The Story Of How We Got A Color TV

Yesterday after I posted two b&w commercials, I got thinking about the events that lead up to my mother finally allowing us to have a color TV.  I don’t usually talk about my childhood, but just this once I’ll tell you more than you’ll probably ever want to know about me– and how it came to be that my mother allowed the two of us to have an extravagance such as a color TV.

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In May of my freshman year of high school we had unusually intense spring thunderstorms.  Very windy, very rainy, with lots of lightning.

Our house didn’t have cable so to get reception our TV had an antennae attached to it.  One night after Mom and I had gone to bed a bolt of lightning hit the antennae, came into the house, and went straight to the TV (which was off at the time).  In an instant, the old b&w TV caught on fire.

The burning TV sounded like someone making popcorn.  In fact, when I heard the popping sound I figured that Mom couldn’t sleep and had got up to make herself a snack.  Naturally, I wanted some of it so I hurried into the kitchen to get something to eat.

But what I found in the kitchen was my mother on the phone with our small town fire department.  They responded quickly and almost the entire fire department arrived to watch our TV burn up.  This was because most of the firemen had heard about how old TVs could catch on fire, but had never actually seen one in real life on fire, so this was a learning experience for them.

They dragged the TV outside into the rain and then axed it to pieces.  There was almost no damage to the inside of the house, but the old b&w TV was toast.

Weird as it is to say, the dramatic end of our TV got Mom and me laughing every time we talked about it.  The whole absurd thing was funny to us.

Already that year: 1) my dad had died after a lengthy illness;  2) I’d had major surgery on my knee;  and 3) while driving into the garage Mom had accidentally run over the family cat [who went on to live a very long and grouchy life].  So having your TV burst into flames seemed rather minor to us.  Just something to laugh about.  Endlessly.

Which was just as well considering that Mom had lots of bills to pay– and getting a new TV was not a priority.  So for the next twelve months we lived in a very quiet home with only the radio, playing cards, boxed games and books for entertainment.

Eventually Mom decided that it was time for us to get a new television.  She and I went to some local furniture/appliance store where we bought a brand-new top-of-the-line [Magnavox, maybe?] color TV.

Our first one.  Finally.

13 thoughts on “The Story Of How We Got A Color TV

  1. What a year that must have been. I remember a similar year when I was eleven and I think a television catching on fire might have been great fun. It’s good to be able to see the funny in life.


  2. I love this post! Your writing is fantastic and you really painted a picture of the events so clearly it felt like we were there with you. And I’m so glad to hear about your sense of humor…I wish I could be like that (to laugh) and sometimes no matter how much I think laughing might not fit whatever situation I’m in, it always makes me feel so much better, like it did for you and your Mom! 🙂


  3. la p, we were a very literal family! It was such a ridiculous thing to have happen– and I’d forgotten all about it until I posted those commercials and y’all started to comment. Then I thought why not post it here?

    Kristen, thanks for your kind words about our goofy experience. Mom and I laughed a lot. Sometimes it was all that we had going for us.


  4. I remember that year! And I remember your mother so well. She was so quiet, but made me laugh every time I was over to visit! She was like a little kid in a woman’s body. She saw the humor in everything. I always felt so welcome and safe in your home!


  5. Beth, you’ve described Mom very well. She was like a kid at times. And then she’d flip a switch and become serious teacher woman. We, of course, saw the fun side of her– but I bet some of our classmates in high school saw someone else when they looked at her!


  6. Your mom was a wonderful lady!!! Fair, honest & always nice to all. I used to spend alot of time in your house, and never realized your TV situation. I think it’s because we didn’t watch TV at your house! We always did fun stuff!! Peace & Blessings!


  7. Hey there Ruth! Your memories of my mother are sweet. Thanks for sharing them. Now that you mention it we did do lots of fun stuff, didn’t we? As Beth mentioned above Mom was a bit of a kid at heart, so she loved projects going on all over the place. And we were just the kids to do it all.


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