Once and Only Once by
(11 Stories)

Prompted By What We Watched

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Once and Only Once

...we raced out of the room so as not to be the last one left....

Back in the day, before one could retrieve almost any TV show or movie and watch it at one’s chosen time, watching a TV show required attention to the specific broadcast time so as not to miss a one-time event. Also, with only one TV set and just a few channels at most, choices were limited. Watching TV was rarely a solo viewing event, except perhaps on weekday afternoons after coming home from school. In our house, on Sunday nights my family gathered to watch the Ed Sullivan Show where we were regularly entertained and would see both Elvis Presley and later the Beatles in their first TV appearances.

After school in the afternoons it was Howdy Dooty with Buffalo Bob and Claribel with his seltzer bottle and later Superman with Lois Lane and Jimmy. On Saturday evenings it was Gunsmoke with Matt Dillon, Chester, Kitty, and Doc. When the The Honeymooners premiered, my brother, mother, and I watched with my mother clearly tickled when Ralph Cramden’s antics resembled my father’s foibles. (Years later All in the Family would provide the same opportunities for laughs.) Alfred Hitchcock with his iconic profile was always a treat to see what suspense he had in store. Becauae a TV program would have to be watched by everyone at that same time, there was often an associated discussion of the show with friends the following day.

Our neighborhood movie theater offered Saturday afternoon matinees. With a coupon, admission was only a nickel, and familiar friends were likely to be in line. The theater had a center aisle, and my cousins, brother, and I had our regular seats, third row from the front with the eldest having the aisle seat and the rest seated sequentially by age. The feature presentation was preceded by a cliff-hanging serial, usually a western or space adventure, and a comedy short (e.g., Little Rascals, The Three Stooges, Bowery Boys). Popcorn was sold in bags, not buckets, and there were no free refills.

On late Saturday night TV there was a locally produced horror show with a grotesque yet comic host, Morgus the Magnificant, who introduced classic scary films such as Frankenstein with Boris Karloff as the monster, Dracula with Bela Lugosi as the Count, the Wolfman with Lon Channey, Jr., as Mr. Talbot, and the Mummy with Boris Karloff again. When the show ended, we raced out of the room so as not to be the last one left who would be expected to turn off the lights and follow the others as we all rushed to our bedrooms in the dark.

Profile photo of Lou Moffett Lou Moffett
I was born in 1946 and raised in the Bywater district of New Orleans.
I attended Jesuit High School and then Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, graduating in 1968 with a major in psychology and a minor in philosophy. In 1968-69, I did graduate study in personality at the University of California, Berkeley, I returned to LSU to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology although my dissertation was on the psychology of sculpture. I completed my internship at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Palo Alto, California, and then became a staff psychologist there specializing in the treatment of men with severe substance use disorders. During those years I also taught at Stanford's School of Education and was a clinical educator in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in the Medical School.
I also taught at Palo Alto University, and, in 2008 I retired from the VA and became a full-time professor at PAU and then retired from there in 2013.

Tags: TV shows, matinees,
Characterizations: been there


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Lou, you recall a time when we all sat together and had ONLY one shot to watch our favorite shows, choices were limited and talked about the same things the next day. I love that you, your brother and cousins had your own special seats at the local movie theatre! That is really a product of a by-gone era and brings up memories of families being close. It all sounds wonderful.

  2. John Zussman says:

    Virtually every show you mention strikes a responsive chord in me (except Morgus, who regrettably was confined to New Orleans). You’re absolutely right about discussing each program at school the next day—TV was a real center of our world. In fact, there’s no better way to provoke lengthy discussion among boomers today than to mention one of those old TV shows!

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