Monday, February 3, 2014

Life with Fred & Lucy, Part 16: Pluck Your Magic Twanger, Froggy

               Mom with Michael and Jane with a newer model TV set   

Okay everyone, calm down! I’m not cussing, but remembering a phrase from the Smiling Ed McConnell children’s show back in the days. I’m talking about early television before there were remote controls, and when there were only three stations to watch; I’m talking 1949, or as my grandchildren call my early childhood; prehistoric times.

My first memory of television was when I was almost three years old. My father was the first person on the block to own a television. The year was 1949 and although the television cabinet was big; the screen wasn’t. As soon as the set was delivered, my father called up the whole family via land phone…but it took awhile to contact everyone; we had a party line.
For the uninitiated who were born with a cell phone clutched in their wee hands, in the old days; several people shared the same line. More about this for another day.
You had to wait until the other person (stranger located somewhere in the area) was done speaking with their party before you were able to dial out. Anyway, that night the whole Maratea clan arrived at our house to watch a show…but…there was a slight problem. The rabbit ears were not cooperating with Fred.
"*&%*#%%*" my dad would mumble as he played with the antennae while over 20 people and close to ten children waited patiently to see one of the few shows available in 1949. Finally, after having my Uncle Jack stand next to the television set with his index finger slightly touching the tip of one of the antennae, we watched our first show. But, sometimes when we couldn't get a picture, someone had to go on the roof of the house and re-direct the larger antennae.

Picture this, a room full of people sitting as close to the set as possible because the screen was only about 8x 10 inches in size, but the picture only stayed focused if Uncle Jack kept his finger on the antennae. God bless Uncle Jack. He was always a good sport. Over the years the screens got bigger and the T.V. antennae somewaht better.                                                                        

We children watched, Kudu Fran and Ollie, Smiling Ed’s Buster Brown Shoe Show with Midnight the cat, Old Grande and Froggy the gremlin. The show was later called Andy's show after Ed died. Here we have Andy Devine with Midnight the Cat. 
We also watched the old western shows like Hopalong Cassidy, the original Lone Ranger, Flash Gordon and Captain Video.
The adults had their own shows with The Toast of the Town with Ed Sullivan, Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts, Show of Shows and they even had horror shows back then with Suspense Theatre and Lights Out, both of which started on radio. I made the mistake of sneaking downstairs one night unobserved and hiding behind one of the high back chairs to watch Lights Out. It scared me to death and I became a bonafide horror fan ever since that night.
I fondly remember the weekly get together with neighbors and family spending every Saturday night at our house in South Philly. It was like a party with adults and children glued to the spot and eyes locked on the screen. Sadly, as our neighbors and family members began to purchase their own sets, the parties stopped.
Today, most children have television sets in their bedrooms and they can watch what they want while isolated from the other members in their home. But, for us old timers, we remember friends and family sharing laughter, food, drinks and companionship while glued to a little screen no larger than a sheet of paper.



  1. So that explains your love of horror shows! I had the opposite experience. When I was five, I saw the Wizard of Oz. It scared me so much, I have never watched it again, and to this day I do not watch horror movies of any kind. Some friends took me to see the Alien once. I walked out after 15 minutes, and waited for them in the lobby until the movie was over. I was in my 20s at the time.

    1. Hi Eileen, Snow white was a scary film for me, but there is one movie that I've only seen once and will never ever watch again, The Exorcist. Thank you for visiting my blog