TELEVISION ~ IN THE 1950s
The first time I heard the word television and had it explained to me, I thought that it was a telescope, which would allow one person at a time, to look through it and see moving pictures. I never imagined that it would be a box with a screen, where the family could gather round and view together. There was great excitement in the family when one of my uncles bought one of these magical boxes, we were invited to their house to take a look and I was spellbound. The TV was a Bush, one of the most reliable manufacturers of electrical goods, and the screen was all of nine inches in size, the picture being black and white. Colour television did not appear for the likes of us until the early seventies.
The first programme I watched was Whirligig, it was broadcast on a Saturday afternoon at five oclock, for children. Humphrey Lestoque was the star and he had a puppet companion called Mr Turnip, Humphreys catch phrase was goody goody gum drops. A very trivial catchphrase on reflection, but it caused howls of laughter, from the children and even some of the grown ups.
I can remember my mum nudging my dad, and saying, shall we get one, I held my breath, I could not believe that there was a possibility of us, having one of these wonderful things. I did not hear dads reply, but I was getting quite excited, when we arrived home, out came the reckoning up tin, with the list of dues and demands which were paid each week. Nothing was said, I realised that I wasnt supposed to have heard that remark, so for once, I kept my mouth shut.
A couple of weeks went by and I had started to give up hope that we would have a television set, until one day, mum and dad went into town and came home with the enthralling news that a television would be delivered the following Monday. They had chosen an Alba Console, this meant that it was housed in its own cabinet and served as a piece of furniture. This being Saturday, I could not wait for the next two days to pass, it seemed to be the longest week-end of my life. I rushed in from school, on the Monday and there it was, in all its glory, in the corner of the living room.
It seems hard to believe these days, broadcasting did not start until eight oclock in the evening. We gathered round in breathless anticipation, a clock appeared on the screen, set at five minutes to eight and we waited for the clock to tick to the hour of eight oclock. Spot on the hour, the Announcer appeared, the first one I ever saw was called Macdonald Hobley, there he was dressed like a contestant from the programme, Come Dancing. Complete with black dinner jacket and bow tie, the Lady Announcers who we were to view later in the week, wore full evening dress. They looked as if they were going to a Debutantes Ball, the names I can remember are Sylvia Peters and Mary Malcolm.
The first item was the news, this was a revelation, imagine, film of goings on around the world, in our living room. I know we had seen the Pathe News at the Cinema, but this was so different.
Richard Dimbleby on Election Night.
Richard Dimbleby on Election Night.
Television in those days, was so proper, no swearing or blaspheming, regional accents were banned by the BBC, who incidentally were the only Corporation to broadcast in those days. Everything had to be just so, in fact it was rather snobby, but who cared, when we could switch on a box and people were there inside our home. It was all live broadcasting, no video taped recordings, if someone made a mistake, then it was there for everyone to see. I used to love watching Whats My Line, which was put out on a Sunday evening, it was such a simple panel game. The panel included Gilbert Harding (who was rather crusty and bad tempered), Lady Isobel Barnet, Barbara Kelly (who always wore ear rings which hung down to her shoulders) and Elizabeth Allan. Eamonn Andrews was the Quiz Master, the point of the game was that members of the public, who had unusual jobs, were invited to apply to be on the programme, if they were chosen they would stand in front of the panel and mime a very small part of their job. It was then up to the panel to guess what they did for a living and each were allowed three questions, halfway through, masks were put on and a celebrity would appear, and the panel would have to guess who that celebrity was. It was all so tame and innocent, but I am sure that there wasnt any danger of young minds being corrupted.
I loved the Come Dancing hour, which was broadcast on a Thursday evening, full evening dress were worn by the contestants, the ladies dresses being so voluminous, it was a wonder that their partners could get near to them.
A play was broadcast on Sunday evenings and this was live too, in fact I can remember seeing a man, who had been shot dead, get up and creep on all fours off the set, I can even remember that his name was Harry Towbe an Irish actor. I wonder how many of the readers can remember The Interludes, these last five minutes, the reason for these was to give the viewers the chance to have a cup of tea without missing anything. I loved to watch these two, there was a variety, which seemed to be broadcast in rotation. There was the potters wheel, a kitten playing with wool, men ploughing a field and waves crashing on to rocks, how simple our lives were for us to enjoy viewing these soothing images.
A few photos of TV programmes
Bruce Forsyth and Norman Wisdom (Sunday Night at the London Palladium)
Beat the Clock at the London Palladium
In Town Tonight
Juke Box Jury, a popular show hosted by David Jacobs
Andy Pandy, Looby Lou and Teddy.
Peter Brough with Dummy, Archie Andrews
The Black and White Minstrels.
Annette Mills with her puppet, Muffin the Mule.
Billy Bunter, a favourite Saturday teatime programme
Richard Dimbleby, presenting General Election Night
I cannot remember the exact time that the programmes ended, but the last five minutes were given to The Epilogue, this was a religious end to the evenings viewing. I am pretty certain that the broadcasting finished around eleven oclock, and then that was it, until the next afternoon, when the childrens programmes were broadcast.
music ~ "(A) Habenera"