Ever try to remember exactly when you saw something on TV for the first time? Have you ever tried hard to figure out when it was that you caught such and such movie and how old you were? It can certainly be frustrating but it also can be done with a little effort a little research and a little help.
With the help of some pretty vivid memories and a decent collection of old TV Guides, so far, I have been lucky enough to pinpoint the exact day and date of three movies I remember seeing for the first time when I was young. It wasn't easy. Thankfully, I have some great memories of my surroundings on those nights, who I was with and other circumstances that helped me in getting an approximate year for each. I also have vivid memories of other programs and movies that aired the same night. So, with my collection of old Guides those memories really helped. But, there was still the research to be done. I won't go into the details on all three films but I will on one of them to give you an idea. First, here are the three films I remember and the day and date I saw them for the first time as well as how old I was.
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD - Saturday, February 22, 1975. 12 years, 9 months.
CARNIVAL OF SOULS - Saturday, November 22, 1975. 13 years, 6 months.
THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING, THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING - Saturday, June 24, 1972. 10 years, 1 month.
Notice the common thread here? Each was on a Saturday night. School year or summer vacation, Saturday night was the night you stayed up late in those days. If you are curious as to what channel I saw each on, here goes:
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD - WABC-TV Channel 7 on THE 11:30 MOVIE or THE SATURDAY NIGHT MOVIE or whatever it was officially called back then.
CARNIVAL OF SOULS - WNEW-TV Channel 5 on HOLLYWOOD'S FINEST at 1AM.
THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING, THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING - WNBC-TV Channel 4 on SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE MOVIES. Started at 9PM and ended at 11:30PM.
So, how did I pinpoint the dates? OK, I'll use NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD as an example. I remembered that it took place while I was living in Matawan, NJ. I lived in Matawan for 4 years so it narrowed the years down to between 1972 and 1976. I also remembered it took place while I was living in the one-family ranch house my parents bought so that narrowed it down a bit more to between 1973 and 1976. I remembered that I saw it while sleeping over a certain friends house. A friend I hadn't become really friendly with until about a year after we bought the house. So, that narrowed it down further to between 1974 and 1976. I remembered it was a Saturday night so that helped too. Now, here are the two keys. I remembered that night two distinct movies were also aired. HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM on channel 11's CHILLER at Midnight and THE COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK at 5AM on channel 2. I remembered those facts because we argued over whether to watch NIGHT at 11:30 or wait a half-hour and watch BLACK MUSEUM at Midnight. I also clearly remembered COLOSSUS airing at 5AM because it was our goal to stay up all night and be able to watch it. OK, so I'm really narrowing it down. The next step came to me by remembering a feature over at DVD Drive-In. There, they had many cool articles on NY TV Monster Memories as well as complete listings throughout the broadcast history of showcases like CHILLER, etc. So, it popped into my head to look at the complete listings for CHILLER to see when BLACK MUSEUM aired at Midnight. Now, BLACK MUSEUM appeared many times on Chiller but only twice at Midnight. August 12, 1972 and February 22, 1975. Well, it couldn't have been in 1972 because I would have been too young, I had just moved to Matawan and I hadn't met that particular friend yet. So, unless my memories are totally off-base, it had to be February 22, 1975 which would actually fit the time frame I remembered. So, how to prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt? Only one way really. Find an old TV Guide from that week, see if NIGHT aired on channel 7 that Saturday night, see if BLACK MUSEUM aired that same night at Midnight and see if COLOSSUS aired at 5AM on that same night. So, the hard part began. I scoured E-Bay for ages hoping to come across someone who was selling an old NY area TV Guide from the week of 2/22/75. It wasn't easy. Quite a bit of time passed with loads of frustration thrown in for good measure. There were tons of NY Area Guides for sale but none from that particular week. At a certain point, I vowed to find it and didn't care what I would have to pay for it. Finally, one day as I was doing my usual E-Bay scan I came across someone selling that elusive Guide for a very fair "Buy It Now" price. I jumped at it. Sealed the deal and waited anxiously for that Guide to arrive. I have to tell you, the anticipation was pretty intense. Finally, it arrived. I immediately opened it to Saturday night. Honestly, I was a little nervous hoping all this research wasn't for nothing. But, it wasn't. There it was in black and white. February 22, 1975. 11:30 PM channel 7 - NIGHT. 12AM Channel 11 - BLACK MUSEUM. And the clincher, 5AM Channel 2 - COLOSSUS. Success!! I nailed down the exact date! I have to say that I was quite relieved and more than a little proud of myself. It was definitely worth it. So basically, I applied the same principles to finding the dates of the other two movies I listed.
Sure, this all probably sounds a little silly or extreme to some folks but I have to say, it turned out to be a lot of fun. I actually felt like a detective and truthfully, it was very satisfying. So, what about you guys? Know the exact dates of any movies you remember seeing as a kid? Let me know.