Gloria Hannigan is sometimes referred to as the “Erma Bombeck” of the class. Her thoughtful essays, ranging in topics from daily life to national politics, are laced with wry good humor. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns. My children thought I must be very old as I didn’t have television as a child. I used to tell them that the reception was poor in the cave where we lived.

In the late fifties and sixties when I was raising six children, we had one television set. There was no problem in the evening of which channel we would watch as Dad controlled the television.

I remember watching my four-year-old son Michael go from one side of the television set to the other. I asked, “What are you doing, Michael?” He answered, “I am standing by.” When did television stop asking us to stand by?

Where did the horizontal and vertical knobs go? I always got a feeling of control when I was able to get the picture to stop jumping.  A good whack on the right side of one television we had would result in a beautiful, clear picture.

When my children became teenagers they would pocket the channel knob so their siblings could not change the channel.  Eventually the knob was lost on some scrimmage field, waiting for discovery in the year 2050, and we changed channels with a pair of pliers.

My life opened up to the world through television. I witnessed a royal wedding and the death of a princess. I remember the countdown to blast-off of the first space voyage, and waiting after the landing with baited breath for the recovery. I remember the walk on the moon, and later the terrible loss of the space shuttle Challenger.

Politics came into my life as I listened and watched debates, elections, and inaugurations. I witnessed a presidential assassination, an attempted assassination, a resignation, and an impeachment. I witnessed the election of the first black president, a man who would not have been eligible to vote for a president not that long ago. I will never forget the attack on our country on Nine Eleven.

I laughed with some of the greatest comedians and wondered at the marvels under the sea with Jacque Cousteau. Sometimes evil would sneak into my television life, and I would wait for good to triumph.

Now I am a senior living alone. I have two television sets with over a hundred channels to watch. I carefully choose my program, settle back in my easy chair, a snack close at hand, and fall asleep half way through the program. I do my best sleeping in front of the television set.

I have seen the beginning of many programs, but the ending of very few. My friends are no help. We discuss, “Which part of the program did you fall asleep at?” We need a Senior channel that shows only the last half of television programs.

This is the history of television in my lifetime.



Published: March 27, 2014 - Volume 12 - Issue 50