Whitesburg KY

Good TV reception was rare here

Points East

Sunsets on 52 coming west from Richmond toward Paint Lick have been beyond spectacular for the last two weeks or so.

I’ve taken to staying at the office until 5:30 because peak viewing seems to start around 5:40 and last until a bit past 6:00.

Frequently people in front of me slow down and hold up their cell phones to take “pics” of the vistas through their windshields. I have no such device nor do I crave one. On the other hand I do pack a real camera, capable of taking a real photograph, but using it requires two hands and I would never even think about shooting through my windshield. And while I believe that most commuters are enjoying the view as much as I am, I don’t think that they would take kindly to my stopping and setting up a tripod in the middle of the road.

There are only a couple of places to actually pull off the road and be in situations not zigzagged by power lines and both of these are smack in the middle of dangerous curves. It would be easy enough to get off the highway, but I’d have to back out into a blind spot and so far, appealing though it is, I have not worked up the courage to have at it.

So I’ve taken to calling my ride home “52 Sunset Strip” and giving rave reviews as soon as I walk in the door and talking about it to anyone who calls or visits on the weekend. The kids, all of whom have seen the sunsets, and even Loretta want to know where I came up with that name. They’ve never heard of “77 Sunset Strip”.

I am aghast, even though the show had absolutely nothing to do with sunsets.

We didn’t have TV in the head of Blair Branch in the ’50s and early ’60s, but my older-by-adecade first cousin/surrogate big brother, Little Steve Craft, who lived with Uncle Stevie and Aunt Nan a mile down the hollow from us did.

From the time I was in fourth grade until I started high school, the first order of business after classes on Fridays was to run the couple hundred yards from Blair Branch Grade School to Cousin Steve’s and make sure Channel 13 was coming in. If it wasn’t, I headed up the mountainside to pick leaves and fallen branches off the TV line. Steve’s line was nearly a mile long to antennas on the highest ridge and he prided himself on having the best reception for miles around.

Channel 13 (WCBR) originated somewhere in North Carolina, and snowy though it often was, for many years it was the only ABC affiliate anyone could receive. It was also the only one that carried must-see “77 Sunset Strip” on Friday nights, the only non-Western show I ever thought worth watching.

This was the show that launched Efrem Zimbalist Jr. into TV Hall of Fame. He played Stu Bailey, a hotshot private eye who had a sidekick named Jeff (Spencer?), played by Roger Smith. These guys hung out at Dino’s, a bar full of gorgeous women and a parking lot full of the latest and fastest sports cars in production at the time.

The fast cars and women appealed to Steve but I wanted to look like Kookie, played by Ed Byrnes who was one of, if not the first real TV rebel, bad-dude, teen idol.

Kookie was a super-cool, beatnik, “daddy-o” carhop, always snapping his fingers and/ or combing his hair just so and always involved in murder or other high crimes behind the scenes. Always a guilty suspect but never getting caught. No wonder we teens all loved him.

I bought a comb just like Kookie’s and took to turning my collar up and combing my hair back like he did even though my dad would never let it grow anywhere near that long.

I’d spend half of my weekly Grit profits on Brylcreem (a little dab ‘l do you) and for a while there, I was going through a tube every week figuring that if a dab was good, a gob ought to be better. Mom finally put an end to my excessive use of Brylcreem because she figured that if it wouldn’t wash out of shirt collars, it couldn’t be very good for my hair either.

Anyway, when she found out that Kookie was actually a criminal, I learned not to emulate him in her presence. “If you’re gonna make a fool of yourself and be like somebody on TV, why can’t you be like Flint McCullough.” (played by Robert Horton) the honorable (no Brylcreem) scout on “Wagon Train”.

So I’d wear a cowboy hat and pack a Red Ryder BB saddle gun around the house and wait until I got out of sight down the road to turn my collar up and grease my hair back.

Oh my, how did I manage to get from gorgeous sunsets on Highway 52 to ’50s television in a single column already much too long for most of my nowirked editors? This could last all day but it has to stop right now.

So in conclusion, let me simply say that Kookie was on his way to prison and scheduled for execution the last I heard about him. My mom was smugly glad about that.

The sunsets still endure.

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