me, at three; it was just starting for everybody back then. The one in the basement was the first one on the cul-de-sac in Park Forest, IL. Ads called it a magic box.  The parents got together to watch it. Everybody wanted one of their own; but few actually had one. 

50s: TV takes over

Throughout the fifties, as I grew up, television was mostly a family activity. Sure, we had endless cartoons on Saturday mornings if we wanted them, but we rarely did. We played outside. 

Mainstream television brought us together. In the middle fifties we’d stop playing even on sunny summer evenings in time to get home and watch Rin Tin Tin (a German shepherd), Lassie,  and Disneyland. You saw the shows right then, when they played on TV, or not at all. There was no catching them later. If you missed them when they were broadcast, you missed them forever. 

And football. Pro football. We were dedicated 49er fans. I sat with Dad and Chip watching the small TV and rooting for Y.A. Tittle, Hugh McElhenny, Joe the Jet Perry, Leo Nomellini. They played against the Rams and Norm Van Brocklin. 

Television was black and white in the fifties. Color came middle to late sixties, and it was bad for several years. I was in college when they got the first color set at home. 

And television was basically one to a family. There were no spare sets in the kitchen or the bedroom until decades later. 

Images from Wikipedia