Our Love Affair with Uncle Miltie

One of my sons informed me that he bought a satellite dish through which he can get over 170 television stations. (Translated that means he can tune into every football game being played on the continent.) The conversation took me back to 1947, the year we bought our first set, a 12" black and white Philco. With it we purchased a thick magnifying glass to put over the screen. Its purpose was to enlarge the picture, but it distorted everything so much, we quickly removed it. Everyone took turns adjusting the test pattern which was supposed to be round but stubbornly remained oval. There was plenty of time for this, because it was the only thing on until early evening. Daily, the one channel we received ran a short presentation of a quintet singing ‘Swinging on a Star’. (We heard it so often, we sang it in our sleep!) We faithfully watched every news update, technical problem bulletin and other programs so unremarkable that I can’t remember a one.

No wonder we were excited when The Texaco Star Theater starring Milton Berle (that nice Jewish boy!) began appearing on our screen every Tuesday evening. Uncle Miltie’s monologue consisted of old vaudeville jokes we’d heard a thousand times. Whenever he said "makeup", someone came out and slapped him in the face with a mitt full of flour, and often he performed in women’s clothing. And we loved it all!

Certainly times were different then. After years of listening to the radio, for which we had to create images in our minds, television was pure magic. Never did we dream that our kids would have 35" color sets with 170 stations to choose from. I’m happy for them, yet, I doubt if they truly enjoy or appreciate any program as much as we did The Texaco Star Theater. Even today, the thought of Uncle Miltie in drag makes me smile.

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