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Our love affair with TV

A battery-operated table model Zenith radio ushered in a new era of entertainment for our farm family in 1938, but it paled in comparison to the fun and excitement we had with our first television set a decade later. 

In the late 1940s, we knew about the remarkable invention of television by word of mouth and the printed word but had never seen one. That changed in 1948 when my father arrived home from a Saturday visit to the cotton gin.  

When us kids heard him blowing his pickup’s horn, we knew good news was in the making. Sure enough, sitting in the truck’s bed was a big cardboard box with the word “Admiral” stenciled across its side. 

“What’s in the box?” we asked. 

“It’s one of those television sets we’ve been hearing about,” he answered. “If you’ll help me unload it, we’ll hook it up and see how it works.” 

Its shiny cabinet and 19-inch screen was a thing to behold, but the snowy image that appeared on the screen when it was plugged in left a lot to be desired.  

“The picture will be clearer when the set is hooked up to an outdoor antenna,” our father explained. “We’re about 90 miles from both Birmingham and Atlanta, Georgia, and should be able to pick up the signal from TV stations in both cities.” 

We took his word and focused our eyes on picking up the bits and pieces of stagecoaches being chased by Indians on horses, patiently awaiting the construction of a 40-foot antenna.  

The antenna did make a noticeable difference in the clarity of the picture. We could make out what was being shown without having to strain our eyes. We still had snow – some days worse than others, depending on weather conditions.  

Since our antenna was not remotecontrolled, it was necessary for one of us to run outside and manually turn it west for Birmingham and east for Atlanta. We would stop turning when we heard viewers yell “stop” from inside the house.  

The TV’s dependability was another cause for concern. When the screen went blank, it usually meant a tube had burned out. In that event, the bad tube had to be removed and  

returned to the dealer for a replacement. 

On certain days, the antenna would pick up an electric charge from the atmosphere and cause a shock when touched. A wise precaution was to lightly touch the metal pole before grasping it with both hands.   

Word of the TV’s existence spread quickly in the community and made our farmhouse a popular place to watch western movies, soap operas, live wrestling matches and game shows.