Exploring the tapestry of memories of television across your blogs this week has been really enjoyable. I’ve noticed that there was only one television in many homes and it was regarded as a most desirable object to have. Control of it was an indicator of authority.
Children were often allocated floor space or lower, casual seating in front of the television to view it. Seating was limited in rooms unprepared for the arrival of a new technology and item of furniture. Seating and spatial relations communicated a hierarchy as did being assigned the task of getting up to change channels.
Eliza spoke with Mary who as a child in the 1950s recalled:
“Mum and Dad would watch the ABC news whilst we did the dishes, so we had no say in what we wanted to watch!”
Lauren’s conversation unveiled an early tradition of pay per view:
“With no ‘tele’ in their own home, Marji along with 3 of her brothers were sent across the street to their neighbours’ house who did. For Thruppence, Mrs Preston would allow them to watch television with her and her 5 kids, ‘we paid for 3 kids and got the 4th kid free’.
As ‘a bit of a dictator’, Mrs Preston sat in the biggest chair and had complete control of the channels, as the 9 kids laid, shoulder to shoulder on the floor of the 8 feet by 8 feet room; ‘That was a big room in those days!’Marji exclaims.
‘God forbid if one of us spoke’ Marji added.”
Sam’s conversation with Justine glossed a lot of the prevalent themes:
“The actual television didn’t have a remote which meant all operations required someone to walk over to it. It was situated in the living room that was really only used for television watching. The space had decorative items around it and it also hosted the family telephone on the top. This was the single tv of the house and the act of sitting down and watching a program wasn’t an everyday thing.
It was dominated by the parents of the household. The kids weren’t allowed to watch it leisurely without the presence of the Mum and Dad. She clearly remembers Sunday being a day where the family would gather as a collective and watch the afternoon football followed by programming such as The Sullivan’s or Little House On The Prairie. The tv had to be controlled via the sides as there wasn’t a remote control option. The lounges weren’t used by the children they had to gather around the floor in front of it only the parents would have chairs.”
Maddi gleaned from Sue:
“We only ever had one television, which was in the main room. It was a stand-alone piece of furniture, in those days it came on legs.”
“To change the channel you had to turn a knob and we all argued about whose turn it was to get up and change the channel. We drove our parents nuts.”
Many conversations revealed a polarity of vast amounts of time spent playing outdoors in a spread space and short amounts of time gathered indoors around the television and the feeling of closeness experienced. Television was a part of family culture. Watching television together enabled bonding.
Gianna’s mother in the United States fondly recalled that:
“She loved when they all gathered in the family room to watch something together. It was fun and relaxing for her, and she would sit either on the couch or one of the colorful beanbags, red, orange, or green.”
Kerrie informed Jade of the practices she remembers like yesterday:
“Watching the TV with her sister Zoey and her grandparents was often the family bonding time…eating tea, drawing the curtains at 5:30pm, sharing a bath with Zoey and then coming downstairs to snacks while watching the TV.”
Sports viewing, especially football finals, was well remembered by many males. For some, following a football team and watching them play in a final created a sense of a more Australian identity.
Tracy’s father Alex remembered choosing his team at age 7 after seeing them win a final on a grainy black and white television.
“Much of my father’s television memories involved watching his beloved Roosters play, including one year where they lost the final and he stormed out of the house.”
Matt’s dad vividly recalls seeing his team the Sea Eagles win the final on a friend’s newly acquired color television in 1976.
So many themes emerged in this lovely collection of television memories you’ve created. The number is too great to weave them all into this post. Rather than go on, I’ll close with an observation of your writing on this topic.
Many of you noted the happiness that welled up in your elders as they shared their television memories and their positive regard for television and its place in their lives.There was a reflexive element to the way you shared their stories and recognised that their view was different to your own.
Binaisha commented on the emotion conveyed by her father:
“What struck me the most about this conversation was the level of excitement felt when getting a new television or the anticipation felt when being able to sit down and watch a whole TV show from start to finish. Compared to how I view television, living in 2016, the enthusiasm once associated with television does not exist anymore.”
This remark by Tracy sums the sentiment of many of you, as story gatherers, well:
“How my generation sees television compared to my dad’s generation is interesting.The TV allowed them to see the world. Today, it’s usually the last place we look.”