The Internet has the first issue of “The Local Televiser,” Philadelphia’s original weekly TV magazine that later became TV Guide (http://www.tvhistory.tv/1948%20Philly%20LT.htm). Those old weekly TV magazines are prime examples of common objects that were considered so worthless they were thrown away and are now scarce and valuable beyond anyone’s dreams. What was so worthless as last week’s TV Guide? We all threw them out. This one was saved because it was the first issue, and may be the only existing copy of the publication.
The issue is for the week of November 7–13, 1948, when we were in eighth grade.
Sunday morning had the Horn & Hardart Children’s Hour at 11:30 followed by a new children’s quiz show called “Wits End.” Since everything was live, this was probably the earliest they could get the children to the studio. Most of the afternoon was football, even back then. At 4:30, someone read the Inquire comics for fifteen minutes. Fifteen-minute shows were common as the networks were grateful for anything to fill up the time.
Sunday night was the big night that began at 7:00 with Ted Mack’s popular Original Amateur Hour. At 7:30 began CBS’s hour-long drama series Studio One which was considered the highest of high quality television. At 9:00 was Ed Sullivan’s Toast of the Town. Guests that night included Rachel and Bebe, and The Dunhills, which I’m guessing were a dogs-in-tuxedos act and plate-spinners that were staples on the show.
Programs began on Monday morning at 10:00 for WCAU (CBS, channel 10), but not until 5:15 for WFIL (ABC, channel 6) and 6:45 for WPTZ (NBC, channel 3). The early evening shows were like “Uncle Wip” and something just called “Dinner Music.” Bill Sears had a ten-minute sports program. Later, there was nothing notable, just boxing, a horse show, and a swap-shop show, but that was acceptable—we did not expect to be entertained all evening, every evening (we had other activities) and were still talking about Sunday’s shows. Broadcasting ended about 11:00, depending how long the boxing and horse shows went.
Tuesday, as we all remember, was NBC’s Milton Berle’s Texaco Star Theater from 8:00 to 9:00, which was the reason most of us bought our TV set in the first place (although everyone claimed it was to see Studio One). It was like a free Broadway show every week and we howled at the opening of Uncle Miltie in drag. ABC showed a Warrior’s basketball game at 9:30.
Wednesday had The Kraft Theater from 9:00 to 10:00—good, but not up to the caliber of Studio One. Boxing and wrestling were also on.
Thursday had Face the Music, a fifteen-minute program from 7:45 to 8:00, and my favorite, The Nature of Things, a fifteen-minute science show hosted by Dr. Roy K. Marshall, an astronomer at the Franklin Institute who later also did Ford commercials with a technological slant. Several of his books are still sold on Amazon.
Friday was the only day Howdy Doody is listed, starting at 5:45 and going to 7:00, according to the schedule. Later was a half-hour program simply listed as “Talent Show,” which I am guessing was Arthur Godfrey’s. Also on was the Villanova-Georgetown football game and, as usual, boxing.
Saturday afternoon had the Penn-Army football game. Evening programs were mostly listed as “Feature Film,” and not identified. Sid Caesar’s hour-and-a-half Your Show of Shows that dominated Saturday night did not begin until 1950.
Early television is largely undocumented. It appears those early days were a mad rush to fill the time with little thought of creating history. Everything was a work in progress.
Columnists at the time worried about TV quickly eating up talent and ideas. They were thinking of vaudeville acts developed over years shown once to millions of viewers. How could such a pace be maintained? Well, it was, and even expanded hundreds of times over. We can scoff at today’s sensationalized programming, but there is also a lot of very good stuff in between. Just like life.