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Spencer man decides to do without television

By Steve Huffman
shuffman@salisburypost.com
SPENCER ó E.A. “Emil” Sparger said he has one thing to tell the government in its move to rid televisions of their dependence on antennas.
Go ahead.
In fact, Sparger said he couldn’t care less if all television went the way of the Edsel and the Hupmobile.
“There’s nothing but junk on it,” he said. “It’s all trash, sex and violence.”
Before we go further, we need to point out that Sparger’s home on Eighth Street in Spencer is wired for cable TV and the family subscribes to the service. But that, Sparger said, is at the insistence of his wife, Tootsie.
Sparger, 82, said he goes to an adjoining room to read or listen to music when his wife sits down to watch television.
“I quit watching TV two years ago,” he said.
Sparger has since tried a time or two to watch mainstream television. He took a look at “American Idol” and couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about.
“I’ve glanced at it,” Sparger said of the show. “I just don’t see what the big deal is.”
His only concession to watching TV nowadays is when he sits down occasionally to take in a major league baseball game. Other than that, Sparger said, for all he cares, you could take his TV, roll it out on the front porch and call Goodwill to come get it.
Sparger, who retired as a control operator at Duke Energy’s Buck Steam Station, said he’s learned a great deal since all but giving up television two years ago.
Books, he said, are wonderful creations. He enjoys reading about sports and history, especially. “Anything, really,” Sparger said of the type books he reads.
Sparger also stays busy maintaining his neat-as-a-pin property located not far from the Eighth Street Ballpark. He’s been retired about 25 years.
“People say, ‘What do you do to stay busy?’ ” Sparger said, laughing. “I’ve always got something to do.”
Sparger is an interesting sort with an interesting background.
He was supposed to have graduated from Spencer High School in the spring of 1944, he said. But World War II was winding to a close, and Sparger heard the Railroaders were going to renew their football program that fall after a break of several seasons for the war effort. So he decided to flunk a class so he could return the following school year and play.
He did so, then proceeded to play for the school’s basketball team. Along the way, Sparger played professional summer baseball at the Class D level for teams in Erwin, Tenn., and Marion, Ohio.
Before he graduated from high school, Sparger dropped out to join the Navy. With the war all but over, he spent most of his Navy career in California playing baseball for a service team.
Sparger returned to Spencer and finally got around to earning his high school diploma in 1947. His wife graduated from Spencer High in 1946.
“They laugh,” Sparger said of the many high school classmates he had over the years. “They say I get to go to five class reunions.”
The final years of his stab at a professional baseball career took place in 1948 and 1949, when Sparger played infield for the minor league Salisbury Pirates.
He doesn’t beat around the bush when asked why he never made it to the major leagues.
“I just wasn’t good enough,” Sparger said. “I was too slow, and I just wasn’t good enough.”
Then he pauses before continuing.
“But I loved to play,” he said.
Sparger and his wife raised two sons ó Kelly and Phip. They’ve got four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Clyde Overcash, a Salisbury artist and general man about town, has been friends with Sparger as long as either can remember. He said he was impressed when he learned Sparger had gone virtually cold turkey with his TV watching.
“He gets so excited,” Overcash said, laughing as he recalled the enthusiasm Sparger displays for not watching TV. “He tells me, ‘You know, I’ve learned so much.’ ”
Overcash said his own television watching is limited to that which he can pick up off his antenna, and he said that if the government makes good on its promise to convert us all to digital TV this summer, he’ll be giving that up, too.
Overcash said he’s not worried about it if that happens, and said Sparger’s actions have been an inspiration for him.
“It’s just amazing that someone of his age can get so excited about learning something new,” Overcash said.
Sparger is a collector of many things old ó from bottles to radios, from advertising signs to newspapers. In something of a he-man-woman-haters hideout he built 35 years ago behind his house, he collects all those things and more.
The one thing Sparger doesn’t collect, however, is old televisions.
No way, no how.

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