Electronic Marvel

Television for home entertainment had its beginning in the larger metropolitan areas in the late thirties but World War 11 stunted the growth of the industry as efforts to advance the technology were diverted to radar, sonar, range finders and other electronic equipment to aid the war effort.

The techniques acquired during the war laid the groundwork for rapid expansion of this medium immediately after the war ended.

Television sets made their first appearance in Griggs County in the early fifties.  The limited range of television from the broadcast tower made reception very unreliable and those who owned TV sets at that time had to be content with a few minutes, and rarely, hours of television when atmospheric and other conditions were favorable for wave propagation.

Early TV enthusiasts spent hours in front of their sets watching snow dance across the screen and occasionally getting a glimpse of a picture or a few words of sound.

In 1953 the first local broadcasts from a tower south of Fargo on low power gave us only marginal reception much of the time and on rare occasions, good reception.

Improved reception required an elaborate antenna erected as high as possible.  In many instances the cost of the antenna installation was more than the cost of the TV receiver.  Houses took on a different appearance as most antennas were installed on the roof.

Several days after the announced date for the beginning of broadcasting, the screens of those owning a TV installation lit up with the long-awaited entertainment.  Homes and businesses attracted throngs of people eager to view the latest in home entertainment.

I had an installation at the farm home where we lived during the summer months and I returned home late in the evening of the premier showing and found the living room crowded with friends and neighbors watching the late show which was one of Alfred Hitchcock's semi-humorous, creaking-door-type of productions.  Everyone was glued to the television screen and no one acknowledged my presence.  The program had reached its climax of suspense and anxiety when a steer wandering in the dark outside the house, stumbled over the wooden steps of the door leading outside and fell through the open door, through the screen door and into the room.  The women screamed and vaulted for the protection of their husbands arms.  The steer was startled out of his skin and leaped out through the door almost before anyone knew what had happened.  It was several minutes before pounding hearts subsided so the TV program again could be heard.

The advent of television changed the life styles of family living and a visit to a neighbor who owned a TV set consisted of a hello and a goodbye with the entire evening being devoted to watching television programs.  Movie theater attendance plummeted and many theaters closed their doors.  Cooperstown's Strand Theatre was one of the victims but was later reopened as the newness of the medium subsided.

Source: Cooperstown, North Dakota 1882-1982 Centennial Page 132

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