Saturday Night at the Movies

TURD. My Mom, Dad, and Dean, my younger brother, and I stared at the TV screen in disbelief. No one spoke. Our brand new television set boldly displayed “TURD" in big white letters. We were sitting in our brand new, almost barren, living room, dominated by the cold, odd smelling terrazzo floor, watching WTVJ, Channel 4, Miami, on our new 14 inch television set - still black and white in those days - circa late 1953 or early 1954 - when we were startled by the unexpected word filling the screen. 

The late night movie commercial break was over and the Saturday night movie was about to resume. Dean and I were sitting on our equally new red and gray chrome, Naugahyde dining room chairs while our mom and dad lounged on the living room couch with their feet on the equally new coffee table. We didn't have extra living room chairs yet, so my brother and I had to drag up the nearby dining room chairs to sit on. I was twelve years old, and dirty words to me were a forbidden, secretive but exciting new realm that I desperately wanted to explore. Without anyone knowing, of course. 

After waiting twenty minutes or so to make sure everyone was hooked on the movie, the station had gone to commercial break, and was in the process of returning to regular programming from the commercial break when the screen caught everyone’s attention. The white lettering on the gray background was in caps, and the caption actually read THE SATURDAY NIGHT MOVIE, except they were in extreme closeup, so the only letters you could see were the T, the U, the R, and the D. The cameraman simply did a dolly pull with the camera back away from the cardboard sign to innocently show the full name of the show. But he started from the extreme close-up that showed only the four letters that caught everyone's attention.

WTVJ was one of the few television stations we could get in Miami in 1953. In fact, it may have been the only one we could get out by Tropical Park. Ralph Renick and the late Channel 4 news was always followed by Jim Dooley and the weekend fishing forecast, which we watched religiously. We stayed up after the news that particular Saturday night to watch Errol Flynn to once again take on the Japanese Army in the weekly “Saturday Night Movie”

Dean, my younger brother, and I waited, holding our breath. Our dad said nothing, but he slowly gave our mom an offhanded glance that spoke volumes. Mom clinked the ice cubes in her ice tea and coughed. My introduction to surreptitious humor. I still practice every chance I get.



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