The first time color came to the TV screen for us to see, it seemed the whole world had changed. That NBC peacock came strutting on to the screen, preening those gloriously colored feathers, and it was as though a magic wand had been waved over our world.
I asked my sister to share her memories of this moment in time, and her memory in this instance is much more vivid than mine. She is three years older than me, for one thing, and her attention to detail has always been incredible.
My dad’s uncle, Emery, who was 10 years older than dad, has always been an industrious man who knew how to stretch a dollar. He and his wonderful wife, Martha, have always planted a large garden, and used every possible item wisely.
My sister Debi said, “I remember Martha called and said they had finally received their new color set, and asked if we would like to come up and see it. I remember worrying that they were only going to let us see it, not exactly ‘watch’ a show!
“But, when we all got settled in their living room — all the kids sitting on the floor, with the grown-ups in chairs — Bonanza came on and Dad was so impressed. He was awe-struck. I remember looking at Dad’s face — it was like he really couldn’t even believe it.”
Our dad, who truly was a man of few words, said, “That is the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen!” And this was just during the opening shot of Bonanza with the rolling mountains, the Cartwrights all riding up on those beautiful horses.
“I remember Dad getting our attention on the way home to say, ‘we will all have to work extra hard so we can buy us a color set to watch Bonanza on, too,’” Debi said.
After that, “whenever we took a ride in the car to anywhere, we’d notice if a house had a “color set” turned on in their house. The fuzzy glow of the thing was even different from the black and white televisions.”
I remember the very first remote control to a television, and it seemed incredibly preposterous to me. It was at my Aunt Dee Steigerwalt’s house, and I suddenly looked at their family in a whole new light.
I figured they were rich beyond words if they could change the channel without telling the youngest kid in the family to do it. The control had a wire that was long enough to run from the TV set to a chair about 8 feet away.
One night, one of my boy cousins wanted to watch an Indians baseball game, and his sister wanted to watch Laugh-In. She would get up and change the channel, and with the remote, her brother would switch it back to baseball.
I covered my eyes, just worried sick that nothing good was going to come of this. In the heat of battle, the wires ended up getting accidentally yanked from the TV, snapped in to worthlessness. There was sudden silence.
It was my first lesson in having more fancy stuff simply meant there was more to fight over, and more to break.
My memory of seeing the first full-fledged movie ‘in living color’ as was the advertised word of that time, began with grave disappointment. We were invited to Dale and Clara Bodager’s apartment over their village hardware store, which was always a thrill. A kid could sit at the ‘picture window’ at the end of their living room — a window which seemed huge to me — and watch the traffic light change. Like having a window on the world, I felt like a country kid in the city, even if it was only our one-horse town.
The Wizard of Oz was about to start. I situated myself in a prime spot with my sisters and our Smalley cousins. When the show started, it was met with supreme disappointment. The opening scenes, in black and white, made us feel as though we had been hood-winked. I lost interest and returned to my perch at the window, watching the real world in living color.
I was back on a pillow in front of the set when the full color and zaniness of Munchkinland came singing on to the screen. It was amazing and powerful and made me feel so full of joy that I felt I might burst. I remember saying my prayers that night and thanking the good Lord for amazing Technicolor.
bviously. But the color TV was a nice diversion and served as a promise that hard work would pay off.
Dad told us the savings account for our own color set had been started, and eventually we laid claim to it. It seemed the TV antennae on the roof needed tweaked a bit more often, and the color then was nothing in comparison to today’s.
But the day that new, enormous cabinet was delivered, we really felt we were on our way to all good things.
(Next week: TV tubes and service with a smile)