REVIEW POTPOURRI: Vivid memories of our first TV

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Vivid memories of our first TV

I have vivid 1950s memories of some very engaging shows that were syndicated to the five channels that came in on the television sets in East Vassalboro (I should add that we were the last family in the village to get a TV set – a bulky used Philco which my grandmother Annabelle Ingraham Cates purchased for $30 from our local repairman, Richard Dowe, who was based in South China, and it arrived in early November 1959. For myself, it was the equivalent of the Second Coming, heaven on earth.).

Upon arrival, the usual sibling spat; I wanted us to watch the Three Stooges, then part of the nightly Mighty 90 show, hosted by Maine country and western singer Ken McKenzie, from 5 to 6:30 p.m., on the Portland CBS affiliate WGAN, channel 13 Mondays through Fridays. The others were screaming for Popeye on the Portland NBC affiliate WCSH, channel 6. For some very mysterious reason, I got my way and the other siblings, previously unacquainted with the Three Stooges, were roaring with laughter and forgot all about Popeye.

In addition to the Three Stooges’ 20 minute episodes, the show would feature other 1930s-40s Columbia Screen Gems shorts starring such comedians as Hugh Herbert, Leon Errol, Andy Clyde. etc., each evening, interspersed with Cowboy Ken chatting with the children gathered in the studio.

Around Christmas, Santa Claus would answer letters from kids around the state; I wrote one and heard my name mentioned on the air, which led to feeling on cloud nine for at least a week.

One of the sponsors of the show was our own Farrington’s Clothing Outlet right here in South China and a very busy store during those years.

The last half hour was given over to an action show, one of five such series rotating weekly. They included the following: The Adventures of Sir Lancelot, starring British actor William Russell. The Adventures of Casey Jones, with Alan Hale Jr., later better known as the Skipper on Gilligan’s Island.

The Rough Riders, with Kent Taylor, Jan Merlin and Peter Whitney, itself a very gripping western dealing with three men who rode throughout the post-Civil War West dispensing justice to outlaws. I remember one episode in which Highway Patrol star Broderick Crawford did a guest appearance as a very evil murderer. Ivanhoe, starring Roger Moore, later, of course, 007 (James Bond) after Sean Connery.

The Buccaneers with Robert Shaw, who would later achieve even greater fame during the early ‘70s in the film classics, The Sting and Jaws.

Some more memories in the following weeks.


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