Friday, October 3, 2014

TV Favorites of the Boomer Generation

A short trip down memory lane…

The type of TV in my house 1950s/early 60s.
The Boomers were the first generation to grow up watching TV. A small black and white box graced our living room – nowadays termed the family room. I cannot remember not having a TV in the house.  

Network TV started nationwide broadcasts in the late 50s.

Millions of boomers living throughout the country viewed the same programs at almost the same time (not exactly the same time due to time zone differences) where ever they lived and whatever their economic circumstances, religion, color, culture, or family situation. This commonality morphed into collective cultural memories influencing our generation, a phenomenon unprecedented in history.

I did not spend most days watching hours of TV or playing with electronics, as so many kids do today. I remember coming home from school, changing clothes – we had school clothes and play clothes – and going outside. Or sitting down with a book. I was a bookworm.

There was no TV before or immediately after school, at least not until my teen years. I enjoyed morning TV on Saturdays when cartoons and shows like Sky King aired…but I digress…

Recently I came across some TV-related trivia calling to mind fond memories of programs past.

Sixty years ago (ouch!), on October 3, 1954 - I was four years old – Father Knows Best premiered. I doubt I saw this first episode, but remember watching the show over the years. Youngest daughter Cathy was my favorite character, probably because I related to her the most. Betty was too old for me to have much in common.  

Father Knows Best cast:  Robert Young, Jane Wyatt, Elinor Donahue, 
Lauren Chapin, Billy Gray

The perfect American family, the Andersons, Mom, Dad and three children, a close-knit, loving clan, maneuvered life’s everyday ups and downs during the course of 203 episodes, ending in 1960.

One year later two shows that targeted young people debuted - Captain Kangaroo and The Mickey Mouse Club. Captain Kangaroo, along with his cohorts (remember Mr. Green Jeans?), aired for 30 years. Bob Keeshan, the original Clarabell the Clown on The Howdy Doody Show, starred. I only mention The Howdy Doody Show because it is my one claim to TV fame. As a kid – I cannot remember when, but must have been five or six – I was in The Howdy Doody Show Peanut Gallery. All I remember is sitting cross-legged on the floor in a party dress and clapping a lot.
The opening of the Captain Kangaroo show
The Mickey Mouse Club featured kids a little older than most of the show’s viewers. We sat engrossed in a children’s version of then-popular variety shows.  The roll call of Mousekeeters, wearing their ears, white tops and matching skirts or slacks, echoes in my mind.

I was curious about the color of the skirts and pants. Investigating online, a couple of colored photographs revealed the early Mouseketeers wearing blue and black. Apparently the group had more than one costume. It makes sense Mr. Disney could afford wardrobe variations.

Two years later – October 4, 1957 – another series destined for TV history premiered. The theoretically typical American middle-class suburban family was eminently portrayed in the sitcom Leave it to Beaver. We watched The Beaver and his older brother Wally maneuver through the trials and tribulations of growing up. The story lines provided a window into the mind of boys that girls rarely understood.

I marveled that June Cleaver was always immaculately attired in dresses and pearls, and wore heels while bustling around the kitchen. My Mom rarely donned heels, wearing comfortable shoes for her job as an elementary school librarian. She changed clothes before cooking.

Leave it to Beaver lasted until 1963, when the Beaver entered high school and Wally left for college.
 The introduction and music of one episode of Leave it to Beaver.

And now it’s time to say goodbye….
by the Mouseketeers.


  1. Oh my gosh! This brings back so many memories. I just loved the Mickey Mouse Club, Leave It to Beaver, Father Knows Best... all of them.

  2. Oh, how well I remember all those shows. We had a TV early on, but when I was a really little girl we had a radio in the living room. You've brought back so many long buried memories. Thank you!! :-)

  3. I remember them all! Thanks for the walk down TV Memory Lane!

  4. I watched many different shows. My little brother watched the kid shows. The exception for me was Father Knows Best. I was the same age as Betty and very concerned about her love life. Betty white got her start in the Fifties too, and I loved the Ann Southern Show, and My Little Margie. Many live dramas appeared on TV in those days, broadcast from NYC. You can find some of them via Netflix Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The Broadway production included Jessica Lange and Tommy Lee Jones. TV was classy then it's mostly crap today, unless you watch PBS. The kid shows on PBS are a mixed bag. I like Thomas The Tank Engine and Big Red Dog.

  5. I meant to say Betty White.

  6. As I recall my parents didn't let us watch much TV ... but somehow I remember the Mickey Mouse Club, and Ozzie and Harriet as well.

  7. Hi Meryl! I guess I didn't realize that Father Knows Best started in 1954--I wasn't born until 1955. But now I'm wondering if that is a reason I was named "Kathy." My mom said it was either from a song or tv show so maybe that's where it came from. And it also clarifies why so many women my age are named Cathy/Kathy! Thanks!