My home entertainment in the ’40s and ’50s
Time magazine this week reported the deaths of Lew Anderson, who played Clarabell the Clown on TV’s The Howdy Doody Show, back in the 50s, and Frankie Thomas, star of Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, from the same era.
Yes, children, they did have television in the 1950s, and I was there to watch it. Ouch. It doesn’t seem that long ago.
I was not a major fan of Howdy Doody, with Buffalo “Hey, kids, what time is it?” Bob and the Peanut Gallery. But I was seriously in love with Tom Corbett and his adventures, as well as Flash Gordon, played by Buster Crabbe. (And my son thinks he’s the family sci-fi fan. Ha!)
There was even interactive TV. (No slouches, those producers.) Winky Dink. You ordered a special plastic sheet (or improvised with Saran Wrap) which stuck to the screen via static electricity. Then you could draw or write on the screen with crayons as instructed by the program. Don’t know which was more fun, the program itself or the idea that we were getting to mark on the TV screen.
Locally, of course, Oklahoma City’s channel 4 (WKY) offered 3-D Danny, starring Danny Williams. Amazingly, I think he still works in OKC as a disk jockey. He should give it up. The last time I heard him, his enunciation was being noticeably compromised by his false teeth (that’s how it sounded to me, anyway).
This was, of course, after we got a TV. Before that, I was a radio fan. I listened to The Shadow (“What evil lurks in the heart of men? The Shadow knows… muahahahaha“), The Green Hornet, and Bobby Benson and the B-Bar-B Riders. Mom used to call me in from outdoors when it was time for Bobby Benson… around 5 pm I think. Interestingly, when Mike Wallace recently retired from CBS, it was mentioned that one of his earliest radio gigs was announcing The Green Hornet. I think The Lone Ranger and Sergeant Preston of the Yukon were on the list, too.
Another favorite was on every Sunday Morning. I don’t recall the name, but some man would read the funnies from that morning’s newspaper. I would lie on the floor by the Victrola, the paper spread in front of me, following along.
I don’t know what program it sponsored, but I remember a little verse for Buster Brown shoes: “I’m Buster Brown. I live in a shoe. That’s my dog, Tige. He lives in there too!”
Also mixed in are vague memories of bits and pieces of Fibber Magee and Molly, Spike Jones, Jack Benny, and some soaps.