Tomorrow is a day of no TV for me.
Inauguration day, 2017 my TV goes dark. For over 50 years I have watched with pride every televised presidential swearing-in. Whether on an oversize mahogany housed Philco, a portable RCA, a Sony Trinitron or a Samsung flat screen, every January 20th finds me with swelling heart watching as our new President takes the oath of office.
Tomorrow I will not watch it. Not the preliminary festivities, the speeches or the parades.
Instead I will be traveling down to Washington DC to participate with thousands of others in The Women’s March planned for the following day.
There is no pride, only protest.
Kennedy Inauguration – Color Me Hopeful
Today’s post hearkens back to a more hopeful time. A look back to my very first televised Presidential inauguration.
The hope and optimism offered by John Kennedy at his inaugural speech promised a wonderful worlds of color and not the darkness that seem to loom ahead today.
TV and John Kennedy were made for each other.
The Kennedy years stand out as a time bracketed by TV milestones. In the years between the Great Debates and the network coverage of the assassination and funeral of the president, television became truly central in Americans lives.
The images of those 4 days in November 1963 are burned into our minds but a more colorful memory is his inauguration.
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 one and a half hours 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!
A Telegenic President
Television and John Kennedy were made for one another and he gasped the nuances of television like a pro. Stylish JFK had the fresh air of progress; his energy as effervescent as a bottle of Pepsi.
JFK’s overriding campaign them in 1960 was the need to “get America moving again” and TV was the perfect medium to chronicle movement.
On the morning of November 9, 1960, the day after election day, an unprecedented sense of familiarity on the part of the public toward a US president and his family began to develop because of TV.
At a televised press conference at the National Guard Armory in Hyannis Port, our new President-Elect Kennedy with pregnant wife Jackie at his side, dedicated himself to freedom around the world and then added before leaving, “So now my wife and I prepare for a new administration and a new baby.” It was a heartwarming and exciting story that television was only too happy to convey.
The transition from the Eisenhower administration to the New Frontier unfolded on television screens before our eyes as JFK’s every move was followed.
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’easter 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.
I was to be part of a new thrilling generation.
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.
The New Frontier was off and running!
Who could ever have imagined that in just a thousand days, the world would be very black and white again.
Copyright (©) 2017 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved
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I spent about 30 years making TV content happen but oops! I have a Dr. appointment on Fri. so that’s where I’ll be & she doesn’t have a TV.
I think tomorrow is a good day for all those covered by ACA to get their checkup. Get that medical treatment in now before it’s taken away.
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We junior high students were herded into the school auditorium where they’d placed a 21 inch black and white television on an AV stand. While most of the kids behaved, a few boys acted up. The superintendent of schools came in and proclaimed the bad behavior assured that we’d never get to watch the inauguration at school again.
At the time, none of us considered that the next inauguration was four years in the future, and that we’d be high schoolers then: an empty threat!
The next time came on that horrific day in November 1963. I left school for lunch. A friend’s mother was waiting for him in her Chrysler station wagon. She called us over. “The president was shot.” She offered me a ride home, on the opposite side of town from where my friend lived. I accepted the ride.
When I got home, the full weight of the event struck me. “The bastards shot the president!” I cried out to my mother, who hadn’t heard the news yet. In that moment, she was too stunned to correct me for the language, something I rarely used beyond “oh my” and “good grief”, with a very rare “damn” and even rarely “hell”. (I would enrich my vocabulary in a few years in the US Army, but that truly was how pure I was at that time!)
My mother told me I could stay home from school that terrible Friday afternoon, but it was current events day in my civics class, and I needed to talk it out with my peers.
Walking through the hallway, one of my classmates who apparently came from a Republican household had a big smile on his face. “They got him!” he said, clearly pleased. I was appalled. I came from a Republican household, too, but we were in mourning for the young father and President of the United States of America.
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We watched President Kennedy in living black and white on the family TV. As a Canadian we felt he was our President too by his words at the inauguration. “My fellow citizens of the world, ASK NOT what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man…” He visited here several times speaking to us a friends always with his sense of humor.
Today I must admit, I am far too curious a person, to miss what the new President has to say. I want to hear him first hand and not through the eyes of a reporter. As always I remain a friend to the people of the United States as do most Canadians. You had a very rough time with this election and we feel it north of your border.
I believe these words are as relevant today as much as the day they were spoken.
“we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace; before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction. A beachhead of co-operation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join, in creating not a new balance of power, but a new world of law. Where the strong are just, the weak secure, and the peace preserved.” President John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address, Jan. 20, 1961
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