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HONORING MY MOTHER | Waiting for Jack Benny




THIS was our little piece of reality back in the early 70s: a black and white Zenith television set, with only three available TV stations at the time which in turn offered a sad row of programs that lasted until twelve midnight (or earlier).

For us boys then, if anyone told us the future of cable technology and a 24-7 loop of endless shows, on what many then called the boob tube, we would have thought that it was pure science fiction and still in glorious black and white at that.

Every night, my younger brother and myself waited until each of the three TV stations had played the national anthem, which as many knew signaled the end of the day’s program schedule. That was also the signal for the two of us to go upstairs of our Mabini apartment and join our younger brothers who had gone to sleep much earlier because they were, by hierarchy, younger. After all, being in first and second years of high school, and older than they were, the two of us were proxy alphas. That meant, our two older siblings didn’t care much for TV and preferred late nights with friends at soirees and parties. 

So, the living room was left to us two, and we lorded over it while we watched all the shows, from detective and horror, from Hitchcock to music shows like the Monkees and such. Each ’70s night, despite school the next day, the two of us pretty much bled that old Zenith set dry, so to speak.

Then it happened during one particular closing time (on TV-13 I think it was). It had been just right after the national anthem (where they showed the flag and the fuzzy snow that followed), when the TV screen slowly filled up again and began to show (it felt like only for the two of us) a full hour of comedy which featured The Jack Benny Show! For the poor younger sets, it was the forerunner of such classics as Mr. Bean and others.

Alas, millennials of today can actually relate to what we have felt at the time. You might have just finished watching a Marvel movie. Then, just as you and your friends prepared to leave the movie house after the end credits, the cinema lights dim again and the screen brightens up to reveal a sneak preview of what’s to come or the next installment of the saga you have just watched. An extra treat indeed!

From that night on, until the time our family moved to the bajada mothership, whenever we watched TV and the station ID came on to end programming, we would calmly wait for a few minutes longer…and hoped that they would give us extra help. At that, we’d say to ourselves, “There might still be a Jack Benny.”

As for me, with those days long gone and my family finally free of TV at last, I still retain the idea of an extra treat as waiting at every corner. It has become my own little ray of hope during each end-of-the-day-programming kind of scenario or personal trial. The feeling is just simply, like no other. The screen on your life, once darkened, is suddenly bright again to reveal a new show. Lights!




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