Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The UHF Spectrum

Today's episode is dedicated to Mr. Dave Merrill, America's Ambassador to Canadia.

In today's media-soaked world, it's easy to forget how limited and ephemeral one's entertainment options really were (I mean, if you weren't willing to settle for playing outdoors and interacting with other living humans and stuff, of course). Upstate South Carolina had many good points, but the availability of a wide selection of interesting syndicated reruns and cartoons on the local channels was not among them. Until 1980, if I wanted to see cable television, I had to ride on a different bus after school with my friend Richard Dubose to his grandparents' house in town, at which point we could then watch about 90 minutes of WTCG (Later WTBS, TBS, and now WPCH) out of Atlanta before we hitched a ride home with one of my parents at 6:00. Spectreman and Space Giants were rare, hard-won treats indeed. If I was staying downtown in the evening, I could go over to the bar adjacent to the bookstore my father managed and they'd let me watch KTVU out of Oakland, which was at that time a "superstation" on nationwide cable, like WOR, WGN, and the aforementioned WTBS. Not only did it have a thrilling (if crappy) array of shows I'd only read about previously, like The Marvel Superheroes, and Clutch Cargo, but due to the time difference, they just got going as the local channels went to the news hour. Plus, they featured TV Pow!, the world's most retarded game show!
Around this period, my friends and I generally rushed up the hill from the bus stop to the nearest friendly house to watch Star Blazers (and, most days, the second half of New Zoo Revue, which preceded it, even though we were a bit old for it) on the local Christian channel, WGGS. They mixed a bit of secular programming amongst the sacred, but outside of the aforementioned pair, there wasn't much to see. On the other hand, it was always exciting to tune in to channel 40, if they were on the air.
WAIM was a tiny, low-power station that showed both ABC and CBS programming in the evenings, but the afternoons were filled with a crazy party mix of kid-oriented programming. A typical afternoon would feature Felix the Cat, Mighty Mouse, Speed Racer, The Little Rascals, and other assorted cartoons...but in no fixed sequence.! In fact, on at least one occasion that I recall, they played a Speed Racer, followed it with 15 minutes of Mighty Mouse, and then repeated the same Speed episode. Also, at least once every couple of weeks, the transmitter would break down and they'd have to send over to Greenville for a repairman, so they'd be off the air for the night. Watching channel 40 was an adventure. It was probably on such an afternoon that I drew this page of mostly Speed-related doodles. I don't recall if the flying saucer car is from the show, or whether it was my own design. Again, like yesterday, we see the notes on homework interpolated with the drawings.


d. merrill said...

That drawing pretty much encapsulates everything that was going through my mind from ages 6-9.

One might posit that a bar is really the only logical place to view Clutch Cargo.

rockie bee said...

Love your description of late-70's "Nowheresville" kid's programming -- brings back memories, and now I know I'm not crazy in that someone else besides me saw "Marvel Superheroes" cartoons (I think they were commissioned in '66 or so -- I saw the ads in back issues -- I distinctly remember seeing a Sub-Mariner and Iron Man cartoon during the late 70's).

While I'm at it, thanks for the link to the dolls with the see-through torsos -- a lot of kids in my neighborhood at the time had Steve Austins, but there was some monster-looking creature I've never been able to identify.

Devlin Thompson said...

Dave: That bar ("4 Paws" by name--a Clemson Tigers-inspired name, not a French pun) was a favorite after-school hang-out for me from ages 8 to 13. It was run by a nice older guy who looked like Claude Akins named Bo Fulp. Bo liked me and had no objection to a 10-year old coming in to play pinball (and eventually video games, as they started to appear). He's the guy who gave me that broken-down arcade game that's been sitting around the store for all these years.

Rockie: I assume that the Monster in question was Hypnos. He's a beauty...I wish mine were in better shape.Or do you mean there's another igure that you still can't I.D.?

Christopher Sobieniak said...

I really miss these years dearly (though not being a 70's kid myself sadly).