My mother was 8 years old when her family first got a television. The year was 1965 and she was living on a farm outside of North Star, NSW. My mother’s family had a television even before the transmission had begun to that area. So instead of watching television shows, they watched the test pattern. My mum and her three siblings at the time would sit on the floor in front of the television and be entertained by black and white shapes on the screen.
When the transmission was finally turned on, my mother and her siblings would still sit in front of the television with as much anticipation as they did for the test pattern, only this time they were actually watching shows.
In the 60s, television was much simpler than today. There were only two channels, ABC and the local station from Tamworth, NEN.
My mother had a great time listing off the shows she watched as a child. Adventure Island, Kimba The White Lion (which I remember watching on VCR as a child), Bewitched and multiple different game shows. But a young Maria mostly remembers when westerns filled the TV schedule.
When I asked her if she ever watched TV somewhere other than home when she was a child, she mentioned motel rooms, and the one that was most interesting to me, in shop windows. I can’t comprehend having TVs playing in shop windows these days. Today, TVs are displayed in the back of the electronics shop, mounted on the walls or on stands and surrounded by countless amounts of other TVs, each one bigger than the next.
My mother didn’t watch much television though, for about half an hour in the afternoon and then again after their nightly bath until it was dinner time. Bedtime for my mother and her siblings was 7:30, except for on Thursdays when they were allowed to stay up until 8 and the whole family would sit together and watch Bonanza. This wasn’t the only time that television shaped the daily routine of my mother’s family. On Fridays, they were allowed to turn the TV around to face the table in the kitchen, and while they ate their fish fingers they would watch Gilligan’s Island. (In those days, everybody ate fish on Fridays).
When my mother’s family got their TV, the layout in their loungeroom changed, from everything facing the radio on the fireplace, to everything now facing the TV.
My mother’s television experience changed when she moved to boarding school in Rose Bay. After dinner at 6:30, 100 or so girls would run upstairs to get the best spot in front of a tiny TV, all elbowing and pushing each other. Here, they would watch Belle Bird for an hour before it was time for study. This was the only time the girls at school would watch TV, one hour a day. It almost seems unimaginable now.
One thing that did stay with me after interviewing my mother (who later became a primary school teacher) was the fact that in schools, television was used as a teaching tool. Play School was played, as well as other educational programs. She says these days they just download all of their media.
Some of the things mum told me about her television experience as a child, I can’t even imagine in my head. It was just a different world. To think that people used to be so impressed by black and white shapes on a screen, and now people get bored watching TV shows and need to follow along with Facebook and Twitter. TV channels have even created apps so people can follow along! The whole television experience is just different now.