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Column: Changing channels has changed with the times
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

I spent a little time recently with the world’s most perfect grandson — mine. He is just a little north of 2 but is a lot of fun. 

He is smart enough to operate his Nana’s tablet computer and can play some songs over and over and over again.

We have two remotes for our TV, one for the cable and one for the various channels we receive on Wi-Fi. He calls one the “Sessie” remote, because it is the one that will switch the TV to “Sesame Street.” It has become one of Walter’s favorite shows. One of the popular characters on “Sesame Street” is Cookie Monster. Cookie is a bit abrupt and tends to crunch food before he eats it. Walter is also trying his hand at crunching his food, much to the chagrin of his mama, daddy, Nana and Pa. 

The other remote he calls “Woody-Buzz.” It is the one that will tune in the various versions of “Toy Story.” It’s never just Woody, a Western sheriff, or Buzz Lightyear, an astronaut who doesn’t realize he is a toy.

I was a remote when I was a kid, not much older than Walter. We had to adjust the aerial every time we changed the channel. When we moved out to Social Circle, we tried several things to improve the picture, including wrapping a little aluminum foil around the aerial.

Sometimes, we had to adjust the picture from the back of the set. This required two people, one watching and the other to turn the little setting on the back. It also involved moving the aerial around. By the way, for those of you under a certain age, an aerial is a telescopic antenna that required moving around to improve the picture. 

Sometimes, the best picture occurred when one of us kept a hand on the aerial. You feared that situation, because it might mean that you spend the entire length of the show beside the TV using your hand to become an extension of the aerial. 

Adjusting was a painful thing. You would turn the little knob on the back until the picture got better. If you went a bit too far, it would get worse again. Someone on the sofa would coach you, “A little more, a little more, right there. No, wait, go back a little bit.”

We had regular shows we watched. On Thursday nights, we used to watch “Dragnet.”  In later years, we would watch “The Waltons.” My dad would occasionally complain about the lifestyle of the family. “We never had it that good.” He also said the same thing about the movie, “Patton.” He served in the Third Army under the fabled general.

If you ask a kid today about playing a game, they think you mean to hook up a game console and play some kind of electronic contest.

When we played games, it was out in the yard. Do kids today know how to play Hide and Seek, Red Rover, 1-2-3 Red Light, Freeze Tag, Simon Says or any number of games we played in the yard? In the summer, we would play outside until after dark. The end of the game usually came when somebody’s mama started calling them home.

My dad would watch us from up on the porch, where he listened to the Braves on the radio. 

Little Walter will never be a remote control like his Pa. I hope he enjoys hearing the stories. He’s likely to hear them over and over and over again.


Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Weekend Life page and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.

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