Believe it or not, I recently ran across a column I wrote back in September 1972. It dealt with the 25th anniversary of television. That’s right. There was a time when we celebrated television’s birthday. Anyway, I’ll repeat the column just like I wrote it 46 years ago. I think you’ll get a chuckle or two out of it:
“Although the start of television is listed as 1947, it really didn’t get to the Midwest until about 1950. One of my first experiences with TV was at Mosey’s Café, where a set had been tucked away up on a shelf.
“The only TV station hereabouts at the time was Channel 4, WOI-TV, in Ames. (They later changed it to Channel 5.) The reception wasn’t the greatest, but that only added to the wonder of it all.
“The average show wasn’t exactly the kind that kids would stand in line to watch, but back then it was just the idea of being able to see what you could hear. The idea of transmitting picture through the air was something that was really hard to comprehend.
“Later on, a big announcement was made: the Lone Ranger was coming to television!
“A group of us kids went down to Frank Roznos’s big house to watch our hero on television. I remember that the show started at 6:30 p.m. and when we got there, we could hear the haunting strains of the William Tell Overture. That was when we knew our hero was really going to appear.
“The first TV Lone Ranger show was about an ambush of a group of Texas Rangers in which all the Rangers were killed, save one, whom an Indian found and nursed back to health. He, of course, became the Lone Ranger and the Indian his faithful sidekick Tonto.
“I remember how I envied the Roznos family for actually being able to see the Lone Ranger in the front room of their own home.
“A year of so later my folks bought a television set enabling me to sit back in our front room and watch the Lone Ranger. Life was good.
“Captain Video was another show we kids all faithfully followed. Although the production wasn’t exactly a high budget affair we got used to the fact that the same boulders appeared in every scene. I guess it was due to this that I realized that not nearly all of the things we were watching on television weren’t on the uppity-up.
“Having just one television station forced people to watch programs they would probably never have been interested in had there been a choice. Who knows how many new wrestling fans were created due to the limited choice of entertainment available?
“Howdy Doody was another big name back then as was his sidekick Buffalo Bob and friend Princess Summer-Winter-Spring-Fall (or whatever her name was). I can well remember Buffalo Bob asking the Peanut Gallery, “Hey kids, what time is it?” and the thunderous response: ‘IT’S HOWDY DOODY TIME!!!’
“Another familiar face was that of Dorothy Collins who was the Lucky Strike Sweetheart. She would introduce all the big musical songs of the day on ‘Your Hit Parade.’ Some of them being ‘How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?’ ‘Shrimp Boats’ and ‘This Old House.’
“‘I Love Lucy’ was a popular show made especially special to me because my basketball coach’s wife seemed to resemble her.
“Who could ever forget that tough no-nonsense cop who answered to the name of Joe Friday, Sergeant, Los Angeles Police Department? I guess it was his show ‘Dragnet’ that made the phrase “Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent” so well known.
“The Lone Ranger eventually gave way to shows such as ‘Gunsmoke,’ ‘Cheyenne,’ ‘Maverick’ and ‘Sugarfoot.’
“The next station to come on the air in this area was out of Des Moines. It was on a different frequency and required a special adapter that had to be purchased before it could be viewed on a normal TV set. Due to that, the station’s lifespan was rather short. The Iowa Highway Patrol now uses the facilities for the communication headquarters.
“Finally channels 8 and 13 came on the air. With the ability to choose different programs on different channels television really took hold in central Iowa and the lines at the local movie theaters quickly disappeared.
“Competition to attract the most viewers then became an issue. The quiz shows, which had until that time been giving away prizes of $64 or $100 gave way to shows such as ‘Twenty-One,’ ‘The $64,000 Question’ and ‘The Price Is Right.’ Those went well until a government investigation coined a new word ‘Payola.’ Seems some of the geniuses answering the tough questions weren’t really geniuses.
“Today’s TV continues to get bigger every year what with movies produced strictly for television and budgets for many programs as high as some of the big movie spectaculars of just a few years back.
“Violence and sex are the modern terms and now and then a few bad words slip by the censors. I guess it’s all one big circle, so keep your ears open … you may be hearing ‘The William Tell Overture’ coming back on primetime again soon.”
And that’s the way it was in 1972.
Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times.