Baseball, Truman among first on TV

It was May 15, 1948. Each Saturday morning, after catechism class at Emmanuel Lutheran Church on the west side of Warren, I would walk down to the bus company garage at Buckeye and West Market where Dad worked a half day. I would wait around until he was ready to leave. We would then drive home for lunch.

This day was different. Dad drove right across the street to a place called Warren Radio Electronics. It was directly across from the “OK Used Cars” Chevrolet dealer. We entered via the back door. I heard the sounds of a baseball game. Sitting there in the darkened repair section at the back of the store on backwards-turned kitchen chairs were brothers Johnny and Pete Finta who ran the place. Johnny and my dad were old pilot buddies from prewar times.

They were watching a baseball game on what was the first operating television set I had ever seen. The Cleveland Indians were playing the Detroit Tigers and Van Patrick was nonchalantly describing the action with very few words. His manner of speech was nothing like the staccato delivery of radio’s Jimmy Dudley or Jack Graney on WTAM. This was in the days before any “color” was thought necessary, because it was thought you could see for yourself what was happening. (The Indians lost 10 to 3.)

As it turned out, Saturday, May 15, 1948, was the first ever televised Indians baseball game! It was broadcast on WEWS Channel 5 in Cleveland.

The next Monday, a panel delivery truck came into our driveway. A bunch of aluminum tubes, and other paraphernalia was unloaded. An 8-inch DuMont television set was carried down to the cellar rec room. Where else would you put such a strange piece of furniture?

Dad came home after work and started assembling what turned out to be a television antenna. Family friend Al strapped it to our chimney.

After everything was hooked up, we turned the TV on. There it was, a WEWS test pattern with a light house in the center. It was accompanied by a constant, somewhat piercing tone. The pattern was supposed to be round, but it was a flat oval and it kept rolling and then went into a bunch of diagonal stripes. Several neighborhood adults and kids had joined us. We all sat and stared at it.

The antenna had to be adjusted. I watched the TV, while Dad stood outside, and Al, up on the roof, loosened the antenna so he could move it. After a series of relayed yells, the antenna was positioned to give us the best reception.

Finally, we saw a lighthouse flashing its beam in a wide swath across the screen and a voice said that it was WEWS a Scripps-Howard television station, first in Cleveland. The evening’s fare usually started with a poor quality kinescope of a Charlie Chan movie.

In January of 1949 the coaxial cable made it to WEWS. A scrawny man in long underwear and a leopard skin cave man outfit pulled a huge rope across the screen and tied it to another. Voila! The coaxial cable was functioning!

We could now see programs from New York and Chicago! The “Toast of the Town” featuring Ed Sullivan was on Sunday nights out of New York. On Wednesday nights, wrestling out of Chicago was a favorite. It featured the likes of Hans and Fritz Schnabel, and Don Eagle and Gorgeous George in Australian tag team matches.

Since our house was probably the only one in town with a TV, several of us East Junior guys negotiated with our civics teacher, Miss Kerns, to have us be excused to see Harry Truman be inaugurated at noon, Tuesday, January 20, as a part of our studies. After overcoming the objections of our math teacher, Miss Cox, about eight of us biked to my house to see the very first televised presidential inauguration. I believe we had to give a report on our experience, but I doubt it.