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Wednesday, August 1 2001

More radio and early TV memories

Today's entry is in the form of a letter from forum member Paul Ceria.

I've enjoyed reading the material on the early days of TV, and the even earlier form of family home entertainment, radio. One thing that has failed to be mentioned is the equipment itself.

Radios today are really what one refers to as tuners on their stereo, that "subsystem" that somehow accompanies our all-important CD music players. I can remember growing up with radios far from what they are today. The one in my home, which I recall as being an RCA, was really a piece of furniture that was about four feet high and three feet across. It had a round face dial and numerous scales and buttons that would probably still befuddle most people. A glowing red tube was at the top of the dial like an all-seeing eye! It had to be "warmed up" before it could be used. Every holiday season, when the perennial movie, Christmas Story, comes on, I remember myself as little Ralphie in front of that family radio.

I fondly remember my favorite early evening show. It was "Adventures of Sergeant Preston of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police." He had a dog, much like my white Eskimo spitz, which was referred to as Yukon King, the wonder dog. By some coincidence, my dog also got named King. His French Canadian sidekick, who referred to the officer as "Mon Ami," eludes me at this time. Other programs that have not been mentioned was one of my mother's favorites, "The Telephone Hour," an hour of musical selections that would now prompt me to use my tuner more than I do! That is when music was music.

My first viewing of TV was in an ice cream parlor in Alliance, Ohio. It was high above the soda fountain and had a magnifying lens in front of the set. The first one I saw in Nanty Glo was in the home of Steve Olexo and it was about the size of a tower-type computer with a 6-inch screen. I remember most of the neighborhood gathering in a darkened room as Mr. Olexo proudly adjusted The Lone Ranger for his neighbors.

As for TV, our first set was a mahogany cabinet 21-inch giant that had doors that closed over the cathode-ray tube. It was made by Capehart and I think the repair man muddled around inside it more than it played. In reality, it was a primitive piece of tube technology wrapped in a beautiful piece of furniture.

Of course, all pictures were black and white and outside roof antennas were needed for every channel. If you changed channnels...you had to throw a corresponding switch to change to the correct antenna. No such thing as a remote at that time; you couldn't change channels without letting your neighbors know, because the sets had selectors that loudly announced a channel change with a "kerclunk!" We had the largest channel selection in the neighborhood—three! I believe it was WJAC-TV, KDKA-TV, and later a "new fangled" UHF channel from Altoona...or was it WTAE?

Weekends brought the premier programming, and I can always remember what I thought was the bore of Friday night, but my father's joy, boxing matches! It was the Gillette Cavalcade of Sports. Remember that stupid whistling parrot selling blue blades with the sound of a clanging ringside bell?

Saturday night was the Hit Parade and with so few channels and programs to pick from, I usually was able to tell my parents what was on what channel on what day and at what time. News was not the 6:30 PM item that now hits us, but it was John Cameron Swazie and it aired at 8 PM. Thank God that Dick Clark and Bandstand finally came along in my teen years.

Things have changed. Now all I have to remember are websites, but my computer has a favorites icon, of which the Nanty Glo site is my favorite. Perhaps someday, somewhere, some sort of new technology will be out there where people can come together and reminisce about the good old days of computers.

Thanks for bringing back so many memories, Jon!

Paul Ceria
Fayetteville, NC

Thank you, Paul! My recollection is that Channel 10, Altoona, predated WTAE by some years (though I may be mistaken...it has been known to happen!). Channel 10 was WFBG, which, at least my mother (who worked for a while at Gable's Department Store) said stood for William F. B. Gable. And of course the location of your house made a big difference when antennas were required; Nanty Glo, being in a "bowl," had a disadvantage in that regard compared with our Red Mill Road house on a hilltop

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