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  Rewind—Black and White
A retired English teacher, Susan Dlugach just cannot retire from learning, tutoring, writing, traveling and exploring.

The first tv in my home was a radio. This dial-faced contraption set on a table was the heart of our small living room. I would perch myself on the stool I'd dragged from the kitchen and pretend there was real action unfolding on that screenless appliance.

In those days I was likely wearing my red dime store cowboy hat as I listened to westerns like Have Gun Will Travel and Gunsmoke. I imagined Jack Benny and Rochester's gestures as they bantered in front of a live audience.

Maybe I didn't rely totally on my imagination. After all, I had seen bits of screen action at my grandparents' homes. But in my own parents' rented dwellings, we didn't have one of those wondrous boxes until later.

When my dad was home, the radio blasted bellicose boxing matches, Vin Scully giving baseball play-by-plays, and the blustering roars of football games.

When he wasn't home, music filled the air. Bayou tunes were emceed by a Cajun deejay who began his show with a raucous "How y'all are?" Then he'd play standards like "Jole Blon" by Harry Choates and "Valse de Jolly Rogers" by D.L. Menard. Sometimes my mom tuned into blues and country songs from the likes of Jimmy Reed, Hank Williams and Nat King Cole. The pulsing beats of rock and roll were also in the atmosphere. I'm pretty sure Mom had a crush on Elvis Presley.

On another note, there was a dizzy song from a classical station. It had a spiraling tune that insisted I go around and around until the spinning floor and my spun out body met. Most likely it was Ravel's Bolero.

My family moved up a notch when I was in the second grade. That's when a television set became the altar of worship in our living room. Those first few years after television joined our household, the radio played less significance in my life. The single dimension of sound just could not compete with the dynamics of a moving picture combined with sound.

Two stations made it through the airwaves to our rabbit ears. At that time I became a walking tv guide. I knew what was on which station at any given time …. except, oddly, when the other station conflicted with what I wanted very much to watch, like Red Skelton, whose Clem Kadiddlehopper antics made me laugh to tears, or Seahunt with Lloyd Bridges.



This invention brought us the annual magic of The Wizard of Oz, albeit in black and white and shades of gray. Saturday mornings, my brother and I were belly down on the living room floor watching Mighty Mouse save the day.

During that pre-Sesame Street era, Captain Kangaroo and gang were morning buddies to my little brother and me. After school it was Cowboy John with his sidekick, Black Bart. This program was produced in a studio near Sears and Roebuck only a few blocks from where we lived for a while. Local children got their flash of fame on this set, each one announcing their name and age to Cowboy John's microphone in between episodes of The Little Rascals and The Three Stooges.

Weekend afternoons were spent with the likes of creepy Boris Karloff or more westerns such as Death Valley Days. Sunday evenings were for pork 'n beans and Lassie, Dennis the Menace, and Walt Disney Presents. Of course there were the classics like Alfred Hitchcock and The Twilight Zone. And like I said, at those times, while shows I wanted very much to see were being aired, I had no idea what was on the other station if my parents asked. No idea at all.

However, when my dad was home, my excellent tv schedule memory didn't matter if there was a televised football or baseball game or a boxing match. Sports took precedent over any other programming in our house.

Sometimes when multiple sporting events were broadcast at the same time, my dad put the radios in play. One game would roar from the television, another sporting event would blare from the radio in the kitchen, and occasionally yet another would boom from a box in my parents' bedroom. It was a good time for me to putter in the back yard or curl up with a book behind the closed door of my room.

Then a transistor radio came my way with it's little wire, one end to plug into the handheld machine, the other end stuck in my ear. I could even listen while Dad multi-sported on the other sets all over the house. With this little device, the pre-teen me listened to Ray Charles sing, "Hit the Road, Jack," and The Tokens' melodious, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight".

In that small world, I never imagined the life of infinite, multi-color, surround sound technology that inundates us nowadays.

~ Susan Dlugach


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