Classic TV: The 40s : Your earliest TV memories?

Your earliest TV memories?

While in the First and Second Grades, I became a bit envious of a few classmates who would converse about "What did you see on TV last night?" Our family did not yet have one, although I certainly had an opportunity to see one at a neighbor's house. In fact, I had a sort of standing invitation to visit them Friday evenings after supper...and to this day I recall watching "Captain Video," "Mama," and "Man Against Crime."

But then in 1950 we did acquire our first set: the workshop had become out-of-bounds, for me, due to a delicate, ongoing project going on over a couple weekends. My oldest brother was assembling a TV (there were available a few different kits at mail-order electronics outlets, such as Allied Radio in Chicago). It was a rather basic 14" model with the old turret-style channel selector, which mechanically placed different sets of coils into the tuning circuits in order to pick up the 12 VHF possible channels. Dad built a wooden cabinet for that table model set.

Late one Friday evening I was invited to go down to the shop, in the basement...but I wasn't to go through the open door. There, on the bench, in the dimly lit shop was our first TV, although its chassis was still placed on its side, because brother was still making certain alignment adjustments. But both video and audio were obviously present on an episode of "Hands of Mystery" (a DuMont program, which went through a couple name changes during its run). Just a brief look, and then I was sent off to exciting time and tough getting to sleep that night! The experience probably helped propel me into an eventual engineering education. (My other career interest, in flying, was also sparked by TV: quite a few youngsters of that generation were influenced by the likes of "Sky King" and his Cessna UC-78 and later his Cessna 310B.)

As my interest in electronics blossomed, interest in TV went beyond the usual "watching." Putting newer, better antennas on the house roof, and knowing how to rotate them was fun and educational. The Cleveland area stations had begun in late 1947 with WEWS - 5, and there followed WNBK - 4 in late 1948 and WXEL - 9 in late 1949.

[For those interested in that area's historical details: 1) WXEL moved down to channel 8 in 1953, and in the post-DuMont age, became WJW in 1956. 2) WNBK moved to channel 3 in 1954, to avoid a growing problem of interference with Detroit's channel 4; in the Westinghouse shake-up it grabbed the call letters of station KYW in 1956; and in 1965 it became WKYC when the Westinghouse dealings were rescinded and KYW returned to Philadelphia. Most of us are familiar with the "rule" of having U.S. radio/TV station call letter assignments begin with a W or a K, depending on which side of the Mississippi River they are located...stations such as KYW and KDKA are exceptions because they were well-established long before there was such a rule. The area's UHF's didn't get started until the '60s, although Akron had WAKR - 49 as early as 1953. We left the area by the early 60's, so I didn't really keep up with its TV history after that time.]

Even as a pre-teenager I was quite a nightowl, and one of my favorite late night activities was "TV DX-ing." I would wait until all the local stations had signed-off and then start searching around for distant stations, even if the picture was just barely discernible; this worked best in winter months. The Midwest had a set of stations in various cities all which started with WLW, such as WLW-C, WLW-D, WLW-I, and WLW-T and some of those were usable with a bit of antenna rotation. Ranges out to distances of 120 miles were not uncommon and greater distances were occasionally possible, depending on atmospheric conditions and the presence of aurora phenomena. Favorites included stations which showed movies all night, and I have fond memories of picking up KDKA - 2 (Pittsburgh), WSPD - 13 (Toledo), WXYZ - 7 (Detroit), and CKLW - 9 (across Lake Erie in London, Ontario, Canada).

Anyone reading this, with knowledge of Cleveland station programming in the early 1950's: I would much enjoy becoming in contact with you...I have certain specific questions which have gone unanswered for decades!

And love to hear others' excursions into their earliest TV adventures.

Re: Your earliest TV memories?

Watching Howdy Doody at a neighbor's apartment, before we got our first TV set.

Re: Your earliest TV memories?

Hard to say, growing up in the early 1960s. In New York City, I do recall watching kiddie shows with cartoons in between, namely "The Sandy Becker Show," "The Chuck McCann Show," and on Sundays, "Wonderama" all on WNEW, Channel 5. Saturdays, I'd look at "Captain Kangaroo," but didn't care for it as much. He didn't have any cartoons in between human sketches. Later on, I turned to sit-coms, ranging from "The Beverly Hillbillies," "The Lucy Show," "Bewitched," and the list goes on. Cartoon (now called animation) viewing continued until my teen years in the early 1970s, especially Bugs Bunny. There was "The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour" that started in 1968, and later extended to 90 minutes in the 1970s. "Popeye" on WPIX, Channel 11, aired under Officer Joe Bolton on weekday afternoons. So this is the best of my recollection regarding my earliest TV memories. Kiddie shows.

Re: Your earliest TV memories?

Johnny Barend drop kicking Lord Blears.
Howdy getting so excited (over Princess?) he was dangling in mid air.

Re: Your earliest TV memories?

