Baby Boomer Television

I love the Coen Brothers’ movies! They’ve been writing, directing and producing their own films for more than 30 years. They’re generally quirky while being profound at the same time. I go to them just because.


About five years ago, I went to the Coen Brother’s latest movie, “A Serious Man.” That movie is set in the Midwest in the mid-‘60’s. I was struck with the authenticity of the houses and other period-appropriate neighborhood scenes. One of those scenes involved a father, who had climbed up on his roof to adjust the family’s TV antenna, so that his family could receive a distant station’s signal.


That scene immediately took me back to my family’s back yard and the 1950’s antenna that was attached to it. Until my family could afford a rotor system, my Dad regularly climbed the antenna tower to adjust its orientation to point toward one of two areas where broadcast antenna towers were located.


Television sets were available to the relatively affluent families that lived near a large city. In fact, according to an article, Television Comes to America, 1947-57, “Of the 102,000 TV sets in the United States in early 1948, two-thirds were in the New York area, from which most of the first TV stations operated. Those living more than seventy-five miles from such urban centers as New York, Chicago, St. Louis, Boston, or Los Angeles could do little more than read about TV.”


We got our set in about 1954, a small black and white console. I think we might have received three stations, one for ABC, one for CBS and the other for NBC. Programming was limited to certain hours, and for many other hours, I remember turning on the TV set to stare at one of the test signals that were being broadcast. No matter how hard I stared, the signal never changed.

In years to come, we got to watch “Howdy Doody Time,” “Kukla, Fran and Ollie,” and “Beany and Cecil.” Next came Hopalong Cassidy, Little Rascals, Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, “Lassie,” “Rin Tin Tin,” “Sgt. Preston of the Yukon,” “Superman,” and “Sky King.”


As my grandmother used to say, “Things were swell.”

It’s Saturday … Let’s Go To A Matinee!I

Capitol Theater

In the 50’s, my hometown’s movie theater had regular Saturday afternoon matinees. These matinees were for the town’s kids, and parents were glad let their children walk to the Capitol Theater. In fact, some parents were so happy to have time alone that they frequently drove their kids there.

Most, if not all of these matinees, were westerns, starring heroes like, Roy Rogers, and Dale Evans, Gene Autrey, Hopalong Cassidy, the Cisco Kid (Duncan Renaldo) and the Lone Ranger (Clayton Moore). Each had his special horse. To be socially accurate, Dale Evans had her own special horse. Remember “Trigger,” “Topper,” “Champion,” “Buttermilk,” and “Silver?” Can you match those horses to their respective owners?

There were other sidekicks who regularly showed up in these movies. Of all these, “Tonto,” (Jay Silverheels) was probably the most famous, kemosabe! Remember “Gabby” Hayes? He drove a jeep named, “Nellybelle.” What about “Smiley” Burnette,” and “Pancho” (Leo Carillo)?

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Before the featured western, the kids learned the news, courtesy of Universal City Studios. Twice a week, the Universal Newsreel was released. Each Newsreel contained six or seven short stories, usually one to two minutes in length, covering world events, politics, sports, fashion, and whatever else might entertain the movie audience. It was the time when motion pictures defined our culture and were a primary source of visual news reporting.


One of the big highlights of the matinee always was the cartoon. Our cartoons would probably be deemed unacceptable in today’s environment, but they were certainly funny when we watched them.l_thatsallfolksne-LG

When the matinee ended, it was time to go back outside and be blinded by the sunny day.

As an aside, in 2013, Disney Movies brought out a Lone Ranger sequel. That movie had some big Hollywood talent.  It was a complete bomb and rated poorly by nearly everyone.  The reviewers obviously hadn’t been fortunate enough, like we were, to have seen the original Lone Ranger movies.  I will admit, the movie has its boring moments, but when this new Lone Ranger saves the day, just like he used to in the good old days, while the William Tell Overture played loudly, I was laughing so hard that I had tears in my eyes.  It’s a must see, in my opinion!!!!!