Television, music were different in the good old days

My parents bought our first television in the mid-1950s. It was a black-and-white RCA. Some of the shows we watched on a regular basis were “The Jack Benny Show,” “I Love Lucy,” “I’ve Got A Secret,” “The Jackie Gleason Show,” “Dragnet,” “Bonanza,” “The George Gobel Show,” “Alfred Hitchcock,” “Gunsmoke,” “Father Knows Best,” “Leave It To Beaver” and “The Perry Como Show.”

“The Ed Sullivan Show” was a family favorite. I remember the show in 1956 when Elvis Presley first appeared on it. During one of his performances, he was only shown from the waist up. My dad was definitely not impressed with Elvis’s gyrations or his music. He preferred songs like “Kaw-Liga” by Hank Williams, “Sixteen Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford and Eddie Arnold’s “Cattle Call.” He sang them often, slapping his knee and encouraging me to join in.

Television was so much different in those days; much more family friendly. Back in the 1950s, the FCC prohibited obscene and indecent material. Obscene programming was prohibited at all times and indecent programming was allowed at certain times, typically after children went to bed.

The meaning of indecent has tended to change over time. In the ’50s, the programmers would not show a married couple in the same bed; married couples were shown sleeping in separate twin beds. Foul language and revealing clothing was prohibited. It was good, clean entertainment.

In the 1950’s, the FCC, whose board is appointed by the president, considered setting aside certain parts of the broadcast spectrum for children’s nonprofit educational programming. FCC board members were increasingly concerned about the violence on television (shooting and fighting) and the lack of educational programming. When the FCC, in 1952, added ultrahigh frequency channels to the existing channels, they reserved 10 percent for use by the nonprofit educational organizations.

My, how television has digressed. Violence, foul language and sex on television is now commonplace. Clothing is often revealing and sensual. Maybe I am an old fuddy-duddy, because I still find myself embarrassed with things I see and hear on TV. I keep the remote nearby. I have found the Hallmark Channels, the History Channel, “The Pickers,” “Antique Road Show,” the cooking shows and most game shows are generally good wholesome television, similar to what I enjoyed watching while I was growing up.

The music of the 1950s and 1960s was phenomenal. From the big band music of the early 50’s, through doo wop in the middle of the decade, into the rockability of the late 1950s, the mood was optimistic.; the music was “feel good.” Folk music was also popular. I remember the crooners like Sinatra, Como and Patti Page. Then along came artists like Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, and the Big Bopper. I loved the folk music of the Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul and Mary, Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez, to mention just a few.

The British invasion added new names and new sounds to music. Who could forget “Hey Jude” by the Beatles, “Respect” by Aretha Franklin, “Sounds of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel, “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King, “Under the Boardwalk” by The Drifters, “Barbara Ann” by the Beach Boys, “House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals, “I Got You Babe” by Sonny and Cher, “Everyday” by Buddy Holly, “Take a Message to Mary” by the Everly Brothers, “It’s Now or Never” by Elvis or “Poor Little Fool” by Ricky Nelson.

Common dances from the 1960s featured the ability to dance without a partner; The Mashed Potato, the Monkey, the Swim and the Funky Chicken were a few. Some sources claim there were as many as 500 dances introduced in the 1960s. One of the dances that created the largest craze was The Twist. It debuted on the Dick Clark show. The simplicity of the Twist made it popular with all ages. The movement was simple; place one foot forward and twist it back and forth while rotating your hips from side to side. I remember dancing to Chubby Checker’s Twist and Joey Dee & The Starliters Peppermint Twist at the sock hops held in the school gym after home football games.

Other dances I remember were the Locomotion, the Hanky Panky, the Stroll and Do the Freddie. Some of the dances caused controversy. In one instance, Brigham Young University banned all “fad dances” in 1966 and Buffalo banned the Twist in 1962. (really, where are those standards today?)

Music has evolved over the years and each generation loves their own. For me, nothing will ever compare to the music I grew up loving, and even today, I still enjoy listening to some good old rock ‘n roll.

The answer to last week’s question: Television was made available to Shawano residents in 1953.

This week’s question is: In what year did 2,000 motorcyclists gather in Shawano for their state convention?

Lorna Marquardt is a former mayor of Shawano.
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