"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

When RadioShack was Morris Radio and TV

One of the things I like doing on my two sites is sharing minor, you might say trivial, vignettes from Morris' past.
I wrote about boys with their crude homemade "soap box derby" racers gathering at the hill (which seemed big to us then) on the east side of the old school. That memory was part of a post on how kids were "self-starters" in an earlier time. We gathered on our own and had to set guidelines on our own. No, it wasn't as bad as "Lord of the Flies."
Parents seemed to be content leaving us on our own. I can't imagine they figured we were safe and happy all the time. Maybe they figured we'd grow from the rugged challenges.
Mitt Romney seemed to want to send a message of leaving people alone so they can learn from adversity. In other words, withhold government help. A part of us wants to be receptive to this message. Self-reliance is an American ideal especially as it pertains to how the country grew to the west.
Realistically people do want a "safety net." Romney has faded like a balloon with the air let out of it.
You can read my post about the soap-box racers by clicking on the permalink below:
The current post on my companion website, "Morris of course," is a review of the new Three Stooges movie. It recalls how in the 1960s, the Morris Lions Club hosted a Halloween party for kids.
We couldn't have envisioned tapes or DVDs then. The Lions would set up a clunky but reliable reel-to-reel movie projector. And then we'd watch the Three Stooges!
When I was real young, I was a little scared of Moe. That dampened the humor. You may read this "Morris of Course" post by clicking on the permalink below:
I'm ready to share a new vignette. These are the kind of memories that we can't count on the Historical Society for preserving. An assortment of these memories can paint a picture of an earlier time. They can stimulate still more memories.
I'll begin by pointing out the RadioShack store on Morris' main street. It seems quite the typical store of this type. "What's special about it?" you might ask. (In proofreading I discover that RadioShack is one word even though it looks like a typo.)
As kids, if we'd known that someday there would be a store with aisle upon aisle of tech wonders, we'd be amazed, probably disbelieving. I mean, those were the days when many of us had only one TV channel available. We might be content with just the Alexandria TV channel. But frankly we were quite content having just that.
Television sets had "knobs" for changing channels. The TV remote seemed "Jetsons"-like when they first began appearing. Today they warrant no special comment at all. But I remember the time when if you wanted to poke fun at someone for being lazy, you'd make a motion as if operating a TV remote.
Our whole perception of TV has changed since then. We unashamedly find fulfillment through our TVs today. That's because there's a channel to satisfy every taste. And of course the TV screens can be used for so much more than watching the traditional "television."
We spend a good portion of each day watching a screen whether it's a TV or computer screen. All this tech stuff evolves so fast it can seem dizzying. You might even be turned off trying to keep up with it. I have lagged quite far myself.
Walking through the aisles at RadioShack, you can be amazed at all the hardware and gizmos available to. . .make us happy? Is that what it does? As kids we were happy just to have transistor radio.
RadioShack exists in the same spot where once we could buy the old analog electronic stuff - you know, the TVs with knobs. And the transistor radios. The store served the same kind of needs as today. But the "analog" world was truly a world apart.
The type of employee who would wait on you then, would probably not be equipped at all to work in the store of today.
The specific vignette I wish to share goes back to the early 1960s. We were mesmerized at that time by the idea of "color TV." Yes we were.
For a long time, NBC would introduce its color shows by showing its peacock. "The following program is brought to you in living color." Something like that. This was later parodied in the "Police Squad" TV series with Leslie Nielsen.
If you stepped into the old Morris Radio and TV store and behaved yourself, you might be allowed into the back room! There you could marvel at a "color TV set." Imagine being fascinated by an attribute that we totally take for granted today. We are surrounded by assets that we once considered breakthroughs.
I have heard many say that rural electrification was one of the biggest revolutions in terms of our lifestyle. I believe it.
Our family was the first in the neighborhood to get color TV. We invited all the neighbors over to watch the Rose parade from Pasadena CA.
Our guests included the Julius family from the farm down the road, who had probably experienced life without electricity. Earn Julius was a gem of a man who served on the school board. His wife Mabel was a dedicated farm homemaker. They operated your classic diversified farm of that time. The kids of the neighborhood would play over there, creating liability issues that people of that time evidently didn't worry about.
We'd swing on a rope in the hay loft pretending we were Tarzan.
A farm no longer occupies that site. There is a non-maintained road going across the field north of Morris that will take you to that site. I suspect this was once the Julius' private road into town. The field is U of M property.
As a kid I began hearing about the "able cable." This too seemed like a miracle (cable TV).
It wasn't enough to be happy or satisfied with one TV channel anymore. Now we could watch "Gunsmoke" in addition to "The Virginian."
Because our family was semi-rural at the time, we couldn't get the "able cable" right away. So I kept watching "Trampas" on "The Virginian." And, Huntley and Brinkley for the evening news, not "the most trusted man in America," Walter Cronkite.
We had to trust "Chet and David" on NBC. So, we missed Cronkite's earthshaking editorial comment or suggestion regarding the Viet Nam War. As if we really needed him to inform us of the obvious. Such quaint times.
Our universe of media options keeps exploding. It's interwoven into kids' lives. But where is it all taking us? Is it making us happy? Is it deluding us in many ways, making it less necessary to develop meaningful social interaction? The merry-go-round of progress and history continues.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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