I started thinking about Adam (aka “Batman”) West’s passing Friday, and it brought back so many memories of the early (black & white!) days of television. Adam was a perfect Batman, square-jawed and brave – nothing fazed him. For new followers, here are a few other things I wrote over a year ago about this TV era.
Here in Montreal, in 1952, we got all of one (1!) TV channel. If memory serves, it was channel 2 on the dial, and it was bilingual, English and French. (In those days there was more linguistic cooperation in this province!) The channel was run by the CBC: the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Shows were, of course, in black and white.
The first television broadcasts in Montreal began in September 1952, Wikipedia tells us. Amazingly, that’s right about the time my father bought his eager family our first TV set.
We were enthralled! The scene was not unlike the famous one from 2001: A Space Odyssey, in which the chimps discover the oblong-shaped monolith in the middle of nowhere and are puzzled – but enthralled. Except that we indeed could figure it out. Turn this dial like so, and that dial like that, and presto! Like magic, miniature movies would appear on our very own screen in our very own living room!
That first TV cost my father $300 hard-earned dollars. I suppose that was equal to about several thousand of today’s dollars. Whatever it cost, we felt it was worth every penny. As a seven-year-old almost eight, I was enchanted by the puppet shows and other children’s shows that populated the Box. Later I’d enjoy live-action kids’ shows like Lassie and Circus Boy and later still, Forest Ranger.
It was such a rich experience, it never would have occurred to us to long for a wider range of shows, a broader choice of channels. You can’t miss what you’ve never had.
But. But. On nights when my parents worked late at their store, leaving my brother and me to do mischief, we (okay, he) eventually figured out that if we hung a blob of steel wool just so from the little knob at the end of the rabbit-ears antenna, we could just barely manage to see and hear WPTZ – Channel 5, operating out of Plattsburgh, N.Y., some 60 miles south – and then we could watch great movies like Charlie Chan! How we loved that series! Charlie Chan was a great detective who solved all manner of mysteries, usually with the invaluable help of his “number-one son.”
I didn’t think it odd until years later, that the cast consisted mostly of white actors. Speaking of #OscarsSoWhite, eh?
I think if you had told us then about the 500-channel universe to come decades later, we would have thought you were crazy. And my thoughts now? More isn’t always better.