It's scary, but I vaguely remember a world -- and a living room -- without television.
When my family bought its first set, the screen was oval shaped and the two Atlanta TV stations didn't sign on until late afternoon. When programming wasn't being aired, there was a test pattern that included the head of an Indian chief -- an image I would stare at for hours.
This is the anniversary year for television in Columbus. It dates back to 1953 when WDAK-TV signed on as the state's fifth TV station. WRBL-TV followed a month later.
WDAK-TV started as Channel 28, a NBC affiliate. Three years later, owner Allen Woodall Sr. sold it to Martin Theaters. Its call letters changed to WTVM-TV and in 1960 it moved to Channel 9 and to ABC. WRBL-TV has always been with CBS, though it flopped from Channel 4 to 3 in 1960.
As WTVM-TV and WRBL-TV celebrate 60 years on the air, it's fascinating to remember those early years -- something younger viewers can't truly imagine.
Local programming was black and white and primitive, but it was all people had so the faces have never been forgotten. Patsy Avery hasn't been on the air for years, but to boys and girls of a particular generation, she's still Miss Patsy. Al Fleming stayed around long enough for his hair to go white, but he's "Al Who" to news hounds that watched him on three local outlets. Dick McMichael started in radio then was a popular news anchor at WRBL-TV and WTVM-TV.
Even commercials created a following. Sanford Hussey sold tires but it's not his whitewalls that people talk about. Mention Hussey's Tire Jungle and old-timers will say: "Gotta minute? I want to show you something reaaaaallllly fantastic." (Think of a scantily clad woman behind a fence.)
Though Channel 9 came first, Channel 3 dominates early memories. WRBL-TV spun off from owner Jim Woodruff's radio stations and so did its on-air personalities.
Ridley Bell was in management but on Saturdays he was host of "Sportsman's Lodge," a homespun outdoors show where guests showed off what they caught in a private pond.
George Gingell did pompous commentaries in the style of a bad Shakespearian actor.
George Theeringer had been the radio voice of the Georgia Bulldogs and moved to TV sports with the vocabulary of a poet. Rozell Fabiani was a receptionist then the host of an unusual talk show that stayed on the air for 35 years. Doug Wallace worked in production at the Ledger-Enquirer then became the most popular figure in local TV history as a chalk-tossing weatherman.
Television is slicker now with technology those old-timers never saw coming. Local programming is but eliminated though the personalities have nicer hair and bigger dreams.
But will they be remembered in 60 years?
-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at email@example.com