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210215 February 15, 2021

My brother Don, my mother, and me in our East Clinton home.

Don't Touch That Dial
Tommy Towery
LHS '64

    I have a back story about the television I had when I was a senior at Lee. It goes back to when I was living on East Clinton Street and how the television came into my life. Like many of our neighbors back then, we rented out our spare bedrooms to the workers who had invaded Huntsville to build and work on Redstone Arsenal. At the time we had a 21” black and white television set (seen above) in our living room and sometimes the roomers would sit and watch programs with us. On top of the TV was the required TV lamp our parents thought was necessary. We were not supposed to watch TV in the dark. Of course we only could receive four stations at the time, two from Nashville and two from Birmingham and we could only receive them with a rooftop TV aerial. Later, we had one of the rotor antennas which had a controller box on top of the TV which we could use to point the aerial in the direction of the signal. Rabbit ears were not strong enough to pick up the distant signals, since Huntsville did not have its own station at the time.

  One day one of the men we had rented a room to (we called them roomers) surprised us by installing cable TV to our house. He worked for the cable office and I think he did so on his own without permission and without us having to pay for it. That gave us four stations without needing the aerial. A couple of times we were cut off by the cable company, but he would go outside and hook us up again. I think eventually we did have to pay the $10 monthly fee.

    Another roomer, and I don’t remember his name, was so thankful to be able to have a room to live in he paid us back after he moved away. One day a truck showed up unexpectedly in front of the house and unloaded a new television set. The roomer had gifted us with a modern 21” (still black and white) console television. Of course it did not have a remote control, not even one with a long cable to stretch across the room. It was called an entertainment center at the time. It was not only a TV set, but on one side was a stereo record player and on the other side was an AM/FM stereo radio. I will talk about the record player later in this series.

The television set was wonderful to me. When we moved around and eventually ended up in Lincoln Village it sat in our living room and was my prime source of entertainment during the final years I went to Lee. When I moved to Memphis to go to college, it found a home in my bedroom. By that time the television set was getting old and the horizontal hold did not work too good and the picture rolled in a way today’s generation would never understand. There were knobs for vertical and horizontal hold on the back, along with other ones such as brightness and contrast to control the picture, but the set used tubes which grew weak with age and failed to function properly. I can't tell you how many times I reached behind the TV to adjust it with one hand while I held a hand mirror in the other hand to look at the screen to see what I was doing. It was also what is now called an analog TV.

        Remember the tricks we had to do to get a good picture? Watch this video to see a baby boomer, a millennial, and a Gen X try to work a TV like we had back then.

YouTube Video

When I got married and entered the Air Force the console went with me, but eventually it was replaced with a newer, more reliable set. We gave up size for quality when we finally got our first color TV set. It was a 13" General Electric one and though small, it was color and we loved it.

13" General Electric - my first color set.

        Today, my living room contains a wall mounted 65" Vizio Smart TV. It is color of course and digital and has a remarkable picture. It does not have a picture tube to make the picture, but uses LCDs. It has a remote control which probably has more functions than the Apollo space vehicle. I probably don't even have to tell you about today's television's functions, because most of you probably already know about them. Although we have cable TV we rarely watch live television and prefer to record shows and watch them on our own time. It is great to be able to fast forward through the multiple commercials too. Also, using the Smart TV function we watch more television being streamed over the internet than we do broadcasted. Funny thing is we still have an antenna which allows us to watch "free TV" as they call it today, but is the same broadcast TV we always got for free back in the Fifties and Sixties. Not only do we have a remote control, but we have it connected to a Fire TV stick which allows me to use my voice to change channels or to find a particular show without even having to press multiple buttons. There is no radio built into the TV, but there are multiple streaming radios being streamed over the internet and can be played through the TV. That is not true for a record player though.

Give me some feedback about the interest in this subject, Please! 

We Remember Televisions

        Memphis, TN - On Tuesday of last week the county code enforcement officer came to our house and signed off on the installation of our new Generac whole house generator. On Thursday, less than 48 hours later, the winter storm hit Memphis. When the ice storm started causing limbs to break and lines to get heavy, many homes were left without power. Fortunately we were not. Even though our generator was not needed this time, the peace of mind of knowing it is standing by in times of emergency almost makes the price worth it. With the generator in place, we did not have to get our portable generator ready and fill our five gallon gas cans like we have done in the past. In fact, we sold the portable generator to a local friend so they would have it if needed. I have no idea what it will cost to run the generator when it is finally needed, but peace of mind is worth a lot.

        Oh, and by the way. If anyone saw and is interested in last week's trivia question, here is the question again and the answer. What song included these lyrics.

   ...The six o'clock alarm would never ring
But it rings, and I rise
Wipe the sleep out of my eyes...

        The answer is "Daydream Believer" by the Monkees.

Valentine's Day, 1961
Tommy Towery
LHS '64

    Though this issue will be available on Valentine's Day, there will be no celebrations this year. This year in Memphis we are hunkered down with social distancing for the Covid-19 pandemic and on top of that are facing one of the predicted worst winter storms in years. Grocery stores are full of people preparing for the storm and it took me 30 minutes to get the ice off of my car so we could go get a few essentials.

    I look back at my book "A Million Tomorrows...Memories of the Class of '64" and I see the story of another Valentine's Day back in my youth. Names were changed to protect the innocent and some events written in other places in the book.


