notquiteold

Gracefully Aging – With Resistance

Dream Job

I’m proud to be First Generation.  The first generation to grow up with TV.

My parents got their first television in 1951, the year I was born. They had the first TV in the family; the first TV in the neighborhood. They told me stories about everyone coming over on Friday night to watch Boxing. (What the heck was that about?)

We had an old Sylvania TV.  I loved the stylized letters of ‘Sylvania’ – wide ‘S’, short tail on the ‘y’, the letters all connected in a strange sort of cursive. I loved the rabbit ears (aluminum-foiled, naturally).  I loved the dusty hot smell if you squeezed your face around the back.  And that was really a squeeze since the TV didn’t move.  It weighed about 700 lbs.

Reception was a snowy day all year round.  Sometimes my sisters and I just watched shadows. And the picture rolled incessantly.  Inexplicably, we sometimes could stop the rolling by standing in a certain spot in the living room. We took turns standing in that spot.

We watched everything:  77 Sunset Strip, Sky King, Mickey Mouse Club, December Bride,  Have Gun Will Travel, The Real McCoys.  And Dick Clark and Ed Sullivan.

I didn’t love all of it though.  I hated cartoons. I hated Ozzie and Harriet. I hated that all the good shows about kids – Circus Boy, Fury, Rin Tin Tin – were about boys.  Where were the shows about girls?

I was determined I would be the first girl to have an adventure show.  I would have a horse AND a dog.  And beautiful clothes and long hair. I would almost die in every episode, but I’d triumphantly survive.  And maybe I’d sing a song.

I continued this fantasy all through grammar school and even secretly in high school. I went from Bonanza to Dr. Kildare to I Spy – just waiting for the day I’d have my own show.

Then I had a revelation. It took a very long time. It was 1974, and I was twenty-three.  I was watching my favorite show, M*A*S*H, and I saw it – the perfect TV role.  Nurse Kellye.

Nurse Kellye was in almost every episode.  But that actress (also named Kellye – how convenient was that?) never had much to do. She hung out with the stars but she didn’t have to work hard. She had to learn maybe one line a week. I’ll bet she made pretty good money too. For ten years.

That’s better than being a star. You get to partake in the glamour with NONE OF THE WORK.  I’m so there.

And today, there’s even better. It’s Medical Examiner Elizabeth Rodgers of Law & Order. You know, she’s the humorless autopsy doc (“It was a 44 slug to the armpit”). Over the years, she’s had a zillion hairdos (I can identify), long, short, medium, usually red.  No kid, but “not quite old”  - so naturally I love her already.  She looks really smart, but usually exhausted.  But she’s not – exhausted, I mean.  She works about two minutes an episode. Two minutes a week for eighteen years. So yeah, she’s smart.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a heroine who had to overcome hardships.  But now I’m a grownup – I want fun, money, and the easiest job in the world.

30 Comments

  1. You grew up with all the same shows that I did! Sadly, these days, I don’t watch tv. Oh, it’s on, but hubby is usually watching a race or a documentary. If I’m home alone and even have the tv on, I turn it to one of those “music” channels: the oldies.
    Or maybe TV Land. I’m living in the past; it’s more comfortable there.
    Cute post!

  2. Hmmmm….I am 64 and I still want to be the beautiful star of an action show with long hair, gorgeous clothes, a horse and a dog (and a cat of course). I love the land of denial.

  3. haha…”And the picture rolled incessantly.” What was the name of the dial that was supposed to control that? I’ve almost forgotten…was it vertical? This really took me back…I was born in ’50. Very nicely written…among your best, I think.

    • “Vertical Hold” – and you had to have the finesse of a brain surgeon.

  4. We didn’t have a TV until I was in school; I can’t remember exactly what year that was. (No, really, I can’t. I have a lousy memory.) We were allowed to go over to my grandparents’ house to watch TV a couple of times a week – the “family” shows.

    When we finally got our 700-lb hand-me-down black and white TV, the only show I remember watching was The Lone Ranger. I loved the Lone Ranger. But, like you, I had problems with the fact that the women were pretty much plastic bodies in dresses waiting to be rescued. I used to dream about being the Lone Ranger’s sidekick. I wouldn’t wear dresses and scream to be rescued. I’d shoot a gun and have adventures and…

    Hey, wait a minute. Now I write novels about a woman who shoots a gun and has adventures and… :-)

    • TV has influenced our lives – no doubt about it. We have become what we watched. (except for the medical examiner part.)

  5. For a long time, I wanted to be Rhoda from the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Needless to say, it’s a goal I never achieved.

    • Oh, you are so much better than Rhoda. I have certainly achieved Phyllis … in know-it-all-ness.

      • I’m not nearly as cool as Rhoda, but I’m okay with it. Phyllis was priceless!

  6. RVingGirl

    Loved this post….brings back memories. I do remember when we got our first TV. I was about 7 and I was captivated. But in those days, TV didn’t run at all till 6pm. So we stayed outdoors and played. I do remember too the very first ADS that I just HATED! Someone at a grocery store, ringing through 1 can of soup, 99 cents; 1 box of cereal……blah blah…I can still hear the boring voice describe “groceries”???!!!!!

