Awakening – and a thing called ‘TV’

A youngster’s journey through life is fraught with danger.  After our visit to the fort in the woods I had been taking out the stolen magazine, er, research material, every once in a while to see if I could discern what the attraction was.  While turning pages one evening in my room I discovered that something had physically changed.  My ‘thingy’ had gotten larger and harder.  It tingled all over.  What in the world had happened to it?

I quickly put away the magazine and, eventually, the feeling went away.  I pondered this strange occurrence for several days and concluded that maybe it was the magazine that did it.  I dragged it back out and began looking through it again.  Sure enough, ten minutes later my thingy was again swollen.  It was a definite cause and effect relationship.  I didn’t think of it in that manner back then, I only knew that something had changed in my life and it was tied to naked girls somehow.  Was I allergic to them?

I didn’t have any real girl-type friends to ask about this except the one next door, Kathleen.  But she didn’t look like any of the girls in the magazine.  In fact, she didn’t have any boobies showing at all.  My only recourse was to ask my dad.

Asking my dad about anything definitely risked being on the receiving end of a long, dry dissertation on the subject in question.  He was in his element when giving what he called ‘briefings’ to groups of officers on base and tended to be that way at home.  So, sighing, I ripped one page out of the magazine (I was young and naive, not stupid) and sought out my father.

When I timidly handed him the page and opened my mouth to ask the question I watched a strange transformation of his face – beginning with his eyeballs popping out of their sockets.  His breath hissed out in a rush and he stood rapidly.  Smoke issued from his ears in giant puffs.  I backed up a couple of steps expecting him to explode.

I never got to ask my question, but, instead was immediately subjected to a rapid-fire inquisition.  Question after question asking me who, where, and under what circumstances, I obtained this FILTH!  I didn’t see any filth anywhere; the page looked pretty clean to me.  He was so wound up he could hardly speak.  My mom started into the living room to see what the ruckus was about, but he stopped her with an upraised palm.  Again and again he asked the same questions.  I wouldn’t rat out anyone.  I suffered in silence and was eventually banned to my room to “think about what I had done”.

What the hell had I done?  I was really confused now.

In time I did connect my strange affliction with the girls in the magazine.  I never went anywhere near my dad again on that subject, but, instead turned to my friends.  They would certainly know what was going on, wouldn’t they?

I was soon filled with half-truths, complete fabrications, and utter nonsense about the opposite sex.  Attention all males:  return to your pre and trans-puberty days and recall everything you ever heard on the subject of women and how to relate to them.  Completely, or mostly wrong, right?

I reasoned that if my dad didn’t want to tell me, then maybe my mom would.  I had enough sense to not bring the page from the magazine, but simply asked if she knew a reason why my thingy would get hard when I was looking at girls (pictures, I mentally added).  She looked deep in thought for a while and then went over to her desk and looked through a dictionary.  When she returned, her finger was under the single word ‘penis’.  She told me that if I was going to use grown-up words that I should use the right ones.

We spent that afternoon looking up words as fast as I could think of them.  Her eyes glazed over after a while so I thought maybe I had better stop.  After my dad came home and she held a conference with him, he came to my room and tried to apologize to me for yelling.  His actions still stung, but the apology helped a bit.  I tentatively asked the question I originally wanted to ask: “why does this happen?  Is there a reason for it?”  He used the same approach as my mother, brought the dictionary back, and opened it to the word ‘intercourse’.  The definition was filled with large words, some I stumbled over, but I eventually understood it to mean that babies were produced in this manner.  Now I was really confused – how could something that happened to me affect a girl?  I wondered if Kathleen knew the answer.

The elusive ‘answer’ never really revealed itself to me in a flash, but, instead, snuck into my mind slowly by osmosis.  At our age, being constantly caught up in peer conversations about sex, truths finally came to the forefront.  I never asked Kathleen (thank goodness) about it, but she and I entered into a slightly different relationship than ‘just buddies’.  I began to see her in a different light – and in that light her silhouette had begun to alter.

My dad came home one evening and told us he had a surprise for the family.  We all gathered at the door while my mom and he dragged a huge cloth-covered package out of the back of the car.  They struggled to carry it up the steps and into the living room.  I wondered what in the world would be that heavy.  With the flourish of a magician whipping his cape around, my dad lifted the cloth to reveal: a television.

Big whoop, I hear you saying.  This television represented the very first one on my block.  None of my friends had one.  It was an Admiral ten-inch floor model.  It weighed as much as an ice box, took around ten minutes to light up (vacuum tubes), and had perhaps the snowiest picture I’d seen since we left Alaska.

He and my mom scooted it around the living room trying to find a place where it would fit.  He tried right in front of the radiator, but my mom reminded him that the case was plastic.  They finally settled on the wall next to the stairs to our bedrooms.  Problem:  No wall socket there.  No problem: run an extension cord.  The cord they selected was rated for, perhaps, a twelve-watt night light.  There was no way it was going to hold current drawn by a power transformer the size of a cigar box.  He snapped the switch and the cord (and our eyebrows) went up in smoke like a lit fuse.

After all of us stamped out the smoking plastic, he found a heavier cord and hooked the “TV” (a new word, or acronym actually, for us kids) to power.  He clicked the switch again and the room was filled with a deep humming sound and all the filaments in the tubes began lighting up.  Finally, with a snap of ozone the picture tube brightened up and showed us – snow.

My dad then reached into another box and pulled out a pair of rabbit ears.  Not real rabbit ears, but a small ball of plastic with rods coming out of it.  Quick work with a screwdriver and a picture began to appear.  My dad played with those ears for an initial fifteen minutes all the while asking us “is this better, is this better” while standing directly in front of the screen.  Not a one of us would even think of daring to tell him to move is big butt out of the way.

We managed to receive five local Washington D.C. channels.  One of them, WTOP, was a strictly news channel so we kids avoided it.  Each channel required the antenna to be oriented differently.  We had a diagram taped to the set’s side that looked like a training aid for a naval semaphore school.  Little stick figures with just arms showed the position of each rabbit ear for each channel.  My dad would have a fit if he caught us watching a channel and hadn’t aligned the ears correctly.

This wonderful box introduced me and my friends to shows like Pinky Lee, Sky King, The Mickey Mouse Club (with the rapidly developing Annette) and, of course, Howdy Doody (“Hey, kids, what time is it?”).  My friendship count had doubled within the fourteen seconds it took for the word to get around that we had a TV.  By the first Saturday all thoughts of going to the movie were forgotten as we sat in front of that TV cheering the cavalry and watching Captain Video vanquish the slimy aliens.



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2 Responses to “Awakening – and a thing called ‘TV’”

  1. deyank Says:

    First TV? I remember that well. Ours was only the second one anywhere around. I had ‘friends’ I never even knew packing my living room every Saturday to watch it.

    My neighbor put an antenna on the roof, but didn’t have a TV. Keeping up with the ‘Jones’s’ I guess.

  2. tom1950 Says:

    LOL, It sure was a big deal back then. I wonder what they told anyone who wanted to see it.

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