Legacy Blog #9: The Antenna

My Beloved Daughter,

In the early 1980s, television wasn’t digital yet.  Analog signals were sent out from the television stations and could be picked up by nearby T.V.s with the “rabbit ear” antennae on the back of the sets.

We weren’t close enough.

Van Buren had cable . . . if you lived in town.  The house that my family lived in was eight miles outside of Van Buren’s city limits, ensuring that we were too far away to get cable.  Also, the mini-dish systems, like Dish Network, didn’t come around until the mid-1990s.

They did have satellite dishes (called “C-Band” dishes) that were as big as a small car.  You would move them up and down to catch signals from the various television satellites that orbit the planet.  You could see channels from all over the world, in various languages.  Or, so I hear.  See, those dishes cost you to purchase them.  Thousands of dollars.  So, we had another option.

Attached to the front of our house, standing taller than said house, was our antenna.  We could use it to get two, sometimes three channels.  The three channels were Channel 8 from Jonesboro, AR, Channel 12 from Cape Girardeau, and, when the sky was REALLY clear, Channel 6 from Paducah, KY.

The top of the antenna had to be pointed in the direction of the television station.  I can remember going outside, planting my feet, and turning that monstrosity . . . all the while listening to Grandpa Chuck or Grandma Pat yelling, “Keep going!  A little more!  More!  Back the other way!  WOAH!!!”

After school cartoons were a staple of the 1980s, if you had cable.  For us, there was a half-hour Bozo the clown show that played on Channel 8 when I got home from school.  When I was in the first grade, one of the channels showed the original Star Trek series every afternoon.  I also watched the old sitcom, “I Dream of Jeannie.”

Another side-effect of this set-up was that we often ended up with the same “special programming” (i.e. sporting events) on all three channels.  Your Grandpa Chuck would groan a mild expletive, turn off the television and pick up a book.  If it was in the evening, I would do the same thing.

But, for the most part, I played outside.  I didn’t have any real friends who lived near me, so I kept myself occupied in worlds of make-believe.  Worlds that have found their way into the books that I write.


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