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The Helena Arkansas Daily World - Helena, AR
  • Random Thoughts on the age of black and white

  • There is something that we take quite for granted in this computer age of high technology – color photography. Of course, today every magazine you pick up and thumb through is full of them from the front page to the back cover.
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  • There is something that we take quite for granted in this computer age of high technology – color photography. Of course, today every magazine you pick up and thumb through is full of them from the front page to the back cover. That, however, was not always the case. As recently as 50 years ago, color photographs were not only rare but also considered a luxury. Golden Books and comic books had color illustrations but those were primarily pen and ink drawings. Some of the ritzy Hollywood magazines would tease you on the newsstand with a cover photo of a celebrity like Elvis or Elizabeth Taylor. Even the interior photos of Sears & Roebuck and Spiegel catalogs were primarily black and white and all the shades of gray in between. You had to use your imagination when watching your favorite television show because they also were not yet in glorious living color, with the exception of a few shows like “Bonanza” and Disney's “Wonderful World of Color.” Fortunately, Zorro and Paladin made their weekly rounds adorned in black keeping a color TV set off a 10-year-old's “necessity” list. During the summer of 1963 I became quite interested in the “National Pastime”. Of course, to all of you 50 and older that is baseball. I actually think I got hooked collecting baseball cards before I got interested in the game itself. I would take a week's allowance – a whole 50 cents– and go to Sterling's to buy the cards with the stale gum included. I usually bought five packs and saved the other quarter for comic books or a “rainy day.” Do the math, yes, a pack of six cards plus gum cost a whole nickel. The cards fascinated me because they were in “brilliant” (for the 1960s) color. You couldn't tell much about a ballplayer by watching them on TV. There were very few close-ups and in those uniforms they all looked alike. Baseball uniforms in the mid-1960s were dreadfully drab. And with the exception of the Kansas City Athletics and the Cincinnati Reds they remained dreadfully drab, even in full color photos. Most teams wore black, or navy blue caps and starched white or dull grey uniforms with old English lettering that you couldn't read. By 1966, things began to change rapidly. Almost everything on TV was now in color with the exception of the reruns of the old shows we used to love. Once upon a time, TV shows were watched because they had a fascinating plot. As we moved further into the 60s, we began to watch the most “colorful.” I recall the first show that I ever saw in color. My family and neighbor friends were invited to Blytheville to watch “Bonanza” one Sunday night after church services. It was a thrill then but today I recall that it was a little disappointing. The color was splotchy and imperfect, quite different from today's high-definition quality that has so easily spoiled us. When cable TV came along in the 1980s, black and white became somewhat of a novelty. New channels were anxiously looking for programming and temporarily returned to those “thrilling days of yesteryear” by re-running old westerns and other programs. What a treat! Well, as they say, everything old becomes new again. My daughter, Christina, began watching some of the classics with me like, “I Love Lucy”, “Father Knows Best” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show” among others. One day she came up to me and presented me with a very serious question, “Daddy, was the world really in black and white when you were a little boy?” For all practical purposes I guess I had to answer that question with a resounding, “Yes.”
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