Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick


On the opposite side of the river from the Pittsburg Store, along the bank just north of the river bridge, Jess Cook and his wife lived in a small, gray and green tar paper cabin-like hut until the late 1960s. Cook asked to buy a television stored in my bedroom that had not been used for several years. Not knowing if the set could be revived, I told him he could buy all of my equipment for the same low price I paid in October, 1957.

Orville Lanman’s son John was my classmate in high school when he sold me this remarkable table model television. Resembling a fancy radio, the walnut casing of the Halicrafter TV measured about 2 1/2 feet wide, 18 inches high and 2 feet deep. 3 large knobs on the left side were for volume control, vertical hold, and picture clarity. Above them, a round speaker was covered by brocaded cloth behind some artistic lattice work. Within a matching round circle on the right side, a dark border surrounded the seven-inch viewing screen, giving it a somewhat rectangular or oval shape. In car radio fashion, twelve tiny push buttons below the screen were used to select each channel (2-13.)

Originally, the set was sold as a kit, although John himself does not recall buying it that way. He had put together radios, but does not take credit for building something as elaborate as a television. While back east on vacation he purchased the unusual receiver and brought it home already assembled. John had several old televisions he worked on as a hobby and needed space, so his offer included a roof antennae, free delivery and hook-up! I could hardly wait for him to arrive on Saturday morning with my new purchase.

A stack aerial placed atop the roof was secured by our chimney and four tie-down wires. Through this, reception ranged from nonexistent or fuzzy to excellent. Because we were in the “fringe area,” John provided an apparatus called a booster that also had a channel selector, tuning knobs, and a “rotor” for changing the signal location. With these many control mechanisms, I carefully experimented until I learned to use my new devices efficiently to receive clear, sharp pictures whenever possible.

I only pulled in Ottumwa (3) and Quincy (10) regularly, with Hannibal (7) coming in clear enough to view part of the time. On rare occasions for brief periods of time I located stations from long range such as Cape Girardeau (Missouri,) Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania,) Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Waterloo. Sometimes nothing came in well. In those days, any change in the wind or atmosphere could cause picture and/or sound to quickly fade or disappear, usually in the midst of a good broadcast.

Jess Cook purchased and removed the antennae from our roof and took the equipment to his domain across the river. Like a Phoenix bird rising from ashes, the reliable little set came to life when a few burnt-out tubes were replaced! Sometime during the early 1960s the little ten dollar viewing station had changed hands again, and now it was ready to provide several additional years of entertainment.

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick