Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Estelle Therrien: Television Comes to Town

In 1952, TV came to town. For four years we had tried different TV people and checked various salesmen in an attempt to receive a TV signal at our farm. Nothing! There were hills on both sides of us, so the experts kept saying we would never get TV at our house. Of course, people in the surrounding hills were able to get a signal just fine. The experts would come, see the high ground all around us, and give the same verdict: No way would the signal come through. Each time my husband would suggest that they should try putting an antenna on our garage roof, and each time they said it would be of no use, the signal could not come through. After several of the experts had pointed this "fact" out, my husband finally stood his ground and said, "Try it anyway."

Watching from the kitchen window and seeing what was going on, I decided to invite them all to come in for coffee and some fresh doughnuts. I didn't have to ask them twice. Several doughnuts and cups of coffee later, they went back to work and decided to try the garage idea, and voila! It worked! It was four o'clock and one of my favorite female singers, Kate Smith, was singing "God Bless America." The workers had warned us that if we did get a signal, we'd only get New Hampshire. My husband didn't want New Hampshire, he wanted NBC, which was coming in just fine with our antenna on our garage roof! We were delighted, but looking back, it wasn't altogether a good thing: The day the TV came was the day the family circle was broken; from then on the TV had precedence.

We were only the second family in Brookfield to get TV, so it wasn't too surprising that it acted as magnet for kids and adults, too. Our kids had chores to do after school, but the neighborhood kids who didn't live on farms came over to watch afternoon TV while our kids did their chores. Our girls had chores as well as the boys, but their household chores took less time than the boys' barn and farmyard chores. With my "the quicker you get them done, the quicker you can watch" echoing in their ears, chores were done in no time and they were free to enjoy the soaps, which at that time each lasted only fifteen minutes.

Our whole family enjoyed watching Ed Sullivan on Sunday evenings and Lawrence Welk on Saturday nights. The kids got to stay up to watch these shows, but as soon as they were over, I'd say, "Kiss your father good-night and off you go to bed." We all broke up when one night as they were trooping out Little Roland went over and, putting his arms around the TV, planted a big kiss on the announcer's face.

Thursday nights, wrestling was on, and most of the folks on our road arrived, popcorn in hand, to enjoy watching it with us. It made for quite a roomful. The schoolteacher, indicating the crowd, commented, "You're getting pushed out of your house, aren't you?" Seats were at a premium but, never at a loss for ideas, my husband created a little theater. He built a sturdy wooden platform, brought it into the house, and fastened down on it . . . three back seats reclaimed from old cars. Problem solved, comfortably and at little expense.

Sometimes I miss the old shows: Hit Parade; Have Gun, Will Travel; Dodge City (Matt Dillon): I Love Lucy, and, later, when we got more channels, Across the Fence. After a few years, our TV got a little temperamental and we had to whack it once in a while to make it behave. Ten-year-old susan, responding to the flickering TV as she had seen the adults do, gave it such a good whack that the TV light shaped like a tiger that sat on top of the TV, took flight and crashed into pieces as it landed on the floor, no great loss.

Photos: From top, Paul-W/Creative Commons; John Atherton/Creative Commons.

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