Our first TV was an Admiral "portable" TV - which meant that it wasn't in a wood, or faux wood, box. The Admiral was a giant black, some-kind-of-metal, box with a big screen. It sat on four metal legs attached to a swivel base. He was very heavy. Very heavy, but it had a handle on top. It took two grown men to move the Admiral; I guess that handle is what qualified a TV to be portable.
We lived "way out in the country" and only got one clear channel: KALB Channel 5. After we got the Admiral, I could hardly wait to get home from school to watch Pinky Lee. I'd plop down on the floor and sing with Pinky,
Yoo Hoo, it's me
My name is Pinky Lee
I skip and run with lots of fun
For every he and she
I loved Pinky Lee and his crazy antics so I was devastated when he collapsed on live TV. He writhed on the floor and it took the camera men 10 minutes to realize it wasn't an act and poor Pinky was in pain. People said he'd had a heart attack and died that September day in 1955. I did. He didn't and lived until the 1990's. Pinky's problem was was his proboscis: a sinus attack. After he recovered, NBC just didn't want him back.
But there was Howdy Doody. (HD went on the air in December 1947 - almost one year to date before I was born.) Being a dummy, Doody couldn't die. His sidekick, Buffalo Bob, could have, but he didn't. Thank Goodness! If anything had happened to Howdy or Bob, this nine year would've cried her eyes out. (Did you know that William Shatner played Ranger Bob on the show and Clarabelle the mute clown was later to gain fame as Captain Kangaroo?)
Saturday afternoons were filled with cowboys and Indians. Roy Rogers and Trigger. Hopalong Cassidy. The Singing Cowboy, Gene Autry. The Lone Ranger and Tonto. I desperately wanted a cowboy hat, boots, and guns. A horse woulda been nice, too. But my parents got my older sister a horse and I got a doll. Pooh! The blonde beauty became a bad guy and I tied her up and hung her from the nearest bush 'cause she'd robbed the bank. After that, my sister knew her brunette was always in danger as the blonde's accomplice. (The next Christmas, good friends of the family, Marsh and Eckie, gave me my coveted guns, and boots, and a cowboy hat. I was their favorite.)
After we moved to our new house, on a good night could get another channel, but only if we adjusted the antenna just so. This was a three person job: one to watch the TV, one to move the antenna around, and another to relay messages like, "left... no right... no left...a little more... slowly!". Dad almost always monitored the TV, and, even if you were outside, you could understand his frustrated "goddamnedsonofabitch!". He knew the best possible reception would still be snowy. You remember snow.
I do not know how long we had this TV. I know it was still around that Thanksgiving day in the late 50's. That's when my younger sister, Jackie, got on the new riding lawn mower, even though dad told us not to. A stick got stuck in the lawn mower's chain, and when she attempted to remove it, the index finger of her right hand was caught and the tip was ground off. She came in screaming and mom wrapped up the bloody finger and off they went to the emergency room. That left me alone with my baby brother, James. Dad was doing what all red-blooded American males do after the Thanksgiving meal: He was off duck hunting. I comforted James, Jr., by sitting on the floor with him my lap as we watched Gorgeous George wrestle some other hulk on TV. Jackie was OK, but her fingertip wasn't.
Sometime after we began getting the Liberace show on the Admiral, he began to fail. At first, the black and white wasn't so black and white. Then the picture started getting smaller, shrinking, it was shrinking. Even the TV repairman admitted he couldn't save the Admiral. As the picture got smaller and smaller, I sat closer and closer. Everybody in the family sat closer and closer... all five of us. It got pretty crowded 'round the TV. Family members would vie for the best spot for viewing the teeny-tiny Liberace. The picture was so small, I couldn't sit on the couch and play the piano with Liberace anymore.
Then, one day, we turned on the TV, and the picture was gone. The Admiral was gone.
I do not know what happened to The Admiral, but I salute that big black box for all the good times it gave and the bad times it soothed. All Hail the Admiral!
Have a good day, Althea.