In the very early 1950s, I viewed what I assume were my first two television programs. I remember the solidly-built soprano, Kate Smith, belting out some musical number, which may or may not have been “God Bless America,” on her late-afternoon show. Alongside that recollection is “Yoo hoo, it’s me / with my checkered coat and my checkered hat!” It was Pinky Lee, the baggy pants comic who hosted his own children’s show, full of slapstick and pies-in-faces. Instantaneously, I became a lifelong television-holic, who has never tried to cure her addiction. For more than six decades, television has provided me with a major source of information – and entertainment.
During those long-ago years, I naturally patterned my activities after those of my parents: listening to the radio, reading magazines and library books, perusing the UDC. Family get-togethers were our social events. Sometimes on Saturday night, my dad parked the car on Main Street in Urbana and leaned against it, while my mother and we kids remained inside, all of us visiting with friends and family who promenaded by on the crowded sidewalks – to see and be seen. And once we went to the Gloria to see The Greatest Show on Earth. Such were our leisure time activities.
Nowadays, however, my amusement/info resources seem more limited. Oh, my television with the larger-than-I-would-have-ever-expected screen still runs constantly, for background noise and direct viewing. And I continue to pile books all around. But the postlady no longer delivers magazines, and I read the UDC online. At one point I did listen to the radio through my computer, but I have not been to the “picture show” forever. Now I amuse myself by means of my Roku TV, laptop, and Kindle tablet/reader – a statement I could have never even formed just twenty short years ago!
My seemingly-fewer sources of news and distraction from the news have actually increased exponentially. If I accidentally decide to cook, I no longer rely on my three old cookbooks or recipes once-upon-a-time clipped from magazines. Google supplies me with 240,000,000 potato salad-related results in 0.89 seconds! Knitting patterns and cross-stitch directions are similarly prolific, and my favorite synonym website, Word Hippo, remains open whenever I write. I prefer consulting any number of online lexicons rather than the one dictionary in book form I purchased sometime in the 70s.
For entertainment purposes, of course, there is Facebook. I scroll past anything even remotely related to politics and ignore much of what passes for information these days, preferring to investigate more reliable sources on my own. But I truly enjoy beautiful photographs of sunrises and rainbows – as well as the occasional snowy owl and bald eagle – taken by friends and family. I am uplifted by many of the inspiring thoughts or quotes I receive and am particularly taken with photos and out-of-the-mouths-of-babes moments by the children of my former students and adult nieces and nephews. Cartoons and optical illusions occasionally tickle my fancy, and I play online Mahjong Tiles more often than I should.
The modern inconveniences of online entertainment and social media diversions are indeed bothersome: hackers and scammers lurking and the overwhelming number of posts making rapid, indiscriminate scrolling a frequent necessity. But the other-end-of-the-continuum convenience of fun and information at my fingertips keeps everything in perspective.
However, one category of social media postings seems to be the by-product of our current technological era – those random FB questions that pop up, which according to Technopedia “allows users to engage in greater interactivity and improved interaction.” Maybe. Some of the questions posed are thought-provoking, others are just plain silly. I have only ever replied to two such queries, one about books and one about movies. I remain amazed – and somewhat suspicious – of the questions with thousands of comments and shares. Anyhoo, here are a few recent FB questions – with my replies shared especially for my readers:
*The best compliment you have ever received? Herr Doktor Rusche, principal of the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium the year Ingrid and I started the exchange program, described me to a school assembly as having a fresh, open style. Ironically, during that first visit to Springe I agonized over every shortcoming I saw in myself.
*The name of your first-grade teacher? Mrs. Pratt, the reason I became a teacher. I can also name every other teacher I had at Concord and Graham, but not today.
*Your first job? Neighborhood babysitting for fifty cents an hour – sometimes for kids I later had in class at GHS. I earned a dollar an hour for my first “grown-up” job at the county library when I was fifteen.
*The weirdest thing you have seen in anyone’s home? One family I visited for school had a pool table in the bathroom!
*Would you eat in a dirty restaurant if the food was good? I did once, in Paris. My students looked doubtful when we entered a hole-in-the-wall type restaurant, but we dined on the finest cheese and baguettes I think I have ever consumed anywhere!
*The most relaxing place you have ever visited? A beach in Israel right next to the Mediterranean Ocean. I slept in the sun and thought about absolutely nothing. The resulting sunburn, however, was not so relaxing!
By the way, those early recollections of Kate Smith and Pinky Lee? Just this afternoon, I watched one of each of their shows on YouTube. That’s entertainment, too!
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.