Nowadays children take television for granted, but I’ll never forget the day when we got our first set. Of course I was just a young lad living in England then, in fact it happened at a fairly exciting time in my life. I may have mentioned before that times were pretty tough for our family when I was young, I recall at this time my mom sitting up all night knitting me a suit for the school ball. She could not afford to buy me a new one and even though she ran out of blue wool and had to knit one sleeve and one trouser turn up in pink, I was still extremely proud as I set off on the 18 mile walk to school, halfway there it started to pour down with rain and soon my woolen trousers grew so long that I could not walk in them, eventually I had to remove them and throw them in a hole by the side of the road. Luckily, by this time my jacket had grown so long that it reached the ground and it all turned out to be a great evening, I was later voted “The boy least likely to succeed at anything he attempted” which was a huge honour.
The next morning at breakfast my dad was reading the newspaper, I could not help but notice the headline “15 foot long pair of trousers found in hole, Police are looking into it“. All of a sudden my dad stood up and told us to expect a big surprise that evening, I was a little bit concerned because the last big surprise I had was when I came home from school and found we had moved house and no one had bothered to tell me. Still, we were very excited when dad came home that night carrying a large cardboard box. He opened it to reveal a brand new television set, I was amazed, in fact at the time I was toasting a slice of bread on a fork in front of the fire and I got so excited that I fell in, burning my index finger so severely that doctors feared I would never play the flute again.
Of course we could not actually get a picture because we could not afford an antenna, but that did not stop us and every evening we would gather around and watch the blank screen. My mom would only let us watch for 2 hours per night as she had read that watching for too long was bad for the eyes.
These were great times for the family, sometimes my mom would make one of her famous stews, we could not afford meat but she would stew a whole load of veggies and then dangle our pet cat Gerald in the pot for a few moments to add a bit of flavour. Mind you, great though these times were, they were nothing compared to when we actually got an antenna. We would sit and watch all of the latest shows like “Emergency Ward 10” and “Dixon of Dock Green”.
Sometimes we would turn the TV on, and about 10 minutes later when the picture arrived , we would turn it back off again just so we could watch the little white dot slowly fade away in the middle of the screen.
Of course it was not much fun for the person stuck in the attic. In England you must have a TV license and since we could not afford one, one of us kids would sit in the attic and take it in turns watching out for the TV Detector Van, through a hole in the roof.
Nowadays most sets are pretty big, but in those early black and white picture days, we could only afford a 6 inch screen. After a while my dad had a brainwave and bought a huge magnifying glass and one of us would stand behind the TV and hold the glass over the front. This worked brilliantly and with the sound turned right up, it was probably one of the first Home Theatres. Of course this was the sort of Pommy ingenuity that won us Two World Wars, a Eurovision Song Contest and the 1966 World Cup.
So, that’s how t.v. started for me and I’ve got to say the novelty soon wore off for us kids, what with one of us stuck in the attic, and another having to stand behind the telly, we didn’t actually get to watch it much.