Your earliest TV memories?
While in the First and Second Grades, I became a bit envious of a few classmates who would converse about "What did you see on TV last night?" Our family did not yet have one, although I certainly had an opportunity to see one at a neighbor's house. In fact, I had a sort of standing invitation to visit them Friday evenings after supper...and to this day I recall watching "Captain Video," "Mama," and "Man Against Crime."
But then in 1950 we did acquire our first set: the workshop had become out-of-bounds, for me, due to a delicate, ongoing project going on over a couple weekends. My oldest brother was assembling a TV (there were available a few different kits at mail-order electronics outlets, such as Allied Radio in Chicago). It was a rather basic 14" model with the old turret-style channel selector, which mechanically placed different sets of coils into the tuning circuits in order to pick up the 12 VHF possible channels. Dad built a wooden cabinet for that table model set.
Late one Friday evening I was invited to go down to the shop, in the basement...but I wasn't to go through the open door. There, on the bench, in the dimly lit shop was our first TV, although its chassis was still placed on its side, because brother was still making certain alignment adjustments. But both video and audio were obviously present on an episode of "Hands of Mystery" (a DuMont program, which went through a couple name changes during its run). Just a brief look, and then I was sent off to bed...an exciting time and tough getting to sleep that night! The experience probably helped propel me into an eventual engineering education. (My other career interest, in flying, was also sparked by TV: quite a few youngsters of that generation were influenced by the likes of "Sky King" and his Cessna UC-78 and later his Cessna 310B.)
As my interest in electronics blossomed, interest in TV went beyond the usual "watching." Putting newer, better antennas on the house roof, and knowing how to rotate them was fun and educational. The Cleveland area stations had begun in late 1947 with WEWS - 5, and there followed WNBK - 4 in late 1948 and WXEL - 9 in late 1949.
[For those interested in that area's historical details: 1) WXEL moved down to channel 8 in 1953, and in the post-DuMont age, became WJW in 1956. 2) WNBK moved to channel 3 in 1954, to avoid a growing problem of interference with Detroit's channel 4; in the Westinghouse shake-up it grabbed the call letters of station KYW in 1956; and in 1965 it became WKYC when the Westinghouse dealings were rescinded and KYW returned to Philadelphia. Most of us are familiar with the "rule" of having U.S. radio/TV station call letter assignments begin with a W or a K, depending on which side of the Mississippi River they are located...stations such as KYW and KDKA are exceptions because they were well-established long before there was such a rule. The area's UHF's didn't get started until the '60s, although Akron had WAKR - 49 as early as 1953. We left the area by the early 60's, so I didn't really keep up with its TV history after that time.]
Even as a pre-teenager I was quite a nightowl, and one of my favorite late night activities was "TV DX-ing." I would wait until all the local stations had signed-off and then start searching around for distant stations, even if the picture was just barely discernible; this worked best in winter months. The Midwest had a set of stations in various cities all which started with WLW, such as WLW-C, WLW-D, WLW-I, and WLW-T and some of those were usable with a bit of antenna rotation. Ranges out to distances of 120 miles were not uncommon and greater distances were occasionally possible, depending on atmospheric conditions and the presence of aurora phenomena. Favorites included stations which showed movies all night, and I have fond memories of picking up KDKA - 2 (Pittsburgh), WSPD - 13 (Toledo), WXYZ - 7 (Detroit), and CKLW - 9 (across Lake Erie in London, Ontario, Canada).
Anyone reading this, with knowledge of Cleveland station programming in the early 1950's: I would much enjoy becoming in contact with you...I have certain specific questions which have gone unanswered for decades!
And love to hear others' excursions into their earliest TV adventures.