I don’t have TV in my house. Quite frankly, I was addicted to it and so was my daughter. So we went cold turkey two years ago. And just like most addictions that you give up, I look back on it with some nostalgia.
Some of my fondest memories of when I was little kid revolve around the TV. I still get the warm fuzzies when I think of some of the shows I used to enjoy. My favorite show was I Love Lucy. I’m not alone in thinking this is the best show of all time, ever. (Here’s some trivia for you: when Lucy was airing on Tuesday nights, the mayor of NYC had to put out a plea to the city to please refrain from using the bathroom during the commercial breaks. It seemed that the entire city was watching the show and all the citizens ran to the bathroom and flushed at the same time, putting NYC into a water crisis every Tuesday night.) I learned all the best of life’s lessons from Lucy. For instance: Should you loan money to friends? No! Look what happened when Ricky loaned Fred money. Should you go into business with friends? No! That tore apart the Ricardos and the Mertzes. Should you pretend to be someone you’re not? No! Look what happened when Lucy and Ethel dressed as aliens and went to the top of the Empire State Building. Here are a few other useful bits of information: Always leave the freezer door propped open behind you or you’ll get locked in and your nose will become an icicle. Don’t ever go to Italy and stomp grapes in a vat because the local Italian women don’t like it. Don’t try to sew your own dresses or perm your own hair unless you are a professional. Don’t hold your lighter too close to your face to light a cigarette or you might catch your nose on fire. And there is such a thing as too much chocolate. All these things are good to know.
I also spent many a Sunday afternoon in front of the TV set watching old Charlie Chan movies. This is why today I can imitate a very good Asian accent and I refer to my only child as “Number One Daughter.”
Later in the afternoon I watched Roller Derby. (I won’t even mention that the movie Kansas City Bomber gave me my first crush – Raquel Welch!) Roller Derby taught me to stand up for myself, don’t be a pushover and if you’re ever about to get beat up by a crowd of mean-looking women – the smartest thing you can do is have your friend grab your hand and whip you around them.
I loved the old TV show Hazel. Hazel was a maid who worked for a man named Mr. Baxter. Mr. Baxter wore dark suits and was a little on the paunchy side. Because of him, I fell in love with Bobby in the first grade. Bobby Roberts was fat just like Mr. Baxter and he wore ties to school. I didn’t want to marry Bobby when I grew up, but I did want to clean his house and make him a drink after his hard day at work. However, our relationship was doomed from the beginning. The first time Bobby tried to kiss me on the playground, I called him Mr. B and handed him a chocolate milk carton. He thought I was weird and broke up with me.
I loved cartoons. My favorite cartoon camp show was Mr. Zing and Tuffy. It was a local show filmed in Tulsa. Mr. Zing was the host and his sidekick Tuffy was a man wearing a dog costume. There was also a talking tree named Leafy Bark. They entertained their live audience in between cartoons. My Grandpa took me to Tulsa to be a part of the audience for my fifth birthday present. I sat on the metal bleachers as Mr. Zing poked his microphone in front of kids’ faces and asked them questions. Somebody must have told him that it was my birthday because he zeroed in on me, thrust the microphone under my nose and said, “Happy Birthday, Layce.” A camera zoomed in only a foot away from my face. I was petrified. “Happy birthday,” I said back. Mr. Zing asked, “Did you get a present for your birthday?” I nodded. “What did you get?” he asked. “A cow,” I said. “A stuffed animal?” he asked. “No,” I said. “A real live cow. After it gets big I’m gonna eat it.” The audience erupted into laughter and I burst into tears.
(As a sidenote: It’s true. My Grandpa was a rancher and every year for my birthday he gave me a newborn calf. I got to name it, ride it and play with it until it got old enough to butcher and then I got to eat it.)
Cartoons after school and on Saturday mornings taught me everything I needed to know about classical music. Though a side effect of this is every time I hear Wagner’s Ring Cycle or Bizet’s Carmen, I see Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd in my head.
Sunday evenings were my favorites. I ate grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup on a TV tray in front of the set and watched Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom followed by Disney’s Sunday Movie. I always felt so sad when the programs were over because that meant it was time for bed and school was looming on the horizon. Sunday nights still do that to me. I call it my ‘Mutual of Omaha’ feeling.
During the summers I got to stay up late and watch TV. I loved Bonanza. (And Miss Kitty fueled many of my young dreams. ) I would cry when the TV would sign off for the night. I shed tears right along with the tall Indian Chief who looked over the beautiful countryside and cried at all the litterbugs.
I haven’t had TV in my house now for two years. Overall, it has been a good thing. I read more. I write more. I talk and laugh with my family more. I even have enough time to crochet Saxon cute little hats. But, damn, sometimes I sure miss my TV.