Saturday, December 4, 2010

Television Comes to Town

Bill Jay and Captain Bob Lobertini

Brenda Lee visits Romper Room

The Map of the famous Bonanza - Sunday night television

Bob Overton hosted the Five O'Clock Hop

(As published in the Robertson County Times - August 2009
J. Mark Lowe
Robertson County Historical Society
In a January 1937 edition of the Robertson County Times, an article predicted that Television would be a reality by next Christmas [1938]. I suddenly realized television has been present for most post-WW2 babies and wondered how this medium has changed our perception of the world.
Here’s the article reprinted from the Times taken from The Progressive Farmer magazine.
Television by Christmas of 1937 is now the prediction. Of course many engineers around the world are working at the problems of television. If we do have television by next Christmas, it is largely due to the genius of an Idaho farm lad – Philo T. Farnsworth.
Philo Taylor Farnsworth was born in 1906 in southwestern Utah, in a log cabin built by his grandfather, a follower of the Mormon leader, Brigham Young. As a young boy, Farnsworth loved to read Popular Science magazine and science books. By the time he entered high school in Rigby, Idaho, he had already converted most of the family's household appliances to electrical power.
Farnsworth was particularly interested in molecular theory and motors, as well as then novel devices like the Bell telephone, the Edison gramophone, and, later, the Nipkow-disc television. In 1922, Farnsworth sketched out for his Chemistry teacher his idea for an "image dissector" vacuum tube that could revolutionize television.
Neither Farnsworth's teacher nor anyone else around him had ever heard of the "television," which in the 1920s meant a device that mechanically scanned an image through a spinning disc with holes cut in it, then projected a tiny, unstable reproduction of what was being scanned on a screen. Farnsworth imagined instead a vacuum tube that could reproduce images electronically, by shooting a beam of electrons, line by line, against a light-sensitive screen.
Living on a farm 50 miles from a railroad, by the time he was 12 years old, he was chief engineer on his father’s farm. He developed a home lighting plant, hay-hoisting equipment and converted a handpowered washing machine into an electrically operated one. He even winded the armature for his electric motor.
Farnsworth dreamed of television without moving parts when he was thirteen; a year later, still in high school, he invented some of the basic parts of electronic television.
At age 19 in 1926, he completed his models and blueprints, applying for patents on his television device. In 1927, he received his first patent, on an entire television system – not just one part – and Donald K. Lippincott, the radio engineer, called him one of the ten greatest mathematical wizards of the day. Since that time, he has been busy building his system. An experimental broadcasting station has been completed in Philadelphia and test are now being conducted on an extensive scale. It seems likely that the image will be 8 by 10 inches in size with a home receiver becoming available for $200 to $300.

Television did not become a reality in 1937. It was two more years before limited broadcasts would begin in the U.S. Television came to Robertson county in 1950. WSM, Nashville’s first AM radio station in 1925 and FM radio station in 1941 became the first television broadcaster. It was estimated there were 10,000 television set in all of Middle Tennessee in 1950. The first program included Jack DeWitt, Ott Devine, David Cobb and Dottie Dillard. WSIX-TV began broadcasting in 1953, and WLAC-TV joined the air in 1954. Most Robertson county folks depended upon radio stations for local news and weather reports, along with the daily newspapers from Nashville and local weekly papers. With the advent of television, early morning news and weather reports became popular. Eddie Hill, hosted a news and variety show, called Country Junction. This program featured local talent, with current farm prices and basic weather forecasts. WSM added the Waking Crew, the Noon Show and regular news programming with Jud Collins.
WSIX introduced us to live studio wrestling, Youth on Parade, and Shock Theatre.
When asked about the first TV shows he watched, my brother, Wayne, remembered watching the Howdy Doody Show with Buffalo Bob Smith, Clarabell the Clown and Chief Thunderthud. He also mentioned the Lone Ranger and Romper Room, but they never called his name through the Magic Mirror. Romper Room changed teachers over the years, but stuck with some of the same songs, games, and sayings – like Do Bee. My sister, Beverly, and her friends watched American Bandstand in the afternoon, and a Nashville show, called 5 o’clock Hop hosted by Dave Overton. Little Miss Brenda Lee was a regular guest on that show.
The cartoon shows continued to be the primary entertainment of younger viewers. I remember Captain Bill Jay and Captain Bob Lobertini both hosting Popeye and other cartoons. Other folks mentioned Bozo the clown, Captain Countdown, Cap’n Crook’s Crew, and the Happy Town Gang. Boyce Hawkins, remembered as a weather man, played Grandpa Moses on the Happy Town Gang which played the Three Stooges comedies. The great westerns like Roy Rogers, My Friend Flicka, Have Gun Will Travel, Gunsmoke, Bonzana, and Maverick were the favorites of young and old alike.
My Mom and some of her friends watched Jack LaLanne and Slimnastics, with Bob Lobertini and Jackie Bell. These exercise program introduced the Glamour Stretcher and regular daily exercise routines. I remember these grown ladies rolling on the floor doing the bicycle and hip rolls. One of my Dad’s favorite programs was Woods ‘n Waters hosted by Bill Jay and Bill Clay. I remember we made a special trip down 8th Ave in Nashville to visit Bill Clay’s Sporting Goods store in Melrose Place.
Today with the addition of cable and satellite programming, recording devices and movie rentals, it is not uncommon for homes to have a television in every room of the house. My how times change, I still remember when WLAC – Channel 5 became the first Nashville station to go to a 24-hour format. We sat up all night just to see it happen. I wonder what Philo T. Farnsworth would think today about his invention.
Sources: Nashville Broadcasting, Dorman; Popular Science – Nov 1940; RC Times 1937.


Anonymous said...

what I think is great is we now we have 200 hundred channels and there still is nothing to watch

driver49 said...

Are you aware that one of Philo Farnsworth's principal biographers lives in Nashville?

J. Mark Lowe
J. Mark Lowe Reviews
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