Growing up, there was always a television in our home, but I never thought about it as some extraordinary piece of technology. To me it seemed a necessity, like other appliances in the house. Alas, talking to my father about his early memories of TV, made me realise that it was a big deal for families to own one in the 60s.
When television was first introduced, dad stated that when they visited their friends’ houses who had one it was really impressive “Wow they have a television we don’t have anything like that in our home”. Dad was 7 years old when his parents could finally afford to purchase one of their own. The TV was placed in their “entertaining” or “visitors” room, which was a space with some chairs. I thought it was quite bazaar when I asked, “did you and your sister fight over who sat on a particular part of the lounge?” Dad responded saying that they didn’t have a lounge, and the term “lounge room” did not even exist in their house. Everybody just sat on chairs when they wanted to watch TV, however they did fight over who got to sit the closest, as they would be in charge of the channel. Moreover, because there were only four channels they were constantly switching between, the knobs on the TV would often be damaged or broken.
Dad and his sister would be glued to the TV as soon as they got home from school, which was about 4pm, and stay there for as long as possible. I found this quite odd as me and my brother had boundaries when watching TV, however dad stated, “as long as we were quiet mum didn’t care how long we watched it for”. Dad and his sister spent the most time with the TV, stating that they watched every single show they could. The only time the family would sit down and watch something together was for the “Sunday night movie”, when classics such as The Sound of Music would air.
Apart from not being allowed to eat in the TV room, there were no other codes of behaviour that existed. I found this interesting, as today when observing younger children in their family home the general consensus is “Stop watching that idiot box and go outside and play”. However in the 60s dad explained that in his family, “The TV was brand new and was to be enjoyed. Nobody bullied us from the television. It was like a big social network – because all the kids at school would talk about all the shows that were on the night before”. It was remarkable that dad had compared watching TV when he was younger to social networking as we know it now. I also found it ironic hearing him say that “nobody bullied us from the television” in contrast to the abundance of cyber bullying today.
With regard to a particular event on TV, the first man on the moon seemed to be dad’s fondest memory. Everybody in his primary school was pulled out of class to see Neil Armstrong take his first steps on the moon. Dad described it as a momentous occasion particularly because the whole school had stopped everything just to watch it on TV. I couldn’t imagine being in school when I was young and going to the hall just to watch something on television. The only time class was disrupted for us was emergencies. But I guess back then the first man on the moon would have been somewhat considered an emergency, being an iconic moment for mankind.
My dad stated one of the things that changed markedly is that back in his era; the TV was the only contact they had with the outside world, and without it they did not know what was happening globally. “It was our way to connect to the rest of humanity, my parents loved the documentaries because they could see parts of the world they have never seen. It was a very fascinating experience”. Furthermore, dad stated that in his generation you tended to believe what you saw on the television as the truth, as it felt like it had more influence and credibility. Now people are growing wise to the fact that it’s just entertainment, whereas before people gave it more value. “Today, we are more educated and figured out that a lot of things on TV are sensationalised to sell airtime and commercials. We are more ‘consumer aware’ than we used to be.”