Some of my favorite television shows in 1960 included The Andy Griffith Show, The Flintstones, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and Walt Disney Presents. Ma loved The Lawrence Welk Show, especially when the Lennon Sisters were on. Ed Sullivan had a variety show that featured singers like Ferlin Husky, Marty Robbins, and Ray Charles, who appealed to the older generations. Teens and pre-teens enjoyed Brenda Lee, Connie Francis, Elvis Presley and Chubby Checker.
The shows were in black and white, cigarettes were advertised, and sitcoms continued to gain popularity. Married television couples slept in separate beds, the husbands came home from their jobs in suits or uniforms, and the wives stayed home and did housework while wearing makeup, jewelry, dresses and high heels.
Some shows, My Three Sons, for example reeked of chauvinism, except I didn't realize that at the age of eleven. Later on, while watching an episode in which Robbie's wife wanted to buy him a special gift for Christmas, I became aware of the submissive roles of women. Since Katie was a stay-at-home wife, she had no money of her own. Even though the couple had no children, Robbie didn't allow Katie to work. Right there I remember raising an eyebrow.
Katie secretly took a job at a restaurant. Her life had so much more meaning because she was on her way to accomplishing the ultimate goal of saving enough money for Robbie's golf clubs. I wanted to stick my finger down my throat while watching that.
Katie's job as a waitress required her to wear a fitted skirt and a frilly blouse. Usual outfits for her in the show were sweater sets, and skirts down to her ankles. She always looked like an over-age school girl. Well, in one episode, Robbie went to the restaurant and was appalled when he saw Katie. He ordered her home so they could have a talk.
Poor Katie sobbed like a child while Robbie scolded her. He was actually viewed as a hero. He told her he was angry because she took the job without his permission, and he disapproved of the outfit she had to wear. Katie demurely whispered, "Yes, Robbie," after every sentence he said. I remember thinking, "Give me a break! How boring to have a puppet-wife."
The clincher came when Robbie crossed his arms, like a school principal, looked Katie in the eye, and said, "So now what are you going to do?"
She hung her sorry head and answered, "I am going to quit my job, Robbie."
I suppose the reason the viewers enjoyed such "entertainment" was because, at the time, people believed that a woman should "know her place." That's what I had to contend with at the age of eleven. All I can say about that is to quote Paul Simon, "it's a wonder I can think at all...everything looks worse in black and white."
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