“A surprisingly personal and appealing narrative, curiously affecting because any Baby Boomer, interested in television or not, can pick up this book and nod, yes, this was me, too. A book of tremendous resonance and sweetness, and it does something no other book of film history has done: it made me feel young again.”
– James Abbott, The Jade Sphinx
“One of a kind! One of the only books that I have read that I never wanted to end. A great, great read, and a great achievement.”
– Mike Copner, Cult Movies on the Air
from the dust jacket of
I SAW WHAT I SAW WHEN I SAW IT
Growing Up in the 1950s & 1960s with Television Reruns & Old Movies
I Saw What I Saw When I Saw It is a memoir of growing up in New Jersey in the post-World War II era. Television and the Baby Boomers—children born between 1945 and 1955—arrived in America at the same time. Boomers had no memory of life without television.
Author Frank Dello Stritto grew up happily addicted to television. His true extended family was not the ocean of Italian-American relatives living near his parents’ apartment in Hoboken, but the characters he watched on television. Baby boomers learned early to change channels on their televisions, and many preferred the zany Kids’ TV on the local stations to the structured Children’s Television on the networks.
On his TV, Frank saw the world unfold: the Cold War, the Civil Rights movement, the explosive growth of the suburbs. The Dello Strittos joined the migration, moving 20 miles from Hoboken to North Arlington in 1958.
The only old friends Frank could bring with him were Abbott & Costello, Superman, and other TV friends.
Television aired old movies, and the local movie theatre played matinees aimed at young boys. Frank’s Saturday afternoons became a war between watching old movies on TV and going to new movies at the Lincoln Theatre. Horror movies most attracted him. TV helped with The Twilight Zone, One Step Beyond, Thriller and Outer Limits.
Seeing Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein made Frank a dedicated “Monster Boomer,” one of his generation fascinated with old horror films. He joined the “monster culture” of fan magazines, conferences, and paraphernalia. Frank watched all the horror movies he could, and adopted Dracula-portrayer Bela Lugosi as his new hero.
Frank’s first heroes kept him in front the TV; his new one demanded that he go out into the world. Lugosi became an obsession. Frank read all he could on Lugosi. Then he went to libraries and archives to find what he could, and to museums and revival theatres that played rare films. Surprising adventures found him along the way. All in an effort to learn as much as he could of an actor who died when he was 6 years old.
I Saw Was What I Saw When I Saw It is a personal tale, but also a unique history of the post-War World II decades, and of how television and the Baby Boomers shaped America.