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A young man’s world changes with arrival of color TV

“The world is a carousel of color.”

So said the lyrics of the “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” theme, when the show premiered on NBC Sept. 24, 1961.

Uncle Walt had moved his ABC “Disneyland” program, an ABC fixture since 1954, to NBC to gain the advantage of its being broadcast “in living color.”

However, at my house, the program still looked the same to me as we had only a black-and-white television set — and would have for several more years. It really wasn’t a big deal for me at the time, because most all of my favorite shows were in duotone anyway.

I didn’t even have access to a color TV. None of my relatives or good friends had made the transition either. And at that time, I can’t remember seeing a display model in any store windows.

Until the mid-1960s, the closest I got to seeing color TV was when my parents and I made the trek to big city Newton to visit my Aunt Katie.

It seems Aunt Katie (my great aunt, actually) had fallen victim to some commercial which advertised a “miracle screen,” which when attached to the front of your black and white set, transformed all programs into beautiful color.

Let the buyer beware.
Turned out that this incredible consumer item was a sheet of plastic which would stick to the glass of the TV screen. The top third was tinted blue. The bottom third was green, and the middle area was yellowish.

It might have been a big deal if every image on television was that of a country meadow on a spring day.

As it turned out, Superman had a blue face and wore green boots. And Lassie appeared to be suffering from jaundice.

I wasn’t impressed, but Aunt Katie must have been, because that sheet of plastic was on her television for four or five of our visits.

Then, sometime in 1965, my mother made the announcement to me that she wanted to go shopping for a color TV. I didn’t object.

So that following Saturday, we headed to uptown Statesville to a long gone furniture store to take a look at color sets. My mother had decided it had to be an RCA. I wouldn’t have cared if it had been made by the Campbell Soup Company, as long as it was color.

The salesman had shown us a couple of models when she said, “We’ll take this one.” It was a 25- or 26-inch screen built into a walnut cabinet.

All color sets at that time were oval on the two sides and straight across at the top and bottom. A bit weird, but hey, it was color. I remember it cost around $700, a huge sum of money. One could buy a really good used car for $700 in 1965. Fortunately, my mom already had a car. So now she had a car and a color TV.

Because of her schedule the following week, she set up the delivery for Thursday morning.

THURSDAY! Five whole days! It might as well have been five years. But it would be worth the wait, I told myself.

And then Thursday finally arrived. A milestone in my life. There would be a new color TV at my house when I got home from school.

The last junior high bell rang at 3:20 (it was junior high school back then, not middle school). I was probably at the bicycle rack by 3:21. It usually took me around twenty minutes to ride home, but on this special day, I probably challenged Chuck Yeager’s land speed record.

I ran into the house, and there it sat.

Knowing the schedules of all four channels we could receive via roof antenna, I turned to channel 12 from Winston-Salem, where the only color program at that hour was in progress.

It was a game show called “You Don’t Say” with host Tom Kennedy. The celebrity guests were Pat Carroll and Bert Parks. I apologize for not remembering the names of the two contestants, but the image was beautiful.

And before I knew it, the program was over, and there wasn’t another color show until 7:30.

That program was “Jonny Quest,” an animated adventure series which had been on only a few months. Next up was the “Kraft Music Hall,” a show we didn’t normally watch, but we would this night. I can’t remember the show at all, except for the Kraft food commercials. Never had melted Velveeta being poured over steamed broccoli look so wonderful.

That show was followed by “Hazel,” with Shirley Booth. Even in color, that was a tough one for me.

Suzanne Blackmer once told me that husband Sidney had found Shirley Booth irritating and difficult to work with on Broadway in “Come Back Little Sheba.”

I can understand why. It was irritating for me to watch her.

The nightcap was one of my favorites, “The Dean Martin Show.”

Then, it was off to bed, but what a day.

By the start of the 1965-66 television season, almost every prime time show was broadcast in color. Much of the daytime schedules as well.

Times change. Nowadays, we accept color television as commonplace, like microwave ovens and cell phones. Buying a black-and-white television would be as pointless as getting a new typewriter or reel-to-reel tape recorder. But ask any “baby boomer” the first time he or she first saw a color TV program, and they can probably tell you.

And, on a different topic, here’s something that has been bothering me…

How can every automobile dealership within a 100-mile radius have the lowest prices, best deals and most professional service?

Someone isn’t telling the truth.

Merry Christmas.
Mike Cline’s website, “Mike Cline’s Then Playing,” documents every movie played in Rowan County theaters from 1920 through 1979.


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