Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Television Plug

Because I was born in 1942, and then we moved to Puerto Rico in 1952, we didn't have TV (first because no one did, then because no one in PR did) until we returned to the States, when I was 11. So, when I was 14 and Forrest was nine and Colleen was four, it was still pretty new to us. Well, not to Colleen, who didn't remember not having it, but to Forry and me.

That year we were living in San Mateo, California while our Dad worked in San Francisco. He had a half hour commute each way, which meant he spent an hour a day just getting to and from work. He would get home, tired and hungry, and the three of us would sit, glued to the set, watching the Mickey Mouse Club. Daddy would say, "Hi, kids" and we would ignore him. Nary a word came out of our mouths. Eyes front, we didn't deign to notice his existance.

He carped. He complained. He nagged. Since he didn't believe in hitting, he never spanked us, but I think he may have been tempted. He acted mean (you are the most ungrateful kids . . ), he acted pathetic (I drive an hour a day just to put food on this table and you can't bother to say hi when I get home), he ranted and raved.

And then one day he came home, said "Hi, kids," waited a couple of minutes to give us a chance to respond, and when we didn't he walked over, unplugged the TV, and cut the plug off. Without a word. He then went into his bedroom to change his clothes.

We ran out to the kitchen and told Mama what had happened. She went into their room and talked to Daddy. When she came back out, she said that when we could get the TV fixed, we could watch it again.

As the oldest, it was my job to figure out how to do this. So, I called a TV repair shop listed in the yellow pages and explained our problem. Fully -- confessing how the plug happened to have been cut off the set. The gentleman I talked to told me that it would cost $.75 (yes, 75 cents) for the part and labor. Just to bring the set in and he would take care of it. I was elated! Saturday was allowance day, and I got $.75 a week, Forry got $.25, while Colleen got nothing. We could afford to do it that coming Saturday. But, when I asked Mama if she could take the set in before she went shopping, she looked at me in amazement. It was up to us to get it fixed. That meant, it was up to us to get it to the shop. But, even if he was a big nine year old, Forrest and I couldn't lift the TV and get it into the car. And I couldn't drive. How could we manage this?

When I called him back, the gentleman said he would gladly come out and do the work, but since he would not be able to do any other work while he drove to and from our house, it would cost $12.50.

We were stunned. $12.50! Do you know how long it takes to save $12.50 when you only have $1.00 a week? That's right. Thirteen weeks. And that's how long my parents didn't watch TV while Forry and I saved to get it repaired. For 13 weeks Mama missed Jack LaLane and her soaps. Daddy missed the Pabst Blue Ribbon Monday Night Fights. They both missed I Love Lucy. Because allowing children to be responsible for their own actions was more important than watching TV. In all that time, neither said a word to us about the TV. Didn't scold us. Didn't remind us we were missing Mickey Mouse Club and Disneyland and Captain Video and Hop Along Cassidy. Didn't tell us we could have avoided this. Didn't complain about not having it available. Not one word.

To this day, if someone comes in when I am watching TV, you can bet I look up and say "hi". Forry, too. And if Colleen were still alive, she would, too.


J said...

A book however, is different...when your only daughter ran away, you noticed not, because your nose was buried. HA! :) I also notice that your allowance was the same in 1954 as mine in 1974...prices didn't go up much, huh? Maya's started out at $1.00 a week, but she's up to $5 now, and she's a bit younger than you were then.

I suspect nowadays people would be THRILLED to get from San Mateo to San Francisco in half an hour, don't you?

I've always liked this story. We learned from the hearing of it, so we didn't have to have our plug cut, thankfully. ;)

Rain said...

that was great. When my kids were little, we decided that TV had become too important and we said one hour a week-- each. That meant us too. That was when I broke the soap opera habit finally. I didn't want to ban it totally but with one hour, they had to each be selective. Now as adults, they use TV but don't watch a lot of it and are actually glad they grew up with that limitation.

Ron Southern said...

Children these days would, I fear, burn the house down in reaction!

Melissa said...

I love this story. What a great way to teach kids responsibility and respect. My parents used to stant in front of it if we didn't say hi. I too, stop and say hi when someone comes in, no matter who it is and no matter what is on. Although with Tivo, I can pause stuff now.

Anvilcloud said...

Quite a lesson! Smart man!

Sharon said...

Wonderful story!

Maya's Granny said...

J - Yes, I didn't notice when you ran away until you came back in. What a wrteched mother I am. And prices stayed much the same for a long time. Stamps were three cents for decades. A nice lunch, with a fancy sandwich, potato salad, coffee, and pie was $.99 for a long time. And how wonderful it would be to be able to get from San Mateo to San Francisco in half an hour these days!

Ron, some children might burn the house down, but children who are raised correctly would accept it, just as we did. Of course, if my parents had said anything, we would have rebeled. But, since they allowed the situation to teach us, we could see that what had happened followed logically from what we had done.

Suzann said...

sooooo wonderful - love this story - love your stories. Television, we did not have a television until the really late seventies - cutting the plug and walking away what a priceless lesson.