How to Install a Television...in the Year 1950

Step one - the arrival of the set

The year is 1950. It is mid November.

You are a seven year old boy.

Your Mom and Dad have bought a televison set.

Your house will be just the second in the neighborhood to have TV.

4:00 p.m. A truck pulls up in front of the two-story, four family house where you live. Three men pile out of the vehicle. One of them knocks on your front door and announces the arrival of the set, while the other two begin unloading it.

4:14 p.m., A huge crate is opened, unwrapping a massive wooden cabinet that's almost as big as a refrigerator. In the center of all that wood is a small glass eye, about the size of a pie plate. That tiny opening is the heart of the unit - the viewing screen!

4:17 p.m. "Mister," you say to the man who seems to be the leader, "Mister, is the television going to be on by Howdy Doody Time?"

Pushing back his Fedora, revealing a receeding hairline, he pulls a wet cigar from his mouth and says, "I dunno kid. We gotta set up the set. What time does Howdy Doody come on?"

"Five thirty! Five thirty is Howdy Doody time!," you shout, unable to stifle the excitement that is building as you consider the prospect of being able to watch your favorite show in your own living room.

The only other television you have ever seen is when you and the other kids on your street climb up the stone wall in front of your neighbors' house and peek in at their TV from their window.

4:18 p.m. You ask again if the set-up will be done in time for Howdy Doody and your Mother tells you to stop bothering the men so they can get their work done.

4:20 p.m. The Fedora guy, whose name is Jakie, stands in front of the television. He speaks to his workers. "Vinny. You get the ladder and bring the antenna up to the roof. Put it on the chimney. Phillie, you go over to that window and open it. Then you go outside and stand where you can see me inside and Vinny up on the roof at the same time.

4:35 p.m. Everyone is in place. Vinnie is up on the roof. Phillie is standing on the sidewalk trying to see into the livingroom through the open window and at the same time attempting to watch Vinnie as he struggles to fasten the antenna to the chimney. Jakie is watching the TV and you are watching Jakie.

4:55 p.m. Vinnie hollers down from the roof to Phillie on the sidewalk that the antenna is secured to the chimney.

Phillie yells through the open window to tell Jakie that Vinnie is finished hooking up the antenna.

5:07 p.m. Vinnie has finished running antenna wire down the side of the house and Phillie has finished running antenna wire from the side of the house into the livingroom and Jakie has connected the antenna wire to the TV.

5:08 p.m. You get temporarily banished to the kitchen after asking for the 22nd time if the set will be on and ready by Howdy Doody time.

Howdy Doody aired at 5:30 weekday afternoons. Hosted by Buffalo Bob, who provided Howdy's voice, it was the top-rated kids show for several years.

Step Two - Plugging in the TV

5:10 p.m. Tension mounts as it's just twenty minutes until Howdy Doody Time. Now, even your Mom is asking Jakie if the set will be ready.

You have been un-banished from the kitchen and are now seated in a kitchen chair that you brought with you. You are planted about three feet away from Jakie who is standing next to the TV.

5:11 p.m. "Stand back everybody," Jakie commands, "I'm going to plug in the set. Phillie, tell Vinnie on the roof, I'm going to plug in the set."

"Hey Vinnie get ready," Phillie hollers, "Jakie is going to plug in the set."

"Okay," Vinnie responds. "Phillie, you tell Jakie that I am ready."

5:15 p.m. The set is plugged in and the pie-plate screen has a snowy gray glow. You think it's broken, but Jakie is confident. "Nah. There's nothing wrong. I've set up more than a dozen of these. You just have to tune them in. That's what we have Vinnie and Phillie for."

5:20 p.m. "Hey Phillie," says Jakie, "Tell Vinnie on the roof to turn it the other way.

" "Hey Vinnie," says Phillie on the sidewalk, "Jakie says turn the antenna the other way."

5:25 p.m. The Jakie to Phillie to Vinnie shout-line has been operating non stop and finally the snow on the pie plate appears to be taking on a shape.

Jakie feverishly relays some new orders to Phillie who passes on the instructions to Vinnie on the roof and slowly an Indian Test pattern takes over the screen.

5:28 p.m. Jakie proclaims that the set is up and running. Your Dad arrives home from work and pays the installers who depart just as Buffalo Bob Smith says.......

5:30 p.m. "Hey kids, what time is it? It's Howdy Doody Time."

6:00 p.m. The show is over and it was worth every second of the wait. Your whole family watched it with you, dragging in chairs from the kitchen and lining them up in a row about three feet from the screen.

But wait, there's more!

 A new show is coming on and your Mom is hauling food from the dining room into the "TV room" (one hour ago it was called the living room but once the glow-box got going...everything changed )

And suppertime is changing too. When your Mom brought in the food, she invented the TV Dinner - and from this day on, mealtime will never be the same!

More by this Author


Comments 4 comments

Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 4 years ago from USA

Thanks for a trip on the "Wayback Machine!" Didn't every kid in the 1950's love Howdy Doody and Buffalo Bob? I remember well the days of adjusting the antenna by relays from my Dad on the roof to my Mom by the window watching the TV screen. Thanks for a fun hub!


Billrrrr profile image

Billrrrr 4 years ago from Cape Cod Author

Thanks for reading and remembering Stephanie. I don't think I'd believe this relay thing, unless I had seen it myself.


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 4 years ago from USA

And remember the making the "big screen" by attaching a magnifier in front of the screen?


Billrrrr profile image

Billrrrr 4 years ago from Cape Cod Author

Yes and I even remember some sort of a red, green, blue piece of see-thru plastic that you put in front of the screen to give the illusion of color TV.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working