Share Your Memories of Your First TV

Welcome to the very first installment of Share Your Memories, a new monthly column here at the Television Obscurities blog. I write about obscure and short-lived TV shows because I don’t want them to be forgotten. Likewise, I examine parts of television history that have otherwise faded away over the decades. However, I’m too young to have watched most of the shows I write about. Remember, I was born in the mid-1980s. I wasn’t around for black and white television or the demise of the DuMont Television Network. I didn’t experience the color revolution of the 1960s firsthand.

Watching episodes of obscure TV shows allows me to understand the characters, settings, and plots. With information I’ve gathered from various sources, I do my best to place these shows in the proper historical context. But there’s only so much I can learn from reading contemporary newspaper articles or looking at historical TV schedules. I always ask readers to share their recollections of the TV shows I write about because they may be able to add information I can’t possibly know.

That’s also what I hope to accomplish with Share Your Memories. Every month, I’ll ask readers to share their memories about television. Not just what they watched but how they watched it.

The topic of this inaugural column is simple: Share your memories of your first television. In 1950, less than ten percent of households in the United States had a TV. By the end of the decade, that number jumped to 85%. It grew to 95% by the end of the 1960s. I’m especially interested in hearing from those who remember a time before television, who can recall when their family got their first TV set. The anticipation, the excitement, and potentially the disappointment when it didn’t work or didn’t get very good reception.

I, of course, don’t remember a time before television. My parents bought what became the family TV set before I came along. I don’t remember what it looked like but I know it had knobs. The first TV I do remember was big and black and had five or six buttons along the bottom right edge. For a while, my parents also had a black and white portable TV set that only picked up one or two stations. I can recall twisting the dial in the basement and seeing nothing but snow and occasionally a religious program hosted by a nun.

The first TV I owned personally was a 13-inch Toshiba TV/VCR combo I got in college. I still have it and it still works (for the most part). It’s currently hooked up to my standard definition DVR. I use it to check my over-the-air reception, occasionally record something, and when transferring VHS tapes to DVD.


Do you remember your first TV? Was it black and white? Color? Do you still have it? If you’re old enough to recall the days before television, can you remember when you or your family got a TV? Hit the comments with your recollections and memories.

11 Replies to “Share Your Memories of Your First TV”

  1. My earliest memory is coming down the stairs on a Saturday morning, seeing Filmation’s “The New Adventures of Superman” on TV. It was, of course, a “huge” television made to look like a piece of furniture.

  2. We got a large color tv in 1968. Color tv was a big big deal back then and neighborhood kids would watch tv with me afterschool. They wanted to see it in color. I remember watching mighty mouse, popeye, The Flinstones and others. I do remember my Grandma who lived with us watching two soaps when id get home, Another World and Dark Shadows. After they were over id get the tv. I also think I remember watching Robert Kennedy’s funeral that year

  3. My parents got their first television sometime in the early to mid-1950s. That was before I was born, but the TV’s sad fate had an effect on my early TV watching. They lived out in the country, had a rooftop aerial antenna, and once during a thunderstorm lightening hit the antenna, traveled down the wiring, and caused the big old TV picture tube to explode. That was both terrifying and expensive. Dad never earned much money, and early televisions — filled with a picture tube and all kinds of smaller glass tubes — were a major purchase. When I was young, if we were watching TV and a heavy rain started, the TV was shut off and unplugged. There might be lightening that could strike the antenna and then destroy the TV. Later on Dad stopped unplugging the TV during the storms. He either forgot how scary the lightening strike was, or TVs got cheaper and he could more easily afford to replace one.

    In 1978 I got my first apartment, and though my parents had had color TV for several years, my first set was a 12 inch black & white portable. The discount store chain Murphy’s was celebrating their 64th anniversary, and the set was on sale for $64. (I put it in layaway and got to take it home when I’d made my last payment.) It had two channel dials in the front. The top dial was for UHF stations — the ones with low numbers up to about 12. The bottom dial was for VHF stations, with the higher numbers. (Early TVs only had a UHF dial, and when TV stations with higher numbers came along the old TV couldn’t receive them because the dial didn’t have a high enough number.)

    On the back of the TV were the two small tuning knobs. in the days of analog signals (pre -2009) you could watch “fuzzy” channels that weren’t coming in clearly. One tuning knob was adjusted if the channel was “flipping” — the picture would start to sort of “slide” down the screen, and the top of the picture might be on the bottom, and the bottom on the top. I can’t describe it if you never experienced it, but it was if the TV picture was on a loop, and it would go around the loop, going up and down instead of staying steady on the screen. Sometimes turning one of the knobs on the back of the set would stop the picture from “flipping.”

    The other tuning knob was for it the picture wasn’t coming in clearly. Sometimes you’d get a “ghost” — a fainter version of the picture a little off to the side of the stronger picture. I’d reach my arm behind my little TV and turn knobs while looking at the screen. That turn improved the picture a little — whoops I turned too much and now it’s worse again.

    I guess now a days TV pictures either come in or they don’t. There are no adjusting knobs.

      1. Bill McDonnell, since it’s been many years since I had a TV with dials to turn I will take your word for it that I mixed up UHF & VHF stations. I do recall that Erie, PA channel 12 (NBC) was on the top dial, and channels 24 (ABC) and 35 (CBS) was on the bottom dial.

  4. Our TV was a large 1950’s console set which my parents had in our apartment. I believe it was a Magnavox, and of course, it was black and white. It had double glass in front….there was the picture tube glass plus glass over the front area, causing much reflection. We were connected to a rooftop antenna, so that gave us four (yes!) channels.
    The first TV which I actually had was a 19 inch Admiral black & white portable, which my folks put in my bedroom when I was a teenager. This was all during a more golden age of television, of course.

  5. Sharing memories

    My favorite obscure and short-lived prime time TV show –
    1. Dark Shadows (NBC, 1991)
    2. P.S.I. Luv U (CBS, 1991-1992)
    3. Carol Burnett Show (CBS, 1991)
    4. Palace Guard (CBS, 1991)
    5. Nightmare Cafe (NBC, 1992)

  6. Obviously, you’re younger than most posters, whom like me remember the original Dark Shadows and Carol Burnett Show. Palace Guard stands out for me because it starred Marcy Walker, who left the soap opera Santa Barbara to star in this show.

  7. My first memory of tv is a small color tv. We had 6 channels and I was the remote. There were also rabbit ears on top of the tv that we had to move around to get better reception

  8. 19″ black and white with two channel changing knobs, one for VHF and one for UHF. There were no local UHF broadcasts, that would come a few years later. This was early and mid-60’s in our house. Rabbit ears broke and a coathanger took its place. The channel knob broke and we used wire pliers to change channels. When a UHF channel came, locally, it required a round antenna. As an 8 yr old, that seems so futuristic. A round antenna, like something from a spaceship! I felt lucky to live in modern times. Color console came in the early 70’s.

  9. My first recollection of tv was an old black and white one . We had to change the channels on it with the claw part of a hammer, which we kept on top on the tv. We watched Roy Rodgers, Sky King, Romper Room , Run Tin Tin, Beanie and Cecil, and Lassie on this set. I was ten years old when I walked home from school , as usual, walked into the family room, and was shocked to see my mother ironing clothes while watching Felix the Cat on a COLOR TV set!! ! just couldn’t believe we had a color tv! We kept wishing that all the shows were filmed in color. Disney’ Wonderful World of Color was really beautiful . Sometimes the faces in different shows were in a green cast, so we had to fiddle with the knobs to get the color right.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.