The 1950s boasted of television in its commercial infancy and my childhood. We both eventually grew up---though we both still have our juvenile points and have had some rocky paths to cover. My memories of live television and the early half-hour taped and live shows were from a child's and adolescent's point of view but remain strongly in my adult mind. And I often reminisce about the 'good old days', especially when I groan through a new 'classic' on broadcast TV---Law & Order excepted.
Who and what do I remember in those early days of black and white TV? For one thing, I remember always laying on my back on the floor, with a pillow under my head so I'd be comfortable watching the tube. I'd often have a pint of Hershey's ice cream or blue cheese and crackers to wile away the evening. With cable non-existent, we watched local stations via the antenna on the roof of the house. [Is the satellite receiver much different in concept?] But, being near New York City, we did have a decent selection: 2 [CBS,] 4 [NBC,] 5 [WABD Dumont,] 7 [ABC,] 9 [WOR,] 11 [PIX], and 13 [WATD from Newark.] The New York Yankees were on 11, the Brooklyn Dodgers were on 9 [the Giants were somewhere I think], and Junior Frolics [cartoons] was on 13. In our family, those were the important channels. The science fiction shows consisted of the likes of Buck Rogers, Captain Video, and Captain Midnight, and later Twilight Zone.
These evening 'repasts' were best enjoyed with the Dodger baseball game, Milton Berle, Jack Benny, Burns and Allen, Red Skelton, Jackie Gleason, 'Perry Mason', [Twilight Zone was usually seen at Jim Dineen's home] or if later in the evening, Steve Allen and Zacherly [John Zacherle.]
But, to the younger days. The Cowboys and Indians were well represented, though not through sports. The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Show “…Happy trails to you…” was new and fresh [it used Pat Brady's jeep, Nellybelle] with gunshots that never hit anybody and the stars' singing to boot. Gunsmoke with Jim Arness [Marshal Dillon,] Amanda Blake [Kitty,] and Dennis Weaver [Chester] limping his way across the action, was on for eighteen years. I didn't know at the time that Arness had acted as the 'Thing From Another Planet' a few years earlier. Broken Arrow was a show with a different point of view. Starring Michael Ansera as 'Cochise.' the show was based on the novel 'Broken Arrow' by Elliott Arnold. 'Broken Arrow' of note, is an Indian symbol for peace. Perhaps the connection among these shows was that no matter how many gunshots were heard, the heroes and stars were never hurt much. And when they received a wound, it seemed to disappear rather quickly.
To the rousing tune of the William Tell Overture, The Lone Ranger and Tonto rode into my living room every week on Silver and Scout. “Who is that masked man?” ---a weekly question to end each episode as the Lone Ranger disappeared from the scene. The Lone Ranger always had the right answer, and Tonto was his executive officer, as it were. It's just that Tonto was the one who got beat up all the time. His was often a spy's job, and he had to suffer the consequences. I think the Lone Ranger 'sprung' him from jail about a hundred times a year---without acknowledging that he was often the one who got him in the calaboose in the first place. Take a listen to Bill Cosby and you'll get an idea of how Tonto must have felt. Cosby has the straight skinny. Most of the above half-hour shows [Gunsmoke, at least, was an hour] were broadcast on Saturdays during the daylight hours. Better for kids. Though the sugary cereals advertised weren't better for the kids. I was a Rice Krispies kid. I couldn't stomach the library paste, oatmeal, though I could weather the storm with an occasional bowl of Maypo, Cream of Wheat, Wheateena, and the like.
And the old cowboy movies! Day and Night. They were regular TV fare and enjoyable to look forward to. Mostly from the thirties and forties, they featured Bob Steele, Tim Holt, Lash La Rue, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Bob Livingston, William Boyd's Hopalong Cassidy, John Wayne and Randolph Scott. How dare they call their efforts 'B Movies'? We enjoyed sidekicks like Gabby Hayes [Roy Rogers, John Wayne and Hopalong Cassidy,] Fuzzy Knight, Smiley Burnett (Gene Autry), Indian Chief Thundercloud, Iron Eyes Cody (who was really Italian,) and Jay Silverheels (Tonto.) I can still see Gabby Hayes, ragged beard and all, smiling with his “Aw, Hoppy” during a movie, usually at the required humorous ending.
Well, awe gee, golly. This is long enough. We'll meet Annie Oakley, Sky King and Paladin and the Brooklyn Dodgers in the next installment.