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Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Early Cable TV
Early Cable TV
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.”