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Reminiscing on Early Television Programs
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Reminiscences on Early TV
Looking Back
February 2008
Joyce M. Tice

"Remember Harry Manzak M-A-N-Z-A-K." With this edict Walter Winchell ended one of his TV programs way back in the "olden days" of the mid-1950s. I don’t remember anything about Harry, who he was, what he did, but I sat there and memorized that for whatever reason, because Walter Winchell said to, and it stuck. He made it sound important, and it is still "in there" wasting my ever depleting mental storage space. To my amazement, Google knows who he was. He was a detective in the "Walter Winchell Files" series that started in 1957. Yes, there really was a [fictional] Harry Manzak.

Just as the generation that preceded mine remembers their favorite radio programs, we remember the early TV programs. My father had a TV installation and repair business in Elmira in the early 1950s. We did not have a TV of our own, but would frequently have one to watch when it was in the shop for repair and brought home to test. We had one channel, Channel 12, the CBS affiliate out of Binghamton, New York. It was snowy and static-y, but a great treat even so.

The only children’s program at the time was Bill Parker’s TV Ranch Club produced in Binghamton. Bill had Cub Scout and Brownie Scout troops on his daily show, and he’d read out your birthday greeting on the right day if someone sent it in. A later friend of mine, who lived in Endicott in that period, used to be part of a gang of pre-schoolers that would mob Bill and hang around his car when he came to pick up his then future wife for a date. This was before the term "groupies" came into the language. Bill became a news anchor for Channel 12 and continued on both radio and TV for a full career. I met him briefly in the late 1960s when I was at the station to record public service book reviews for the Binghamton Public Library. He did not like to be reminded of his early days as Buffalo Bill and was further disturbed that his early fans were already in their twenties.
Hooray for Mountain Home for finding a picture of Bill before they published this article

When young Queen Elizabeth came to the throne in 1953 we still did not have our own TV. My mother sent me next door to find out when the coronation would start so we could go there to watch it. I asked when "the show" would start because I couldn’t handle "coronation." I still remember how they laughed at that.

Our neighbors on the other side eventually got a great big TV with a very tiny screen. They had a piece of plastic film to put over the screen that gave the illusion of color. Of course, the colors on the film had nothing whatever to do with anything going on in the programming.

Another local production from Binghamton was "Fashions for Milady." This was a half- hour fashion show produced by the Drazen family of Drazens clothing store, and it ran through the 1960s. The family son, Bruce, or one of his parents whose names I forget would describe in the most elegant terms the clothes which models displayed. We watched it. Remember we had ONE channel, or maybe by that time we had two or three.

My favorites among the early sit-coms included The Life of Riley [1953-1958] and Our Miss Brooks [1952-1956]. I never saw my father laugh as hard in his life as he did from the short-lived 1965 Smothers Brothers show. We would both laugh until we cried, and they cancelled it. Some of the early programs were carry-overs from radio, and some of the comedy acts were carryovers from both radio and Vaudeville.

Gary Moore’s "I’ve Got A Secret" ran from 1952 to 1967. The only secret I remember is the woman who was there with her daughter, granddaughter and great granddaughter. Her secret was that her mother was backstage.

I have wracked my brain [off and on] for months trying to remember the fourth person in the "Four Star Theater." There was David Niven, Ida Lupino, and Howard Duff and … who? Better check Google again. Its memory is better than mine. Ok, it was "Four Star Playhouse" [1952 – 1956] and Charles Boyer was the fourth. And it was Dick Powell instead of Howard Duff. How could I forget?

Drop me a note about your favorite early TV memories to be included here.

February 2008
Greetings fellow Boomer,
       Mr. Drazen's name was A. Murphy Drazen. His sister, Sally, also narrated as the ladies modeled the fashions. My aunt became acquainted with Sally during her adventurous trips to the store. It made places like Izards in Elmira seem like Wal Mart prices!

                                                                                                 Carol Myfelt

In a message dated 4/12/2012 7:46:36 PM Eastern Daylight Time, writes:
The tv show "Fashions for Milady" was owned and as your article states, also produced by the Drazen  family with Bruce and one of his brothers doing the commentary. That was my grandparents store that was actually started by Louis Drazen, A. Murphy Drazen's father and my great grandfather. In case the news hasn't hit everywhere there Bruce, my uncle has died two days ago at the age of 76. The other brother was either Stanton or Louis (less likely though). Now you know the names of the three brothers. Have a wonderful weekend and maybe you will respond.
                             P. Drazen
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