It’s Wednesday night and my Mum, Nan and myself are all out for dinner.
My Nan, Wendy is 68 years old; she spent her childhood years growing up in Port Macquarie as the middle child of 3.
While in middle of our meal I look at my Nan and say
“I would like to ask you about your TV experiences during your childhood”.
My Nan begins to laugh, as many memories come flooding back to her. Nan first reminds me that when she lived in Port Macquarie in the late 1950’s, her family was one of the first to own a television and in those days they were a ‘luxury item’ and people would only own one.
I immediately chuckled as I’ve grown up with at least 2 or more in the house and had my own TV since I was about 13.
I ask what made her laugh and Nan tells me the story of her Dad, my great grandfather or Poppy as I’ve always known him, would create his own colour TV. I look at my Mum; both of us puzzled, we both look back at Nan and ask to explain. She reminds us, well me, that TV was only ever in black and white back then. “Poppy would use cellophane over the TV screen for colour, blue cellophane for the sky, green for grass and red for soil or ground”. Nan recalls it not working very well but it was very amusing. We all laugh as it seemed rather dodgy, though it was inspiring that my Pop was like an innovator of sorts, making TV in colour and not just accepting black and white picture.
My next question to Nan was about the TV viewing habits of the household. She starts by telling me that because TV’s were a ‘luxury item’ not many families owned one. So people would stand outside electronic stores like Harvey Norman and watch the TV’s through the window and there would be a loud speaker so people could hear them. We all found that to be a strange and unusual thing, that you couldn’t imagine people doing today, though it still does if you think of the new iPhone or iWatch. Their family had one of the first TVs in Port Macquarie and Nan remembers that after school all her and her siblings’ friends would come over and watch TV for hours.
“At least 20 kids would be in the living room until dinnertime” said Nan, “Then after dinner and the kids were gone the family would gather around and continue TV watching”.
“Who was in charge of the remote?” I asked.
“There is no remote Thomas!”
“You had to get up and turn the switch” Nan laughingly said.
This is a great example of Gen Y person being naive to previous technology. After being rather embarrassed I asked Nan what TV shows she remembers watching. This is quite surprised me. Nan explained that there were a lot of American TV programs. Her favourite shows being the ‘Mickey Mouse Club’ and ‘Leave it to Beaver’. “A lot of traditional family TV shows, which focused on the typical nuclear family. These shows were designed to be uplifting and hold traditional family values which people needed after the War.”
We notice that this was sort of the start of ‘Americanisation’ of Australian Culture, which we are so immersed in now and barely take note. Nan’s biggest highlight was watching the 1956 Melbourne Olympics on TV. The first time anyone had seen the Olympics onscreen. She laughs at the simplicity of the footage as it would be nothing compared to the coverage of today’s standards but back then it was a big thing.
Nan then describes another of her favourite shows ‘The Black and White Minstrel Show’. She described it as a British sketch show, where the white people would sing and dance while dressed up in blackface.
I nearly choked on my food. “What?!” I said.
“It was one of the most popular shows of the time” Nan replied.“The family would all sit down and all watch the minstrels”
My Mum and I both cringe and reflect on how inappropriate it would have been. However it gave us a good laugh for the rest of the night, and reminded us at how simple and insensitive television audiences were back then.
TV was primitive was back in the 50’s and audiences were only watching television for the first time.