Is there life without television?


I watch too much television. Odd, isn’t it that television has become such an integral part of our lives. Most of us could not imagine living our lives without the boob tube playing most of the day.

I do have a good friend with whom I worked for a few years who, at that time had neither a television nor a telephone, nor did he own a computer. He relied on the written text entirely, except for the times he was at work.

Last night I watched two programs that instilled in me almost opposite emotions.

First, I watched the Billy Graham special, which brought me to tears at times, and then the second half of the “O.J. Confession” which made me want to throw up. Both brought back some memories.

I can remember watching the Billy Graham Crusades in black and white on our old television. Even through the t.v. screen the man had a presence about him that made people want to walk the walk to salvation.

If you have been living under a rock for your entire life until now, William Franklin (Billy) Graham, Jr. was an ordained minister and evangelist who brought the word of God to people throughout the world.

O.J. Simpson,on the other hand is, in my mind and many others, a multiple murderer, who killed his estranged wife Nicole and her friend Ronald Goldman in 1994. Orenthal James (O.J.) Simpson was a former professional football player and Heisman Award winner.

On October 3, 1995, Simpson was acquited by a jury of his peers in Los Angeles for the murders.

I remember the day of the acquital vividly. I was working as the Sports Editor for the Madison County Journal in Ridgland. The entire news staff was so engrossed in the trial that there were office bets made about whether or not the jury would find O.J. guilty or not.

I won five dollars when I bet that, although I and the world knew the man was guilty, the jury would find him not guilty. I almost hated myself for winning that bet.

Television, to get back to the main topic, influences nearly all the American public with television ownership above 96.5 percent. Many of those television owners have more than one set in the household.

Television as a medium is relatively new. It first became commercialized on July 1, 1941, in New York City. The advent of World War II stymied the development of television for several years, but in the 1950’s , the FCC began handing out licenses to broadcasting systems throughout the United States.

First came the monochrome or black and white television.  Half of all U.S. households had television sets by 1955, though color was a premium feature for many years (most households able to purchase television sets could only afford black-and-white models, and few programs were broadcast in color until the mid-1960s).

I remember watching black and white television in the 50’s. Living in south Mississippi in Columbia, we could only receive signals from three stations. Hattiesburg being our primary station of choice along with Jackson.

To date myself, my favorite television program was Howdy Doody. That soon progressed to Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, the Lone Ranger and that ilk. Of course, t.v. stations stopped broadcasting at midnight.

At that time we had an outside antenna, that had to manually turned towards the station we were trying to watch. Turn the antennae north to get the Jackson stations, east to get Hattiesburg, and south to get New Orleans in good weather.

Later came a rotary. The rotary was a device that was mounted on the antenna and wired into the house itself. Usually sitting on top of the television set, the rotary could be dialed to turn the antenna to the proper direction.

Broadcast television stations in the United States were primarily transmitted on the VHF band (channels 2-13) in its earliest years; it was not until the All-Channel Receiver Act of 1964 that UHF broadcasting became a feasible medium.

Today, I use basic cable television. That means I subscribe to cable broadcasting with the fewest number of channels available in a package. There are premium packages that offer upwards of 200 channels, but those packages are out of my budget range.

Even though I have at my disposal over 60 channels, I still rarely find anything interesting to watch on television.

But I can watch 24-7.

Louis Breakfield of Petal is a former editor of The Columbian-Progress and The Magee Courier. Breakfield also taught high school for 25 years.