For someone who was born in the 1930’s, my pop is pretty up to his scratch on the ‘haps’ of the technological world. Don’t be mistaken, he’s not out flying drones or experiencing virtual realities, but he can write, send and receive emails on his laptop, navigate his iPhone with ease, and he just learnt how to scan all on his own. He’s got this whole new generation thing down to a tee if you ask me!
Television was first introduced in Australia in 1956, and so roughly the first 20 years of pop’s life were television free. Yes, boys and girls, that meant they had to go outside to find entertainment, or read the newspaper or listen to the radio to hear the news! How unfortunate are we to have all of that at our fingertips…
…this was better than Christmas to her!
With two daughters, a wife, and a busy construction job that often required him to leave the state and the country for periods of time longer than a month, pop finally went out in 1969 and bought the first family television for their household, ‘I remember Anne-Maree (the oldest) being especially excited, being almost 8, she had numerous friends whose family’s had T.V’s, and this was better than Christmas to her.’
Turnball and Hanson (2015, pp. 151-152) point out that ‘people’s significant memories of television were inextricably bound up with when and where they were at the time, whether this was their particular life-stage or exactly where they were, and with whom,’ I thought it was interesting that pop remembers how excited his eldest was at the newest addition to the house, and so following my conversation with him, I went home and spoke to Anne-Maree (my mother by chance) about her memories in regards to their first television. Her immediate response was, ‘Oh, some of our closest family moments were spent in front of the box!’ That overwhelming feeling of family clearly resonated from both discussions around their shared memories; a true reflection of what Turnball and Hanson noted in their article.
He is quick to point out that the experience was very different to what we (his grandkids he is speaking of here) had as young children. Anne-Maree and Julie were limited to 4 hours per week of television time to start off with, and at least one of their parents had to be with them every time the box got switched on. Unlike now, he says, their choices were very limited, and in order to restrict the fighting either mum or dad would always pick the program. In the words of Milly Buonanno (2008, pp. 14-15), this era was the time of ‘television domestication’, whereby the medium was going through a transitional phase from entertainment source that encouraged people to get out of the house (Buonanno, p. 12) to a domesticated state that saw it as a regular accessory in the family home. This transitional era formed the basis to which we, as members of the 21st century, now know television to be (you would be hard pressed to find a home without at least one on any given street).
Source – giphy.com (Party Legends GIF)
We should have been using the television as a baby-sitter years ago, what were we thinking!
Nan and pop, for example, now have two television sets in their home; one in the main lounge room, and the other in the bedroom (pop tells me he likes to watch the news as he nods off to sleep, but we all now he actually wakes up at 7am to watch the rerun of Bold and The Beautiful from the day before). This is vastly different from his initial viewing experiences, whereby nan and pop would take the couch side by side, whilst Anne-Maree and Julie would occupy the floor. It truly was a family experience. Commenting on the clear difference in his (and his children’s) television memories and experiences and that of my own growing up around the same age as his children, he notes that it is very clear how present it was in our lives. His favourite story to tell was that of a time when my brother and youngest cousin were ‘in a mood’ one day as toddlers whilst being minded by my nan, ‘Nan called your mother up because she just could not get them to calm down from this tantrum they were throwing. Your mother, so calm in her response, simply said “Turn on Bear in the Big Blue House. I guarantee it will shut them up.” Low and behold, on goes the television, down sit the two kids and the house returns to a peaceful state. Your grandmother was so in shock as to how fast the situation changed that she calls me and just says, “We should have been using the television as a baby sitter years ago, what were we thinking!”
Returning to Buonanno’s discussion of the various era’s of television experiences, such is a clear indication of today’s ‘television children’ (2008, p. 14); those that are too young to remember the rarity of the television in the home, and have therefore grown up accustom to the T.V. set(s) being part of the furniture. It is still so intriguing to me, as a member of these television children, to think about how different life would have been with the absence of access to a television so frequently. The overall feeling of family and time spent together truly resonated with me following my discussion, and whilst I have certain memories in which the television and my family shared the same space, those memories are few and far between.
Finishing off our mugs, and heading towards the kitchen to clean them off before heading about our way, pop’s last words on the subject really sum up television memories and the changes in its role in our everyday lives, ‘It’s all well and good to put a television in a room and have everyone sit down and watch a show and share an experience, but nothing replaces sitting in a room with no television and creating an experience that will last as a memory in itself’.
Buonanno, M 2008, The Age of Television: Experiences and Theories, Intellect, Chicago U.S.A.
Hanson, S & Turnbull, S 2015, ‘Affect, Upset and the Self: Memories of Television in Australia’, Media International Australia, vol. 1, no. 157, pp. 12-16.
watvhistory 2009, 52 years of TV in Australia 1956 to 2008, online video, July 1, viewed August 4th 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgLZR2OFntc.