January 20, 1961-The Day a Black and White World Changed to Color
I was proud as a peacock.
The year was 1961. John F. Kennedy was the first president I ever saw sworn in on television and I got to see it in rich tonal color!
Despite the heavy snowstorm, my family had trudged over to my Aunt Judy’s house to watch on her RCA Color TV, the first ever color broadcast of a president being sworn in. It was an auspicious and memorable day in the life of the nation and in mine
The young president, the old poet, the splendid speech, the triumphant parade, the brilliant sky and the shining snow were all brought to you in living color.
The Wonderful World of Color
Color TV was still a novelty; a thrilling, wholly new standard of viewing enjoyment.
The first color TV sets retailed at $1,000 in 1954. That was a lot of money for the few hours of broadcasting that would be on NBC during that year. Four years later color telecasting still averaged only 1 1/2hours a day nearly all of it on NBC alone. And the quality left much to be desired.
It would take another 10 years until sales of color television sets would really take off.
Because my Aunt and Uncle were one of the fortunate few who owned a genuine color TV we would be eyewitness to history. The color viewing experience, RCA promised, would be so real, so sensationally life-like, that you would swear you almost could feel the frosty wind that whipped through Washington DC that day.
Ring-a ding ding!
The Following Program is Brought to You in Living Color.
The Kennedy presidency began with incomparable dash and color.
It was a cold day for a cold war warrior to take office.
It had been cold all week on the East coast, the nations’ capital included. The second of 3 major Nor’ easters that occurred during the winter of 1960-61 was moving up the East Coast. The snow came on Thursday with winds howling, stinging gusts and whipping the snow down the streets.
Washington DC was choked with a blanket of snow, bringing the Capital to halt.
By dawn of Friday, inauguration day the snow had stopped. The skies were blue and cloudless and the Capital glistened in the sun, but it was frigid as the temperature was barely 20 degrees above zero.
The crowds, curious, expectant hopeful, huddled and shivering in the cold.
They watched restlessly as the bundled up dignitaries slowly took their place on the platform.
At twenty minutes after twelve, the 43 year old president-elect strode in and the spectators broke into wild applause. There stood their newly elected president young, handsome, tough and communicating confidence.
I proudly listened as Marian Anderson sang The Star Spangled Banner, restlessly observed the craggily cardinal as he boomed out a long invocation, and anxiously watched the breath of elderly poet Robert Frost visible in the freezing air, the glare from the sun blinding him.
At nine minutes to one the Chief Justice Earl Warren came forward to administer the oath to the 35th president. Braving the elements, the vibrant president-elect without hat or coat, the family bible open before him answered in a firm tone. At last he began his inaugural address, his voice ringing out into the frosty air.
It was a day on which, as President Kennedy himself observed, the country passed into the hands of a new generation. In a great inaugural address President Kennedy, outlined his idea of the nation of the future, asking Americans to consider not what your country can do for you but what we can do for our country.
After the seemingly stillness of the B&W Eisenhower years, suddenly the promise of a new young colorful vibrant president who promised to get America moving again seemed exhilarating, urging us to come alive …we’re in the wonderful world of color.
Copyright (©) 2013 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved
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