The following article by David Strange was originally published on 21 Aug 2016.
Sitting behind a screen door in a Bullitt County History Museum display room, an old television merrily plays away. It is a 1948 Admiral, said by its original owner to have been the first TV in Bullitt County.
(Spoiler alert: the innards have been refitted with a more modern unit to appear as though the old tube-type unit still works.)
Gosh, how times have changed since that old TV first played in William Albert "B-Rod" Masden's store in Lebanon Junction. According to B-Rod's son, Steve Masden, people would come by the store and not want to leave at closing time. They would stand, entranced, waiting to see what the TV would show next.
OK, so maybe times have not changed all that much after all.
"B-Rod" Masden opened his first store in 1947, on Main Street down toward the First Baptist Church where the original town once was, across the street from LJ's first city hall and jail. There are few buildings in that area now. Mr. Masden started business selling stoves and 100-pound gas cylinders. That business naturally progressed to selling hardware and other appliances in an increasingly electric marketplace. The growing appliance business brought in something called a television. Television had actually existed, at least experimentally, as far back as 1920 and technically a decade or two before that. But it didn't become broadly available until the 1950's.
If Masden's 1948 Admiral was not the very first TV in Bullitt County, it was certainly among them. WAVE TV was the initial broadcaster in the Louisville area, signing on with its opening show on November 24, 1948. WHAS TV followed with its first broadcast on March 27, 1950. WHAS had actually filed the first application in the area, but took a while longer to build its station facilities.
There was not much to watch in those early days as broadcasters experimented with the new medium. Even into the late 1950's there would be large spans of time when the only thing on TV was an "Indian Chief" test pattern with it's constant "eeeeee" sound blaring away in the background. Even then, people would just stare at the screen ... waiting. Along with a few national shows, the local stations added their own to fill in the time. After school, kids rushed to the TV to tune in "T-Bar-V" with Randy Atcher and "Cactus" Tom Brooks at 4:00. A lot of kids, including myself, appeared on that simple-but-wonderful show to celebrate birthdays, to watch a cartoon, or listen to a short talk or song by Atcher to be sure to "mind your Moms and Daddys and brush your teeth at night." Boys and some of the girls as well, dressed in their best cowboy and cowgirl outfits, and would show Randy Atcher how quickly they could draw their six-shooters, always impressing Atcher and Cactus at their swiftness. In the evening there might be the "Hayloft Hoedown" country and western music show, also with Randy Atcher in the lead. Nationally, "Howdy Doody" played every Saturday morning. Parents would watch news programs, often led by Edward R. Murrow. Wrestling became an early TV favorite, seemingly on the air at all hours. In the Cold War 1950's, Civil Defense "Duck and Cover" public service announcements were common.
B-Rod Masden moved his store in 1951 to the sheet-metal-covered building that had been a feed mill. Steve Masden, who worked there with his Dad for many years, remembers that old country hardware store as "having about anything there was ... if you could find it." The large old building still stands in Lebanon Junction today, but Mr. Masden's business closed in 1977.
Certainly a lot has changed since those early days of ten-inch or smaller TV screens. Today we stare into even smaller ones as we walk ... or drive ... along our way.
Yes, times have really changed. Well, what's the saying? "The more things change, the more they stay the same."?
Go see the old way of watching TV, or radio, or silent movies, at the little Bullitt County History Museum sometime. Display rooms are located just inside the front doorway of the Bullitt County Courthouse at 300 South Buckman Street in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. The history research room and the volunteers who run the museum, can be found on the second floor. Operating hours are whenever the courthouse is open; generally 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. weekdays, 6:00 p.m. on Thursdays. You can also visit the web site at www.BullittCountyHistory.org for more information.
Copyright 2016 by David Strange, Shepherdsville KY. All rights are reserved. No part of the content of this page may be included in any format in any place without the written permission of the copyright holder.