Houses with antenna

It seems everyone my age has a favorite memory of their first tv, and apparently everyone who watched early tv in Waco remembers “Ten Acres,” which appeared for years at noon on KWTX channel 10.

Alvis remembers:

Good old Johnny Watkins, as I recall. That’s a great depiction of the field with the transmitter in the background. You do know Waco!

Yes, it was Johnny Watkins. He was the agriculture and garden reporter at KWTX radio (1230 AM), and took his show to television when KWTX  began broadcasting in 1955. He offered farming and ranching advice on “Ten Acres” until he retired in 1980. Quite a run!

Chet recalls:

The transmission tower is still there though 10 Acres (the site) became a housing development about 3 or 4 years ago.

Up until then us Old Waco folks still called that location 10 Acres.

Steve adds a wonderful bit of trivia:

Ed, really enjoyed today’s version of Sleeper Ave.  The first TV.  The farmer on 10 Acres was Johnny Watkins.  My dad watched the show the days he came home for lunch.  I think the show came on at noon.  Also, another piece of trivia is the theme music of 10 Acres was Barnum and Bailey’s Favorite, a circus march written by Karl King in 1913 and played spectacularly by the Texas Aggie Band.

Adonna:

I remember our first TV.  It arrived  somewhere around 1955 and the cabinet was huge with a small oval screen (small!).  The only reason my dad bought it was to watch Friday Night Fights.  Remember – “What’d  Ya Have?  Pabst Blue Ribbon. What’d  Ya Have?  Pabst Blue Ribbon, What’d  Ya Have?  Pabst Blue Ribbon, Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer!”  Or “Look sharp and feel sharp too.  Use the razor that is right for you.  Gillette! And so many others that sing through my head every now and then.

From Bob, a fellow Denverite:

Television took a long time to arrive here in Denver. Something about the mountains interfering with the signal. But when they finally put that antenna atop Lookout Mountain, we had it. Months before that, the father of a friend of mine purchased and hooked up his tv. We’d go over after school and watch it, but there was nothing but snow to watch. Not even a test pattern. Just snow. Occasionally—just enough to keep us captive—there’d be a sound, a word or two. And so we’d keep on watching snow, hoping for the best.

Rita:

We had the same experience in NY ~ I even watched the test pattern because it was so amazing to SEE something on the TV.

Yes, it was.  And here’s the opening to the first episode of my first and all-time favorite early television show:

Sleeper Ave. got a nice write-up in one of my favorite websites, Mike Peterson’s Comic Strip of the Day, yesterday. If you’re a fan of cartooning, I would definitely bookmark it.

Watching myself grow up

Maybe you had to be there, but I’m really enjoying Sleeper Avenue, Ed Stein’s lookback at the era in which he — we — grew up.

I hope this is reaching more than simply those of us who experienced much the same thing, because he’s writing with less nostalgia than Red and Rover, but less acerbic retrospection than You Damn Kid, and so it’s an interesting mix of affection and regret that ought to resonate better with those who weren’t part of it.

In the newest episode, the family gets their much anticipated TV set and discovers that there aren’t very many channels and there isn’t very much on any of them anyway.

Much of what was on also wasn’t very good, either, though, having nothing to compare it with, we were not all that aware of it, except as he notes.

It was a Wild West moment in which — as with the World Wide Web a few decades later — people simply showed up and did stuff, most of which was unpolished and only some of which turned into anything.

In this case, of course, they had to talk their way past station management, but that wasn’t so hard because the networks didn’t know what to do with the medium either, and focus groups were only just being invented.

To put it another way, creativity had not yet become an object of suspicion to be rejected or at least crushed into the mold with a sledgehammer.

To put it another other way, there was a lot of mud being thrown at the wall.