When I was growing up, there were only a very few television shows to watch…and even fewer channels to choose from. We didn’t even have a TV till I was five or six years old. I vividly remember watching Captain Kangaroo on our brand new 19 inch black and white set. Dad had brought it home after work one day then plugged it in and hooked up the rabbit-ear antenna and tuned it in to the first channel he could get anything on. It was channel 13, PBS, and the good Captain was having some silly conversation with Mr. Green Jeans. I was hooked. This new-fangled contraption was amazing and I wanted to see everything that was on it!
Dad’s only real free time was on the weekends and when the chores were done and dinner was had, he would sit with mom in the living room and watch the six o’clock news with Walter Kronkite and then Lawrence Welk. That man always talked funny to me and everyone was always, ALWAYS, smiling and there seemed to be bubbles floating about everywhere. I never really much appreciated this program…it usually put me to sleep, which may have been their intent in watching it. I just liked to feel like one of the ‘grown ups’ watching the news and whatever other shows they were watching.
Sundays afternoons were often spent snoozing to whatever golf game was on tv, and then in the evening after dinner we would watch the news again then 60 Minutes and All in the Family. Each week ended with Archie Bunker griping about something. I’m not sure what my dad saw in this show about an obnoxious, bigoted man with strong opinions about everything and everyone, who was mean and gruff and controlling. But there was usually some larger statement the show was trying to make in spite of Archie’s demeanor and there were moments when he was more understanding and forgiving and loving. The man did have a heart…he just didn’t know how to show it and felt a greater need to protect it than share it. Perhaps that’s why dad liked the show; perhaps he identified with Archie in ways that he couldn’t share and the show helped him to feel better about himself…or at least made him feel that he wasn’t alone. I know I saw Archie in my dad and the show gave me hope that my dad had a heart buried somewhere too.
There were other shows I remember watching as well. Gunsmoke and The Waltons were rarely missed and after school shows like The Electric Company, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, and of course Captain Kangaroo were daily rituals. We only ever received three channel signals: the PBS station, channel 6 which was CBS at the time and on a really clear night we could sometimes get a brave CBC signal from Canada reaching over Lake Superior. We did not have nearly as many choices as we do these days! Sometimes I think we have too many choices in today’s world. So much information is assaulting our senses that it is easy to become overwhelmed or, even worse, absorbed into it. Life was much simpler when there were only a couple of channels to choose from and there wasn’t a barrage of vulgar and obscene commercials to deal with. These days it is much more beneficial to just turn it off and watch a show online at your own convenience. I can even find the good Captain, Mr. Welk, and old Archie Bunker if I’m feeling nostalgic. I can still hear Archie and Edith singing, “Those…were…the…days…”