I think everyone who grew up in the 50s/60s fondly remembers the television shows that shaped their lives. I definitely remember the ones that shaped mine, and my very first memory of a TV show is a very young one because my family and I were still living on Broadway, and we moved from there when I was around 4 years old. I distinctly remember the show "Rin Tin Tin," and it must have been something I regularly watched because we had a cocker spaniel type of dog at the time that we (I) named "Rinny" (after Rin Tin Tin, who was, ironically, a German Shepherd -- quite the opposite of my dog). I can still feel the nobby fabric of the couch under my legs as we watched the black and white TV and can see the regal profile of Rin Tin Tin as he gazed down at whatever enemy he was fighting that week from his lookout point.
There were lots of animal shows back then that I fell in love with: "Lassie," "My Friend Flicka," and later on, "Flipper" (which made me fall in love with dolphins). Watching the gorgeous collies who played Lassie and seeing the connection Timmy and his favorite dog had made me want one of my own. The closest I ever came was Buffy, a Sheltie with the same coloring as Lassie but nowhere near the size. Unfortunately, her hair was too long for my mother (who had asthma and a lot of allergies) and Buffy was also quite ill with seizures. We had to have her put to sleep before she reached her first birthday. Of course, living in the city made pets like Flicka, a gorgeous black stallion, impossible to consider, and Flipper . . . well, that wasn't even a remote possibility. But I did learn all about pets and the kinds of connections people could have with them, and eventually, I did have several animals that were incredible (but that's another story).
By the time we moved to the house with the swing, "International Showtime" was popular. To me, it was like having a circus in your house once a week. I watched the flying trapeze act with awe. Little did I know it then, but I would develop a fear of heights that made the trapeze act even more awesome to me. I have no idea to this day how someone can take such chances in midair. And the show horses that ran in circles around the ring with gorgeously costumed women atop their muscular backs were one of my favorite parts of the show. Don Ameche played the ringmaster on the show, and he was every inch the consummate showman: handsome with black hair and a well-oiled moustache, a deep voice, and a gorgeous white smile.
Of course, there were also the shows that were either cartoons or with cartoon-type characters. "Bozo," the clown with the white face and huge head of orange hair, invited kids out of the audience every day, and I wanted to be one of them. "Captain Kangaroo" did the same thing, and he was much less scary than Bozo (though I'm sure there were quite a few stories floating around about his irritation with being unable to speak during that show. And "Howdy Doody" who was almost a puppetized version of Bozo, though on the quieter side. "What time is it, kids?" "It's Howdy Doody time" Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay!!!
Though my mother wouldn't let us sit in front of what she called "the boob tube" all day, the hours that I did spend in front of the television were my favorite time of the day. I felt that Miss Jean of "Romper Room" really did see me in her mirror and that if I had seen the Cleaver, the Anderson or the Nelson families on the street, they would have called out my name to say hello. I wanted to dance with Lawrence Welk and to meet Topo Gigio when he came on the Ed Sullivan Show. Every show pulled on a different imaginary thread, and they were all connected to the little world that invented itself on a weekly basis inside the little box we called a TV.
It's funny. We had only three television stations, but we found plenty to watch. Now I have more than a hundred, and I'm not sure any of the programs are going to be as memorable as "Father Knows Best" or "I Love Lucy."