Do you recall your first TV? Bonus points if it was black and white.
Here is the must-have holiday present – a big-screen Motorola VT-105 television set available from The Schwering Store, as advertised in The New Era, Dec 16, 1948.
Schwering’s Hardware Store, founded in 1922, was already 26 years old in 1948, but broadcast TV was still in its infancy.
Only a few years prior, in 1930, a columnist for The New Era had described the first public demonstration of a two-way television broadcast between points just three miles apart in New York City.
He imagined that the expensive process would become cheaper and, “Very soon there will be little rooms… to which anybody could go and for a fee talk to people… as if face to face.”
The man had no idea!
Television for the masses would come of age during the Postwar Era, and Riverton was ready for it. Soon, local TV customers patronized Dan Mento in Riverton, as well as Palmyra Home and Auto Supply, and Earle B. Harder’s General Electric Appliance Store in Palmyra.
A Life magazine ad, December 6, 1948, touted the innovative features of the new line of Motorola TVs, featuring the “Gorgeous Table Model” VT105 (same one in the above Schering ad) that “…shows constant, crystal-clear pictures. Hand-rubbed Furniture Styled Cabinet.”
Imagine your family clustered around that massive 10-inch display ready to watch your choice of three available television stations in the Philadelphia region – 3, 6, and 10.
According to Philadelphia Television by Bill Shull, Philadelphia’s first commercial broadcast station WPTZ, which was later called CBS 3 (KYW-TV), commenced operation on July 1, 1941.
WPVI-TV/Channel 6 went on the air as WFIL-TV in September 1947, and WCAU-TV followed in May 1948, as Philadelphia’s third television station.
Hours of programming in 1948 were sparse, as illustrated in this 1948 network tv schedule.
Before the advent of taping, a method, apparently used for the Riverton Yacht Club broadcast, was to film an event and then scan it for broadcast back at the studio.
I was six in 1953 when Nana and Pop-Pop got their TV in Camden, but I still remember seeing some of the shows depicted in this YouTube video.
Sure, the grownups had their favorites like Uncle Milty, Red Skelton, and the Ed Sullivan Show, but my favorite was Winky Dink and You (at about 26:30 you can see a girl with the plastic overlay and crayons).
I sent in 50 cents for the Winky Dink Kit and Magic Screen and every week I helped Winky Dink out of a jam by drawing whatever Winky needed (rope, boat, rollerskates, etc.) on the TV screen.
And the price to put that 1948 Motorola under your tree? $289.00 was a hefty 9.3% of the $3,120 median family income in 1948 (Federal Reserve Bulletin, Nov. 1949). According to this Consumer Price Index Calculator, $289.00 in 1948 dollars is equivalent to $3,086.02 in 2019.
Comments always welcome. -JMc