Life Before the Remote……Linda Knight Seccaspina
The first TV program I remember watching as a child was the Mantovani Show, and not only was it boring, but it was in black and white. Because we lived 14 miles from the Vermont border in Quebec we were lucky to be able to receive some American television, and not just the staple Canadian three.
Cartoon Corner and Howdy Doody were favourites of mine back in the day on CBC. I also remembered having to unplug the TV when a thunderstorm occurred as my Mother said it was “going to blow the house up if one of those bolts wrapped around the venetian blinds”. Of course, I still think of that when it’s storming outside sitting in my lazy boy chair that’s pointed at the television along with every other piece in the room, and still with decorative venetian blinds.
Every night at 5 in 1961 I would watch the CBC TV show Razzle Dazzle hosted by Suzanne Somer’s husband, Alan Hamel. I had entered a writing contest and was eagerly waiting to hear if I won a pen with my “meatless meat pie” essay. A few weeks later I found out that I had indeed won a Razzle Dazzle pen for my story along with a photo of Howard the Turtle.
One day in the 60’s my father went to Keith Lachasseur’s Appliance store on the Main Street in Cowansville and came home with a colour TV. I didn’t really care one way or the other as I was actually used to the rainbow hues of “the plastic sheet” on the front of the television. It ‘simulated’ full colour along with rabbit ears covered in tinfoil to stimulate even better viewing. Of course it was sold as a cheap alternative to buying an expensive colour TV and its promise had sucked my father in. I think he immediately knew he had the wool pulled over his eyes, but never knowingly admitting a mistake, he insisted that it was ‘just as good’ as the real thing.
In our family he was the only person allowed to touch the new TV and he was always up on the roof adjusting the antenna to get the best
picture. After seeing everything in black and white while we simultaneously hunted dinosaurs in those days my world had now progressed to technicolor with a new neighbour coming in every night to see ‘the TV.’ Some of the highlights were: ‘Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Colour’ when Tinkerbell would splash colour on the screen and of course the burning map on the TV show Bonanza was priceless.
One night my father went out to a Lodge meeting and my friend Sheila came over to watch The Man from U.N.C.L.E. David McCallum, who played “Ilelya Kuryakin” on the show, had been dubbed the “British James Dean” and was the only reason I watched that show. The fact that I had always seen him cast as a delinquent was a bonus for me since there is nothing like a bad boy. Sheila and I sat down and got ready to watch. The NBC Peacock came on and it remained in black and white. Where was the colour?.
Was my father really not at the Lodge meeting and adjusting the roof antenna so I could not enjoy the show? The Man from U.N.C.L.E began and I started fidgeting around with the buttons. Instead of black and white the show suddenly turned red and then blue and I wondered if the rainbow plastic sheet had found its way inside the TV. Was I doomed? After fidgeting some more the picture started skipping and I had to play around with the “horizontal hold” button. I think all of you remember that particular button with joy and happiness.
Illya still stared at me in glorious black and white, and I stopped playing with the buttons. Fifteen minutes before the show ended my father came in and tweaked his magic and it turned from black and white to colour.
Once you had colour TV you never went back to black and white- you just went to “upgrade”. Some of my friends in the late 60’s used LSD instead, and their whole lives became Technicolor — without television. My family just continued to ‘upgrade’ and in lieu of Don Messer’s Jubilee we watched Tommy Hunter on Friday nights. Who knew a
Hoedown, Tommy Hunter and Brenda Lee could all exist in colour together?
McLuhan once said,“The medium is in the message”– or was that ‘the massage’. But now we are confronted with all sorts of media so pardon me while I check my Facebook Twitter and Instagram and watch a season of something on Netflix real quick. Just remember if someone had not invented the TV we’d still be eating frozen radio dinners.
Sock it to me!