Originally published Wednesday, May 2, 2018 at 05:58a.m.
One day in 1949 or 1950, I discovered a strange piece of furniture in our living room in Indianapolis, Indiana, where we lived at the time. Even though I was only around 3 or 4, I remember that it was a special occasion when a new décor piece of any description was introduced into the house.
The fact that this newfangled thing called a television suddenly appeared in our midst without fanfare was unusual. This television was probably a Zenith or Motorola and was a console that sat on the floor and contained a circular screen probably 12 inches in diameter.
These early memories came to mind the other day as my wife and I were naming TV programs we watched as children. Attempting to look up the old programs on the internet reminded me that each city had its own list of local shows for the younger set. I don’t remember seeing them, but Indianapolis has such sterling productions as Cowboy Bob’s Corral, Captain Hook’s Pirate Adventures, and The Harlow Hickenlooper Show. Can’t say I’m sorry I missed them.
We remembered early shows such as The Cisco Kid, Sky King and The Lone Ranger. In later years, I discovered that Duncan Renaldo who played The Cisco Kid didn’t come from south of the border but was actually Romanian by birth. I was unfortunate enough to watch an episode of Sky King recently only to conclude that it was a pretty lousy plot line with pretty lousy acting.
But what did I know as a youngster? Between 1951 and 1959 when the show aired, I wanted action, period! And yet, even during those years, I didn’t believe that anyone could survive in the Old West behind a silly little black mask. Somehow Clayton Moore did it as The Lone Ranger from 1949 until 1957. To my analytical mind at the time, Zorro could do the mask thing – The Lone Ranger was another issue.
Tom and Jerry cartoon shows were a big hit in the Williams household on Saturday mornings. In fact, Saturday mornings featured some of the finest drama and comedy in Western culture as far as I was concerned in the early 1950s. Roy Rogers and his sidekick, Pat Brady, demanded my weekly attention, and Howdy Doody was on the must-see viewing schedule, too. I never truly felt that Roy was in danger despite all the flying lead and the varmints he had to deal with. He never got dirt on his clothing or on his face – and I never saw him sweat – so how real could that show have been?
I watched Howdy Doody, but I just couldn’t accept that Buffalo Bob maintained an authentic friendship with a character like Howdy Doody who seemed just a little stiff and could only move his lips up and down. This show offered plenty of diversions with appearances by Phineas T. Bluster, Princess SummerFallWinterSpring and Clara bell the Clown. I just found out that Bob Keyshan, who later became Captain Kangaroo, was the first Clara bell the Clown! Who knew?
My wife and I have relived several 1950s programs. We’ve rented episodes of Clint Walker as Cheyenne Body. The only thing we could be sure of was the Body would take his shirt off at some point in the show. We also followed Richard Boone in his portrayal of Paladin in Have Gun Will Travel. Gunsmoke aired 432 episodes from 1955 to 1975 and I watched my hero, Matt Dillon, conquer the bad guys in at least 400 of them.
The TV in the living room has come a long way since the 1950s, but I’m not sure the programming has.
To comment on this column, email email@example.com.