Civil Rights / Cold War
CW Television 01 Kennedy Funeral CW Television 02 Elvis Comeback CW Television 03 Man on the moon CW Television 05 TN Ernie Ford CW Television 06 Chattanooga children's show CR Kids/Teens 01 Fesse Parker


During this era, television was one of the most far reaching technological changes. Nearly every home had a television by the end of the era. People spent hours watching news and entertainment programs.
Certain times, such as Sunday nights during the 1960s, were reserved for watching favorite shows like “ Bonanza .” Families would sit down together and watch television. At this time, there were only the three network stations and usually a public television station.
Television also served as a unifying force in society. People in Tennessee, New York, or California were all watching the same programs. When President John F. Kennedy was killed in 1963, millions of Americans were glued to their television sets for the four days between his death and burial.  
Millions also watched the first man to walk on the moon in the summer of 1969. Even today, people who were alive then can remember where they were when they watched the “moon walk.”
Television also affected people’s attitudes about issues. Many turned against the Vietnam War after seeing nightly news reports showing wounded American soldiers or dead Vietnamese children. When the government kept reporting success in Vietnam, people started doubting their leaders because they were seeing something on television.
News videos in May 1963 showing Birmingham police officers turning dogs and fire hoses on people demonstrating against segregation horrified thousands of Americans watching television, including President John Kennedy.   A month later Kennedy proposed a comprehensive civil rights legislation package to Congress.  
Television also affected childhood development. Shows like “Howdy Doody” and the “Mickey Mouse Club” in the 1950s, and “Scooby Doo” in the 1970s entertained children for hours. Popular educational shows, like “Captain Kangaroo,” “Mr. Rogers,” and “Sesame Street” were also produced.   
Television started cultural trends. In 1955, there was a Davy Crockett craze surrounding Walt Disney’s TV series by the same name. Young boys all wanted coonskin caps like the Crockett character wore on the show.
Toys like Barbie Dolls, G.I. Joe, and Hula Hoops were all advertised on television. Sugary cereals were also advertised. These product advertisements ran during children’s shows. Children then in turn asked their parents for the toys or food product they had seen.

Picture Credits:
  • Photograph of actor, Fess Parker on opening day at Belle Meade Theatre, Nashville. Parker played Davy Crockett in a popular Disney mini-series in the mid-1950s. Children could not get enough of the coon-skin caps and other memorabilia marketed to them by Disney. Tennessee State Museum Collection,
  • The funeral procession of President John Kennedy leaving the White House on November 25, 1963.  The casket is being carried on a caisson pulled by horses.  Its followed by flag bearers and a riderless horse.  Photograph by Abbie Rowe, National Park Service, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
  • A photograph from an Elvis Presley 1968 television special, popularly called "Elvis' Comeback Special."   The show was the highest rated television special of the year and was critically praised.  It is called a comeback because Elvis had not performed live in seven years and his record sales had begun to fall.  After the special, he recorded several number one songs and had a very successful performing career.  Photograph taken from a 1990 Elvis calendar.  Tennessee State Museum Collection
  • A photograph of astronaut Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon on July 20, 1968.  People all over the nation watched the moon walk with great interest.  It was the first time man had walked on the moon's surface.  National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
  • A promotional photograph for "The Story of Christmas" television special starring Tennessee Ernie Ford as the "singer-narrator."  The show was shown on NBC-TV on Dec. 21, 1964.  Ford is pictured here with twins Patti and Vicky Sheets.  Ford, born in Sullivan County, adopted the nickname "Tennessee" when he worked as a radio announcer after he served in the Army Air Corps during World War II.  He turned to singing and had several number one hits including "Mule Train" and "Sixteen Tons."  Ford was given a national variety show on NBC called "The Ford Show."  It aired from 1956 to 1961. Tennessee State Museum Collection
  • A photograph of host Robert Brandenurg for the children's show the "Bob Brandy Show," showing on WTVC television station in Chattanooga.  In this photograph, Brandenburg was promoting Krystal hamburgers, a show sponsor.  The show ran from 1958 to 1978.  This photograph is dated 1958.  Paul A. Hiener Collection, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library
  • Publicity photograph produced by NBC for their television series "Bonanza."  The photograph shows the four main characters in the show.  NBC photograph

   Civil Rights / Cold War >>  Everyday Life >>  Leisure Time >>  Television

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