To Think That These Things Were Once New! (Old Post, Slightly Edited)

Thanks to some beloved books, I’ve been able to experience, at least vicariously, some of the excitement people felt at the introduction of movies, radio, and television. To think that these things were once new!

In “Heaven To Betsy,” the first of the Betsy-Tacy High School books, Maud Hart Lovelace tells us that “Moving Picture Entertainment had been only a rumor emanating from nearby St. Paul and Minneapolis. There, travelers said, pictures moved on a screen.” She goes on to say, a few sentences later, “Then talk of a moving picture called “The Great Train Robbery” rolled over the country like a tidal wave.”

I’m going to continue in my own words now. I love reading about how storefronts were painted red and yellow, and a piano, chairs, a screen and a projector brought inside.

Fast-forward [which none of the characters mentioned in this post were able to do!] to the time of the First World War. Jane’s brothers, Joe and Rufus, listen with great excitement and anticipation to hear the Arlington time signal on the wireless in “The Middle Moffat,” by Eleanor Estes.

And in Judy Delton’s “Kitty In High School,” set right after WWII, Kitty is fascinated to see a test pattern [presented for half an hour] on her friend Mimi’s family’s television.

I was able to find The Great Train Robbery on youtube, and a picture of a test pattern from the late 1940s on This may be the same as, or at least similar to, the one in “Kitty In High School.” [KSTP, the station mentioned in the book, was an NBC affiliate.]
So far, I haven’t found any online recordings of the Arlington time signal, but I’m still looking.

I find it almost as exciting, almost as interesting, almost as enjoyable to read about the early days of movies, radio, and tv as I do to listen to and or watch the more modern versions now.

I take back that word “almost”.

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