It was at sundown on New Year’s Day 1954 that Claire Hathaway began to feel embarrassed by her new television set.

The Rose Parade was on the screen, but she couldn’t take her eyes off the set itself. It was a twenty-one-inch RCA console with a gumwood cabinet and nubby brown fabric over the speakers, and it dwarfed the other furniture in her living room. She had gone downtown yesterday to buy a party dress and had come home with this thing instead.

Her guests seemed to be in awe of it. No one spoke as the camera zoomed in on the last car in the parade, a glittering Cadillac convertible with gobs of chrome and little fluttering American flags and President Dwight Eisenhower and his wife Mamie in the back seat. The President and First Lady were smiling and waving to the crowd. The Cadillac was beige. The Eisenhowers’ clothes were beige. Their faces were beige.


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