RAMBLINGS FROM THE SON OF A PAPER SON: The Television Generation – Rafu Shimpo

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We live in an era where technology rules. Coming generations, i.e. our grandkids, will have to deal with the impact of AI (artificial intelligence) and automation. For example, driverless cars will probably be a reality once the bugs are ironed out. In the future, driverless trucks may also be a familiar sight on our freeways!

We are not too far from the lifestyle of the Jetsons cartoon family. In the future a robot may be cleaning your house and taking care of you or your aging parents. An office visit to a doctor may not include a doctor but a droid that will diagnose your illness.

As a baby boomer, it was television that had the greatest impact on my generation. We were the first generation to grow up with television.

Television impacted us in many ways, both positive and negative.

For example, it gave us the unrealistic model of the ideal family. “Ozzie & Harriet,” “Leave It to Beaver,” “Father Knows Best,” or “The Donna Reed Show” were not the reality for all families in the ’50s and ’60s.

In those shows, mothers stayed at home and fathers went to work. The kids never got spanked. Parents were understanding. I always wanted Ozzie Nelson or Ward Cleaver to be my dad.

Later it would be “The Brady Bunch” and “The Partridge Family.”

Unfortunately, our moms did not wear pearls and heels doing the housework, and were not members of a band. In my case, my mom worked long hours pressing other people’s clothes at our laundry.

Westerns were extremely popular. “Gunsmoke,” “Bonanza,” “Maverick,” “Have Gun, Will Travel,” and “Wanted Dead or Alive” were iconic shows of the period and still are popular in reruns on Grit TV. These shows taught us right from wrong.

The Lone Ranger never killed anyone. He just shot the gun out of the villain’s hands. Roy Rogers and Dale Evans did more singing than fighting the bad guys.

Fess Parker was Davy Crockett, “King of the Wild Frontier”! The ‘5’s Disney series was really popular with young kids. We all wanted coonskin caps. I later wrote a paper in college exploring the myth of Crockett’s popularity. The series was the inspiration for Disneyland’s Frontier Land. Parker would later portray Daniel Boone on television as well.

Kids became consumers after watching television. Commercials appealed to the kids and created a new generation of consumers. Everything from breakfast cereal to cigarettes to Barbie dolls was sold on television.

Part of the television landscape was children’s programing. Cartoons were a Saturday morning staple. We watched our favorite cartoons as we consumed sugar-laden cereals. My favorites were “The Flintstones,” “Gumby,” “The Jetsons,” and “Mighty Mouse.” Who can forget Mighty Mouse saying, “Here I come to save the day!” Also, another morning favorite was “Captain Kangaroo” with Mr. Green Jeans.

Who remembers the commercial themes of the period? Remember “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should” or “Come to Marlboro Country!” Later we heard, “Where’s the beef?” “Mikey likes it!” and, of course, ” Lucky Charms, they’re magically delicious!”

There were also superheroes in our day too. I loved “The Adventures of Superman” and “Batman.” Both shows were a little campy but what great fun!

“All in the Family” gave us a look at the generation gap and how our parents did not understand us. Many of us related to “Meathead,” which is what Archie Bunker called his liberal son-in-law (Rob Reiner). I wonder if that show could be made today in our woke culture.

Our television experience documented the iconic events of the second half of the 20 century. All of us were glued to our TVs when a space mission was launched. We all remember what we were doing when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon or when John Glenn orbited the Earth three times in his Mercury capsule.

We also remember the day President Kennedy was assassinated. I was in the fourth grade; his public funeral had a great impact on me. It was the first funeral to which I was exposed. Four years later I would be attending my dad’s funeral.

And who can forget watching the first time Elvis and the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan?

As kids we also had a television schedule that we planned our lives around. We bought a TV Guide and circled the programs we were going to watch for the week. For example, it was “Bonanza” and “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Sundays with “Lassie” at 7:00. On Saturdays it was “Gunsmoke.” Every Saturday my mom would make us watch and suffer through “The Lawrence Welk Show”!

They used to call television a “vast wasteland.” The main criticism was that a lot of the content was not educational or moral. I disagree! Television did shape our generation and, like anything else, both in a positive and negative way.

TV today is consumed in the form of YouTube, TikTok, and other social media platforms. I wonder how the generation that grew up with the Internet will view the Internet’s impact on their lives.

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