COLUMN: Disney star awakens memories

Farm Forum

The death of Annette Funicello, the beloved Walt Disney star of the 1950s Mouseketeer Club, prompted a sit-back-and-recall-the-old-times session for my wife, Joan, and me.

Our efforts back then to keep the flickering round-tube TV set working dominated our chat. Ah yes, black-and-white TV and all its vacuum tubes and buttons. I don’t know why, but most of the picture adjustment buttons were on the back of the TV, and that demanded one button turner and one you-turned-it-too-far accomplice.

A person really has not gained an understanding of new-fangled electronics or claimed a victory of great magnitude over electronic travails until he has rejoiced at stopping the picture from rolling from top to bottom or vice versa.

We got our first TV when we lived in Peoria, Ill., back in 1956-57. That is just 56 years ago. I recall drawing a diagram of all the different vacuum tubes and their placement in the set, then removing them and going to the local electronics store to test them. Invariably, I would find one or more bad ones. I would reinstall the tubes, including the expensive new ones, and the picture would still roll. Aaaauuugh.

However, we loved our TV then as much or more than we do now. We watched everything from Bishop Fulton J. Sheen to Ed Sullivan.

I was in the Air Force working differing shifts, and could watch daytime programming. Joan and I both were addicted to watching a soap titled “As the World Turns.”

Steve Allen’s late show, a precursor for the present-day “Tonight” show, was my favorite. Allen’s interviews with Don Knotts, Tom Poston and Louis Nye, who played different characters, were so entertaining. Allen asked the very nervous Knotts, “What is your name?” Knotts: “K B Morrison,” Allen: “What do you do for a living?” Knotts: “I’m an explosives engineer.” Allen: “And what do the initials KB stand for?” Knotts very nervously: “Kaboom.”

So what does all of this have to do with anything, Perk?

The very fact that we had three main TV broadcasters, CBS, NBC and ABC just a mere 50-60 years ago and now have hundreds of channels to choose from is rather earth-shaking.

Joan and I have found that much of the available programming is slowly sliding to sexist drivel at best. Trying to imagine coming from the kerosene lamps of the 1940s to the communications possibilities of today is nearly incomprehensible.

I marvel at the availability of so much information and yet wonder at times why I watch Fox News and MSNBC for much of my TV-watching time. I guess I have become a political news junkie who thinks he’ll miss something if he doesn’t have a news channel on 16-18 hours a day.

As Joan and I recall the days of no TV, the going to the public library for entertainment and fulfillment during the early days of our marriage, to the very idea of having witnessed this revolution in communications has been a blessing and yet a concern for us.

We can now take advantage of these things, but yet at times we long for a simpler time, a time of closer associations with other people, and it seems to be a loss of sorts.

Oh, I’m sorry, I have to run, my cellphone is vibrating and Bill O’Reilly is on in a few minutes . . .

Perk Washenberger, Aberdeen, a retired real estate broker and business owner, now musically entertains people in senior living and care centers and at community events. Write to him at