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As time goes by

The Spirit of Tehachapi

 

December 21, 2019

Pat Gracey

I remember December 31, 2016, New Year's Eve. Father Time, old 2016 made an effort to throw the weather book at us and surely did. Starting with sunshine, then dense fog, then rain and finally snow, he went out in a fit of madness. Guess he didn't want to leave. It gets one to thinking about days gone by sometimes decades. Our brain is a wonderful filing cabinet for episodes from our lives that can be called up at will. We see kids today completely engrossed in their smartphones that can take them around the world in seconds. Kids are so smart! I saw a baby toy the other day shaped like a cell phone. Each generation has something of its own.

Going back a handful of decades when I was a "little kid," we had a wonderful invention called a radio. Every family had one. My Dad bought us a large model. There were table models also and I remember the shape of the Philco radio. They all plugged into an electric socket. The portable and transistor radios were yet to come.

At school, in the first grade, we used to talk about what we had heard the evening before on the adventures of Little Orphan Annie who aired at 4:45 p.m. on KNX or maybe KFI. Right after that we heard Jack Armstrong, the All American Boy. His sponsor was Wheaties, "the breakfast of champions!" Orphan Annie sold Ovaltine. It was a healthful, good tasting drink which the announcer said was full of vitamins and minerals. How I wanted those vitamins and minerals but Ovaltine was too expensive except for an occasional treat. The Lone Ranger was to be heard later in the evening. His theme song was borrowed from Rossini's William Tell Overture, a beautiful classical piece which had no copyright and could be used free. "Hi ho Silver! Away!" My mother listened to the daily soap operas and it kept her interest while she ironed, cleaned the house, sewed, or cooked. The sponsors all seemed to be selling soap. Real soap, not detergent. So much yet to come. Even Gunsmoke had its beginning on radio. Saturday evening about 8 p.m.

Radio was really "do it yourself" television. Instead of the big picture tube (not too big, at first) you saw the performers in your own mind. We painted the picture with a brush called imagination. Work could go on while radios blared in garages as mechanics tuned up engines, in barns while farmers tended to their chores, children could do homework and wives could do an amazing amount of housework listening to Ma Perkins (sponsor, Oxydol laundry soap) or Pepper Young's Family (Camay facial soap, "the soap of beautiful women") and Myrt and Marge (Super Suds laundry soap). Thus, the name "Soaps."

I recall Death Valley Days in the evening with the Old Ranger telling the tales. It broadcast from 1930 to 1951 with the same person writing the scripts: Ruth Cornwall Woodman. Sponsor was Twenty Mule Team Borax, the sponsor during the entire 21 years. It later switched to television and good old Ronald Reagan was the announcer. This was before he was President, of course.

Lux Radio Theatre, with Cecil B. DeMille announcing, was looked forward to on Monday nights. Each December the annual Christmas Carol was broadcast with Lionel Barrymore as Scrooge. Wonderful!

At dinner my mother filled my dad in on what she had heard on the news that day. I learned about the Dione Quintuplets, Amelia Earhart flying here and there, finally, never to return. My mother got up at four in the morning in 1938 to listen to the coronation of England's King George VI, the father of present Queen Elizabeth. Gone With the Wind was soon to be be filmed. We received daily history of the world along with dinner.

When my husband came home from Korea in September 1952, we bought our first television. Wow! It cost $204 and was a "table model" to fit our budget. From Sears. We watched anything that moved and how we loved it. Those were pre-cable days and we needed an antenna. In the L.A. area rabbit ears could bring in pretty good reception but we had the antenna, a long tall pole with a bay on the top that fit either by the side of the house or on the roof. We were only forty miles from San Diego so we could get Channel 10 really good. I recall a young man, Regis Philbin, who announced the weather. He was a great weather man. He made it funny with occasional humorous quips. No one else has ever made the weather humorous. No wonder he became well known. Then, if we wanted L.A. we would turn the antenna towards The City of the Angels to watch old thirties movies that we once watched at the BeeKay. It didn't matter, we had TELEVISION! Snow and all. We had I Love Lucy, even then, and before long our children were watching Beany and Cecil (the seasick sea serpent). Fury, Lassie and even the good old Lone Ranger hit the screen of our wonderful machine. It would be like looking at a postage stamp compared to today's large, large screens. Gunsmoke was good entertainment and James Arness was young and Miss Kitty was, too. We learned all about medicine from Dr. Kildare and Ben Casey and became very up on law with Perry Mason.

Of course, sports came to our house with football, baseball, basketball, golf, etc. on Saturdays. If there was a game being played in Lower Slobovia you may be sure my husband had to watch it. That's o.k. I really didn't mind (too much). I like sit-coms and he had to sit through a few hundred of those with me.

TV is still the mode but those smartphones can keep the kids sitting stone still for long periods. My computer has a much better memory than I do and one of those flash drives can hold hours of information. I still like sit-coms and old movies and Valley Public Radio. My smartphone will always be smarter than I am, but I'm learning.

 
 

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