Small Town Life and TV Trivia

BEING ENTERTAINED, CON Y SIN COLORES 

I was a kid in the 60’s; a teen in the 70’s.   TV was my world. TV SET 1

What I find so vastly different between then and now is all the color we see on the tube.   And I mean that it in more ways than one.

I remember the first time I say down in front of a color TV…..wow.    The first program I remember watching in color was “Bewitched”.

I had no idea that Endora has red hair, that the Stevens’ living room carpet was brown.   I had no idea that Uncle Arthur was gay.    But Uncle Artie sure reminded me a lot of our Aunt Charles.

I suppose the first black person I saw on TV was in a crowd scene on an old black and white version of “The Andy Griffith Show”, circa 1962.   Ever noticed that anyone NOT from Mayberry, even if they were from Mount Pilot or Raleigh, sounded like they were born  and  raised in the Bronx?

What was that all about??  

Then, the second time I saw Black person on TV, was on “The Dick Van Dyke Show”.  Laura had just given birth and she and Rob thought the hospital had mistakenly given them the wrong baby–NOT Richie “Rosebud” Petri.   Something about the baby’s footprints or something.  Rob was convinced the baby actually belonged to the Peters family, an easy mistake since Rob and Laura’s last name was similarly spelled.   So, Rob tracked down the Peters and explained the situation and invited them to his home, you know, the one in New Rochelle on Bonnie Meadow Road.    There’s a knock on the door; Rob answers it and the fun ensues when Greg Morris and his wife step inside.   See, Greg Morris is a black man,   HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  The hospital COULDN’T have switched the babies for the obvious reasons.    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!      

Innocuous by today’s standards, but cutting edge for its day, especially considering the Civil Rights movement at the time.   

What’s strange to realize is that there were probably people  watching who were repulsed–for lack of a better word–that Rob so kindly invited a  young, black couple into his home, his white man’s palace.    Stranger still, was this sentiment was felt all over, not just in the South.     Prejudice has never known geographic boundaries.

After that, came “Julia”, Dianne Carrol’s groundbreaking role about a young African-American mother and nurse, trying to raise her son, played by Marc Copage.   Lloyd Nolan portrayed the old curmudgeonly doctor for whom she worked.    Whenever he’d arrive at the office, he’d throw his cap from across the room and it would always hit the peg in the hat rack.   Her son’s best friend was a little red-headed white kid named Earl J. Waggedorn.

Why I remember this trivial minutia is beyond me.    Lord knows that from 1973 through most of 1988, I tried my best to ruin all of  my brain cells and their capacity to retain anything.  

But I’m not the only one.  Other people my age remember these things too.   Could this be because kids in my generation actually watched TV because that’s all we had to do back then?

When we watched, we watched thoroughly.  We got into it…completely immersed im to network programming.  We watched everything–the intro,  the show itself, the commercials; the opening credits theme….even the credits.

Here’s proof:   

“Calvada” was the name of the production company which produced “The Dick Van Dyke Show”.  It was a combination of CALifornia and NeVADA, which was popular to do at the time.   Sinatra owned a hotel in Reno (I think) which he called the “CalNeva”.

Wilbur Hatch actually conducted the Ricky Ricardo Orchestra.

“Journey to the Unknown” on ABC.   The intro was a single camera walking through a deserted amusement park. The series was creepy….Rod Serling-esque and produced by the Brits and it always featured B-list American actors.    I suppose if it were on the tube today, we’d see the likes of Dustin Diamond (TV’s “Screech”), Omarosa, Lou Ferrigno, Cheryl Ladd and Melissa Gilbert in spooky scenarios.   

 The facade of the Stevens’ house that we saw each week on “Bewitched”—brought to you by Chevrolet, was situated in  suburban New York (the one on Morning Glory Circle).  It’s still used today, most recently used in  a fairly recent Christmas Fruit of the Loom underwear ad.       Oh yeah, the interior was used in “The Patty Duke Show”  (…”because their cousins…identical cousins and you’ll find…they laugh alike, they talk alike…at times they even walk alike….you can  lose your mind!!!!!”)

Don Fedderson produced “My Three Sons”.

Jay Sommers wrote “Green Acres”.

