television remotes

My blogger friend  Dan A. over at No Facilities  wrote a  post that brought up memories of TV times before  remote controls . It got me thinking of a few things . So , here goes .Irene and Vernon castle


My family had a TV with a black metal exterior . I think it was our first set . That was in the days when , if something went wrong with the TV , and things sometimes did , it was probably a burnt-out tube . Remember TV tubes ?  Someone would call the TV repair man . He’d come out to the house , probably later that day . He’d be wearing a TV repairman’s uniform.  He’d  get right to work futzing  around behind the TV set as all of us kids watched  . He’d take the back off of the set and put his hands inside . He knew what he was doing ; that was for sure .   After taking its pulse and listening to its heart and lungs , or whatever he did , he’d inevitably tell my mom :    ” It needs a new tube . ”

If he said ”  picture tube ” , then  that was big trouble , as I remember .   Mom would have to wait for Dad’s decision on that one . New picture tubes ! That might have been comparable to  :  ” Do you want him to get the transplant  or not , lady ?  It’s your set . It’ll be expensive , sure . But right now , even though it’s still alive ,  it’s useless without a picture . What do you want to do , lady ? ” My dad was at work . Mom would have to consult with Dad . Time for a new set ?

Things weren’t tossed out in those days . The TV set would be repaired . It would last another ten years , at least . Maybe twenty . It would be , eventually , banned to the back room from the earlier living room location . My parents enlarged the house in the late 1950s . The back room had been a bedroom for me and my two brothers . It went from being  ” the boys’ room ” to being , from then  until eternity , ” the TV room”.teens and car 1950s

I remember sitting in an old wooden wagon on a vacant lot in the neighborhood with a couple of buddies of mine when I was about 10 . It might have been raining and my mom might have made sandwiches for us to nibble on as we sat there and talked . The wagon was some kind of a wooden box on wheels used by a construction  company . We had discovered it one day after school and decided that it would make a great place to sit . Kids ! We sat there that day  and talked important stuff , I remember , like TV shows . There were some new comedies beginning that season which we were discussing : Mr. Ed , Beverly Hillbillies , and …………. , and ……………….   Well , I don’t remember the third one . It was a long time ago , after all . Maybe there wasn’t a third one . It may come to me later .

An obstacle in those days for kids , as I recall , was that the show you really wanted to see came on just at your bedtime . I loved Leave It To Beaver ,  but it started at 8:00 p.m. , and , yeah , my bedtime was 8:00 .  What to do !   I think I cried and whined a lot . Sometimes that worked , but not often .  Sometimes my mom would try a bit of negotiation involving , usually , homework .   Didn’t matter the year or how old I was at the time  .  Every great show began just beyond my bedtime , as if the networks had it in for me and most of the kids I knew . Of course there was that one kid in town who didn’t have a bedtime , and who got to watch any show he wanted . At least that’s what he told the rest of us . That kid was always thrown in as part of the negotiation with Mom , as a  counterweight  to her homework  suggestions .

I was never the remote , as I remember .  I Was The Remote at No Facilities      tells of the kid changing channels for his dad .  I don’t remember ever doing that . My dad watched  THE NEWS . When he watched THE NEWS we were all banned from the area . I think the ban was as much self-imposed as imposed by Dad . We were a noisy , quarrelsome , annoying bunch , I think . He wanted to hear his news . Can’t blame him for that .

You know , I just realized that  McHale’s Navy  was the third new show that season . Actually , though , Mr. Ed , about the talking horse , had already ” been on ” for a few years .  So , let’s rearrange : Two new shows being discussed in that wooden wagon : McHale’s Navy  and Beverly Hillbillies .  I’m sticking to my story that they came on just at , or past , my bedtime , though .July 4   parade

Dad  liked  to watch  McHale’s Navy though , too . He was a Navy veteran and had been in the Pacific during the war , where the silly TV sitcom was set . The show made fun of clueless Navy brass and I guess Dad could relate to that . He had been a Lt. Commander  , but he spoke disparagingly of ” the military mind ” , meaning those at the top , admirals and rear admirals , generals , and such . He had been  in the Navy for eleven years , during WWII and later , so I’m sure that he knew of which he spoke . At any rate ,  Lt. Commander McHale’s shenanigans made him laugh .

One more memory from the inside of that wooden wagon that day : One of my pals in there , Larry Bye , told us his middle name . He had a middle name that embarrassed him to no end . He had always kept it a secret . But , that day in the rain , he revealed the secret .  I’d like to tell you what it was , see what you think about it , but we each swore an oath never ever to reveal the name . Sorry .

I’ll sign off now . Maybe I can use the Indian head sign-off test-pattern signal that was used in the old days when programming for the day ended :INDIAN signal

You won’t hear the crackle . Too bad .

Maybe I should emphasize : programming for the day ended . About 11:00 p.m. or midnight all the programming quit and this Indian showed up , with a crackling background noise of static .  TV was  done for the night . Done .

As old man Wexler used to say over the school P.A. system  at the end of the day  : That’s 30 for now .



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4 responses to “television remotes

  1. Thanks. Lovely nostalgic memoir! Also love the word ‘futzing’. Looking forward to reading lots more here. Regards Thom.

  2. I loved McHale’s Navy! I’ve always wondered if Tim Conway was as hard to control on that set as he was on The Carol Burnett Show. I remember the text pattern but I still don’t remember the Indian Head. I’m going to shoot this to my brother to see if we had that pattern. Speaking of tubes, and picture tubes, do you remember “the dot” when you turned the set off?

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