The Elridge home is typical of that of many young families. Children squeal with laughter, rejoined by the playful barking of a friendly dog. Everyone—including dad Colmon, mom Victoria, Colmon Jr., 4, and Carter, 2—enjoys activities like puzzles, games, books, and computers. And of course there’s television, tuned most frequently to KET—a place where the elder Colmon spent a good deal of his time in a curiosity-driven childhood.
“KET, for my sister and I, was just a very transformative reality,” said Elridge, 32, a graduate of Transylvania University and Eastern Kentucky University who now works as an executive assistant to Gov. Steve Beshear.
“We moved to Kentucky in 1990, my father had just passed away, and we didn’t know anyone here. We had four channels,” he remembered. “And we fell in love with KET. It was a great place to go and not be ashamed to learn and not be picked on.”
The family, adrift after several moves, settled in Cynthiana, where Elridge attended school, watched Zobilee Zoo with his sister, Colene, and studied The Frugal Gourmet and This Old House at the behest of his mother, Claudia, who had a new life to carve out for her family.
“Colene and I understood, more than my mother maybe even knows, the struggle,” he said. “But we never felt we were just set in front of a TV—we just got lost in the world that was being presented to us.
“We have a saying in our family, ‘Even in tragedy, opportunities are there.’ As traumatic as it was, losing our father, it was a blessing being here in Kentucky where we found KET.”
So it was natural for Colmon and Victoria, a KET kid herself, to introduce their sons to KET’s educational children’s programs, where the boys have found favorites in Dinosaur Train and SuperWHY.
“It’s a part of our life now,” Elridge observed, remembering the moment he witnessed his elder son making his first connection to written language while watching KET.
“The first time Colmon has ever seen me cry was watching him watch SuperWHY,” he said, emotional still at the memory. “He got up close to the screen and spelled what they spelled and turned to me and told me what it said. It was just a flood of emotions.”
Educating their children with the help of KET was a deliberate parenting choice, Elridge said.
“It’s on before school and on weekends,” he said. “In terms of our parenting and our interaction with our kids, KET is definitely a priority.”
And it’s natural, he said, remembering his own mother’s emphasis on KET.
“I loved history and my mom [made sure] I watched the Ken Burns documentary The Civil War. I not only had to watch it, but she quizzed me the next day over what I’d seen!” he recalled with a laugh. He then found more programs that captured him as a teen.
“Frontline gave me an appreciation of not only history but the current state of the world. If I look at where my interests have come from and what’s guided my career path, a lot of that was shaped by KET,” he said.
“My love of history came from KET. It gave me an appreciation of history and the current state of the world. My life was shaped by KET.”