Boomers and television.

An idea that hit me recently was that my generation and a little older, say up to about 65, is the first generation to have had television available from birth. People older than this would have had some time in their life when a television in their home was not a thing.

I quizzed my editorial team (my Mum and step-dad Mauri!) on what they remembered about the introduction of TV and life before the Goggle Box.

Memories of TV’s first years

My own mum and dad used to hire one from Radio Rentals as they were too expensive to buy outright for most families. I was 3 months old when the first TV came into our family home. Before that,  radio serials were a big part of life. With some of the favourites being When a Girl Marries, The Goon Show and Caltex Theatre.

You needed to buy a  license for listening to the radio and watching TV. My mum didn’t pay for hers once and ended up in court!

There were many more cinemas than today. Mauri says:

“The visual appetite was satisfied by the local cinemas. When living at Kogarah we had the choice of Rockdale, Kogarah & Carlton – all within walking distance. Two more at Hurstville weren’t much further away. I can’t remember the entry prices but it must have been affordable because we went quite frequently.”

When TV’s were first introduced they were the focal point of attention. People would stand outside shops and watch with a crowd. Since not all households had a TV, families with them became very popular! If you went to someone’s place, eyes would stay locked on the television and there was no conversation. I remember my paternal Grandfather being glued to the set in his TV room. My brother and I had to tip-toe past and not disturb him.

Transmission time was limited to certain hours and the stations would close down. Even I remember the test pattern! Colour TV came to the Australian market in time for the 1976 Olympics. The first colour transmission on ABC TV (the government-run station) was Aunty Jack.  Aunty Jack is an Australian enigma. You’ll need to see it to believe it!

test pattern

 

These days podcasts step right back in where radio left off. The ability to be freed from a screen while still being entertained is very satisfying. I have added to my list of favourite podcasts.  The most recent addition to my listening library being “A Beautiful Anarchy”.

Back in the 1950s TV was the big disrupter. A technology that no doubt caused many people to lament the state of future generations.  We talked about “square eyes” in the same way we are now concerned about screen time.

These days I watch very little “TV” as in free to air shows. I do use the TV for streaming of shows on subscription services like Netflix. We no longer have to wait a week for the next installment of a series, as we can watch on-demand. In fact, many people wait until the whole season is available and binge-watch it. Many shows are released all in one go for just this express purpose. I wrote about some of my favourites in a previous post.

YouTube has become the instruction manual for so many aspects of our lives. Need to know how to change the seal in your washing machine? You’ll find 50 different versions.

The internet has meant that we have the ability to create our own version of TV. This is good and bad. It gives people a voice but also means that some of the loudest voices are the ones that mean to do us harm. It also means we get to hear about things that perhaps others would like us not to hear. It’s power to the people, use it wisely!

 

Australia’s Day? Mini-Doc 4

Should we change the day we celebrate Australia Day?

This clip was taken down at Wollongong Harbour on Australia Day 2020. While offering no answers, it raises the question “is the 26th of January the best day for celebrating our nationhood?”

Should we choose a different date or should we commemorate it in a different way?

 

All footage on iPhone SMAX edited using iMovie and Spark Video on my phone.

You can find lots of information about this issue. This SBS News clip is a good place to start.

Ob-la-Di-Ob-la-Da: bringing up memories

It’s funny how your memory gets sparked and where that memory will take you. Down rabbits holes of forgotten actions, people and secrets.

When I saw words Ob-la-Di-Ob-la-Da tattooed on the arm of a colleague, it made me fly back to 1969 when I was in Year 3, eight years old, blond and tiny. It took me back to the time when eighty students crowded around a  TV borrowed from the local department store to watch the moon landing. It took me back to playing elastics and jacks. To skipping ropes and sour milk.

roby n on a scooter
Scans of a scanned 35mm slide – terrible quality – but heh! It’s a pump-up scooter!!

Those particular words from that jaunty little Beatles tune brought back a mix of fun, embarrassment and guilt

The Fun Bit.

My class was preparing to sing Ob-la-Di-Ob-la-Da for the weekly assembly. This was a BIG deal! We had been rehearsing with our hip and gorgeous teacher Mr Chinner for weeks and weeks. Our class, 3A, were doing a new song! A chart-topper! Not a choir of screeching descant recorders, but a grooooovy Beatles hit! It was a top-secret mission. We were not allowed to tell anyone! We were asked to bring a towel to wear around our shoulders like a Mexican poncho.

The Embarrassing bit.

Because I was small, I was scheduled to be in the front row. Because we were sworn to secrecy, I didn’t tell my mum why we needed the towel. Thinking it was for art clean-ups, and without a better explanation from me, she gave me a faded tatter of a towel. When Groovy Mr Chinner saw my faded rag, I got relegated to the back row. I couldn’t see over the tops of the bigger kids. My bubble was well and truly burst. I felt humiliated by my family’s lack of bright Mexican-like towels.

The Guilty Bit

In the same class, but in a different episode, I am simultaneously ashamed and amused to confess that I committed a fraudulent act. Our class had been chosen to go on an excursion to the Herald’s newspaper printing factory. Only 25 could go although our class had 43 students. In the spirit of fairness, Mr Chinner decided to pull the names out of a hat.  As the names were called out, the lucky ones were clapping their little hands with glee. In the middle of all the excitement, the end of the day bell rang and the draw was not completed. It was declared that it would continue the next school day – Monday. I was heartbroken that my name had not yet been called out and even back then I realised the odds were not looking good.

When we returned after the weekend, Mr Chinner admitted he had forgotten to write down the names of the children who had been pulled out and no longer had the strips of paper. He asked us to raise our hands if we had been selected.

A few classmates put their hands up confidently. As I looked around at the remaining faces of my peers and saw them faltering.  They either couldn’t remember or they didn’t seem too fussed about whether they went or not. I took my chance, I shot my hand in the air. Mr Chinner wrote my name on the list.

robyn on water
Again a scanned scan – from around 1969

For the next few days, I expected to be challenged. For someone to remember that my name had never been called out and that I was a fraud, that I had lied. No one did. I went on the excursion and had a fabulous time. This is only the second time I have revealed this story! The first time was to the tattoo owner! (Sorry mum another thing you didn’t know!)


I guess Mr Chinner could still be out there. I have never forgotten him. He was young in 1969. Perhaps he’s out there, somewhere between 80-100 years old, thinking about his time as a teacher. I know he won’t remember me. There are too many children that pass through a teacher’s life. Even so, Mr Chinner, I apologize for my deceit.

As I look back on him and the lessons he taught us, I realize I don’t remember the specifics of one single scrap of the maths or spelling or grammar he may have taught us.

But I do remember the moon landing.

I do remember his laugh.

And I remember being a faded Mexican con man.