Television set

What is a television? A miracle for a child of the 1950s

Clarabell the Clown (from left), Howdy Doody and Buffalo Bob Smith are seen in one of the most popular children’s shows of all time (and Janet Gilmore’s favorite) when the TV shows could only be transmitted in black and white on very small screens.[/caption]

by Janet Gilmore

“A lot of people had told us that the television was sort of a new toy and that interest in it would fade once the child had a chance to see all kinds of things and somehow settled down. . – Dr Eleanor Maccoby, Department of Labor Relations, Harvard University, 1955

My mom answered the phone and had one of those wordless adult conversations.

“Uh-huh … alright … yeah … uh-huh … alright, bye. “

“Ellie wants you to go to her place. You can go, Jan, but just tonight.

Dinner time was near with us.

Ellie was six, I was six and a half. She was sitting on the floor in her living room looking at something new when I arrived. I sat down next to her.

The novelty was a large rectangular wooden box with two doors in the front.

“What is that?” I asked.

“Look at this,” she said.

She opened both doors, and there was a circle of dark glass inside a square of wood. Interesting, but not very.

“What is that?”

She pulled a button.

The glass circle lit up after a few seconds. A picture appeared inside!

The image has changed to another image.

I could read the words.

“Doody? I asked Ellie, laughing. “Doody” only referred to one thing in my neighborhood.

She silenced me.

The image on the screen changed again to an image of a puppet, well, a puppet, who asked, “Hey, kids, what time is it? “

I was a child. I knew what time it was; it was dinner time. But how could the puppet inside the glass circle speak to me? How? ‘Or’ What?

The image has changed again for an audience of children my age sitting on bleachers. They looked like me but they were tiny, in shades of gray like our family photos. But they moved! And shouted in unison, “It’s Howdy Doody’s time!”

And that’s where my head exploded. I fell backwards and I will never be the same child again.

Hello Doody? No, it wasn’t, it was dinner time.

“Ellie, what is this?” “

“It’s a television.”

Unbelievable. I had never seen or heard of television before. I had never seen a screen before. I have never been to the movies.

There were children’s radio shows in Philadelphia, and we listened to them: Uncle WIP, Phil Sheridan, Children’s Hour. All the fun of a six-year life came from the hands of adults. This novelty, this TV, why didn’t my parents tell me about it?

As I sat up, I saw a man named Buffalo Bob sit at the end of the bleachers wearing some sort of costume I had never seen before with a buffalo on his back. My father didn’t dress like that. No one did.

And Buffalo Bob has spoken!

“Hello, boys and girls at home and kids here in the gallery…” he said.

In five minutes, I wanted to be in this gallery of children more than I ever wanted anything. I tapped on the glass. How could I go past and push one or two of the kids out of my way to take my place on the stands?

Buffalo Bob continued, “Now stay where you are kids because you’re going to see Howdy Doody stop Mister X’s Fadoozler with our sensational new invention, the Switcheroo.”

Hi Doody? Mr. X? Fadoozler? Switch ?

Buffalo Bob didn’t have to tell me to stay where I was; I was frozen in place, mesmerized, probably drooling.

And all those little gray kids then sang a song that I had never heard before, a song that always makes me smile:

“It’s Howdy Doody’s time; It’s Howdy Doody’s time. Bob Smith and Howdy also say “Hello” to you … “

I tapped the glass harder in different places again. The portal to my new life was through this circle of glass. But wait, I was taller than the kids in the gallery, I wasn’t short, and I wasn’t gray. Would they love me? Who were these kids, anyway? And how did they get into it?

After the song, we saw new human characters Clarabell the Clown, who communicated with a horn, and Princess Summer-Fall-Winter-Spring, the most beautiful Indian princess in the world, and a few other puppets (Phineas T. Bluster and Dilly Kidding). Mr Bluster urged the princess to vote against Howdy Doody in Doodyville Town Hall (where they all lived).

Then Ellie pressed a button, and the light in the circle dimmed to a little point and disappeared.

The end. It’s time for me to come home.

“Ellie, when can I see him again?” “

“It’s every night. To come.”

Neither of us could tell the time.

I knew I couldn’t go to Ellie’s and miss the family dinner every night. But I had to see Buffalo Bob and Howdy again. Their performance was called a “TV show”. I understood almost immediately that these little gray singing children and puppets and the glass circle were something new, wonderful and addicting. I asked my parents, “Can we have one (TV)?”

My parents said no we couldn’t have TV and no I couldn’t spend every dinner hour at Ellie’s but I could go for the rest of the week. I sulked mightily. Being torn from Doody Land was heartbreaking. I sang the theme song out loud at home and to myself at school all day.

Eventually, of course, my parents bought a TV and we joined the happy, seated army of watchers. No one could have predicted the effect a round glass circle would produce over the years. Family events were scheduled around the television schedule. My family moved dinner time to 5:30 p.m. to welcome Buffalo Bob and Howdy to our home.

My own media revolution had started.

In Doodyville.


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