Monday, January 21, 2013

THE EXISTENTIAL NOSTALGIA OF TV

me, dad and joe
From a recent email from my little brother Joe of The Queers:

"Hey aged relative-do you have [our brother] Ross's address? I bought Allen [our nephew] a signed 8x10 glossy of Martin Milner from 1-Adam 12. I know he likes the show."

Me: "Who's Martin Milner?"

Joe: "Martin Milner? Are you tripping? Pete Malloy from One Adam 12? The greatest cop show in the history of tv? Late 60's-early 70's? It was produced by Jack Webb so there's all sorts of killer episodes of stoned hippy parents who beat their children to death or let them drown while they're smoking marijuana cigarettes. Funny as hell."

Me: "As you may know, my TV watching came to a screeching halt right around the time 'Mr. Ed' completed its run"...

It's true--once John-Boy read Gerard Manley Hopkins' "The Wind-Hover" to Mama on "The Waltons," there really wasn't anywhere else to go.

Even earlier were such New England staples as Rex Trailer's "Boomtown," "Candlepins for Cash," and "Community Auditions," which was on Sunday morning and featured kids from Boston suburbs like Brockton and Malden (Mawlden, the people from Mass. pronounced it) massacreing "Climb Every Mountain," mangling "Für Elise" on the piano, and banging out "When the Saints Come Marching In" on cheesy drum sets.

"Star of the day, who will it be?" went the theme song. "Your vote will hold the key. It's up to you, tell us who, will be star of the day." Gene Burns was the host for years, followed by "radio personality" Dave Maynard. We'd all hoot and jeer and double over laughing, secretly thinking, in my case at least, I bet I could do that...

All eight of us were weaned on "Leave It to Beaver," "Andy of Mayberry," "Green Acres," "I Love Lucy," and "The Beverly Hillbillies" (Joe sometimes still calls me Ellie Mae, or if he's feeling ornery, Granny). The launching of the ipad had nothing on the furor surrounding the day UHF, the “cable” equivalent of the ‘60s, came to town, and from our living room at 108 Post Road in North Hampton, NH, we were able to get channels 38 and 56: "Creature Feature," "The Twilight Zone," "The Outer Limits." 

One of the first things I bought after I got sober was a Sony Trinitron (which I held onto for 20 years), but I never quite caught up. TV for me is forever the weeks of excitement leading up to the annual screening of The Wizard of Oz.  TV is sitting in the dark as the phosphorescent glow lit our (relatively) innocent little faces, and logs from the fireplace Dad built with his own hands sent out sparks and the smell of pine pitch. TV for me is still a tangle of warm little bodies kicking, squirming, wisecracking, that back then seemed annoying (why couldn't I be an only child? I thought bitterly as I edged into adolescence) and that now I'd give my right arm for one more night of.

Call me old school, but I've never felt the same about TV since.

8 comments:

  1. Did you know, Heather, that Rex Trailer died just recently -- within the last two weeks? He was 84, I think. And Dave Maynard left us last year or the year before.

    Oh, I remember when it was just 38 and 56 (and 44, PBS) on the UHF dial in the Boston area! Then when I was about seven, channel 25 came along, and my brain almost exploded! Something new! Like the metric system! Yay!

    Oh, yes, and Creature Double Feature, as it was in my day (mid to late '70s)! Usually two Godzilla movies, back to back!

    I'm old enough to remember The Great Entertainment, the weekend showing of old movies on Channel 5, hosted by Frank Avruch. That's how I discovered Tracy and Hepburn (at age nineteen!)!

    I was never into Adam-12, for whatever reason. In early adulthood, I grew to love Dragnet (the late '60s incarnation with Jack Webb and Harry Morgan -- by then, of course, it was on cable).

    My aunt once bowled a strike on Candlepins for Cash! (Hosted by Bob Gamere in the '70s.) I was present in the Channel 7 studio for the feat. She won a nice chunk of change!

    Oh, I could go on, but shouldn't! Thanks for the flashback, Heather!

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  2. You mean Frank Avruch as in Bozo the Clown? No, I didn't know the good Rex Trailer had passed on. Well, that's sad, though I'm actually surprised he was still around all these years later. Those were the days!...kind of....Thanks, Tom...

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  3. Yes, Frank Avruch as in Bozo the Clown (from what I've heard!) For "The Great Entertainment," though, Avruch would stand under a makeshift movie marquee in a tuxedo, and give background info on the film that was being shown that night.

    Rex Trailer died on January 9th of this year (real name: Rexford Traylor).

    My mom remembers someone named Big Brother Bob Emery, who'd always toast the president with a glass of milk. It took a while for Mom, then a little kid, to get used to the change from Truman to Eisenhower!

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  4. Love the face of the little fellow on our right. Love it.

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  5. The Waltons!!! ♥ John Walton (the father) was always calling his daughter Elizabeth, "Elizabeth Honey"... which apparently encouraged my parents to name my little sister Elisabeth Honey.

    "Good night Mary Ellen"
    "Good night Grandma"
    "Good night Erin"
    Good night "John Boy"
    ..... :)

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  6. Joe as a kid, already looks like a rock star. I love pictures! Thanks for sharing.Did you get your depth from your dad?

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  7. Looking at the face of your father, I wish I could have whispered in his ear, "Everything is going to be alright."

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  8. ha ha, oh trust me, that's a job I took unto myself, to try to relieve my beloved father's anxiety...

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