Philco Television Glass Palette

Philco Television Glass Palette

The sound of cracking glass signaled the opening of emotional floodgates and separation from another bit of well-worn, loved baggage from my childhood.  I still recall the day our first television was delivered to Middle Road in Martinsville, New Jersey.  The hinged wooden doors opened to reveal a thick plate of glass edged in gold lines that protected the large picture tube and a row of knobs beneath the rectangular piece of glass.  When the television was turned on, the tubes in the bottom of the cabinet glowed orange and the picture tube glowed green.  In a short time, images appeared in black and white on the tube.

The family enjoyed weekly shows such as Perry Mason, Roy Rogers, The Early Show and Robin Hood.  Sunday nights were spent together eating popcorn and root beer floats.  Often, on a Saturday afternoon my mother and I watched Charlie Chan while working on a jigsaw puzzle.  As time went on, the glowing orange tubes needed replacing.  That meant taking all of the tubes out to determine which one had stopped working.  It was my job to place them carefully in a paper bag and go with my father to Davison’s Hardware store where a tube testing apparatus was set up in the front corner of the store.

I believe it was in the late 50’s when the television stopped working all together.  Stereophonic sound had just been introduced.  The wooden cabinet that housed the television was still in good shape.  My father decided to transform the cabinet into a home for our record player.  Out came the tubes and out came the thick sheet of glass.  My father must have felt that the glass could be useful and stored it in the attic where I found it in the late 60’s or early 70’s and began using it as my palette for oil painting.

The thick sheet of glass traveled with me to my numerous homes and studios.  The gold lines became faint and scraped away until I got smart enough to use the backside of the glass.  I used the glass palette only in the studio.  During the many years that I painted outdoors, the glass managed to get lost among my supplies, to resurface when I moved again.  Recently, as I began my “Road Series” I marveled over the time my television glass and I had spent together.

Scarred Glass

Scarred Glass

The cracking of the glass was not a loud, painful popping sound.  Instead it sounded like a gentle nudge.  A few minutes earlier I had wondered if the heat of the projector would cause the glass to break, but discarded the thought having used the glass many times to keep drawings flat and in position beneath the heat of the projection lamp.  I continued for a few minutes working on the large canvas, defining lights and darks in charcoal from the projected image.  When I lifted the projector to change the drawing, the edges of the cracks appeared as scars, catching the illumination of the overhead lights.  The glass was intact, but altered.  To me it was a signal for change, a signal that a lesson had finally been learned and I could move on.  I’ve been reflecting on what that lesson might have been and wondering why I have felt so liberated after hearing the sound of a wound being inflicted upon such an old treasure that has been part of my life for more than fifty years.

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