Saturday, July 3, 2010

All My Dad Wanted Was to Watch "Bonanza"...

My Dad in his Hoppy Outfit, early 1950's

When I was say 4 or 5 years of age, we lived in a modest post-WWII house in a quiet suburban neighborhood in southwestern West Virginia. The house had been built by my paternal grandfather and had been the home of my great grandparents prior to my great-grandfather's death in 1975. It had three bedrooms, one bath, a kitchen, laundry room and living room. It was just my Mom and Dad and I (my younger brother wouldn't arrive until I was eleven) so the third bedroom was used as the "TV room".

We did not have cable. We had had it when we lived in an apartment building the year before, and I had seen cartoons like "Deputy Dawg" , "Speed Racer" and "The Flintstones". Now I had adjusted to the reality of three VHF channels and one UHF PBS channel all at the mercy of our aerial's ability to claw a signal down from the airwaves bouncing around the Appalachian foothills.

When it wasn't Saturday, the only kid's shows available to me (until 4:30 when Mr. Cartoon -who was the alter ego of local weatherman, Jule Huffman) were the ones on PBS. "Captain Kangaroo" and "Sesame Street" were big favorites. I would also watch nature shows with unbridled enthusiasm. And, of course, there was "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood".

The thing about Fred Rogers was, he talked directly to you. This is magic for small children, and TV producers still use the technique to great effect.

What does this have to do with my dad and Bonanza?

Well, my dad had walked away from his teaching job in Ohio when I was 3 1/2 and decided to move back home and work for my grandfather, a local contractor. Dad had previous experience working for grandpa as a carpenter and felt like he would rather do that than teach anymore. (My father just retired last year from his career as an educator, so he must have gotten sick of carpentry.)

Anyway, my dad would leave early in the morning, work all day building houses and come home around suppertime. I still associate the smell of Marlboro smoke and sweaty flannel shirts with my daddy. Which makes trips to truck stops emotionally awkward , yet nostalgic.

Dad would come home and find his way to the TV room and his recliner. He would stop as he passed the TV and turn the knob *clik-clik-clik* to the show he wanted to watch and then drop into his big ol' armchair, completely beat. One problem. I had been watching Mister Rogers.

I began to complain. My dad tried to reason with me. "You've been home all day. Just let me watch this. Hey! look! It's got cowboys!" But I wasn't falling for that. I began to whine.

Finally, in frustration and disgust my dad changed the channel back to my show and left the TV room.

Today, I am the father of a 5-year-old. And yeah, we have three TV's and 2 DVR's... but it seems like I always have the stuff I want to watch on the DVR downstairs. And I can't leave him and his 16-month-old brother unsupervised for very long, so I'm kind of stuck with just the big TV in the living room. Which puts me in an interesting postion.

"But daddy! I was watching Dora!"

"You've been home all day. Just let me watch this. Hey! look! It's got cowboys!"...

My empathy and respect for my father continues to grow.


  1. Great blog, Aaron! Funny and poignant all at once.

    Here's to western-lovin' Dads everywhere... and Lord help us keep up the tradition!

  2. My dad would say, "Hey look! Jim West has gadgets like Batman and the Man from UNCLE!"