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Channel Surfing: 1956

Channel Surfing: 1956

Dad is waiting for the Westinghouse to warm up, and the channel selector is set at 7, WXYZ, Detroit. Other choices were 2, WJBK; 4, WWJ and 9, CKLW in Windsor, Ontario, where we lived. The console TV had doors that closed so that it looked like a piece of fine furniture. The TV was turned on for a show, and when that was over it was turned off. If you tuned in too early in the day all you got was the dreaded Test Pattern. A favourite back then was Detroit's own Soupy Sales. The antenna was up in the attic of our two-story home. View full size.

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Soupy Sales, a classic comedian

When I was a kid in Armonk NY in the 60's, I remember watching Soupy Sales after school. With his white fang and black tooth stick, and his often crude jokes that would get him tossed off the air for a spell. Back then, it was all live. Great memory of him.

No Surfing

My maternal grandparents bought their first TV in 1952 - it was a Peto-Scott (?) where the CRT was vertical and projected on to a mirror. You then viewed the image on a translucent matt screen.

Like many they got it for the Coronation in 1953 - TV was extended to Scotland for this. The 1937 Coronation was televised, but only in the London area.

There was no need for a channel changer - the only broadcaster was the BBC!

Even when the 'inferior' commercial TV broadcasting started (1956?) they kept their set. 405 lines on VHF broadcast from Kirk O'Shotts in between Edinburgh & Glasgow.


Growing up in SE Michigan, CKLW was our favorite channel. Besides such good kiddie fare as "The Friendly Giant" and "Milky the clown" they televised the canadian sport of Curling long before it became known to US sportsmen. It inspired us to steal mom's kettle from the kitchen, fill it with water until it froze and go for it on a nearby frozen pond.

Correction: Channel 9

Thanks for the fun photo. Took me back to a childhood growing up on the other side of the Detroit River.

Not to be picky, but CKLW-TV was (and I think, still is) Channel 9, not 12. And a good TV channel brought me The Friendly Giant! I always loved rocking chairs, and he had one for me.

Re: Early TV

My mother spoke of seeing her first B&W TV in a shop window, probably in 1950, possibly a bit earlier.

She stood there watching "Kukla, Fran, and Ollie" for a few minutes, and told Dad, "If that's Television, they can keep it!"

Aside: "Kukla" is simply "doll" in Russian.

Light years ahead

I'm always fascinated by the wonderful old TV's from the 50's. How they went from something you'd try to hide to something you'd proudly flaunt in just a few years. Of course most fascinating is that in South Africa we still had 20 years to wait from 1956 before we got TV!

Early TV

In the mid-1940s the father of a friend of mine took delivery of the first TV set received by a radio store in the Bronx. I remember going to their apartment the night the set was installed, and as we all sat in front of the TV waiting for something to happen, there was nothing being broadcast. I must have gone there another 100 times or more and saw TV broadcasting in its infancy. It led to a career choice that I made and thrived on.

Vintage TV Sets

Can't say I miss the days of the rolling pictures on TV sets. How many hours did we all suffer either fighting with rabbit ears or waiting precariously for the roll to start again!

Surf's Up, Sorta

Angus J! Great to see that your dad is still enjoying his TV! At least now he can stay in his chair and choose.

Still Channel Surfing: 2011

My brother took this photo of Dad last week, in his apartment in Toronto, Ontario. He is 91 now, and his favourite channel is CBC Newsworld, a Canadian version of CNN. I asked him about the Blue Mountain pottery planter (with ivy) on top of the set, and he recalls the lamp was part of the planter. The tube television is hooked up to cable.

Deja Vu

I worked for Crescent TV Service in Windsor for 25 years, I think I remember that set !!

That's Blue Mountain pottery on the TV

Everybody's mother in Windsor seemed to have at least one piece of the stuff. Candy dishes, ashtrays, you name it. My mum had been lumbered with an intensely ugly Blue Mountain tropical fish.

This one looks like it's a lamp base but maybe it's just the angle. Could it really be a floor lamp behind the TV looking like it has taken root in a candy dish?

400 channels in 2011

And still some nights there's nothing on. We got our first RCA TV in 1951 in Detroit when I was four. CKLW in Windsor was still several years away. Nothing on but test patterns until late morning. In less than a decade all of the four stations listed in the first post had their own local afternoon kid shows. Adjusting the set top rabbit ears antenna for each channel was a routine we kids quickly picked up. When the picture "tore" or "rolled", and could not be adjusted with the smaller knobs on the front or back of the set, it usually meant a call to the TV repair man who made house calls in those days. It was a sad day when the guts of the set had to be taken to the repair shop for more serious repairs. Eventually our cost conscious Dad found he could solve most problems by pulling the small tubes and taking them to the drug store tube tester which could quickly diagnose the burned out or "gassy" tubes which were causing the problem. Those of you who were TV watchers in the 1950's will probably remember the ghostly spot which faded in the center of the screen for a few seconds after the set was turned off. I now know it was caused by the residual electrons from the "electron gun" in the picture tube as the tube's heater element cooled off. That is what I keep telling myself.

You can be sure ...

... if it's Westinghouse. Nice to see a vintage TV shot showing the operator at the controls for a change. I think an interesting coffee table book (if not a scholarly monograph) could be produced on the subject of 1950s' set-top decoration modalities.

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