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James R. Stout

The Other War in the 1960's

            Let me tell you about the “other” war that raged (at least it did in our house) during the 1960’s. The war didn’t really start until the fall of 1966. Prior to that, there were minor skirmishes and war clouds occasionally appeared on the horizon but they were short-lived. What you need to understand, for those of you who were not old enough or even born yet, there were only three television networks in those days. If I chose to pay the ridicules amount of money for full access cable TV, I would have more networks to choose from than a bear has ants to choose from in an ant hill. That said, the networks of today are highly specialized. The History Channel, which shows very little in the way of history programs (go figure), The Various movie channels, which show the same movies over and over again until you never want to see them again, and the infernal “networks” that are simply there to sell you anything you want and a whole lot of things that you don’t want, make up the vast majority of the TV offerings these days.

            Back in the fall of 1966 there was CBS, ABC, and NBC. Period the end. UHF was in its infancy and you had to have one of those round antennas to get the one UHF channel. Frankly, that one UHF channel did for us then what a great many of the networks do for us now. It showed reruns. The only difference was you didn’t have to pay to watch TV back then. I’m reminded of a line from a Tom Petty’s song, “The Last DJ”. He sang, “Now you pay for what you used to get for free.”

            Back to the war. It was inevitable. Up until I was about 11, I watched what the king of the castle wanted to watch, and I didn’t mind. The King, my Dad, liked westerns, science fiction, shows about the war that he actually fought, WW2, and variety shows. Oddly enough, Dad didn’t care for Ed Sullivan. One of those early skirmishes was on February 9, 1964 when The Beatles were on the Ed Sullivan Show for the first time. He capitulated on that one and we all gathered around the Curtis Mathis black and white and watched Paul shake his head, Ringo’s nose, John sneer, and George not do much of anything except for play his guitar. But it was the most exciting hour of our young lives up until then. My father and mother just laughed and shook their heads. Mom made a remark about how when she was our age the newsreels before the movies in theaters showed a young man named Frank Sinatra being screamed at by teenage girls. Dad simply said his standard line about Mr. Sinatra. “He can’t hold a candle to Bing Crosby.”

            Back to September of 1966. The first real shots of the “Television Wars” was fired when we were denied access to watch “The Monkees” in lieu of Dad’s all-time favorite television show, “Gunsmoke”. My sister Debbie cried because she wouldn’t get to see Mickey while I just wanted to hear the music and watch the “boys” be silly. Over the next few years there were many such battles. Casualties of the war included “The Mod Squad”, “Get Smart”, and “Ironside” to name a few. But there were also truces. There were shows that we all liked. These included, “Star Trek”, “The Man From U.N.C.L.E”, “The Invaders”, “The Fugitive”, and one of Dad’s favorites despite my mother thinking it was just plain dumb, “Hogan’s Heroes”. Dad didn’t generally like “silly sitcoms”, but for some reason he was a fan of Hogan. Maybe it was the whole WW2 thing. I don’t know.

            By the time the early 70’s rolled around I was watching less and less TV. There were other things taking my interest away. Things like playing guitar and talking to girls. We still loved to watch “The Carol Burnett Show” together and the networks threw us a bone once in a while by giving us a show that the King liked because it was a western and I liked because it was hip (yes, I used that word). The perfect example of this was “Alias Smith and Jones”. The war eventually just quit being a concern because we weren’t fighting over what show to watch anymore. I preferred spending my time in my room playing my guitar or talking to a girl on the phone. Both of my sisters were married and out of the house by the middle of 1971. There just wasn’t a reason to incite a battle by either side. Heck, we watched “The Johnny Cash Show” and “The Glen Campbell Good Time Hour” together because there was appeal there for all of us. Mom generally watched with her third eye while her two regular eyes were doing needlepoint.

            I hope you know that when I call my Dad, “The King”, I’m just being funny. The truth is he was the best Dad that I could ever hope for. Mom was amazingly patient with both of us as well. Even after I got married me and the missus would occasionally go over to my parent’s house and watch “The Carol Burnett Show” together. Tim Conway’s “Dentist” bit had us rolling on the floor. The truth is it was really just a minor little “war” in the end. We loved each other and enjoyed each other’s company. Near the end of my parent’s lives, 2010-2015, I would sometimes go over and watch TV with them. Sometimes I was there to guide them through the maze known as “The Remote”. We watched old Audie Murphy and Randolph Scott movies, a couple of newer shows such as “NCIS” as well as old TV shows that I never much cared for during their day but came to enjoy as I got older. “Magnum P.I.” was one of those. When it was out originally, I pretty much couldn’t stand Tom Selleck. Now he’s one of my favorites. I think it was his movie “Quigley Down Under” that made me decide that he wasn’t just a tall drink of water that all the women fainted over. He could actually act, and I have loved his TV movies about Jesse Stone, his westerns, and his current series “Blue Bloods”. I miss those nights when I would go get takeout at Dairy Queen for Mom and Dad and myself and go to their house and watch TV with them. It was like going back to those days some 50 years before. Except the TV was a flat-screen TV and I had a recliner to sit in too!

            While I remember the more serious stuff of the 60’s and 70’s quite well, I choose to think of the good times instead of the bad. I had enough of hearing about Richard Nixon, Vietnam, Charles Manson, and all the riots that had us so upset. I tend not to watch the news today except for the weather. I NEVER tune in the channels that bash one side or the other 24 hours a day. I keep up with the news by reading about it and much of it must be read with a jaundiced eye. The news media is so corrupted today that I simply can’t watch it. After all these years, I’ve developed a nose (no jokes about my nose, please!) for liars and idiots. I start to sneeze when I turn on the TV and a talking head is speaking.

            Anyway, even with all the nonsense on TV today you can find something good to watch. When my granddaughters are here, we watch old movies and I even watch “My Little Pony” with them. Speaking of which, why do they show 18 episodes in a row? I know it’s called binging, but there’s only so many times a 63-year-old man can hear the theme to that show before he goes nuts. The worst of it is I find myself singing it for days after the girls have gone home. But they are more than worth it. Some people talk about TV being evil. Nonsense. It’s like anything else such as a gun. The gun isn’t evil. What some people do with a gun is evil, but that’s a human problem. Not a problem with the gun. It doesn’t shoot anyone. Well, they broadcast some bad stuff. Some evil stuff. But you don’t have to watch it. You can choose to watch something wholesome or just fun. If you watch TV with your kids or grandkids, then make sure it’s something worthwhile. Just be sure to enjoy your time together. Make some memories for them that they’ll talk about to their grandchildren someday. They don’t have to have the bright colors, strangely drawn characters, or loud music. My granddaughters both ask me to watch a particular DVD every time that they visit that I bought to share with them a year or so ago. It’s a 1967 Disney “live action” movie called, “Charlie The Lonesome Cougar”. They love watching that movie. I love watching it with them. So long for now!

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