chicago entering technicolor


Spring… and my walks are kind of like this…



I have a memory from the first time I watched the Wizard of Oz, which is almost as dramatic and unbelievable as the movie itself.

For starters, my initial viewing of the movie was on TV, in the 1960’s. If you were a TV watcher during the 1960’s, you probably remember that most people still had black and white sets. TV shows, while re-running in black and white, were just beginning to appear in color. In 1968, our family had just purchased our first RCA color TV and coincidently (or not) the Wizard of Oz was debuting on a Saturday night.

The first Color TV's were sold in the 1950's, but most Americans did not enjoy them until the late 1960's. Here's a Day's Color TV ad from 1968.
Just $369.00! From black and white to color.

My Mom gathered us around the new set, in happy anticipation of sharing her favorite movie with us. As we all know, the movie cleverly begins in black and white, but my Mom, (who had only seen it at a theatre in the ’50’s) couldn’t remember this. So, while the sky was darkening and the giant tornado was lifting Dorothy and her house up, up, up into the sky, my brothers and I huddled together in fright. We watched the TV, and our Mom, as she anxiously paced back and forth around the room.  As if infused with the energy of the swirling television storm, she frantically tapped on the TV, jiggled the antenna, and changed the channels (using the brand new remote control device – with 4 buttons, by the way). As only little kids can, we yelled at her in terror and frustration “Ma, ma – stop! We’re missing the movie!” “But it should be in technicolor!” she yelled back. “Something’s wrong!” We didn’t care, because we didn’t know. anyway, we were black and white kids.

No luck. Still no technicolor. Convinced our new TV was a lemon, she began making phone calls. She called the store where she and my Dad purchased the set, (in the 60’s, stores closed at 6:00pm on a Saturday night, how did we live?). Ring, ring, ring. Ring, ring, ring. No answer. Items were rapidly flying by Dorothy’s window. We hung on to to our seats for dear life!

Since my Mom had looked forward with such anticipation to this night, this TV premiere, and this bonding/sharing experience with her kids (which by the way, she was missing) she wouldn’t let go. She whipped out the phone book from the top drawer in the kitchen, and desperately flipped the pages until she found and dialed the number to the local branch of NBC network – (yeah, she went straight to the top. Who does that?) dink-dink, dink-dink, dink-dink…endless busy signal. She determined everyone was calling in, and refused to give up the line. She would redial and redial, like any good mother, fighting for her children and their right to color TV! For us -the house and Dorothy were spinning, spinning, spinning…

We did admire her perseverance and determination up to a point, but it was very distracting and…she was missing her favorite movie, with us… “Ma, the tornado is over, the house has dropped, Dorothy is about to step outside…” At that moment, with our eyes glued to the set, and Dorothy about to open the door, our Mom finally gets through to someone on the phone.

Honest, I kid you not! From the other room we could hear her telling her story to the network operative, and then on the TV, Dorothy opens the door…”Ma, ma! The TV works!” We jumped up and down! “Come and see! You did it!! We’ve got the color!” She was a hero! She finally hung up the phone. Calmly, almost sheepishly, she joined us. We watched the rest of the movie together, oohing and ahhing at all the wonder and magic of the special effects the movie provided.

It wasn’t until the end of the movie that she told us – the movie was meant to be.. half in black and white and half in color. Oops – she had forgotten.

We all ended up laughing at the whole humorous experience, comparing her to Lucille Ball. We didn’t care, because we ‘black and white’ kids, always loved Lucy!




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