"Be careful, boys," my dad said. "Bring it in nice and easy."
"OK, where ya want it?" The delivery men, bent over with the weight of it, stood still while dad pondered.
"Over there, I think," he said pointing. The two lugged it to a spot at the end of the big room in front of the window. Dad dropped the curtain to soften the glare.
"We'll have to move some chairs so we can see alright," he said more to himself than anyone else.
He said thank you to the two men who nodded as the walked out the door.
"Is there anything special I need to know?" dad asked following them out.
"Just plug it in and enjoy," said the driver climbing into the truck. The side was awash in letters reading Morris Sokol Furniture.
While the truck eased down the drive, dad opened the front door. I slipped in behind him with a door slam. His face registered annoyance at the sound but his interest lay in the big room.
He stood in front of his new purchase. Mom was in the kitchen preparing supper. She looked over and asked, "How does it work?"
"The fellow said to just plug it in." Dad was standing in front to it staring in admiration.
"Now that's a nice piece of furniture," he said with a smile. In front of him sat a mahogony box with a window. The window reflected the overhead light on the protective glass front. Behind that glass was the picture tube, or CRT, as it would be called later. The letters A D M I R A L stood out in base relief beneath the dull green window. On either side of the letters were large circles of plastic we called knobs. The left one switched the box on. The right one clicked around to the channel selections. We didn't use it much after clicking it to the number 5. There was only one television station in Charleston at that time. Channel 5 which came on at around six in the morning and signed off around eleven at night. We didn't know that at the time.
Dad brought out his polishing rag. With a loving hand he rubbed the cloth over the wood frame removing fingerprints left by the delivery men. He leaned in close and with his breath formed a slight haze of moisture over one particularly stubborn print, then rubbed extra hard. Lifting the rag he smiled. His eyes roamed along the sides. The wood was stained a rich brown and shined to a high gloss. A frown played across dad's face as he ran his finger along the side.
"There's a scratch here."
My mother rushed over to look. "It isn't that bad. A little polish ought to fix it right up."
"They shouldn't sell it if it's defective."
Mom went to the cupboard and picked out the can of polish. She took the rag and rubbed some into the scratch. After a quick buff it wasn't noticeable. Dad's smile returned.
"When are you going to turn it on?" I yelled, the excitement finally bursting forth.
"I guess I need to plug it in," said dad. The wire hung out the back beneath the huge extension which covered the part of the 21-inch screen that projected out of the box.
"Be careful of that bubble in the back," I pointed at the big cone above the cord. Dad lifted the plug and pushed the prongs into the recepticle. I ran around front to see. Nothing.
"It doesn't work," I said.
"You have to turn this dial." Dad grabbed the left knob and turned to the right. I stared at the window.
"Nothing! It's broke." My disappointment was more than evident.
"No, it isn't. It just takes a minute or two to warm up." Dad put his hand on my shoulder. We stood staring.
After a minute or two the screen lit up with black and white specks in constant movement. Dad turned the knob a bit more. Out of the speakers came a noise--cshcshscsh.
"Is that it?" mom asked.
"Give me a minute. This dial should give us the station. He clicked the knob in a clockwise direction. The numbers written on the dial came to a stop under an arrowhead at the top with a loud click. One, grey-white with static. Two, grey-white with static. Each number gave the same response. Our disappointment increased with each click. The fifth one was different. A voice came into the big room. The speakers worked great. The visual portion was a window full of unrecognizable lines wriggling diagaonally.
"It's broke," I said again.
Dad looked at me disapprovingly. My place was to be seen and not heard. I clammed up.
"It is not," he said. He reached between the two knobs and pulled on a horizontal door which revealed a row of black sticks protruding forward. "The man at the store said this picture can be straightened out by playing with these things."
He began to turn them. One said horizontal. That one eased the diagonal lines into a recognizable picture. The person on the screen, who had been talking the entire time, looked almost perfect except for the occasion twist to into the diagonal direction. The next one had horizontal written beneath it. The picture became steadier as he rolled the tiny dial between his thumb and forefinger. Next came the one labeled sharpness. The fuzzy face became more lifelike under my dad's increasing expertise. He stood up and backed off to survey his handy work. Three feet back the picture returned to its diagonal predilection.
"Bugga!" he said returning to his crouched position in front of the box. After several repeats of this act he produced a sharp image with good sound.
He pulled the chairs around and closer to the window so that we sat facing the screen. These were the chairs that had been facing the other nice piece of furniture near the kitchen. They used to sit in front of the great Philco radio. When the chairs were nicely rearranged mom switched the Philco off. I watched the warm yellow glow that lit the band of glass under which all the station numbers were protected slowly fade.
Our attention was now captured by the new piece of furniture. The flickering light of the tube and sound of the voice drew us in. We sat. We watched. There were only pictures of men speaking but it was magic and it was in our big room.
"Pretty good picture," dad said.
"Yeah," mom and I answered.
"And all you had to do was plug it in," I said. "I thought you had to have a huge antenna on the roof."
"No, just the wall plug. A pair of rabbit ears might give better reception," he said.
"Rabbit ears?" My mind pictured a bunny with wriggling nose chewing on a carrot.
"Not a real rabbit. It's a small antenna with two metal spikes that stick up like a rabbits ears."
After about an hour I had to run next door to tell my cousins we had a televison set. "And you only have to plug it into the wall. You don't need and big antenna.'
They looked at me unblieving.
"We might have to get some rabbit's ears but no big antenna."
They looked at me perplexed. I laughed and ran back home.
As I walked in I looked at the Philco darkened in the corner. The familiar voices and music that once floated from it's face, silent. Over by the window at the end of the great room came voices and the glow of pictures. I looked back at the Philco, turned away and joined my parents in front of the televison.
Dust began to settle atop the silent old piece of furniture stuck in the darkened corner.