Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Rabbit Ears

This week's Hodgepodge questions linked here

In thinking about my theme for this year's A-Z Blog Challenge I decided it would be fun to describe some of what life looked like in my childhood, how those same things looked in my children's growing up years, and to see how that compares with life today in my grandchildren's childhood. 

I'm going to start with television because that's the first thing that came to mind. And since the line between TVs and computers has gone completely blurry I'll likely touch on that as well. 

K is for When I Was A Kid

When I was a child the television programs we enjoyed aired once a week or, in the case of holiday specials, once a year. You snooze you lose, something like that. 

My sister and I couldn't wait to get up on Saturday mornings and watch our favorite cartoons...Bugs, Foghorn Leghorn, The Road Runner, Johnny Quest. When the holidays rolled in we would count the days until Rudolph, The Grinch, and Frosty were mentioned in the TV guide. 

fyi-the TV guide was not something you scrolled through on your television screen because in 1960-something there was no scrolling. The TV guide was an actual magazine you held in your hand and looked through to find what programs were airing when. If you didn't subscribe to the TV guide you could also find program listings in the local paper. 

Our family did eventually have a color television set, but our first TV was black and white, and we owned just one. Uno. Singular. For the whole entire house. Where six people of varying ages and interests lived. In fact most families we knew owned just one and that was fine. We made it work. 

Once upon a time TV viewing was a family activity, and a favorite was everyone piling on the couch to watch The Wonderful World of Disney together on Sunday evenings. We got three basic channels, plus PBS. Later we added what was then called UHF which gave us I think two additional channels, and that was thrilling. For real. 

In order to change the channels you had to get up, walk over to the tv, and physically turn a knob. Sometimes we would argue over who was going to get up and change the channel. For the record if kids and parents were watching together it was never the parents-ha! 

The televisions of my childhood had antennas, or rabbit ears as they were known. When you changed the channel you would almost alway have to jiggle the antenna while someone watching from the couch would shout instructions...'a little more, no wait! back to the left!, hold it right there!, no wait!, okay that's good"

Everyday life before technology was king. 

I remember when my parents put in central air one of the 'perks' was the company they bought from gave a small TV as a thank you for your business. I mostly remember that little tiny TV living in my brother's bedroom, but I guess the only boy in a houseful of sisters needed his own TV. He would set it on a chair beside his bed to watch, and sometimes my sisters and I would all go into his tiny room and sit around that tiny TV. Good times! 

The local news aired once a day, around suppertime, followed by the national news. We read newspapers for more in-depth coverage of the day's happenings and everyone was less cranky-ha! There were some afternoon talk shows but they were mostly in the entertainment lane as opposed to politics and social commentary. 

No reality programming unless it was in the form of nature, no real housewives, Kardashians, or people spilling family secrets for all the world to see. There were daytime soaps which I suppose were the precursor to the real-life soaps we see today. Along came Phil and Oprah and later Jerry and everybody in everybody's business which seemed relatively harmless initially, but it's like we're on steroids now.  

As a teenager I babysat pretty regularly and late night weekends I would watch Don Kirschner's Rock Concert or Soul Train. Because those were the choices. For most of my childhood stations signed off the air at midnight. Yup. No TV. People slept or didn't sleep but they didn't watch TV at 3 a.m. or scroll their phone screens because phones were like televisions. One or two per family and plugged in to the wall.  In 1970-something screens were for windows, the glass kind not the computer kind. 

Language is complicated. 

In the early days of married life hubs and I had a console TV. These were a huge thing in the 1980's. Literally huge. As in a great big piece of furniture you decorated around. Still plugged in to the wall, but a bigger picture and better clarity than what we'd grown up with. Nothing like we have today but a big deal to poor newlyweds.  

We never put televisions in our children's bedrooms, but we did have more than one TV in the house. My kids grew up in the age of VHS tapes, Blockbuster rentals on Friday nights, and the excitement of purchasing a device that could rewind those videos faster than your VHS player because if you returned a VHS tape un-rewound you were fined. 

When we moved to the UK we owned one DVD. We brought our VHS player with us because we had no idea and also because in late 2003 technology hadn't sped up to supersonic speed. But speed up it did and now we watch television on devices we hold in our hands. 

Parents walk a daily tightrope in trying to limit the limitless, We know more, which is both good and awful, but we can't put the genie back in the bottle and most days don't really want to.  

