The Baby Boomer TV Personality: Who Are You?

Have you ever thought about what factors influenced your personality…what helped make you the person you are…the complex components of temperament, attitude, and character that distinguishes each individual? Many psychologists believe that an individual’s basic personality is formed in the first four or five years of a child’s life. Although everyone has inborn traits, family parenting methods significantly influence personality development…and always will.

But for those of you born after WWII, there is another factor that was crucial to the development of your personality…that’s right…television. In 1946 there were approximately 6000 TVs in America. By 1951, there were 12 million TV sets, and by the mid-50s almost every home had a television. It is estimated that the average child watched two or three hours of television daily. Many parents used television as babysitters because it kept the little ones occupied when they had things to do or had people over. Dad bought our first television in 1952 when I was 3 1/2 years old, so by the time I started school in the fall of 1954…and even though I lived on a farm and played outside much of the time, I had likely watched thousands of hours of TV shows.

My parents’ favorite shows were the “Texaco Star Theater” (starring Milton Berle), “The Honeymooners” (starring Jackie Gleason), “The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show”, “Our Miss Brooks” (starring Eve Arden), “Your Show of Shows” (starring Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca), “The Jack Benny Show”, and of course “I Love Lucy” (starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz). Several people have told me that I have a unique sense of humor, and I really believe these comedy shows had a great deal to do with that. I also watched my favorite shows…”The Howdy Doody Show” (with Buffalo Bob), “Miss Frances’ Ding Dong School”, “Captain Kangaroo”, “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet”, “The Gene Autry Show”, and my two favorites…”The Lone Ranger” and “The Adventures of Superman”…all of these coming on the air before I started first grade.

I learned quite a few things, information-wise, from the first three shows, which helped me when I began school. I also often imitated the characters in the other shows. I received a capgun and holster one Christmas and pretended I was Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy, or the Lone Ranger. I drew an “S” on a T-shirt, pinned a red towel to my back, and jumped from the front porch roof just like Superman. Yes, I did fly…straight to the ground and broke a bone in my foot! I also could mimic the various comedians’ funny facial expressions and tell their jokes to anyone who would listen.

Even under adverse situations as a police officer, I still maintained a sense of humor. Perhaps deep down there is an “Uncle Milty” lodged in the recesses of my brain. Perhaps I became a teacher because of Eve Arden, Miss Frances, or Miss Landers (on “Leave It to Beaver). Perhaps I became a Sheriff because of the Lone Ranger, Matt Dillon, or Wyatt Earp. And is the fact that I always enjoy helping people with their problems a result of me imitating my parents, going to Sunday school, or watching hundreds of episodes of Superman? Yes, maybe all three.

Think about what young people watch today…not only on TV, but also on video games, in movies, in music videos, and on the Internet. What type of personality traits are being formed? Senseless violence, R-rated language, crude and vulgar humor, sex-filled scenes, and totally abhorrent behavior…is definitely not beneficial in developing a normal, well-adjusted person. We already know the results. We see it on the news every day.

Well, maybe I’m wrong about all of this. The people who know me a bit too well might have another theory…perhaps I watched too much of another show…The Three Stooges.

John “Butch” Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 32 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history.