Prairie Memories by Gary Heintz: A Tale of Two TVs
Living behind Dad’s barbershop provided numerous advantages to a boy in the third grade. The biggest one was I lived less than a block away from two of the town’s four TVs. Parkie’s drugstore and Bohning’s general store had TVs perched on shelves above the rows of merchandise. They drew crowds, especially kids, because TV was still unique.
My after school routine consisted of running the three blocks home, grabbing the snack mom would have waiting for me, and heading to Bohning’s store, a half a block away. I was usually just in time to watch “Captain 11” on the TV located on the shelf above the front door. There was no channel surfing, no remotes to fight over. Changing channels meant climbing on a chair or ladder, which never happened seeing the only channel besides CBS was PBS. The shelves of clothing, with a shelf just the right height to sit on, ran from the front of the store back to the meat counter, and was in line for an unobstructed view of the TV. There, nestled on piles of Key brand jeans and bib overalls, the kids of Harrold sat quietly, necks craning to watch “Popeye” and “Road Runner,” then “The Lone Ranger.” The picture was usually fuzzy and static lines ran across it when a truck would drive by, but it was exciting for us just the same. Besides going to the counter to buy some penny candy, we never moved until it was time to go home. Our folks never worried about us. Different times.
Evening TV was viewed at Parkie’s drugstore. Dad would always make a point of watching the “Friday Night Fights,” and I would tag along. The back of Parkie’s store would be filled with men, some sneaking a beer from the cooler in the back room. The wire-framed chairs filled the aisles and the fight crowd would get noisy as the fights progressed. Dad, having boxed as a teen and while in the navy, would coach me in the fine points of the art. After the fights we would go home and put on pairs of worn-out boxing gloves and Dad would continue the lessons. Great fun.
Saturday nights were really special. “Gunsmoke” came on right after “Jackie Gleason.” Shoppers at Bohnings stopped to watch the shows, laugh at “The Honeymooners,” then watch us kids try to outdraw Matt Dillon. I’m not sure, but I think some cold winter nights when there was little business, Jack Bohning kept his store open until after we kids finished watching “Gunsmoke.”
Mom wasn’t so keen about me watching nighttime TV at the drugstore. One night when my dad was barbering in Blunt, “Peter Pan” was on TV. My sister Debbie was just a baby, and mom wanted me to stay close so I could help her and she could keep an eye on me. While she was putting Debbie to bed, I sneaked across the street to watch a bit of the show, thinking Mom would never miss me. Wrong. I became engrossed in the show, and didn’t hear Mom call or see her come storming across the street. She grabbed me by the arm and then by the ear, marching me out the door to the hoots and hollers of all my friends, lecturing me all the way back home about “wait until your dad gets home” and “what if something happened to Debbie while I was out looking for you?” I wasn’t listening. I was upset because I wanted to see Peter Pan (Mary Martin was Peter) fly and fight Captain Hook! (I did start listening though, when “Dad got home!”)