The Lone Ranger (Another Non-Fiction Essay)
“Hi-Yo, Silver! Away!” These were the first words that a little girl, named Philomena Inverso, heard coming out of a ten-inch television in 1949. It was not the first time she heard these words, she had listened to them on the radio, but it was the first time that they came with an image. A horse rearing back with a masked ranger as its rider, and his trusted Indian companion Tonto at his side, fighting the bad guys and saving the day yet again. She was mesmerized.
The years past and that little girl is now the matriarch of my family, and her name has been changed to Philomena Gledhill. She is my grandmother, and we not only share blood but we share television, so naturally it was a no brainer who I was going to interview for this paper. My grandmother always has great stories and big opinions about everything, but when I asked her about her first television experience, it was as if she were a little girl again. Her eyes lit up and her face became more animated than I had ever seen it before (I live with her, so that’s a pretty big deal). Then she began to tell me the story of her very first television set.
When they grew up in the 1940’s, she and her family were radio listeners, and the only place that they could watch television was standing outside of the furniture store. She and her younger brother would stand outside for hours, no matter the weather, and watch the limited shows for as long as they could stand up. Then one day, her father brought home a small, black and white television. He was always good with electronics and could put together and take apart anything you gave him, so it was easy for him to set it up. “We were hooked from the start,” she told me with the broadest of smiles on her face.
They quickly fell into a routine. Once a week, her grandfather would walk fifteen blocks in order to watch their favorite show, The Lone Ranger. The show début, according to IMDb.com, on ABC on September 15, 1949, and first appeared in 1933 on the radio. The Lone Ranger (played by Clayton Moore) was the only surviving Texas Ranger who, along with his “trusted” Indian companion (played by Jay Silverheels) Tonto (which means “silly” in Spanish, just so you know), fought for justice in the American West. He was the original masked avenger and as kids, my grandmother and her brother thought he was the best gunslinger in the west.
They watched him in awe, as her mother popped popcorn (“the old fashioned way”) on the stove, and her grandfather brought Italian pastries for them to eat. He would usually come in, hand the box filled with goodies to my great-grandmother, sit in his chair by the television with his beer and cigar, all before the announcer yelled, “Hi-Yo, Silver! Away!” All of them would watch as The Lone Ranger lassoed the bad guys with Tonto by his side. My grandmother remembers the deepness of the announcer’s voice, and the rear of the horse in the very beginning of every episode. She remembers the smell of the cigar smoke and the dead silence of the people around her, as she and her brother lay on the floor, propped up on their elbows watching the television.
“Television was a way to bring family together,” she said to me with a look of, but now it isn’t. “The television always put us in a good mood,” she went on to say. “And it’s sad for me not to feel that way when I watch television today.”
In some ways, I agree with her. Television is not what it used to be. It all has to do with “reality shows,” and there is not an original thought in any of the stuff that they put on it today. Back when the television first made its grand entrance, everything was new and today nothing is.
My grandmother told me that she could honestly say television opened up a new world for her. It educated her and influenced her. It encouraged her to “explore” areas that she never knew existed. “You can say that sometimes it was full of sensationalism,” she said with a flourish. “But it was also filled with facts.” That is when she told me one day, when she was older, she was watching her favorite soap opera and it was interrupted by the words, “President Kennedy has been shot.” Another first if you were watching television in that era.
Over the years, television has changed, but not as much as we think. It still has the sensationalism, even if it is not original, and it is still filled with facts, even if it is only through the news. No matter what, television has influence all the generations who have watched it. Therefore, after all is said and done, we know that from the beginning through to the end, whether it is The Lone Ranger of 1949 or the Once Upon a Time of 2011 (a fairy tale show that is also on ABC), we will be there to watch and learn as long as the technology exists within our world.
Essay by: Laura Del (a.k.a. The Fiction Writer)