Remembering when Lassie always came home

October 30, 2022

When I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, television shaped my view of the world.

Lassie would rescue Timmy and his friends. We sympathized with his mother Ruth, played by June Lockhart, as we saw her worried face and waited for Lassie to come home.

Lassie always came home.

We watched shows like “My Three Sons,” “Andy Griffith,” “Leave it to Beaver,” “Donna Reed” and “Father Knows Best,” and observed the parents’ steadfast love as they imparted life lessons for their children.

The parents never yelled. Every show ended with everyone smiling.

My best friend Beth and I couldn’t wait till recess to describe the scenes which made us laugh after seeing the “Dick Van Dyke Show” or the antics of Tim Conway on the “Carol Burnett Show.”

Today, I realize that I didn’t see many faces of color on my screen.

There was a lot of injustice in the world, but the television shows I watched lulled me into an insular world of naiveté. We huddled under desks when there was an air raid drill, but then we went back to long division and decorating Valentine’s boxes.

But fast forward to ninth grade, April 1968, when my mother’s and grandmother’s beloved city of Washington, D.C., became a war zone, with upheaval that left 13 dead and 900 businesses damaged, and then my view of the world changed.

Every other Sunday, we visited my grandmother, and when we drove by those shattered windows and arrived at her home, the words “Whitey lives here” were spray-painted on her sidewalk. The little girl next door wasn’t allowed to come out and talk to me.

I didn’t understand that the color of my skin determined almost everything about how well I was treated. And the television shows I watched only depicted a white person’s world.

Today I am better educated, and I strive to learn about injustices of all kinds. I recommend the 2018 Academy Award-winning movie, “The Green Book,” inspired by a true friendship that develops when a bouncer from an Italian neighborhood in the Bronx is hired to drive Dr. Don Shirley on a concert tour through the Deep South in 1962.

The two men rely on the “Green Book” to guide them to hotels which would accept African Americans. Dr. Shirley is allowed to play classical piano music in white establishments, but he can’t eat or use the bathroom in those same places, as Tony can.

As the two men learn about each other’s worlds, their friendship expands while the racial divide narrows.

My parents always talked about the good old days, slurping up memories like they did root beer floats. We played outside until the streetlights came on. There were no guns, no handheld devices except for my jar of lightning bugs or my father’s iron horseshoes.

This evening, I am searching for my glasses, as I often do of late, so I can find the TV remote. I forget which button shows me the last thing I watched. Ah, here it is. “Blue Bloods.”

“Blue Bloods” contains violence, but I love that the bad guys don’t usually win. Still, there seem to be too many Black perpetrators, not as many bad white guys. Yet what I like is that three generations of the family shout and argue with one another as they sit around the dinner table and hash things out.

Sometimes Dad doesn’t know best, but his own father does. I wish we could all talk more to one another at every dinner table. I wish we could reach out and listen to one another’s stories.

By the way, June Lockhart, who played Timmy’s mother in “Lassie,” is 97 years old now. I wonder what lessons she has learned along the way.


Reach Lisa Graff at Find her on Facebook by searching Our Senior Yearbook; on Twitter @#lisajgraff1 and at her website,



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