Birthdays must not have been a big deal when I was a kid. I only remember one, and what’s memorable was not the party. We had just gotten a TV set and I was much more interested in watching Saturday morning cartoons than eating some cake.
TV was a big deal in 1959. Having one in our house was a big deal, too! Prior to our getting that set I had to go across the street to watch cartoons. Thinking about them now, the picture was nothing like we have today, it was snowy and distorted, and only black and white. Actually shades of grey, less than fifty shades of grey. The content wasn’t all that good, either. My favorites were Mighty Mouse, Popeye, and Woody Wooden Pecker. That’s what I called him, much to the amusement of my mother and grand mother.
Woody’s show is what I wanted to watch that morning, so we all took a break from the cake and watched TV for a while. (There’s a You Tube video of an old Woody Wood Pecker show below the fold.)
The other memory of television is watching NASA rocket launches on that set. This was even before John Glenn and Alan Shepard went into space. These were the Explorer and Redstone launches, which frequently failed. Spectacularly.
I tried to understand everything they talked about. Orbital dynamics. Engineering. Chemistry. My nine year old brain had trouble comprehending liquid oxygen. I thought that anything liquid had to be water. You know, like milk. It was mostly water. Therefore, anything liquid had to be mostly water. This newsreel gives you a sense of what I was watching. Those rockets sparked my interest in science that is still alive within me. This video can give you a sense of what I enjoyed watching.
In the next ten years I owned, assembled, dismantled, and repaired dozens of tube type television sets. I learned the function of every tube and could tell by looking at the picture and listening to the sound which tube was probably bad. Those old tubes went bad frequently. I’d take a box of them down to White Drug every other week or so to check them out on the tube tester.
Here’s a link to a colorized and restored version of one of the Woody Woodpecker cartoons.