RAY SMIT: The battle to watch HNIC

My father was hoisted on his own black and white petard

As Christmas 1954 approached, my father was a man on a mission. He was determined to buy a TV set. My mother had different priorities.

“I saw one in the window at Buckle’s Appliances. It was almost $150!”

Dad replied eagerly, “Yes, but they have smaller ones on sale for Christmas and they’re only $99.95. That’s a bargain!”

“That’s two week’s salary,” mom replied.

“But over one million TV sets have been sold in Canada,” Dad replied adamantly.

“You can watch hockey next door with Mr. Miller.”

“Yeah, but if I was home I could watch the game in my underwear.”

“Well, you keep your shirt on and we’ll get a TV when we can afford one.”

So every Saturday night that winter, dad stumbled through the snowdrifts to Ray Miller’s house to watch Hockey Night In Canada. Mr. Miller liked to pontificate about the Leafs and their problems. Dad, afraid to offend, could do little but bite his tongue and bide his time.

The next spring, as playoffs neared, my mom began feeling poorly — especially in the mornings. The doctor did some tests and reported that mom was pregnant with me. She was quickly ordered to bed. The following Saturday afternoon, Dad walked into the bedroom and said, “I bought you a present.”

“What is it?” Mom asked suspiciously.

“It’s a brand new TV. I got it on payments.”

“Has this got something to do with hockey?”

“While you’re pregnant you can lie on the couch and watch your favourite shows!”

“We can’t afford it. Take it back.”

“The children can watch Howdy Doody.”

“Take it back.”

“I can’t. I already signed the contract.”

“Well, yes, Howdy Doody,” Mom replied defeated.

Later as my dad hooked up the antenna, mom patted her tummy and asked, “Are you excited by our new arrival?”

“Indeed I am,” Dad said, patting the top of the TV set. “Indeed I am!”

When dad told Mr. Miller about the new TV,  he was delighted. “I’ll be over at 8:30,” he said. It was a big night. For the first time when Ray pontificated, Dad pontificated right back! Luckily, it didn’t hurt their friendship one bit. In fact, I was named for dad’s TV buddy — a true son of Hockey Night in Canada.

Mom eventually accepted the television. Within a few years she was enjoying Front Page Challenge, The Wayne and Shuster Show and especially Charlie Chamberlain and Marg Osburne on Don Messer’s Jubilee. Dad was pleased but then caught flatfooted when mom fell in love with The Lawrence Welk Show. Unfortunately, it was on opposite Hockey Night In Canada. Before he knew it, mom had commandeered the TV and he was back to visiting Mr. Miller again.

Years later dad got another loan and bought a brand new colour console. He told Mom it was so she could watch Lawrence Welk in style. But when it arrived, he seemed more interested in dragging her old set down to the basement. Regrettably, the rec room was too cold to watch Hockey Night In Canada in his underwear. So there he sat in his wooly sweater — winter after winter — hoist on his own black and white petard.

 

Ray Smit’s column appears every second Thursday in The NEWS. E-mail: raymondsmit@shaw.ca