Signing Off and Test Patterns and Peacocks

This is a test pattern.

Mamacita says:  Most of you have never seen this picture before. Most of you have never known a time when television wasn’t a 24-hour marathon of programming.  This is a test pattern.  If you turned on your television after midnight, this is all you saw.

The fact is, things used to have down time. Stores closed. Television and radio stations “signed off,” and each station often had its own unique signoff ritual. After midnight, people went to bed; they didn’t stay up for hours and watch because there was nothing to watch. When people said, “There’s nothing on TV,” it wasn’t just an expression.  Radio stations signed off, too.

Sometimes I think it was better the old way. After midnight, people generally went to bed. People didn’t watch show after show just because something was on, because something WASN’T on. Just blackness, static, or a test pattern.

I can remember turning on the TV on Saturday morning, seeing nothing but the test pattern, and waiting patiently until 6:00 a.m. or so for the station to “sign on.”

When my cousin C and I were kids, and would stay at our grandmother’s house every weekend we could manage it, the sign-off for Indianapolis’ WTTV channel 4 was a few minutes of Mahalia Jackson singing.  I can’t remember what she sang, specifically, because C and I usually watched our grandmother when Mahalia sang.  It was one of the few times we saw Mamaw laugh out loud.  Mahalia’s kind of singing just wasn’t heard much in southern Indiana, and the shock value of it set Mamaw off every Saturday night.

Most sign-off rituals were religious in nature, and patriotic as well.  A local clergyman would speak a few words, the National Anthem would play, and the sign-off words were spoken, along with a promise to sign-on again in the morning.  It was kind of cool.  It was also a signal that everybody still up ought to go to bed, as well.

Maybe that’s one reason people stay up so late these days.  They’re glued to the TV, and there’s nobody now to tell them it’s time to sign off and go to bed.  As long as there’s SOMETHING on TV, some people will watch it.  I’ve never understood the mentality.

The next program you see will be in color.

This picture, now, is the NBC peacock, telling us that the next program would be in living color. Those of you who thought In Living Color was nothing but a funny television show have a lesson to learn here. And now you know why the title of that show was funny in more ways than one!

Seeing that NBC peacock flexing its tailfeathers was the signal that Bonanza was about to start. A lot of the old 50’s sitcoms had been filmed in color but never seen in color, and eventually those started to be shown as was intended, too.  I am not a fan of colorized film, but if something was originally filmed in color, I’d like to see it in color; it’s all about the lighting.

Here’s your laugh of the day. I didn’t know The Wizard of Oz was partly in color until I was in my teens. It made the expression “a horse of a different color” understandable, for the first time.

I’m not really QUITE that old, but my family just waited that long to get a color TV.


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