The 1st T.V. in Follett
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2004 Picture

My First T.V. Experience

By L.J. Ehrlich,

Class of 1953, Follett High School


            Every small town has at least one man that when something goes wrong they call him.  He is the Mr. Fix It.   If the faucet drips, call Mr. Fix It, if the fridge doesn't work, call Mr. Fix It, if the lights don't come on, call Mr. Fix It, if the radio doesn't plan, call Mr. Fix It.

            Noble was the man.  He was Mr. Fix It in Follett.   His full name was Noble Brown, he was married, had a dedicated wife, (Madelene and two lovely daughters, (Sandra and Jean Ann).  As a family they were respected and admired in the community.     But to top it all off, if it could be fixed, Noble could fix it!

            In 1951, (think the year is right) no one if Follett had yet bought a T.V.  We had heard about them through the newspapers, and radio.   Noble had a radio repair shop where he fixed all kinds of radios, and anything electronic.   He probably had the only ohm meter in town and probably was the only one that knew what an ohm was.  (For those of you who might no know, an Ohm is harmless, it is a measurement of electrical resistance)

            I remember he had a red sign to scare us kids over his work bench that read:  WARNING, DO NOT TOUCH, 100,000 OHMS!         Wow, we all stayed clear.   I didn't realize until years later ohms are harmless, but it scared the dickens out of us and served its purpose.

            Noble had a ham radio license.  He had a big (I mean big, Hammarlund 15 tube short wave radio that easily weighed 50 pounds had at least 12 dials, several toggle switches and an very long antennae (we called it an aerial) that draped from a light pole by his shop and traveled clear across his lot about 100 foot to another pole.   As he would slowly turn the dial you would hear mostly short wave beeps and squeals and squawks and sometimes someone who sounded like Donald Duck.   I was fascinated.  Noble was something else.  I guess in my mind he could walk on the water if he wanted to.  It was at this time I set a goal in my mind to become a Ham Radio Operator and years later I earned my license!  My ham radio licenses number is KB5UI (Killed By 5 Ugly Indians) and still good.  My wife Ida also has her Ham license and it is WB5IFS (Willy Baker Five India Foxtrot Sugar).  We donít have a ham radio anymore, but someday, who knows?

            Well, back to the Television.   Noble bought a Television set, James Byars, Dub and I helped him unpack it.  He didn't know enough to buy a TV. antennae but who would care, Noble had plenty of aerial wire!    We would try it out that very night as the world champion boxing championship with Jersey Joe Walcott and Ezzard Charles was being broadcast from Amarillo (125 miles Southwest and Oklahoma City 150 miles to the Southeast).   We would have plenty of height as we would set it up in a top room of the New Follett Cement Grain Elevator about 150 feet high.

            I remember we had to make several trips up and down the small elevator taking the T.V. and needed materials up to the top. 

            In a room at the top, we set up the TV and Noble stretched the twin lead wire up to the top through the attic door and on to the roof where he had made his own T.V. Antennae.   He made if from cane fishing poles and black electric tape!   Looked pretty good to me, of course I had never seen one before and had no idea what it should have looked like!

            If you can imagine the twin lead wire being strapped with black tape every 12 inches or so to the fishing cane poles, you have a pretty good description of the antennae.   Noble had done a good job.   It should work?  But would it?  I was confident it would work as Noble could fix anything.

            That night we turned on the T.V., pointed the fishing pole aerial toward Amarillo and immediately received a full screen of snow and a loud hissing sound.  We changed channels, more of the same, we moved the aerial more, of the same, we thought maybe it would take a while for it to warm up, we waited, more snow and more loud hissing!   It was hard to listen to, but we did.   We were scared we would miss it so left the sound up.

            We switched our viewing direction to OK. City.   They were having a snow storm there too, in fact it seemed as if Amarillo and Oklahoma City were both in the middle of a gigantic snow storms that was messing up our T. V.  Maybe they hadnít started broadcasting yet?  Or had they had cancelled the fight?  Or maybe it was a short fight and we missed it! 

            Not knowing, we would not give up; we switched, rotated the fishing pole antennae, stared at the oval shaped screen and waited patiently for a picture or a sound.   We did this for 2-3 hours.  May I tell you that my eyes watered a lot and my ears got tired of hearing the loud hiss?

            I will confess there was one time we had been staring at the snow and listening to the loud hissing sound for quite some time when I thought I could see an image moving in the back of the snowy screen and once I thought I heard a sound, but then it was gone.  That was the best we would do for that night.

             We had attempted to make history in Follett; we had attempted the first Television show in Follett and not succeeded.   I had serious doubts about it all.

            We all agreed that Television had a long way to go before it would actually work.  In my heart I thought I would never see it work.  Maybe it wasn't even true.  Maybe television was just a hoax.  Just maybe we had been hoodwinked!

            Several months later Noble had fine tuned the T.V. set with a proper aerial and could actually get a partial picture and decent sound if the conditions were right.

            Not long after that there were T.V. transponders placed in southern Kansas (Ensign, Kansas) and in the Texas Panhandle close to Libscomb, and on some good nights with the atmospheric conditions just right you could watch ďgoodĒ television for short periods of time before the picture would just "vanish without warning".

            The common expression at the post office and at the local cafe each morning that was commonly heard, ďBoy did you have your T.V. on last night between 8 and 8:30?   It was unbelievable!  It was clear as a bell and no noise!   Someone else would say, I had mine on and I got nothing!

            BUT . . . We had color TV in Follett before the rest of the world did!   Well, to be perfectly honest it was not true color, it was kinda colored.   This is how we colored it.   We soon learned that if you took a piece of colored cellophane paper and stretched it over your screen and fastened it with scotch tape you would have color.  We didnít care if it was all blue, or all green, or even red, it was color.   If you grew tired of the color just change the paper!  It sure did cut down the glare of the ďsnowĒ that was prevalent with the black and white screen.  It was a change and it was a little relaxing for a while.

            Later Noble got a real color set and ou la la, people would gather on the sidewalk in front of his store at night and stare through the front store window to see the color television set.   Lawrence Welk would say ďand ah von, and ah two,Ē and it was just great!

             TVís back then cost $300-$600 or more and the only good ones were Philco and Sylvania.    Today you canít buy either brand and there are dozens of great TVís at half the cost.   Now thatís progress!

            Well, back then we knew about small radios and tiny TVís on wrists!  But to see one you had to read about them in comic fiction books (Captain Marvel and Dick Tracy had one) and no one believed such a thing could ever happen!  It was all make believe, fiction, not true, not even possible!      But, Sha-zaam!  Today we have the small wrist TVís, radios, telephones, and at a price even children on an allowance can afford them.

            Anyone want to buy a ticket to the moon?    Mars?   No way!  Scuttlebutt says they are going on sale soon.





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