When I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, television shaped my view of the world.
Lassie would save Timmy and his friends. We sympathized with her mother Ruth, played by June Lockhart, as we saw her worried face and waited for Lassie to come home.
Lassie always came home.
We watched shows like ‘My Three Sons’, ‘Andy Griffith’, ‘Leave it to Beaver’, ‘Donna Reed’ and ‘Father Knows Best’, and observed the parents’ undying love as they passed on life lessons for their children.
The parents never shouted. Each show ended with everyone smiling.
My best friend Beth and I couldn’t wait for recess to describe the scenes that made us laugh after seeing the “Dick Van Dyke Show” or Tim Conway’s antics on the “Carol Burnett Show.”
Today I realize that I haven’t seen many colored faces on my screen.
There was a lot of injustice in the world, but the TV shows I watched lulled me into an island world of naivety. We huddled under desks during an air raid exercise, but then we went back to long division and decorating Valentine’s Day boxes.
But fast forward to ninth grade, April 1968, when my mother and grandmother’s beloved city of Washington, D.C. became a war zone, with upheavals that left 13 dead and 900 businesses dead. damaged, then my view of the world changed.
Every other Sunday we visited my grandmother, and when we walked past those broken windows and arrived at her house, the words “Whitey lives here” were spray-painted on her sidewalk. The little girl next door was not allowed to come out and talk to me.
I didn’t understand that the color of my skin determined almost everything about how I was treated. And the TV shows I watched only represented a white person’s world.
Today, I am better educated and strive to learn about injustices of all kinds. I recommend the 2018 Oscar-winning film, “The Green Book,” inspired by a true friendship that develops when a bouncer from an Italian neighborhood in the Bronx is hired to drive Dr. Don Shirley on a concert tour in across the Deep South in 1962.
The two men rely on the “Green Book” to direct them to hotels that would accept African Americans. Dr. Shirley is allowed to play classical piano music in white establishments, but he cannot eat or use the restroom in those same places, unlike Tony.
As the pair discover each other’s worlds, their friendship grows as the racial divide narrows.
My parents were always talking about the good old days, gulping down memories like they were floating root beer. We played outside until the streetlights came on. There were no guns, no handheld devices except my pot of lightning bugs or my father’s iron horseshoes.
Tonight, I’m looking for my glasses, as I often do lately, to find the TV remote. I forget which button shows me the last thing I looked at. Oh, there it is. “Blue blood.”
“Blue Bloods” contains some violence, but I love that the bad guys don’t usually win. Still, there seem to be too many black abusers, not as many white villains. Still, what I love is that three generations of the family are shouting and arguing as they sit around the dinner table and discuss things.
Sometimes dad doesn’t know better, but his own dad does. I wish we could all talk to each other more at each table. I wish we could reach out and listen to each other’s stories.
By the way, June Lockhart, who played Timmy’s mother in “Lassie”, is now 97 years old. I wonder what lessons she learned along the way.