while we wait for the season finale of mad men
1968: more october 26 tv

1968: october 26

Thanks to the entertaining Blog Wilkins (the title will mean something to Bay Area baby boomers), I can tell you a lot more about the schedule on Channel 40 than I could have a day ago. Why does this matter? Because 40 years ago today, Channel 40, a UHF station out of Sacramento, went on the air. My memory could certainly be wrong, but as best as I can recall, Channel 40 was the first UHF station to actually show interesting stuff in our neck of the woods. Young readers might well wonder what the hell a UHF station is ... just imagine one of those gazillion cable channels no one watches, only the picture is fuzzy and you need a separate pair of rabbit ears to make it come in at all.

When I was growing up, we had more television stations to watch than most people, because Antioch was situated between San Francisco and Sacramento. The SF channels were harder to get ... we had an antenna on the roof for those, with a dial inside the house that changed the direction of the antenna to point either to the City or to Sacramento. Each of those two cities had a network outlet, which at that time meant ABC, CBS, NBC, and NET (not yet PBS). Oakland had Channel 2 ... channels were called by their numbers in those days ... Channel 2 was independent. Channels 2-13 were VHF ... don't ask me, but they're the channels every TV got, and in Antioch, 2 was indie, 3 was NBC Sacramento, 4 NBC SF, 5 CBS SF, 6 NET Sac, 7 ABC SF, 9 NET SF, 10 CBS Sac, and 13 ABC Sac. That's all you got to watch. No cable, no satellite, no Internet, just those channels.

Channel 40 was on the UHF part of the dial ... later there was 44 and 20 and 36, but 40's the one that began it all in our house. (There was some dinky channel in Concord or something like that which showed Grade-Z stuff, but it's long forgotten.)

So, what did Channel 40 show on October 26, 1968? Thanking Blog Wilkins again, the first thing to appear on Channel 40 was the movie Meet Boston Blackie. Blog will be adding more details about 10-26-68 later in the week, but in the meantime, over those first two years, among the staples of Channel 40 were kids shows, rassling, and Bob Wilkins. Wilkins showed old horror movies late on Saturday nights, and was a cult favorite who also worked out of Channel 2 in Oakland. Rassling was even more interesting in this regard. Both Channel 40 and Channel 2 showed pro wrestling from the same federation, run by Roy Shires. Since Sacramento and Oakland/San Francisco were considered separate television markets, Shires didn't worry about keeping the story lines the same, so sometimes you'd have one guy as champ on Channel 2 and a different guy as champ on Channel 40. Ah, the joys of living in Antioch, able to watch it all.

This is not a nostalgic plea for the good old days when you only had 4 or 5 programs to choose from. But post-boomers may not realize just what television culture was like in those times. They were times when adding a local, hard-to-get UHF channel that showed old movies and pro rassling was exciting, because it increased your options by a large percentage.

Here's a bit of Wilkins from the mid-70s: