I spent the best part of the weekend waiting for a repairman to show up because our cable, internet and telephone service was out. This eventually brought to mind memories of similar circumstances when I was a kid. Of course, when I was a kid we did not have that sort of sophisticated entertainment technology. We had radio and television. And barely television.
This was in the late 50′s and very early 60′s. We did at least have a color TV by then. In fact, we had a large one, with a full 17 inch screen, built into a piece of furniture. No flat screen my friends, the darn thing was inside a wooden box. It was nice looking, as most furniture was during this period. But boy, was it a beast to carry down the stairs and stuff it into the car to tote to the TV repair shop.
Of course, we only went through that sort of discomfort after we checked to see if the problem was just a tube. We could replace them. Although not without challenges.
We learned some very important lessons in the early days. Remember, not everyone owned a television then. While most households had one, as a culture we were still acclimating to the devices.
The first lesson we learned real quick was to not only turn the television off but unplug it too, prior to sticking our fingers into the back of it and yanking on things. In fact, unplug and then turn the TV back on to drain the residual electricity. I know this because I was the one who jabbed a metal screwdriver into the back of the TV and even though it was unplugged, that Zenith jolted me like a rocket against the wall so hard I stuttered until the eighth grade.
The other valuable technique we learned was to place tiny slips of paper into the holes where we removed the glass TV tubes. The person who was buried head first inside the back of the television would carefully pull the tube out and hand it to another family member who stood by with a flashlight and magnifying glass. This would be the Tube Reader, as opposed to the Tube Puller. The reader would first wipe the dust off the tube and then, utilizing the flashlight and the magnifying glass, obtain the tube identification numbers/letters and write them onto one of those tiny pieces of paper. Meanwhile, the Tube Puller, having maneuvered his arm and head deep inside the dusty and hot interior of the television wasn’t about to jeopardize his hard won position, so he stayed put while stretching his other arm back out toward the Tube Reader. Needless to say there was a colorful banter between puller and reader as one attempted to read the faint identification markings on the tube while the other waved his hand and fingers about impatiently waiting for the piece of paper.
“Read the damn tube already, my arm is breaking!”
“Stop whining you baby! I told you I could be the puller this time.”
“Pull this you blind as a bat moron!”
“How about I jam this TV tube where the moon don’t shine!”
Meanwhile the family dog is frantically trying to help by sniffing the Tube Puller’s crotch, which quickly causes the tube pullers head to smack something inside the TV box and his legs to straighten out, tripping the Tube Reader who falls against the sink, breaking the glass TV tube into smithereens.
The level of professional cursing reaches Olympic portions.
Eventually, the tiny piece of paper gets the correct tube number written onto it and the Tube Puller inserts it carefully and securely into the spot where the tube was pulled from. This is critical, as the first time we tried to check the tubes we took them all out, not realizing every single one was different, and we had no idea which tube went where.
Once we have two or three suspect tubes pulled and their locations tagged with paper, we all would pile into the 1955 Ford and head to the local grocery store which had a tube tester machine. We would gather around the yellow and black machine, which was about the size of most ATMs today and, reading the directions carefully, test the tubes.
There was no charge to do this, but the idea was that when we finally identified which tube or tubes was bad we would purchase replacements from the local grocery owner instead of Sears or some other place that sold cheaper tubes.
For whatever reason, it was always the last tube we tested that was bad. Go figure.
We would purchase a replacement tube from the collection under the testing machine, matching the numbers as well as pulling the new one out of it’s box to compare it to the original in size and appearance. Assuming we hadn’t fallen against the sink and broken the original.
Then we would rush back home to discover one of the cats had crawled inside the open television and ate all the little pieces of paper.
Yeah, life was interesting in the old days.
Some Blogging Guy