“Welch’s” brought us “The Flintstone’s” when the animated show–based on Jackie Gleason’s “The Honeymooners”–  was on prime time.  Wrigleys and Kool Cigarettes also got into the sponsor ad action in the late sixties.    And anyone remember all those in-show commercials?   I remember Pebbles grabbing her stone-honed,  grape juice-filled sippy cup and saying in her best Jurassic baby talk dialect that she was jonesin’ for Welch’s  “Goo-goo, Gape Goo”, which is what she would call grape juice in that high-pitched Jurassic accent of hers.   Barney and Fred were out behind the house puffing away on Kool’s or Salem’s or Pall Mall’s or Winston’s or Marlboro or Chesterfield’s.

Max Factor–the brilliant Hollywood make-up artist and founder of his own make-up line of the same name–did make-up for most of TV’s elite in the 50’s and 60′.s

Archie and Edith Bunker lived at 704 Houser Street; Lucy and Ricky lived at 623 East 68th Street.

“Botany 500” dressed Gene Rayburn on “Match Game” featuring the drunken antics of The First Lady of Goodson/Todman game shows–Miss Charles Nelson Riley and the raspy voiced stylings of Brett Sommers (Mrs.  Jack Klugman)

Color was by “Deluxe”;  lenses were all Panaflex.    “Sky King” was sponsored by Nabisco and when he banked his plane to the left,  the wingspan formed the exact same shape as Nabisco triangle and the logo came spinning out at the viewer. 

Bing Crosby would haul out his family to help him host, “The Hollywood Palace”.   His daughter, Mary Catherine, would grow up to shoot J.R. Ewing. 

Speaking of Bing,  two of the biggest production companies in Tinsel Town were owned by Lucy and Desi and Bing Crosby.  The two constantly duked it out for producing credits back in the day.   Danny Thomas was a producer to be reckoned with, too.

Nope, kids today don’t watch TV as we did.    We didn’t merely watch it…we studied it.   Do you think today’s 8-year old would know that Ishiro Sakahura is one of the Art Directors for “Dora the Explorer”??   

No.

Or that most NBC sitcoms are filmed at Sunset-Gower studios in Hollywood?

No.

And I’m not saying that knowing where something was filmed or who applied make up to the stars is all mandatory and save for a trivia contest and one very specific trivia contest, knowing this crap is completely useless…BUT, it can give you a historical sense of the cultural nuances of your youth.  When I saw the Sunset Gower studios in Hollywood, it made me smile.  I could connect.  I fear today’s kids will never be able to do that.   They have more distractions, more stuff to do, but less space in which to do it.  Parents are more paranoid and I suppose, they have reason to be.  Kidnapping used to be about money.  Today, tragically, it’s about pedophilic sex and almost always ends up with investigators needing a body bag.    

Dangers lurk everywhere these days and parents rarely let kids play in a fenced in backyard without proper supervision.

So sad.

And sometime, what doesn’t get them outside of the home, gets them inside their homes.  Neglect and abuse are rampant.

When I was a kid on a Saturday morning in the summer, my friends and I  got on our bikes at 9am and came back home in time for supper.   Our mothers didn’t know where we were and more often not, didn’t worry.    It was a different time and I think it’s because we were a different people.   More trusting, less worried maybe.   Shit has always happened, but back then, it didn’t seem to matter that much or we never heard about it.     Perhaps we were more mindful to keep family business within the family.

The blissful ignorance of  yesteryear.

That’s not to say I was always 100-percent safe and never got into trouble.   When I did however,  my grandmother always found out somehow and never punished me–she let Mater and Pater do that, but she tried to  ensure whatever it was I did, would be the first and last time I’d ever do it.   You see, my grandmother was the Queen of Cautionary Tales

There was Texas’ own Bonnie and Clyde, not to mention other vile, shoot-to kill Highway men were looking for little girls just so they could turn them in to little corpses. 

And the Black Dahlia murderer was still on the loose and  my grandmother felt certain Lee Harvey Oswald had an equally insane brother who was a much better shot,  lurking in every tall  building, though that particular fear factor never held much water.   The tallest thing in my hometown was the water tower…with  Class of ’77  sprayed in ugly  Halloween orange (our school colors and my graduating class, thank you very much)  across the side.

She’d also regale with stories that every little town had at least one Bates Motel in it.   Just ask the pot-bellied sheriff.