    My first real date was on Valentine's Day, a few years earlier, in 1961.  It was through one of those twisted webs of relationships that I was invited to go to a dance on Valentine's Day.  The web was a long and complicated one.  Joyce Ann was the daughter of the lady from whom my Valentine grandmother rented an apartment.  Joyce Ann was 17 and was going steady with a boy who was taking her to a dance at Huntsville High School.  She invited her younger cousin, Connie, to go along.  Why she wanted to do that is unknown, but Connie didn't have anyone to go with.  Through some scheme, known only to Venus or Cupid, I was the one invited to go to the dance with Connie.

    That was my first real date, and I didn't even initiate it.  I was the one who was asked for the date, and even then I wasn't asked by the girl.  It was through an arrangement made by the cousins, and parents, and aunts and uncles, and grandmothers and who knows who else.  Maybe the milkman was in on it for all I knew.  If I hadn't known better I would have thought that it was an old-world arrangement.  How such a date was settled is beyond belief, but it was and I was invited to go to the Valentine's Dance with Connie. 

    It was 1961.  I was 15 at the time; she was 12, almost 13.  I bought flowers and everything and even wore a suit and tie.  I lived across the street from the cousin, so when the time came, I took the flowers out of the refrigerator, tried to get the butterflies out of my stomach, and walked across the street to meet my date.  It looked like the Academy Awards show when I arrived at the door.  There were people and cameras and flowers and me.  There, behind the crowd, was Connie in her nice party dress.  When I gave her the flowers she opened them and handed the corsage back for me to pin on her.

    That posed the first problem of the night.  Just how do you go about pinning a flower on a girl's shoulder, or lower, without touching something you were not supposed to touch?  The older cousin, her date, the aunt and uncle and her parents got quite a giggle out of watching me struggle with embarrassment.  The obvious way to do it was to scoop your hand down inside the front of the dress to hold it steady while you pinned it on her.  Obviously what was practical was not the proper way to do it.  After a few seconds, which seemed like hours, of fidgeting and trying to pin it on without touching anything, and after the adults had all the giggles they could get out of watching me, I was rescued by the cousin who completed the task.  A smart fellow would have taken that as a hint and left and waited until he could date a girl without an audience.  That was not to be on that night.  I was committed to the date.

    We rode in the cousin's date's car to the dance, hardly speaking on the way.  I just barely knew the girl sitting beside me in the back seat of the car.  We had met once before when she was eight and it never entered my mind that someday I would be sitting in the back of a car on the way to a dance with her.  We sat in silence, glancing ever so often at one another and then out of the windows to watch the street lights go by.  The dance went rather well, except that at the time, neither I nor Connie knew how to dance, and we spent most of the time sitting and making busy talk or not talking at all.  When we did try to dance, all that I knew how to do was the two-step, and I spent most of the time on the floor saying "one-two-one, one-two-one" to myself as I counted the steps needed for the dance.  When the dance was over we all went to Jerry's.  It was my first time to visit that establishment with a girl.  We had Cokes and then went riding in the country.

    The older cousin and her escort knew what you were supposed to do on a date when you go riding around on dark country roads.  I didn't.  If Connie did, she didn't tell me.  For almost an hour, we rode around in the dark countryside, with me sitting straight-backed, with my arm and her's just barely touching.  I couldn't have gotten any closer to the door if they had added me to the plans at Detroit.  About ten minutes before we got back to the house, my or her hand moved enough that they touched, and we held hands for the rest of the trip.  That was the whole extent of affection for the evening.

    Thus ended my first date.  Scared to death of the girl and not knowing what to do, I decided that I needed to understand the male-female relationship a lot more before I ever went on another one.  Later, Connie and I would discover what dating was all about, but it would take time, and it would be another year or so before I ever went out with her again.


From Our Mailbox 


Subject:    Annivesary

Judy Sherrill Lindsey

LHS ‘66

Hey Tommy, January 25th is a great date; it is Rick and my anniversary also.  We have been married 52 years.  We went to the Holy Lands for the 50th.  Hope to get to Alaska for the 55th.  Happy Belated anniversary.


Subject:    A note from Rev. Spencer Thompson’s little buddy

Beverly Lorren

LHS '71

    I am a graduate of Lee High School in 1971. Condredge Holloway was Mr. Lee High School! Thank you for you talents! You are anointed.

Subject:    Clock Trivia
Curt Lewis
LHS '66

    Just a few days ago a member of a group I regularly hike with was telling about a documentary she had seen regarding the women who applied the luminescent paint to early alarm clocks.  This was done manually with a small round brush.  The brush would be dipped in an open container of the radioactive paint and the bristles would then be shaped into a suitable profile using the woman’s lips prior to applying the dots to the dial.  When the woman ultimately became ill and visited the company physician, she would be informed that she was suffering from syphilis, which effectively terminated further discussion due to the stigma of the implications.

Subject:    Alarm Clocks
Rod Dixon
LHS '69

    The clock/radio I remember was one I got for my girlfriend (future fiancé).  I brought it home from GEX and plugged it in to make sure it worked. I immediately found the Alabama/Auburn football game. Bama was ahead 16-3 and was about to punt. You know the rest of the story. It was blocked and David Langner (a friend from Davis Hills Jr. High) picked it up and scored. An incredible replay occurred and the  result was an Auburn win 17-16. We had the clock when we married in January ‘74.



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