  7. My favorites were Honey West and Emma Peel from the Avengers. I wanted to be Lieutenant Uhura or even Nurse Chapel on Star Trek. I also loved That Girl. She had all the coolest clothes and awesome hair.

    I suppose these were relative latecomers, but then we didn’t have much money and TV was a long time coming to our house.

    Outstanding post.

  8. JSD

    This post is priceless! I’m a few years older than you and remember them all, plus a few more…’77 Sunset Strip’ and ‘Spin and Marty’, for example. In the metro Detroit area (don’t know if it was shown anywhere else), we also had ‘Lunch With Soupy’, and I’ve got a post written up special about Soupy and me.

  9. OMG! I had forgotten about the rolling picture and the aluminum foil (we called it tin foil) on the rabbit ears. And, there was that annoying tone that came on, with the funny pattern on-screen, when the station went off-air. . . none of this 24-hour news cycle back then!

    You have such a great memory for details! Love it!

  10. Hour after hour, my dad getting up to “adjust the color” and then the fight would ensue. His remote, was me or my sister, put it on this channel, no wait, do sit down just now, and then there were the fights … Look sharp, be sharp, feel sharp. Remember Burt? HERE SHE IS MISS AMERRRICKHUH!

  11. Don’t forget, we couldn’t sit too close, or we’d hurt our eyes. Another safe guard against problems with vision was the “TV lamp” which would sit on top of the TV. Unfortunately, the one our family had, just broke just a couple years ago – a lovely ceramic pitcher, white with green splotchy handles and rim, a couple red cherries in relief on the front, attached to a little wooden platform. A little tiny light inside.

    And of course, there were no remotes back then – that’s what people had kids for!
    When we got our 1st TV, I loved Ding Dong School with Miss Frances, Sheriff John’s Lunch Brigade (although I’m with you, I didn’t really like cartoons, either – just the red-light-green-light drinkiing of chocolate milk!) At least on Donna Reed and Father Knows Best, there were some girls, too. As I got older, it was a treat to get to stay up late and watch 77 Sunset Strip. And of course we watched Ed Sullivan every Sunday!

    • I remember Ding Dong School and Donna Reed (Paul Peterson was very cute). And Make Room For Daddy!

      • Chris

        Oh my Lord! Miss Frances!!!

  12. I think you’re reslly going to enjoy your retirement!!!

  13. I’m stopping by from WhatImeant2say. Thanks for bringing back memories of my childhood television watching in the 80s, out in the sticks. We had three channels, big flaps of foil on our rabbit ears, and fought over who got the “good” spot on the couch with minimum glare and no neck kink to actually see the tv.
    I remember that tv smell, too. I think it’s caused by hot dust in the back of the set, but I’m not sure.

    • Yeah.. hot dust on those old tubes. Remember tubes?

  14. The clearest memory I have of our old set was when it blew up. Smoke all over the house, and that melted plastic/hot dirty stuff smell stayed around for a long time. It was scary to figure out if it was safe to unplug it, and my mom had to figure out what to do on her own, as it happened while my dad was at work.
    Wonder what the kids of today will look back on with fond memories and complete disbelief as to its “old fashioned” technology.

  15. O.K. I do NOT remember Nurse Kellye. But I totally agree with you you’re saying. I’m forty-three and just figuring out that being in the supporting role can be even better than being the star. Dimples has already figured it out at 8. She told me she’d rather be a back-up singer than Taylor Swift. She can get tons of money but still go out in public without being swamped. I’m just glad she doesn’t want to be Hot Lips.

  16. I would say on a near-daily basis I think of the scene with Kevin Spacey in American Beauty, applying for a job at a fast-food restaurant, Mr. Smiley’s:
    Lester (Kevin Spacey): I’d like to fill out an application.
    Mr. Smiley’s Server: There’s no jobs for manager. It’s just for counter.
    Lester: Good. I’m looking for the least possible amount of responsibility.

  17. Ah, I loved this skip down Memory Lane, complete with the sexist speed bumps. Your perspective on how your idea of the TV heroine is delightful. You crafted this story magically.

  18. We didn’t have TV until I was about fourteen. You’re so right about the lack of female heroines back then. I liked Miss Kitty of Gunsmoke, I guess That Girl and MaryTyler Moore will be remembered as trailblazers.

    Seems the snowing, the vertical / horizontal picture rolling always happened when you got to watch something really entertaining or had been waiting to watch. If there was a storm OUTside, ditto more so inside. Ah, the memories. Thanks.

  19. I remember those first TV’s – their sound and smell..and more. And – always – wishing to be that dream heroine. Still do – maybe?!?!?

  20. b

    Remember them, I am surprised we are not still using that TV set we got in 1961. I went kicking and screaming to the store to buy a color TV many years later. It just seemed to me that the one we had was just fine. The fact that you had to whack it on the side to get it to turn on just made the old thing more precious.

    Loved this post.

    b

    http://www.retireinstyleblog.com

  21. I don’t remember when we got black and white, but I sure remember when we got color. The beginning of Bonanza? The 1st time to see The Wizard of Oz?
    And I loved That Girl…I think I still dream about being that cute career girl with cool clothes who lives in “the city”.

  22. Androgoth

    I was sure that I added a comment on this posting, however a few are going missing around here but it’s okay, I don’t mind you know… Delete away my friend :)

    Androgoth

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