Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, I was greatly influenced by what I saw on television, much the same way today's kids are mesmerized by the Internet.
That box in our living room--and later, a smaller box in my room--brought the world to me, opened me up to new ideas, and yes, entertained me too.
And two of those people that entertained me celebrate birthdays today.
On the slam dunk side is Willis Reed, the New York Knicks legend who helped that team win two NBA championships, who turns 70 today.
The other is actress June Lockhart, who many viewers like myself fell in love with as the quintessential mom, first in "Lassie," and later, on that lost spaceship, on "Lost in Space." She turns 87 today.
Reed was the center on those great, intellectual, team-concept Knicks teams. He wasn't as tall as the other centers in the league--he was 6'8", maybe 6'9" on a good day--but he knew how to play guys like Wilt Chamberlain and Lew Alcindor. He particularly gave fits to Alcindor--later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar--and he took these other centers to school with his defensive and shooting prowess.
But one day sticks in my mind. I have talked about it many times, so I am going to summarize it here.
In the 1969-70 season, the Knicks and Lakers were tussling for the championship. Reed was injured, could barely walk, wasn't supposed to play the game on May 8, 1970, but somehow, he came out for warmups, which gave the Knicks the psychological edge they needed.
When Reed actually started the game and made his first two shots, the Lakers had had it. The Knicks won the championship, and me, in my sick bed, made a vow that if Reed could do it, I could too. I did my bar mitzvah the very next day, and the rest for me is history.
Lockhart made her name on TV as the mom to Timmy on "Lassie" and the mom to the three kids on "Lost in Space."
She was one of the first of the long line of TV moms that have entertained us through the decades, everyone from Lucy Ricardo to Peg Bundy.
But Lockhart did it on ground and in space--the settings for her two most memorable shows--which made her something special.
On "Lassie," she helped Timmy through all his struggles of growing up, living a somewhat simple life on a farm, and on "Lost in Space," she helped her kids grow up too, albeit on one orb after another.
Although she kind of had to dress down for both roles, Lockhart was really a very pretty woman, with a nice figure and perfect composure for both roles.
She knew she wasn't the star of each show, basically a supporting actor, first, to a dog, and second, to a robot, but she did her bit with a lot of panache.
Reed and Lockhart are parts of my childhood, stirring memories that will live with me forever. I salute them both on their birthdays, and wish them many, many more.