When I was very small, I had rheumatic fever. This meant that I had to spend most of my time in bed. This was, of course before television. Radio had such sparkling shows as “Young Widder Brown,” “Guiding Light,” and other soap operas. At age 4, I was not interested in that programing. My great uncle came over, and in company with my mother taught me to read. I guess this saved my sanity.
Later on, I listened to the “children’s programs” in the evening- “The Lone Ranger,” “Superman,” “The Green Hornet,” “Amos & Andy”- a multitude of programs. They all had one thing in common; they required you to think, and to use your imagination. I had never seen the great western plains, Gotham City, or any of the other places in these shows. Furthermore, I hadn’t seen the costumes, either. I had to use my imagination. When you couple this with reading, and I don’t mean comic books, you develop the ability to construct in your mind the scenery of a book, or a show.
Later on, I found a small white radio in the basement. I took it upstairs, and would put it under my pillow to listen to “The Shadow, Creaking Door, Suspense,” and other programs NOT suited for young children. I learned to separate truth from fiction. When I heard a show that had facts that I doubted, I would look them up in the encyclopedia my great uncle taught me to read from. Even today, I do the same thing. It is amazing how much you can learn from any book if the author has researched his or her subject. I have traveled to Europe, the Middle East, Central America, and therefore, I can spot a mistake in any book- fact or fiction.
Television came along in 1952. We didn’t have a local TV station, but with an antenna- that probably could be used for radar-we could get Atlanta. Everyone came to the house to see the new invention- Television, and to watch the coronation of Elizabeth as Queen of England. Later on, I was allowed to watch one hour of TV- Howdy Doody, and something else I cannot remember. I didn’t like it. It wasn’t real.
Through the years, I watched some TV, but I noticed it got worse as time went by. Now, what you see on TV you can see every day- without a big screen in divorce court, or child support court. I did this for a living, so why watch it on TV. I remembered that the head of the Federal Communications Commission, Newton Minnow, described TV as “A vast wasteland.” This was in the late 1950’s. It hasn’t gotten any better.
Eleven years ago, I unplugged my TV. I still have one so I can watch a movie every now and then. Mr. Nassios opened a video rental place near me, and I used it regularly. Now, I wait until the movie comes out on DVD, and I buy it in the drugstore. I guess they stock it there under the description “tranquilizers.”
Television has destroyed the ability of America to read. It has also destroyed the ability to imagine. I can only hope that reading comes back, and that children come to understand TV is not real, any more than the video games. I can only hope. It is hard to relate to people who have no imagination, and no time to read. They are missing out on the world.
By David Creekmore