Share Your Memories of Color TV

Share Your Memories is a monthly column that invites readers to contribute their recollections of what they watched on television and how they watched it. Topics range from obsolete equipment to network programming practices to specific TV shows and everything in between.

In Living Color

Last month’s inaugural Share Your Memories column asked readers to share their memories of their first television set. It seemed like the appropriate place to start. Today’s topic is the logical next step, asking readers to share their memories of color television.

Just last month, BBC News reported more than 7,000 households in the United Kingdom are watching TV in black-and-white. It’s nearly 2019 and thousands of people in the U.K. haven’t switched to color TV.

(For the record, that figure is down from 212,000 households in 2000.)

Growing up as I did in the late 1980s and into the 1990s, I don’t remember a time before color television. I’ve heard stories from my parents, both baby boomers, about growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. When my dad was a kid, he liked Star Trek. His family didn’t have a color TV but his grandparents did. So, it was always a treat when he visited his grandparents and could watch Star Trek in glorious living color.

Like my parents, many of you reading this likely remember the “Color Revolution” of the mid-1960s, when many popular TV shows like Gilligan’s Island, Lost in Space, and I Dream of Jeannie transitioned from black-and-white to color.

How long did you have to wait before your family got its first color set? Were you jealous of neighbors or family members who had a color set before you? Can you remember being frustrated having to watch color shows on your black-and-white TV? When you finally got a color set, were you satisfied with the colors you saw?

Color in the 1950s

I’m also curious to hear from anyone who remembers color television from the 1950s. CBS introduced a limited color schedule in June 1951 but existing black-and-white sets were incompatible with its color system. A competing color system from RCA won FCC approval later that year.

Does anyone remember any of these early CBS color broadcasts, either because you watched them or because you couldn’t watch them? Do you remember when NBC broadcast the 1954 Tournament of Roses Parade in color, marking the first coast-to-coast color broadcast? Did you watch The Marriage on NBC during the summer of 1954, the first network prime time TV series broadcast in color?

When did you get rid of your last black and white TV set? Were you watching television in black and white into the 1970s? Hit the comments with your recollections and memories.

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9 Replies to “Share Your Memories of Color TV”

  1. I think we got rid of our B&W set around the 70s or 80s, although I can’t recall exactly. But we hadn’t been using it for a while; it was just sitting around. And as I recall, the shows were being filmed in a way that made them difficult to watch on a B&W set. It was at a time when you couldn’t even give a B&W set away because nobody wanted them, much a few years ago when everyone switched from analog TV to digital TVs. There is a growing interest in analog sets for cosmetic purposes and retro gamers.

  2. We didn’t have a color TV until around 1978/79…I don’t remember specifically. I grew up watching an Admiral Viceroy B/W TV on a rollaround cart (we can watch Jackie Gleason while we eat!)
    I think I remember seeing Hardy Boys and Battlestar Galactica in color, but Logan’s Run and Lucan in B/W.

  3. In the late 1960’s, my late Dad decided to buy a color TV set with a “home entertainment center” (stereo record player and AM/FM Stereo radio included) after noting in TV Guide that just about everything (except old movies and old reruns) has switched to color..

    But it was going to cost over $1,000 new, so he went on a different tactic: He’d start saving up for it, but he’d look for a used color TV set he could inexpensively get in the meantime, and hope that it would last a couple of years. He had come to the realization that so much programming (and live news and sports coverage) was in color that we’d be really missing out without a color set, so that’s why he did what he did.

    So, in March of 1968, we got a used eleven-year-old (maybe 12 year old?) RCA color TV, which I think Dad paid $75 (1968 dollars) for. He picked an old RCA set because he had been told by a salesman that “while any new 1968 color TV is of good quality, many older sets aren’t. If you insist on a used color TV set, stick to RCA, Zenith, or DuMont (yes, DuMont did make color sets for a time) because they’re of very high quality”.

