Those family nights with the TV set

By Rick Houser – 

I am certain that I have written before that I have cable TV and how I am amazed to have a gazillion channels to select and still continue to fail to find anything of interest to watch. I’m sure you are saying, “Man that guy sure is picky.” Well it is very possible that I am too picky, but I really believe I am not that hard to please.
I think back to my days as a boy and even as a young man and even after I was married and I can say with great certainty that I always had a particular show that I wanted to watch. As a matter of fact, I would have a group of shows I wanted to watch. To top that off, we only had three channels to select from and even when we gained another channel (19), there was still a large variety to select from. So much so that when my sister Peg was still living at home and had begun teaching, she bought a subscription to TV Guide.
The TV Guide was a must-have for every family. With this little magazine, we could read ahead and see what and maybe even who was going to be on the show that evening. This gave the viewer a little advance notice about what you would see and you could decide in advance if there might be another show on another channel that looked more interesting. Along with the listings, there would be a feature article about a TV star and a crossword puzzle that I loved doing as I was well versed on the world inside of our television set. The only catch was if Peg so desired and since it was her subscription, the crossword puzzle was hers to work unless she passed that privilege on to me. I think sometimes Peg did that just to make me happy. She was a good sister like that.
Seldom was there an evening when there wasn’t some show that we had waited for since the previous week. I know on Mondays I watched “I Love Lucy” just as the entire country did because it was the most popular show of the time. On Tuesday evening, I waited for The Red Skelton Show and hoped he would dress up as Clem Kadiddlehopper. I would laugh until tears ran down my face, a true master at his trade. I guess what I am trying to say is every night was another group of stars that would entertain you. Even in the summer we would watch the reruns and still enjoyed them.
Not all shows were comedies. There were many westerns, mysteries, and variety shows. Sunday night would open with “The Ed Sullivan Show” and if they were very famous odds were Ed would have them on his really big show. On Saturday night was “Bonanza” (the first show to appear in color) along with my Dad’s favorite show, “Perry Mason”. So we watched it over Bonanza. It was a “who-dun-it” and each episode we would all guess who we thought had committed the murder. Dad almost always made the right guess and for an hour it kept us all glued to our seats.
As the years changed, so did the names of the shows. A variety show that I think would still be huge in the ratings would be “The Carol Burnett Show.” If a person could watch a complete hour of this show and not smile or laugh at least once, that person more than likely was dead. In the world of westerns “Gunsmoke” went on for decades and Marshall Dillon always caught the bad guy and never got hit by a bullet. Also in the “who-dun-it” category was the show “The Fugitive”. This man escaped from the law and avoided being captured for quite a few years, or at least until the ratings began to drop.
I have only listed a few of the huge variety we had to select from and that was on only three channels and the stations went off the air waves from 1-6 a.m.. Today the millions of channels are on nonstop. There are a few shows on these days that are enjoyable to view but I can’t help but wonder, “Where did all those shows from days gone by go to?” Were we so starved to be entertained that we weren’t nearly as selective to what we watched? Has the television industry run out of plots and funny lines to keep us entertained? If we stayed focus on “The Millionaire” back then, I’m pretty sure we still would stay focused.
In this day and age our world is moving so much faster than the time when I grew up. If you don’t care to watch what is on TV, then go to the internet and just stroll around. These days mankind has so much at our fingertips to keep us entertained that we just don’t focus nearly as close to the TV as in days past when it was the only outlet from our working lives. Have our lives become that complicated? Possibly.
As for me I came from the time when the TV was black and white and had only three channels. The test pattern had an Indian chief with a full head dress on it. For the most part the TV wasn’t viewedmuch except during prime time and at the six and 11 o’clock news. It could well be that we as a civilization have watched it so much that we have numbed ourselves to a form of entertainment that we might be taking too serious and not just enjoying it as what it is for. It was something to take us away from our days and troubles and not meant for us to think about so much. I think we should just enjoy it. Catch an episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” and relax. What’s your hurry?

Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. If you wish he may speak to your group, He may be reached at