When Television Was Still Black And White

“You weren’t allowed to sit too close to the TV. You had to sit more than a metre or two metres away because they thought you’d get radiation from it.” – Dad 

It was in the year of 1967 when my father, Simon Bowley, was eight years old that his family first acquired a television. A good, sturdy television; that stood on four, long legs like that of a stool. My father was born in Sydney and spent the first 8 years of his life there before moving to a rural property outside of Tumut where he grew up with 3 siblings.

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Nowadays I spend a lot of mealtimes on the couch watching TV, when my dad was growing up dinners were always held at the dinner table, I’ve noticed this is something my parents tried to maintain as my brother and I grew up. Family dinners are usually the main time we’d all come together and talk so they never really wanted us to eat in front of the TV.

One event my dad most remembers witnessing on TV is the moon landing, which happened when he was ten years old. He and his siblings had just gotten home from school and they all watched it together in awe. At one point when the family TV broke my dad’s father never bothered to replace it for a few years. I was little bit horrified at the thought of surviving without any TV shows for that long but my dad was never that bothered by it. Although he and his siblings would regularly watch television in the afternoon’s it was never a dominant part of their lives.

Living in a rural area there were only two channels, ABC and a local commercial channel, RVN2. The other commercial channels, Win, Ten and Prime Seven were only available in city areas. My dad’s family only watched ABC. As a child he would watch American cartoons after school with his sister and two brothers. Their parents would always say they could only watch half an hour of TV a day, a similar rule I was brought up by. My mum was always very insistent that my brother and I watch no more than one hour of television a day. Of course, like my dad when he was a child, you’d always try and get in more time.

My dad mentioned some of his favourite TV shows growing up, none of which I had heard of; My Favourite Martian, Mister Ed (which my dad referred to as “Ed the talking horse”), Lost In Space. Out of all these unfamiliar titles I was surprised when he mentioned Bewitched because it was a show that was still playing on television when I was a child. As he grew older dad remembers the biggest family show being Countdown, families would watch it every Sunday and embrace this developing idea of celebrity and pop culture.

My dad thinks that the biggest change in television is ‘choice’. With the introduction of VCR people began to have the choice of what to watch, they could record programs and buy movies and watch them whenever they wanted. Today, the concept of choice has increased with online streaming, downloads and Netflix.

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