Monday, June 14, 2010

Cable Story


As I write this on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I realize that today I have two 27-inch flat screen television screens in two areas of my home. One is in my living room and the other is in my bedroom. I have been blessed to have cable tv boxes hooked up to both, with a digitally advanced picture that is among the best (thanks to my provider, or so they advertise). Today, practically everybody I know has cable. You almost have to have it to see sports and movies, and to hear an inordinate amount of foul language in your home.

But, when I was in college (circa 1981), that wasn't so. Most Americans watched CBS, ABC, NBC, and the three or four UHF stations that were available. UHF... I'm sure that nobody born after 1981 even knows what that means anymore. However, there was cable but it was limited to certain areas.

In Philadelphia, the only people who had cable in 1981 either lived in South Philly or the suburbs outside the city. There was no MTV, VH1, BET, or ESPN yet, they were all about two or three years away. There was HBO and Showtime. HBO (or Home Box Office, as we called it back then) had little more than movies and boxing at the time and this was before "The Sopranos", "Sex & The City", and "The Wire". Still, the little one-horse town that my college was in had cable and my big city only had it in limited areas... imagine that!

I was in my senior year of college and my five other roommates decided to get cable. Now, mind you... it was a struggle for us to pay the rent, electric, water, and gas bills. Buying groceries was a luxury, but we wanted cable. Well, we got it and soon our apartment was the place to be.

If there was a big fight (i.e. Muhammad Ali vs. Larry Holmes, Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Tommy Hearns, etc.) we had it and we could charge a dollar a head to get in to see it. We'd have a keg of beer in the bathtub, which was full of ice, and buckets of fried chicken from the local KFC. It was "on like popcorn"... good times!

However, much can be written about the genius and ingenuity of poor folks. We have always found a way to make it in this society or "get over", if you will. We had a neighbor, who I'll call Johnny... he lived in the apartment above us, had some extra cable, and a little electronic know how. He hooked his television into our cable box somehow or other and was able to "jump" off of our cable.

We knew he was doing it. Who cared? We were all from Philly, going to college in upstate Pennsylvania, and trying to make it. So, live and let live, right? For a while, it worked out. We were all able to keep the crowds coming (and paying) to see our cable and we were all happy. Now, I told you that it was a struggle for us to make rent, electric, water and gas payments every month, so you can imagine that it was no different with the cable.

Despite the money coming in, sometimes we paid our bills and sometimes we didn't. New clothing, new shoes, weed, a date with a fine honey or whatever often took the place of paying a bill. When we were three months behind in paying the cable bill, the cable service went off. This meant that Johnny no longer had cable either.

Most of us didn't care. In 1981 there was still enough on so-called "free TV" to keep us entertained. Johnny, however, didn't feel that way. He stormed down to our apartment and demanded to know... "How come you guys don't pay your bills?" I reminded him that he hadn't donated a red cent towards the cable bill. Then, he said... "Do I look like I'm working? I'm gettin a check from my mom to cover my bills." After I finished laughing, I said... "How nice for you!" and closed the door. The nerve of people, huh?

It would be ten years before I would ever have cable service again. By then, I was married, working, and living in my own place with just two people... my wife and daughter. I was also older. Today, on this rainy Sunday afternoon, I'm enjoying some lemonade and watching my television with cable and chuckling at that first memory of having it, nearly thirty years ago.

16 comments:

James Perkins said...

Hahahahaha, That's a funny story...
I remember those early days of cable.

Toni said...

I love your personal stories Keith.

Angie B. said...

That's funny!

Brenda said...

Oh to be young!

Cheryl said...

Wow...I can't imagine cable only having one or two channels...and HBO only had Boxing and movies...No series..Wow! (I was born in 1976..what do I know right?)

Sunflower said...

Humorous story...I remember those early days of cable too!

Simon Bastion said...

Great Story! It's something being young isn't it.

Grover Tha Playboy said...

Six people in an apartment dog? Wow!! And you guys still couldn't make your bills?? You guys were something. LOL ,Great story.

Swaggie said...

Can't imagine Television without cable....Wow, what was that like?

Sean said...

I remember those days...Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

Halo said...

This was a cute little story Keith.

Vanessa said...

You guys were funny. "Why don't you guys pay your bills?" , " Do I look like I'm working?" Hillarious,you had me rolling.

Lisa said...

"Do I look like I'm working?" That was hillarious!

Arlene said...

Keith, could you believe my dad MADE our first television? Back in the 50s that Peirce-Phelps factory not far from you sold component parts for individuals to assemble their own unit. The screen was the size of a dinner plate. And we had just 3 regular stations. Channel 12 required a special adapter to get public broadcast / educational shows.
Wow, how times have changed and yet stayed the same. I've got satellite service now with more than 100 choices of stations. And yet there are times when I complain that there is nothing worth watching.

Mizrepresent said...

Great story Keith. I can't evem remember when i first had cable but i do know it was not always by the legal way, lol!

CurvyGurl ♥ said...

ROFL at Jimmy!




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