Wednesday, October 24, 2012

...Just Another Thing She Did.

Back in the days of small TV screens in large wooden cabinets, their one speaker camoflaged by textured fabric and tuning knobs a get-up-and-walk-to-the-set away, that was all we had for electronic entertainment in the home.

Yes, of course, we could listen to the radio. But unlike my mother's generation, for us, the radio was just for news and music. Or, you could turn on a lamp, lick a finger and put it into the socket like I did when I was old enough to know better*.

But if you wanted visual entertainment -- other than the spectacle of me being thrown against the wall as electricity coursed though my body -- TV was it.

There were no VCRS, DVD players, I-Pads or smart phones...nada. Zippo. Nothing. It's hard to remember a world without videos whenever we desire them, isn't it?
When Tommy was a baby, we bought our first VCR and soon video rental stores started popping up all over the place. It was a whole new world. We became members of one on our corner and I would walk there on cold evenings to pick a movie for a weekend or for my toddler to enjoy on a rainy afternoon.

Tommy's tastes were eclectic. As a child, he enjoyed Disney classics, all kinds of cartoons, old black and white films and when Charlie was old enough, they would watch together as I made dinner or threw in a laundry.

If you've never
seen this version of
Gulliver's Travels, find it
and watch.

When I was little, I also enjoyed movies and was reminded of all this today as I was clicking around and stumbled upon the 1939 animated version of "Gulliver's Travels." I watched it until the end and was surprised at how well I remembered the images of the Lilliputian prince and princess, bursting into tears as the benevelent Gulliver set sail from Lilliput at the end.

This and many others, like the ancient version of "Babes in Toyland" with Laurel and Hardy--shown every Thanksgiving when I was little, are familiar and beloved. I had many favorites and enjoyed them all on the convex screen of our old Philco black and white.
Babes in Toyland, 1934. The scariest movie ever made.

But how did I know when to tune in?

I didn't read the TV program (we saved money by not subscribing to TV Guide like the rich folk but, instead, pulled the weekly TV listing from the Sunday newspaper) so how did I know what day, what time, what channel?

I'll tell you how. It was Olga.

Red crayon in hand, my mother religiously read through the weekly program listings, marking the things she thought I'd enjoy. This included old movies both classic and obscure, holiday programming and many other shows aimed at children.

I never wondered how she knew to send me the TV with a plate of saltines spread with jelly or celery sticks and peanut butter. I just went, sat and enjoyed.

My mother and her red crayon made sure that each show was marked as if she had nothing else to do in the world but see to it that I swooned over Clark Gable in "San Francisco," howled with laughter as Abbot and Costello met the mummy and sobbed  when Old Yeller actually died.

As a mama of my own small children, we accumulated our own library of VHS tapes of children's entertainment so my boys had their pick of dozens of choices.

Was it an"Aladdin" day or a "Star Wars" afternoon? It was all as easy as walking over to the shelf, plucking out a clunky tape and popping it into a machine. Instant need for a red crayon.

My mother was a busy woman. In fact she was a lot busier than I was...but this was just another service she offered.

*If you must know, I was around 10. I wanted to better understand electricity and, after that, I certainly did. I'm still scared of lamps.


  1. Loved this! My memories are similar to yours but no red crayon.

  2. I wish I had known her, I really do... xo

  3. Thanks, ladies. She truly was a pip.