Volume 3 Issue 1: The 1950s

Remote Control

Dawn DeBraal

The whole neighborhood came by to see the new “Lazy Bones” television. My dad bought a Zenith with something called a remote control. Magically he could change channels on the set with a press of a button on a handheld device. A wire ran from the remote to the television. I had lost my job.

“Jimmy, change the channel.” I’d jump up and turn to the channel he asked for. I felt important, but now. The remote had replaced me. 

I genuinely think the invention was the single most reason my mom left my dad. He changed from channel to channel at every commercial break. By the time he got back to the original show, Mom had missed the cliff hanger on her show. She told dad to give her the remote, which he would not relinquish.  It was as if the control was glued to his hand, and by giving up the remote, he was giving up control. 

For a long time, I sensed there were problems in their marriage, but this forced everything to a head like an infected boil. 

The remote arguments boiled over into everyday life arguments like not picking up socks, putting clothes on the floor in front of the hamper for her. The house was not tidy enough. She was a housewife after all—comments directed at mom from his side. Poor old Jimmy was stuck in the middle. 

“Jimmy, tell your father we need groceries,” my mother said at the dinner table. 

“Jimmy, tell your mother she needs to get a job and help pay for them.” my father said back to me. I picked up my plate and walked into the living room. I was behaving badly, I knew but then, so were they. They tried to get all parental on me telling me to return to the table at this instant, and I told them I was not going to until they said something nice to one another and stopped using me as a catalyst to speak to one another. Since neither one of them wanted to budge, I got to eat in front of the tv, changing channels while silence ensued from the dining room. I had discovered how to play one parent off the other. Now I had the remote control. 

Back in the 1950s, you seldom divorced. You were stuck with your choice. The stigma of getting a divorce was worse than being caught cheating on your spouse in public. 

People grew apart, still living together with separate bedrooms and distance. Spouses still shared the same household until death. My mom wasn’t about to have that. She filed for divorce, deciding to suffer the consequences of whispers behind her back. It’s funny how it was all her fault and not my dad’s, according to family members and friends. 

The biggest revenge she got, Dad could keep the house, Mom didn’t want it, but the Zenith remote control television set standing in the corner of the apartment was all hers. 


Dawn DeBraal lives in rural Wisconsin with her husband Red, two rat terriers and a cat. Recently retired she has discovered her love of telling a good story can be written.

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