    It was almost on it’s last legs when we got it (it died a year later), but it did allow us to watch such shows as “Star Trek”, “Lost In Space”, “Bonanza”, baseball games, the 1968 political conventions and election night, the Apollo 7 and 8 space missions, and so forth. By the time that set died, Dad had saved enough for that home entertainment center that would serve us for most of the 1970’s.

  4. Does anyone remember something called the “Parade of Homes” in your town? I think it was a mass open house in what I imagine was a New Community, and you just walked into house after house and marveled at their beauty, and You Too Could Live Here. Well, my parents in Grand Rapids took me on a tour of the Parade of Homes, and in one living room there was a brand-new RCA Victor color TV, playing “The Virginian.” This was the very first time I saw color TV in a home (maybe I had in a department store), and I remember being appropriately dazzled. (We wouldn’t get a color TV of our own for many years after that.

  5. My family had to be one of the last to get a color tv. We didn’t have a color set until Dec. 1979, and that was a second-hand set from my grandmother. We got our first microwave oven 3 months earlier. My grandparents (both couples), however, did have color tvs back as long as I can remember. I know my mom had a picture of the family enjoying her parents’ new color tv in a picture from 1966, which is the same year that primetime programming went all-color on all 3 of the major networks. My grandparents, though, never had automatic dishwashers, and my family had them my entire lifetime, probably their first in the early 1960s. I didn’t care much about color vs. B&W tv until I was a teen in the late 70s, at which point I finally wanted to see tv in color and nagged my parents on occasion about it until we finally had our second-hand set. We even bought a 25″ B&W set (with remote control) in 1969, but it wasn’t color. I wonder how much more that set would’ve cost if it had been color. When we had the color set, our 19″ portable B&W set went to my brother’s bedroom. (He was away at college by this time.) There was no way my mom would’ve allowed me to have a set in my bedroom, as much as I liked to watch tv. I didn’t have my own set until sometime late in my college years, and I still don’t watch much tv in my bedroom, watching it more often in my living room while I’m on my computer.

  6. Being in Australia we didn’t get colour TV properly until 1 March 1975, on “C-Day” which was when all TV stations were to switch to unrestricted colour. (They had been allowed to do some limited colour transmissions for six months prior).

    My grandparents had been early adopters of colour but it was 1977 or 78 when my parents got a colour set. It was a 51cm (20 inch) Pye. Ironically it was a smaller size screen than the B&W set we’d now handed down to the spare room but a worthy sacrifice to have colour TV.

    We were the first people I knew to have a TV set with push-button tuning (but no remote control). It had 6 buttons, and at that time we only had four channels. I can’t remember the first thing I saw on the colour set. It was after I’d come home from school one day and got surprised with this new TV in the corner of the lounge room. I think the first thing I saw was General Hospital or Days Of Our Lives or something which was pretty normal mid-afternoon TV fare in those days before 4.00 when the after school shows started.

    The Pye set served us well mostly but we did have a TV repair man on first name basis as he’d be called over once or twice a year when the set would sometimes play up. But then by about 1990 the picture tube went and we got told it was pretty much terminal. But it had clocked up many hours of happy viewing by then.

  7. 1964. We were the second family in our very small town to get color. We weren’t wealthy, but my dad didn’t mind having new things. RCA set, that goofy screen with the rounded off corners, 4 legs, and two buttons on the front for Color and Tint. The latter gave you green or red, and you’d try to adjust it to the flesh tones. The first night there was some movie on (NBC’s ______ Night at the Movies) in B&W , and I thought maybe there was something wrong with the set (I was quite young). My mom (messing with me) said to call the other family (the Olsons ) and ask if it was in color on theirs. Which I did. I still remember the Olson girl laughed and said that it was probably just a B&W movie.

  8. I live in the Midlands, U.K. One U.S. kids TV Show that was frequently rerun on our local station (ATV) was Fury (1955/59), the series about a young boy who tames a wild horse. I was always under the impression that this series was shot in colour. When colour TV started during the late 60s, I was disappointed to discover that Fury was actually in B/W. Even so, I still love that show today.

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