October 22, 2012 by JoBe Cerny
Today, we take portability of a video device for granted. Televisions has been around since the 1940’s, but the early ones weren’t portable. They needed antennas mounted on a roof to pick up a signal. But around 1960, advancements in technology suddenly made televisions portable. I got my first portable television as a gift when I was in sixth grade, and it was portable enough to take with me everywhere I lived until the mid-1970’s. I have to admit, it was pretty unique and stylish. It was the same colors of gray and cream as Bugs Bunny, and it had rabbit ears which were the nickname for the portable antenna that was built into the set. They telescoped into the set when I transported it. Depending on the weather and atmospheric conditions, I would move the antenna to pick up the best signals. It had knobs to adjustment for vertical and horizontal holds if the picture started to roll and a carrying handle in the middle of the set. The first several years it sat on the dresser in my bedroom until my junior year of college. It is funny how you remember certain things. The first thing I saw on that set was Carol Burnett singing a song on the Gary Moore Show. She had been starring in a Broadway show. Gary Moore and Durwood Kirby predicted she would be a star. They were right.
When I went away to college, the set didn’t get much use except when I came home for summer vacation. We weren’t allowed to have televisions or telephones in dorm rooms at that time. Instead we had a communal television in the commons area. So I had to wait to use the portable aspect of my gray and cream television until my junior year of college. I just had clothes, books, and my portable T.V. so it was easy to move. That began a period where I moved every few months for several years. As part of my perks for working at the theatre company that employed me, I got free rent in a one-room trailer! I put the T.V. on my desk. I saw the first man walk on the moon on that television. Once I started making more money, my wife and I moved to a beach house at the Indiana Dunes State Park. I helped the scene designer I worked with re-roof his house in exchange for free rent. And the portable television got great reception on the top of the Indiana Dunes. When I came back from the theatre each night, we would watch Tom Snider on his controversial talk show. That was also the year that Leo Durocher almost coached the Cubs to a World Series. And we watched the Cubs fold on my portable television. But a few months later I had to enlist into the Army Reserve or be drafted, so my wife and I moved into a one bedroom furnished apartment in a great Victorian house. Rabbit Ears kept her company while I reported to active duty. When I came back from the Army, we moved to Evanston where we lived in furnished graduate school housing at Northwestern University, and our portable television was still our primary source of entertainment. After I graduated, we got a furnished sublet apartment for three months. But, then it was time for us to settle down, and we settled into an unfurnished apartment with a coffee table, some book shelves, pots, pans and dishes, our clothes, books, and our portable television. We put Rabbit Ears on the coffee table and bought a couch to put in front of it. For the first time we needed furniture which meant the next time we moved it would be more difficult.
Once we got a dog, we decided to set down some roots. The dog’s name was Annie, and about a year later we bought a condo. Annie and Rabbit Ears went with us and they both seemed very happy. But all good things come to pass. One day, I turned Rabbit Ears “on” switch on and nothing happened. Rabbit Ears died. I rushed it to a TV repair man, but he said the set was too old to fix. He suggested I forget about it, but I took it home. It had been a part of my life for so many years, it was really hard to let go. I guess the thing that made me saddest was I never got to see myself on my portable television. Our next television was our first color television which was a big change for us. But, when we bought our first house, something very strange happened. One day I spotted a three-eared rabbit in our yard! What are the odds of that?