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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I Had a Halo Once, but it Died...

In a recent post, my friend, Lizzard was talking about the black and white TV he used to watch when he was a kid. This got me thinking about TV's past.

My parents had a Sylvania console black and white TV with a "halo light" around the picture tube. Now this had to be about the mid 50's cause I think Sylvania first released this TV in 1954 and I'm sure I wouldn't have remembered any TV sets before that. (I was born in 1952). I always thought the halo light was a cool thing. Back in those days it seemed like it took the picture tube almost forever to warm up and come on, but the halo light was immediate, then about half a minute later came the sound and eventually the picture. I think Sylvania claimed that the picture tube surrounded by the halo was supposed to be easier on the eyes, but I don't guess there was ever any scientific information supporting that claim. I don't know of any sets since then that had a halo light.

Sylvania console with halo light...

Television was different back then of course. It was in black and white and everything was received over the air with an aerial. I remember we actually had several stations to choose from. We had local channel 7, WDXI in Jackson, which later became WBBJ, which it is today. We also got from Memphis, channel 3, WREC (now WREG), CBS; channel 5, WMCT (now WMC), NBC; and channel 13, WHBQ, ABC. WHBQ is now a Fox affiliate I think. We also had some kind of educational channel on channel 10.

I remember kid shows like Mighty Mouse cartoons, the Mickey Mouse Club, Howdy Doody, Rin Tin Tin, Superman, and Sky King to name a few. One favorite show that my father and I both watched was Highway Patrol starring Broderick Crawford as Dan Matthews. We would not miss a single episode. My mother used to gripe that the only thing the real highway patrol did was give tickets. They didn't really chase criminals. Nevertheless, Dan Matthews always got his man.

Twenty One Fifty to headquarters!

One neat thing was when "interference" from afar came in on the set. Every now and then programs would appear from stations hundreds of miles away. It was not until much later when I studied to be a ham operator that I fully understood the reason for this and learned about things like sporadic E and tropospheric bending.

TV then also had a downside for a young child. I remember I always dreaded seeing the evening news. They always had stories about the evil Russians and I was afraid they were going to tell us that Russian bombers were on the way with atomic bombs. Periodically they would have Civil Defense tests on the TV and would simultaneously blow the air raid sirens in town. Every time I'd hear the tone, I'd feel my heart up in my throat. I also hated it when they would put "tornado alerts" on TV. I was afraid we were all goners. Of course back then I guess they really had no way of knowing if a tornado was coming or not, it was a lot of guess work.

Seemed like the first TV sets always broke down a lot. I remember my Daddy always called a guy named Mr. Cheek to come over and work on the TV. I was always amazed by the array of gadgets Mr. Cheek would bring with him and set up in the living room. I remember a couple of times Mr. Cheek had to take the TV back to his shop.

Must have been sometime in the late 50's that the old Sylvania died. Mr. Cheek said the picture tube gave out and it would cost more to replace it than to get another set. I think our next TV was made by General Electric, but I'm not really sure about that. I do remember that to my chagrin it did not have a halo light. You'd just turn it on and wait and wait and wait for the picture to appear. I missed the old Sylvania. The new set also had a new knob with many channel numbers on it but to my dismay, none of them worked. My Daddy told me that the knob only was for stations in big cities. Turned out it was the UHF tuner. I don't remember the old Sylvania having one of those. We did not have any UHF stations anywhere around. I was also worried that we might go blind from watching a tube without a halo light. After a few months I guess I was satisfied this was not going to happen.

Moving into the early 60's, my Daddy finally got a console color TV. I think it was a Zenith. Mr. Cheek's business was booming cause it seemed like the color was never quite right on that first Zenith and Mr. Cheek was over frequently twisting the red, green, blue adjustments. One channel would look good and the next would look red or green. Most of the programs were still black and white with only a few color shows. I think my Daddy began to think that maybe the new Zenith was not worth the trouble or the money.

I remember watching color episodes of Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and Combat on the Zenith. Didja ever notice on Bonanza how they used to wear the same clothes on every episode? I think Little Joe (Michael Landon...rest his soul) had that same green jacket every time. I betcha it smelled to high heaven. One day a new repairman came to look at the Zenith. I found out that Mr. Cheek had taken ill and had died. I was so sad.

As I moved into my teenage years and started chasing girls and playing music, TV became a lot less important.

I look at big screens and plasmas and cable and satellites and digital TV today and marvel at how far we have come in such a short time. Wonder what TV will be like 50 years from now?


  1. There is already talk about implants so that we can see TV or computer screens, phone screens through our eyes.

    Also already available are glasses you can wear where your computer, phone, TV, actually shows up on the glasses. Another new advancement is something that clips on your ear, with a flip out tiny screen the size of small glasses, but just on one eye, where you can see whatever you choose.

    I suppose there is a small battery pack, antennae, etc. built into the frame somehow. (can you say BORG???)

    Deborah F. Hamilton
    Right Truth

  2. Good post, Grouch. It gives me an idea for a later post, too. Anyhow, I remember well the halo lites. I never liked em much myself, but made a bit of money repairing the lites for those that did. See ya later