When I was growing up we didn't have TV.
No, I'm not THAT old. And yes, we had other amenities like electricity and running water. Our lack of TV was a choice, a decision my parents made without my knowledge or consent. It was supposed to be an "experiment", but personally, I think my dad was just cheap.
In the spring of 1969, the company my father worked for moved us from Atlanta to Houston. Either the move was too rough on its delicate circuitry, or maybe it didn't like the Houston heat and humidity, but our black and white Zenith portable with its rabbit ears fizzled out shortly after being installed in our brand new house.
My father made a stab at fixing it. First, he swiveled the rabbit ears and banged his fist on the top and sides a few times. Then he opened the back and peered fixedly at the innards. When nothing worked, no surprise there, that was when my parents decreed we would be television free. The Zenith was rudely shoved into the downstairs closet, like a bad puppy thrown outside for piddling on the rug, and there it sulked for 37 years until we hauled it out and tossed it with all the other junk prior to moving my parents to Dallas.
Fortunately, I was one of those nerdy kids who loved to read, so it was just a matter of loading up on the books to keep my mind off the antics of Dudley Do-Right and Gomer Pyle.
Despite the television ban in our house, I got a fairly regular diet of TV, thanks to friends whose parents hadn't catapulted them back to the stone age. I watched Dark Shadows most afternoons next door, and each week wondered what was keeping the rest of the Brady kids from beating the crap out of Jan. Our across-the-street neighbors, who were my parents' best friends, would invite us over whenever there was some kind of breaking news event like moon landings, presidential resignations and Super Bowls.
My freshman year of high school, my English teacher, Mr. McClain, who looked like Glee's Mr. Schuester and was the object of hordes of adolescent female lust, assigned an essay that required watching something on television one night, I can't remember now what it was. It was a shot in the dark, but I impulsively raised my hand and asked, "What if you don't have a TV?" I completely expected him to tell me to arrange to watch the program at a friend's house, or even assign an alternate essay, which would have been the sensible thing to do. Instead, he was so impressed that my family was crippling by without television, he awarded me an automatic "A" on the spot and gave me the night off. I was persona non grata with my classmates for a couple of days, but the Mr. McClain Fan Club got itself another member in me.
It wasn't until after they married me off (of course!) that my parents caved in and bought another TV, a big color console. What had started as an "experiment" to see if we could live without the boob tube finally came to an end 11 years later. I suppose that qualifies as a rousing success.
To Mr. Fred McClain, 9th grade Major Works English, G. C. Scarborough Jr. - Sr. High School, here's your essay 40 years late.
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