I was in the basement doing something when I heard it. The television was on the floor above and the call was faint but clear enough to get me going… “Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen. Robin Hood, Robin Hood with his band of men…” I never wanted to miss any of the story so in seconds I was up in front of the TV with my brothers, ready for our favorite afternoon shows.
I guess this subject is going to clue readers in to my age but also, I hope, to how much has changed in my lifetime (and even more in my parent’s lifetime!) Television was a fairly new item back in 1951 when I was born – just getting to be affordable for an average family. The huge black square sat in a corner of our living room on a table with a large hole in the middle so it could air cool and not overheat. No remotes, and reception depended on which way your antenna pole outside was pointing. There were only a couple stations broadcasting from far away cities and pretty much no choice of programming, but that didn’t matter. One person outside would turn the pole while the others inside would watch anxiously, and when a picture would appear amidst the “snow” we would yell “hold it” and everyone would settle down to watch whatever was available that day. We didn’t watch TV during a storm because lightning could strike the pole and make it’s way into the house. It did that once and burned out the TV.
Our shows were in the afternoon and early evening, before the news and on Saturdays. Howdy Doody, Sky King, Captain Kangaroo, and Mickey Mouse Club, the theme song of which I can still remember every word, – they were all regulars. But my favorites, by far, were Robin Hood and his band of merry men, Roy Rogers and Silver (well, Dale Evans too, in a marginal sort of way) Tonto, and Rinny the German Shepherd.
Their adventures were the inspiration of much of my daytime play. I was young enough to be gender unobservant so I was always Roy, Robin, or the Lieutenant because they were the heroes and smarter than everyone else, usually. And of course, the costumes were very important. Back in those “old days” I don’t remember there being lots of commercials telling us which toys we should beg for, but somehow I ended up one Christmas getting the complete cowboy outfit and I loved it. What possessed my parents I don’t know.
My favorite time to make up stories was after being put to bed at night. We children always had an early bedtime, before we were very tired, and our imaginations never let us just lie there being bored. I would put all my gear on over my pajamas – the chaps, the vest with the star, the gun belt and six shooters, and the hat – and get my plot going. By the time I was shot and wounded, having fallen dramatically in
my bed the street, I was usually asleep. That’s the way it was, back then, just sayin’.