Wednesday, November 10, 2010

That Train Keeps On Moving: Early Encounters With Television, Part 1

Go back, go back. Recall your early encounters with television.

The tricky part is getting past layers of reruns and repeated images that came (chronologically) later -- including home movies, shown several times over the years, and family reel-to-reel audio tapes, heard more than once after the original recordings -- to get at the original encounters. Memory games.

I do know this: the Jack Kennedy assassination was a powerful memory-inducing earthquake. I can remember bits and pieces of its aftermath very clearly, so that's probably my first coherent TV encounter. The Cuban Missile Crisis of the year before surely stayed with those old enough to make sense of it, but I was way too young then. By late 1963, though, I was old enough to grasp the emotional impact on my parents, if nothing else.

The next year, I saw the first picture show that left an impact, at the theater and with my family: Goldfinger (1964). Hence my enduring love of James Bond. Strongly reinforced by a family trip to the Word's Fair in 1965, which included poking around 007's specially equipped Aston Martin!

The first movie on TV that left a permanent trace in my psyche featured Humphrey Bogart.  It kept because his character was killed, and this was a moving thing, especialy after JFK's death. Pretty sure it must have been John Huston's The Treasure of the Sierre Madre and  probably in 1964. The adults must have been talking about it -- I vaguely remember my Mom and friends and/or relatives sitting around in our East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, living room, absorbing what I could.  

Other memories from early on: I loved Johnny Quest, which started in 1964, and must have seen the "Giant Robot Spider" episode when it first aired. That was my favorite one. Turns out that Johnny Quest was deliberately created to tap into the James Bond trope, specifically Dr. No. If so, it worked for me, completely.

Also early on I loved recreating comedy skits by Milton "Uncle Miltie" Berle. I thought he was hilarious -- and Captain Kangaroo (Mr. Green Jeans lived over at Shawnee). Ping pong balls falling on people's heads out of thin air -- cracked me up every time. Oh yeah, and then there was Lost in Space -- loved it! 

A whole slew of shows adhered to my longterm memory by 1966. Next post. How about for you?

Today's Rune: Breakthrough.  


the walking man said...

Must be the stars I used old time TV in analogy this morning.

The singular most enduring television sight that I have and can still see every moment of was when Jack Ruby Stepped forward out of the crowd right arm forward in Dallas and murdered Lee Oswald. I can still see the initial look on Oswald's face, then the grimace as he fell. His white T shirt and Ruby's hat are focal points in my memory.

We were out of school and that was the first reality TV I had seen live. Of course there was the film of the civil rights movement too, those were staples in our house every night but those were news clips. Oswald was the first man I saw die in black and white.

I remember a bunch of movies from that time most I didn't care for but every Sunday night mom would make the old man take us all out of the house so she could get it ready for us to mess up again. He always picked the movie.

Charles Gramlich said...

For me, my earliest memories are of Gunsmoke and Bonanza, but the most powerful ones are Star Trek.

Evan said...

For me, the earliest TV memories are seeing JFK's funeral and getting up out of bed when my folks were watching the Jackie Gleason Show ("Live - from the entertainment capital of the world, Miami Beach!") I was 3. Captain Kangaroo was a hit in our house as well.

Later on, at age 7 or so, I remember I loved Lost in Space and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. (Anyone else remember that one?)

Walter Cronkite on the CBS news every night was another key TV experience at a formative age.

And of course, my psyche was definitely shaped by having watched practically every Twilight Zone and Night Gallery - as well as more than a few Outer Limits episodes - by the time I was 10. (This was not entirely beneficial).

Erik Donald France said...

WM, I totally missed Oswald's killing; seeing Bogie's "death" on screen may have predated JFK and Oswald's actual deaths. (By the way, Oswald is buried in Ft Worth, TX). Charles, I did see those Westerns sporadically, and probably saw every Star Trek episode more than once, including through the 70s as repeats. Evan, next post addressed most of those. I picked up Night Gallery in Durham, NC, ca. 1970. And started watching Johnny Carson late at night, which I loved!

Lana Gramlich said...

My brother and I LOVED Johnny Quest and Lost in Space. We also never missed a Godzilla marathon (which usually ran at some point during the major holidays...Thanksgiving or Xmas, perhaps.) We'd watch Godzilla all day!

jodi said...

Erik, Johnny Quest and Hajji rocked!