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Television


Like many of the Baby Boom generation and first TV generation, I watched way too much of the Boob Tube. Philadelphia had a lot of kid's show with hosts such as Sally Star, Chief Halftown, and Happy the Clown. Happy was a grumpy, impatient man who hated kids. That made him so fun to watch. Each show featured a class of preschoolers who Happy would interview at the top of a sliding board. Basically, the only question preschoolers can answer is how many fingers they are. Happy would solicit this information and push the kid down the slide as if he could get rid of them fast enough.

Sally Star dressed as a cowgirl with way too much makeup. Like other host she showed cartoons, along with The Three Stooges. To this day, I don't know what fascinated me about the Stooges. I never found them funny. I guess I felt sorry for Larry. Sally also had a radio show where she played country music. The news broke Patsy Cline died in a plane crash while Sally was on the air, and she broke down and cried.

Early live television was full of experimentation. Philadelphia's WCAU had a live daily western called Action in the Afternoon. The show had its own outdoor set, a street scene that looked like the old west, thought it was practically in downtown Philly.

As a teenager I was hooked on the network news. My favorite networks were CBS and NBC. In fact, I never thought much of ABC's news operation, though that would later change. I religiously watched the Huntley-Brinkley report and Walter Cronkite. David Brinkley is among my all-time favorite journalists. I liked Chet Huntley until he cheapened his image by doing airline commercials. In addition to Cronkite, I admired Eric Severeid. His interviews with the poet Carl Sandburg and the longshoreman/poet Eric Hoffer stand out in my memory.

It was through TV, I discovered science fiction. The Twilight Zone did more to make me a reader than any other influence. It was through Rod Serling that I took up reading short stories, especially science fiction authors, like Ray Bradbury and Robert Bloch. Some of those episodes were so scary, I found myself having nightmares. I parents forbade me to watch for awhile, but they eventually gave up.

Fortunately, the nightmares stopped. I actually saw Serling give a speech at a community college in Oceanside. This is near Camp Pendleton, a quite conservative place. Serling's last series, Night Gallery, had been canceled, but to Serling that was a relief. He had no creative control and actually hated the show. He then told his audience what he thought of Nixon. Most of them got up and left before he was done. He died of a heart attack a year later.

I also enjoyed the short-lived Outer Limits. I never got into Star Trek. I found the characters cartoonish, especially McCoy, Kirk, and Spock. My opinion changed when I saw the Wrath of Khan at Berkeley's UC Theater, and I converted into a Tkekkie.

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