Friday, March 29, 2013

I Was A Human Remote Control

"Somebody change the channel," my father directed from vantage of his kick-back chair. There were no Lazy Boys in those days. Dad was slouched back into an overstuffed arm chair with his feet on the footstool in front of him.

'Somebody' means any kid within earshot and do it quick. If the lion's first growl doesn't get results then he doesn't growl twice. The next time he will ROAR!

If the ROAR doesn't get instant results then the cubs are going to get cuffed by either The King of the pride or the she-lion. Either way, it isn't pleasant. Being the eldest, and in interest of self preservation, I was usually first to launch myself toward the TV to twist the channel knob.

There were thirteen numbers and a UHF position on the knob but only three channels were broadcast. Figure that one out. Neither cable TV nor electronic remote controls ever existed in my father's lifetime.

The danger for the human remote was going too slow or too fast when changing the channel for The King. Let's say you had channels 2, 5 and 9 that received crystal clear into the old Motorola. Then you had channels 7 and 13 that would receive from distant stations but not clear enough for viewing.

With the channels that had no reception at all, you could twist on through them without much pause. With the strong-reception channels the human remote was required to pause until commanded to "change it again." Weak-reception channels also required The King's command before turning to the next channel on the first time around all of the channels. On the second pass the human remote understood not to tarry on the weak-reception channels lest he wants to suffer a ROAR.

The problem came in with the commercials. When a channel change was desired by The King, it was often also the time when all of the stations were running commercials. Hence, after about the third or fourth time through a full rotation of channels it was natural, on the part of the human remote, to increase the tempo between station switches. Then the inevitable ROAR would come.


Eventually, the commercials were over and The King would settle on one channel that had an old movie running. Within a few minutes, however, there was a good chance that The King was going to growl anyway.

“I’ve seen this one before. Change it again.”

By this time the commercials were on again and you have to get through three of four cycles of the “CALL
FOR PHILLIP MORRRRIIIIISSSSS” or the ever suave Aqua Velva man. Then there was “Brylcreem, a little dab do ya’ but watch out! The gals will all pursue ya’….They’ll love to get their fingers in your hair.”



  1. We only had three channels, too, and a giant antenna on top of the house. Thankfully my grandparents usually knew beforehand what it was they wanted to watch.

    1. Your grandparents probably used something like TV Guide magazine. I don't think that they even had those in father's time. But then, he was only your age when he succumbed to cancer.
      The Rifleman, Gunsmoke and Bonanza kept him from channel hopping when they were on.
      And yes, those huge antennas on top of the house.

  2. :) my dad was literally 3 feet from the tv, but one of us 4 kids were his channel changers, "get me a beer", and sandwich makers, and even eyebrow and ear tweezers! (usually me) i guess that made me feel important back in the day.

    1. So, you relate very well! Yes, kids are always happy to please their parents. The was also, "Do we have any ice cream?" However, I will give The King credit here. If there wasn't enough ice cream for his kids, he would go without. Thanks for the read and comment, Sue.