We were the first family on the block to own a tv set. Pop was uninterested in spending money to buy one until he heard that baseball games were broadcast on tv, so he bought one that weekend.
It was the size of a family van and had a screen no bigger than the window of a microwave, but it was high-tech for its day. When Pop turned it on, I swore I could see the lights dim in the house.
It took a good five minutes to warm up, it hummed like it had a motor idling inside somewhere, and when the picture finally appeared, it was a grainy black and white. But there it was: a live baseball game from St. Louis, or Chicago, or New York. Amazing – the Television Age had arrived at the McGrane household.
Games became a neighborhood event. Several of the men on the block came over to watch the game, and they often brought a six-pack of beer to contribute to the gathering. They knew the soft spot in Pop’s heart – a cold beer. I remember men crowding into the front room of the small house on Garesche’ Avenue – all of them smelling of beer, cigarettes, and sweat – chatting about the game or complaining about the pitching, the calls, or whatever. When the game was over and the beer ran out, it was time to go and everyone walked home.
Pop also discovered tv western shows. He was a fan of the American genre of wild -west tales, and he watched shows like “Zane Gray Theater” and “Gun Smoke” nearly every night. Mom would watch as well, but always became upset by the inevitable saloon brawl scene. She would wince and grunt as the bad guy would swing a hay-maker at the good guy, who would fall backwards into a bar table and smash it to pieces. Her “Oh!” and “Ack!” with each punch would drive Pop to distraction. As a kid, I wondered why saloon furniture was so flimsy. Every time my brother Harry threw me or Denny into the furniture at home, it would just scoot across the floor, leaving large scratch marks on the floor and really ticking off Mom.
Anyway, the tv brought great sport and high drama to our home, as well as most of the neighborhood. Soon, other families in the little blue-collar community began to buy tv sets, and one by one the game day visitors began to disappear. Uncles Larry and Uncle Jack still came over with Aunt Pat and Aunt Helen, and often stayed for dinner afterwards, but the McGrane tv community event, which stood in for the village bonfire around which the village community gathered so long ago, passed on.
I wonder whatever happened to that boat of a tv…that thing was huge…I think Pop is sitting somewhere still watching a Cards vs. Cubs game on it, with folks in the neighborhood gathered around… Happy Father’s Day, Pop! Have another-‘un!