We bought our first home computer when our girls were in elementary school. We didn't know what we had and they mostly painted and played games we purchased from actual stores. Oregon Trail and Math Blaster were two favorites. We might have owned four games? Life did not revolve around the computer and we had just one for the family, in a shared space so no secrets. They had computer lab in school each week and became adept at typing. 

I think it was a year or so after we arrived in England that my girls set up My Space accounts. They spent a lot of time choosing the music that would play when someone logged on and also ranking friends. Have mercy. When Facebook rolled in you needed a college email address to have an account, and then people found ways around that, and before you knew it the world discovered twelve year old children chatting with 40-year old men who were up to no good. Voila! Pandora's Box was open for all the world to see. 

The good news is that while the box is full of garbage it's also full of treasure. In the age of grandparenting I am so very thankful for how far we've come. My grands are many thousands of miles away, yet most evenings we talk and they show me things and I watch them play and read all from the comfort of my kitchen on the other side of the world. Facetime connects us and I appreciate that more than I can say. 

As I watch my daughter be a mother to her sons I see a thoughtful parent. One who is intentional in what she allows into her home via television, ipads, or the phone screen. I think her generation sees technology from a helpful vantage point. They appreciate the connection and support that can be found there, but they've also seen what too much has wrought, and they're trying to strike a balance. 

I feel certain one day I'll be chatting with my grandsons via a hologram. Or maybe some whiz kid will finally figure out how to 'beam me up Scotty'. 

Until then I write about my life here, send greeting cards and letters the old-fashioned way, and break into a smile every single time their little boy faces fill my screen. 


  1. I really enjoyed this walk down memory lane. We also had just one tv - 13" with just a few channels via antenna. They were simpler times, and I think we all benefited from just one news hour per day. Yes, tv viewing was for the whole family. I remember Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, and more. Now I can't imagine watching prime time network channels with children. Have a terrific Tuesday!

  2. I remember rabbit ears! From there we moved onto a huge whole house antenna and I just remember having to turn the dial and listening to it clunk into place.

  3. I remember when I was a little girl, we had this long piece of furniture. In the middle was a TV and on one end was a stereo. Maybe there was a radio in the other end?? or maybe it was storage for records?? We never allowed our kids to have TV's in their bedrooms either. I sure do love facetime -- our grandbabies think facetime is so normal!!

  4. Thanks for the good memories. Which had me thinking of our huge stereo sitting in our living room...shew that thing was huge!

  5. Your description of experience with television as a kid parallel's mine. One tv, one phone, one car per family, and a privilege to have them. Enjoyed reading all your comments.

  6. Oh my, I have so many of the same memories of those little black & white TVs. Things have certainly changed - yes, some for the better and some not. One of my fondest memories is being invited to a friend's house to see The Wizard of Oz on her family's new color TV. When Dorothy opens the door to Oz and all those colors are there! Wow. It was another year or so before my folks got us a color TV, and even then only some shows were in color. Fun memories!! xo

  7. Joyce,

    Your childhood was much like mine. Heck, we still use rabbit ears on our TV. We live in a place in town where the reception is excellent that rabbit ears pick up the signal beautifully. Of course much of our TV viewing is done through streaming services. The good old days were almost magical. We learned so much about who we are as well how to appreciate the people and things in our world. Modern technology can be like unleashing the horrors of Pandora's Box but like you pointed out there's a lot of good that's come from it, too. Who knows what tomorrow will bring but whatever rolls out, I hope I'm eager to learn the newest technology and never feel like I'm too old to do it. Great post!

    Check out today's Looney Tunes' Art Sketch of Kiss Me Cat when y'all get a chance. Happy A2Zing, folks!

  8. It's amazing how far we have come in such a short space of time. Many kids of today would be astounded by your post and how things used to be. Technology is so integrated into their lives. We still have TVs that work on aerials although our main TV is on cable. Another great post Joyce. I've been reading your posts but don't always have time to leave a comment. I'm trying to get through the A-Z too and I'm definitely winging it this year lol

  9. We at one point had 2 TV's, a small portable one in the kitchen. Yep, getting up to change the channel brings back memories. Signing off for the night, something kids today will never know! I remember our first computer well. My kids were a bit older than years. You're right about it being a treasure in many ways. You are right neither of my children are glued to their phones like today's kids. I have birthday cards going out each week and I'll be working on Mother's Day cards soon. Excellent post!