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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Early Cable TV

Early Cable TV
10! We would have killed for 10!
I remember in the 60’s people would occasionally talk of “Pay TV.”  The mere mention of pay TV would get my mom’s hackles up.  Her depression senses tingled whenever anyone talked of spending money needlessly.
 
“Why would I spend good money for something I now get for free?” 
My first pay TV, cable TV, was 1967 in college.  What was a college student in 1967 doing paying for cable, especially when his mom breathed fire if anyone even mentioned paying for TV?  I went to school in Easton Pa., the Lehigh Valley.  The key here is valley.  Without a direct line to a TV signal, TV was worthless.  It is for this reason that the earliest cable TV companies were simply big old antennae on a mountain with a heavy-duty cable feeding TV’s in the valley.
In the Lehigh Valley in 1967 that meant you received a crisp picture for channels 3,6, and 10 plus 2 or 3 UHF (Ultra High Frequency) channels that existed back in the day. 
The charge for this magnificent reception was $1.50 a month.  It was charged to our fraternity house and I was to reimburse it every month.  No one ever asked me for the $1.50 a month, so I had free cable TV which would make mom very happy. 
These 6 channels of cable TV were shown on an 11-inch black and white TV.  We did not have a cable box; the signal went direct to the TV, later referred to as “Cable Ready” except in those days since there were no independent “Cable Channels” every TV was “Cable Ready.”
This set up might not seem like much, but my room mates and I had the only TV in the fraternity house except for the color TV in the rec room.  “Frog,” (He wore glasses like ‘Froggy’ on the Little Rascals) “Globe Head” (He had a really big head) and myself (“Jowls”…it’s a long story) were TV kings.  When people got voted out of their viewing choice in the rec room they came to our room for a second chance.  There was no vote on our TV, the three roommates ruled.  A beer or a couple of cigarettes could, however, change our preference.
As I recall we either watched old movies or one of the UHF stations played Mc Hale’s Navy around the clock.  News was absolutely forbidden.  The popular news show at the time was the “Huntley Brinkley Report.” This show was generally on at 6:00 PM in the rec room, but occasionally it was voted down in favor of something less cerebral.  “Big Fat John” (one of our least imaginative nick names) was addicted to the Huntley Brinkley Report and he would come to our room and beg to watch his show.
“Big Fat John” did not smoke, did not drink beer, and we really didn’t like him very much, so he had nothing to offer in the way of bribery.  We let him beg a while, but “Mc Hale’s Navy” always won…Hey, you take your fun where you can get it.  
I don’t know where I’m going with this, so I may as well cut it off here.
I probably owe the fraternity house $13.50 for my cable TV, but sadly the chapter no longer exists.  These days I have to pay $13.50 extra a month just to have access to a channel that still shows “Mc Hale’s Navy.”

17 comments:

  1. Fond memory of our first cable TV - it was very much the same , only much, much later. ('94) Like you, we were in a valley and there was no reception. Somebody was going to get rich (he thought) and he strung cable for the 30-40 some houses with no reception. I think we got The Nashville 'air' channels and a few PBS and for some reason 'C Span'. We paid $12 for it and were happy to get it. Our son was into Sesame street and that kind of thing. After a couple years, the owner lost interest and we got sucked into satellite TV.

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  2. I think our cable bill is much more than $13.50 a month, though we have it all bundled. We get far too many channels than are possible to watch in any given day. I'd dump that and the landline except I need the landline for work and hubby enjoys TV watching, so we keep paying an exorbitant amount monthly. Thankfully it doesn't go out too often (just jinxed myself).

    betty

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  3. When TV came to us in the late 50s reception away from the cities was very poor or non-existant unless you bought a very tall tower and had it erected in your back yard with the TV antenna on top, aimed to receive the three main channels, 7 9, 10. The cable ran from the antenna to your TV and almost every home in Port Pirie had one. I remember my brother and I using our tower as a climbing frame, we'd sit up there and just watch people. I'm sure other kids did the same. The thing is, we didn't have to pay any cable fee, since we all had our own towers.
    Now, cable TV here is Foxtel and some have it via cable run to the house, others via a satellite dish on their roof. In the beginning this was a great idea; now, with Foxtel showing almost as many ads as regular TV a lot of people I know are letting their accounts go. Sports fans are probably happy to keep paying the price which is too high in my opinion.

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  4. I have the dish on the roof. Actually I wish it wasn't there, sometimes I wish the television wasn't there either. I wonder if you have as much rubbish on your programmes as we do.

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  5. I really wish I was brave enough to cut the cord. I hate these people.

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  6. When I got my first job after college, I was shocked to move to an area where, like the valley, you had to get cable to watch the three major networks. It was probably only $20 a month, but too rich for my blood, at the time.

    Now our cable bill (bundled) is about $200 a month. Insane.

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  7. Now we get 100's of channels which all seem to be showing the same programs none of which are very interesting.

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  8. I sit down to watch TV while I'm knitting. Both are boring, and go together well.

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  9. My mother has a similar attitude as your mother. Even though her sole entertainment is television, she won't cough up a dime for decent programming.

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  10. We don't have cable. We have Netflix and Amazon Prime. Works for us and it's pretty cheap. Really cheap.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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  11. Cable doesn't make it this far out in the country but satellite does the job. Otherwise there is only one channel available via antenna--PBN. Just hate paying for all those channels I'll never watch.
    I was wondering if any of your fraternity might read your blog but I guess you are safe.

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  12. I got a chuckle out of the nicknaming. I remember that being a very big part of my brother's social functioning, although not so much based on physical characteristics. He can still get me laughing to tears recounting how his friends got their nicknames.

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  13. I've always wanted to pay for cable but get to pick and choose the channels that I want. I hate these conglomerate cable tv companies that don't care if you want to quit because there's not much if any competition in areas. Grrrrrr.

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  14. I've heard some provider will soon be offering an a la cart plan where you can pick JUST the channels you want, without having to buy another $40 package to get the one channel you wanted. When we last had cable we paid over $100, on top of our high speed internet. OUCH! Then we got a hi-def antennae to pick up our local stations, and an Amazon TV Firestick + a few apps, and with those we miss very little. Virtually every "normal" sport, plus international rugby, Formula 1 racing, and some other cool stuff I never even knew existed, we have 'em. When the unwashed masses find out about this, cable TV is a gonner. Sounds like I'm a little like your mom, huh? ;)

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  15. About 18 months ago we figured out we were subsidizing the cable bill of sports fanatics. There was no way to get rid of the (expensive) sports channels, so we got rid of cable. Like Lowandslow and Sandee mentioned, we have a hodgepodge of very inexpensive options now and I think my husband watches MORE television now than when we had cable. Me? I don't even know how to turn on the TV any more, but I do enjoy watching tons of movies.

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  16. My father-in-law was one of the first people in the county to get cable and I don't think he was ever changed. The cable office was next door to his house and my mother-in-law fed the cable guys lunch almost every day.
    When they move 11 miles away to the land where I now live it barely had electricity but the cable company ran cable to their house.
    Thanks to them, we've had cable for years.

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  17. It took my dad forrrevvver to get cable because he didn't want to "jump on the bandwagon." :)

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