Our house in Lemon Grove in 1951

Country Music in 1950s San Diego

We have recently been watching episodes of Ken Burns’ PBS Country Music series. The 2nd episode  (“Hard Times”) was about country music programs that were broadcast nationally in the 30s and 40s. As I watched, I was reminded about things I had forgotten about in the distant past when I was growing up in San Diego County in the 50s.

In the early 50s, both San Diego and Los Angeles TV featured country music programs. In San Diego in 1951-52 (when my family was newly arrived from New York) there was only one local television channel, Channel 8. It started broadcasting every day around noon from the Bostonia Ballroom in El Cajon, California, and from noon until late afternoon the only program on Channel 8 was “Smokey Rogers’ General Store”. That program featured only country music and talk from Smokey and his guests. One of their frequent performers was Ferlin Husky, who went on to some fame on his own. My mother frequently had this program on in the afternoon when I got home from school. Since it had to fill four hours, it was kind of a slow-moving program.

The other country music program I remember watching weekly with my parents, was “Cliffie Stone’s Hometown Jamboree“. Cliffie was born in Stockton. The Jamboree was broadcast Saturdays on KLAC TV, Channel 13, from Los Angeles. We were able to receive broadcasts from LA in San Diego because in the 50s, all the houses in our neighborhood had 40-foot-tall TV antennas on the roof. You can see our antenna in the picture above.

Cliffie’s program featured country music performers including Tennessee Ernie Ford, Molly Bee and many others. Tennessee Ernie had a big hit “Sixteen Tons” in 1956. Molly Bee’s hit was “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” in 1952.