We couldn’t sleep near an open window, lest the Gypsies (who we hear were also tramps & thieves) would steal us in the night and make us dance for the money they’d throw.   

And there was always that  Lindbergh baby kidnapping that still loomed large, even in Tiny Town, South Texas decades after the fact.

Obviously, my grandmother stopped reading the newspaper after 1964.       

.

6 comments

  1. little ritchie petrie’s middle name was rosebud abbreviated for: robert, oscar, stephen, edward, buford, ulysses, david because everyone in the family had their favorite names. don’t ask me how or why i remember that.

    we even absorbed the tv commercials.

  2. I dreamed that Danny Thomas was chasing me and throwing walnuts at me. And then my thumbs fell off!

    .
    Tom,

    That’s one of my all-time favorite sitcom episodes. I can’t look at a walnut in a shell and not think of Danny Thomas.

    The haunted lodge episode in which New Rochelle’s favorite weekly series, “Peeka Boo Camera” filmed Buddy, Sally, Laura and Rob all scared witless because they looked in a black mirror on a closet door and saw Sketch Henderson one minute, then saw Hollywood’s ash tray, Mel Cooley’s mug the next minute.

  3. Good LORD you wasted your youth!
    I am more glad than ever that my folks limited us to 1.5 hr per day, and NEVER during dinner
    Then again, in late 60s, ‘during dinner’ would basically have been war news anyway.
    .

    Nah, Pete.. sorry to have to break it to you, but I didn’t waste my youth at all. I am better suited for my life and my chosen career BECAUSE I watched three channel TV as a kid.

    Why?

    Because being limited to a mere three networks allowed me fewer options. I wasn’t in to soap operas, I enjoyed the occasional quiz show, therefore, I needed something else to do. So I found “something else”. I had more time to read and write in my journal. And when I wasn’t doing that, I had more time to play outside and be creative and quell adolescent restslessness. Writing became one of all time loves of my life. I not only learned about expression, but I also learned how to negotiate ideas and apply them to paper.

    I learned how to skate and ride a bike, skateboard and I was allowed to get dirty and play in creeks. I made mud pies and threw mud clods. And I was lucky enough to have parents with the means to take me on global trips with them. I’ve been able to see amazing things in my now 50-year old life.

    Lastly, I am far wiser than I might have been had my parents given me unflinchingly narrow perameters and a far more narrow berth. I was given permission to take the time to grow up at a pace that fit me. I had their full permission to learn and laugh and yeah, skin my knee and resolve kiddy fights on my own.

    In short, I was allowed to be a kid and not some drone to suit my parent’s ideals. I had my own.

    I learned to like the process of learning. Even if some of that knowledge includes that fact that the Family Munster lived on 1313 Mockingbird Lane.

    We weren’t allowed to have the TV on for dinner, either. That was “family time” in which we discussed matters of the day…and yes sometime that included discussions about the “conflict in SE Asia. I was allowed to watch Cronkite disseminate news and info about Vietnam, regardless of how gloomy and that was an educational process in and of itself. I know a great deal about the country, it’s culture and I can even speak a few words in the native tongue. I’m limited, but I assure you, I know enough to get a manicure, pedicure and my upper lip waxed anywhere in Ho Chi Minh City.

    I have wonderful memories of my pre-teen years. Regimented when it needed to be and wonderfully free when warranted.

    LK

  4. I honestly don’t know how you remember this stuff!!!!

    Anyway, LK is right Pete. We were outside from the time we got out of bed until it was time to eat dinner. I only wish my kids could of grown up in the 60’s and 70’s. We had imaginations. We never complained it was too hot to be outside. We couldn’t wait to get outside and run the sidewalks. I grew up in a neighborhood full of kids and we had the best time. Good ‘ol King Ave.

  5. we were members at our city’s aquatic club. i remember going at 1 and coming home at 6 and we would even ride our bikes. we would be starving and exhausted by the time we got home. my poor kids played outside but their imaginations were made up for them. i have 1 son and he’s the only one who lived for video games when he was jr high-high school age. but he’s almost 23 now and knows everything about computers and has even set up my husband’s law practice website. he learned without taking classes but playing outside with other kids and “pretending” didn’t happen with my kids. we lived in an area where there were rich old people who had no children or they were grownn so he turned to the games and my girls had their journals they wrote in and their books to read.

    sad.

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