TV interest sparked by lack of set

We had the cement pond, Barney with one bullet that he had to keep in his pocket and Hoss with his big white hat.

Television hasn’t played much of a role in my life for years, but there was a time when it did.

Maybe that was because I was one of the last kids in my class to get a TV.

I don’t mean my own TV in my room, young readers. I mean a family TV.

Until we got one, the big attraction of weekend visits to relatives was the chance to watch Saturday morning cartoons.

My parents believed TV turned everything within a child’s cerebral cortex to grape jelly, so we spent evenings reading books or listening to radio shows such as “Gunsmoke” or “Jack Benny.”

Such entertainment, they argued, increased imagination. Even if it did, I ached for a TV.

When an uncle, who knew my great desire, bought us a 19-inch black-and-white set one Christmas, I was ecstatic.

My parents put strict rules on its use. The rules loosened when they discovered they liked some of the shows.

Instead of listening to “Gunsmoke” on radio, my dad and I watched Marshal Dillon and his deputy, Chester, bring justice to Dodge City. I could even try to out draw him with my cap gun at the start of the show.

Another law-and-order duo appealed to my mother. She liked Andy Taylor, Opie and Aunt Bee, while I thought deputy Barney Fife was hilarious.

My parents believed Dobie Gillis and his beatnik friend, Maynard G. Krebs, were silly, but let me watch them.

I howled with laughter at Maynard’s reaction whenever he heard the word “work.”

A show that started broadcasting not long after we got a television brought communal laughter to our home. We never missed “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

I’ve often thought my mother might have seen something of her mom in Granny, and there was something intriguing, even to a little boy, at the sight of Ellie May Clampett.

We all enjoyed the wisdom of Jed Clampett that transcended his ignorance of the modern world.

The situations the Clampetts created for themselves were always a source of conversation in the school yard the next day.

Westerns were the big action shows, and none was bigger than the one that took place on the Ponderosa with the lovable, bear-of-a-man, Hoss, his hot-headed, brother, Little Joe, and the subdued elder brother, Adam, living in what seemed paradise.

After a few years, the picture tube went out on our 19-inch Philco. My father pronounced it dead.

That point begins a blank period in my television knowledge, until at age 14 I cut sugar cane on holidays and on fall and winter weekends. Gathering my 95 cents an hour at Christmas, I presented the family with a new, 19-inch black and white TV.

It served us until I went to college, where I lost interest in television. Ironically my parents continued to watch.

Advocate Florida Parishes bureau chief Bob Anderson welcomes comments by email to banderson@theadvocate.com.