Bonanza and Have Gun Will Travel

Re: Your earliest TV memories?'ve seen "Hands of Mystery"? Interesting....that show is completely lost today.

Du Mont is always stimulated by Milton Berle's horizontal resolution, if not his jokes

Re: Your earliest TV memories?

Oh, those good old days when my mom wouldn't let me and my sister watch "Three's Company"! We didn't have cable, but occasionally we'd catch "You Can't Do That on Television" while on holidays or at a friend's house.

Then came the days when my parents would send us kids off to bed so they could watch "Dallas" on their own. The series went off the air just in the late eighties, Sis and I had taken over the TV on Friday nights to watch the TGIF segment on ABC (Full House, Family Matters, Perfect Strangers, and whichever TV show rounded out this Friday night prime-time fun). My mom was kinda strict, so shows like "Family Ties" and "The Golden Girls" were on her no-watch list. She approved of "The Cosby Show" and (surprisingly) "Who's the Boss".

I lost interest in TV in the early nineties, but came back to it about 10 years ago to rewatch "The Cosby Show" and to watch "All in the Family". Later, I turned to movies.

Now I love mystery TV series, like "Ellery Queen". This show was on the air when I was born. I don't think my parents ever watched it. My mom was more interested in shows like "The Mary Tyler Moore Show", "Maude", and "Rhoda" while she was carrying me. Once I was born, she had no more time for TV.

Jim Hutton: talented gorgeous hot hunk; adorable as ElleryQueen; SEXIEST ACTOR EVER

Re: Your earliest TV memories? mid 60's

I remember hiding behind the sofa because lost in space was too scary to watch alone. And i remember hiding behind the same sofa when the robot got loose on the voyage to the bottom of the sea series. For six of my first 9 years we lived over seas where there was no television. Just an occasional visit to the base theater. 1969 is when the TV became a household fixture. Tv became an addiction after suffering without it for the first 9 years or so. I also remember our first computer, we wet the tv screen and stuck plastic overlays to it. The overlays would have the pong table etc. two paddles and a dot made up the rest of it.

Re: Your earliest TV memories?

The town I lived in didn't get a television station until the early 1950s and when it did, the sign on was 4:30 in the afternoon and sign off was at midnight. I would get home from school in time to go to my grandparents' house by sign on and catch an episode of Crusader Rabbit (1949) which was the first show of the day.

Also, very early on, another kid's show, Winky-Dink and You (1953).

My parents' let my sister and I stay up past our bedtimes the evenings Dragnet (1951) was on (under its name in syndication, "Badge 714").


Trust me. I’m The Doctor.

Re: Your earliest TV memories?

Junior Frolics on Ch 13 WATV Newark with Uncle Fred Sayles narrating silent cartoons, mostly Terrytoons with Farmer Alfalfa (aka Farmer Grey). One cartoon was titled Hunting in 1950, which we were curious about because 1950 wasn't until next week. It turned out to be just another Farmer Grey cartoon. He also showed Bobby Bumps cartoons. Years later, the Walt Disney show presented a history of animated cartoons and there, right after Gertie the Dinosaur, was Bobby Bumps in about 1912. Uncle Fred's narration was essential because TV screens were so small and WATV's signal was so weak, we might not have figured out what was happening. For talking cartoons, we had to watch Big Brother Bob Emery on Ch 5 WABD. He had only three cartoons I can recall: a pudgy bespectacled middle aged dog walked around trying to catch butterflies in his net; the same dog, now a tramp, invaded a household so he could eat the pie Granny had left to cool on the windowsill; a colony of happy little elves bottled sunshine until a group of black clad sour pusses sprayed gloom everywhere from their Flit guns. Big Brother Bob showed them over and over, and we watched them over and over. Eventually, Pat Michol got hold of them for her show, the Magic Cottage, and played them until the film wore out.

Crusader Rabbit came on TV a little later on. It was a regular feature on Children's Theater with Ray Forrest on Ch 4 WNBT. He also showed a British cartoon series called Bubble & Squeak about a Cockney cabby and his talking taxi. He must have had a British connexion since I also remember seeing British mini-documentaries about nature studies. I couldn't swear to it but one might have been Stuffing a Wild Titmouse.

The dial on our TV did not click from one channel to the next. It turned like the tuning knob on a radio or the dial on a safe. On weekend mornings, before all the NY stations came on the air, you could fine tune the TV and get out of town stations. If Ch 5 wasn't on yet, we could get a New Haven, CT station Ch 6. Sometimes a Philadelphia station (Ch 8?) One morning, I got a variety show from distant Cincinnati. Unfortunately, the out of town shows were no better than the shows on the NY stations.

Re: Your earliest TV memories?

Uncle Milty (BERLE); Toast of The Town(Sullivan); Sid Caesar! But the one that won me at first: Live TV Wrestling! Lord Blears (Boo!) Handsome Johnny Berend (YAY). Why didn't the ref notice all the nasty things the bad guy was doing?

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