BABY BOOMER BABBLE
First generation couch potatoes
TV babies. That’s what they call us. The first generation to grow up with the television. No one knows if that’s good or bad, but I’m pretty sure it does have something to do with a lot of us being overweight. Outside of that, who knows. We are the first generation of couch potatoes. And proud of it.
While television had been around since 1925, it wasn’t until 1946-47 that the viewing of TV became more widespread. Network broadcasting began at that time, with each network running approximately 25-30 hours of programming each week. By 1948, the year I was born, shows on TV included “The Ed Sullivan Show,” “Candid Camera,” “Kukla, Fran, and Ollie,” “The Milton Berle Show,” and “The Amateur Hour.”
Purchasing a television in those days was a big deal. Our first TV was a RCA, with about a 17 inch screen. Black and white. I’m guessing it cost in the neighborhood of $800. I think that would have been in 1953. Since my parents rented, the TV was probably the second largest purchase they had made up to that time, a car being the first.
The first show I can remember watching was “The Howdy Doody Show.” It premiered in 1947, so it would have been running for six years by the time I started watching, or at least can first remember watching. I would have been five. One of the main characters was Clarabell, a talkless clown. Clarabell communicated with others by honking horns. He had one, high pitched, for yes, and another, lower pitched, for no. The show ran until 1960. In the last episode, I remember Clarabell speaking for the first time in 13 years. He said, “Goodbye kids.” Wow! And you think the Anna Nicole court hearings were something. That would have been September 24, 1960. The party was over. I was 12. No more Clarabell, Flub-A-Dub, Mr. Buster, or the beautiful princess, Summerfall Winterspring.
Some of the other shows I can remember watching in those early days included, “The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show,” “The Jack Benny Show,” “You Bet Your Life,” “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” “I Love Lucy,” “Lassie,” “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” “The Honeymooners,” Have Gun Will Travel,” “Leave It To Beaver,” “The Twilight Zone,” “Rawhide,” “Route 66,” and “Mr. Ed.” I’m sure these will bring back memories for many of you. There were tons more. What were some of your favorites?
One particularly fond memory I have is watching the “Friday Night Fights.” Gillette was the sponsor. The show came from Madison Square Garden. I remember the announcer was Jimmy Powers. Gillette’s theme was, Look Sharp/Be Sharp. If I’m not mistaken, a parrot was somehow involved. Because there were not many TV’s in the neighborhood, people would come to our house on Friday night to watch the fights. I can remember 20-30 people being present. The ladies would each bring a dish to pass. Although I was only seven or eight at the time, I can remember being sent to the tavern down the street to get buckets of beer. The bucket of beer was a quarter. By the time I got it home, some was usually missing. I claimed spillage, but I think my father knew better. Today he’d be put in jail for such careless and wanton criminal behavior.
Probably the most important contribution of television at its beginning was the news. Previous to TV, news got around pretty slow. With television, the news became immediate and visual. The first news programming started in 1947 with “News From Washington,” and “CBS Evening News.” The years would give us such notables as Edward R. Murrow, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, Lowell Thomas, John Cameron Swayze, Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, Hugh Downs, Charles Kuralt, Mike Wallace, Harry Reasoner, Morley Safer, Andy Rooney, and Ed Bradley. The debut of “60 Minutes” was in 1968. It remains one of the most popular television programs today.
Televisions influence over baby boomers has been a phenomena of biblical proportions. Who would have ever thunk it? It is one of the most significant, if not the single biggest marker in the baby boomer generation. For better or worse, television has, and continues, to greatly influence our lives.
Peever Media Services