Cinema Scarcity – Ack!

A geezer thought.

We rarely watched movies on TV in Lexington in the 60’s. There were few channels and thus, few movies to watch.

I remember there were two channels; Channel 27 (CBS) and Channel 18 (NBC). When Channel 62 (ABC) finally began broadcasting, it was overwhelming. How would you find time to watch it all? That turned out to be a non-problem since no household owned more than one TV and dad controlled it. Lawrence Welk, Walt Disney, and Jackie Gleason’s domination of my home’s screen (singular, please notice) was assured no matter what channel the Beatles were on.

The only time movies were offered was in the mornings (I was at school) or after the 11pm local news (I was in bed on school nights). The late flick (singular, please notice) would be followed by a recitation of the poem “High Flight” over images of jet planes (“Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth…”), the Star-Spangled Banner over a static image of the flag, and a sign-off announcement from the station until tomorrow morning over a geometric image that looked like the title of a musical piece by Anthony Braxton who none of us had ever heard of much less heard. None of this late programming could remotely be called inspiring.

Things improved when ABC took a chance one Saturday night and screened THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL under the TV banner; “Saturday Night at the Movies”. It was a surprise ratings hit and within a couple of years almost every night had a “… Night at the Movies” broadcast.

Still, there were only three channels, and no such thing as video tapes, DVD’s, DVR, NetFlix, YouTube, or Roku. It was tough for movie lovers. The Student Center at UK would screen foreign films once a week, but it always snowed on those evenings or rained frogs and it was a three-mile walk (uphill both ways) to the theater. I’m tellin’ ya, it was tough!

If Channel 27 scheduled FRANKENSTEIN at midnight on Saturday, you sucked it up, stayed awake and open-eyed, and prayed your antenna was aimed in the proper direction coz there was no recording capability and the chance might not come around again in your lifetime to experience Colin Clive screaming “It’s alive!!!”

Desperate times for movie addicts, indeed.

I remember in 1971, my friend Chuck Pogue and I would climb to the top floor of the UK residential towers on Saturday nights at midnight to commandeer the communal TV set and tune in Channel  9’s broadcast (out of Cincinnati) of Uncle Bob Shreve’s blurry presentation of awful all-night flicks sponsored by Schoenling Little Kings Malt Liquor.

It doesn’t get more desperate than that.

Awful films.

I loved ‘em.

When I hear today of the “good ol’ days” and let’s “make America great again”, one of my many trepidations concerning that thinking is the fear of returning to those movie-watching options of my youth. Call me shallow, but I’ve seen all the Lawrence Welk I need to in this lifetime. Bobby and Cissy, the Lennon Sisters, and Myron Florenz on the accordion…just kill me now.

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