Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Television comes to Kingsley

As strange as it might seem to the modern generation, we have not always had television. As a child living in Kingsley the television was a new gadget to many families and many did not have one until well into the 1960s. The radio was the thing that people listened to, programs such as Mrs. Dales Diary, Children’s Hour and, of course, The Archers being some of the popular ones. I suppose it was around the mid to late fifties that the television set started to become a feature in country people’s homes. Small, thick boxes which were connected to large H shaped aerials. In those days it was the norm to rent a television rather than to buy one. To buy a set would have cost a huge amount of money and, I suppose, most Kingsley working people could not afford that sort of outlay. As a result of all of this the average high street began changing as the television rental trade began to take over shops to display the sets on offer. Sets were rented by the month and one of the chief benefits of this system was the fact that a malfunctioning set would be replaced or repaired by the supplier at no cost to the customer. Sets then had tubes, valves and, no doubt, all sorts of other components which, being newly developed were not as reliable as they are today.

Living in Woodfield at the time, the first people within the estate to have a T.V were the Woods in number twelve and the Batty’s in number fourteen. This, of course, was plain for all to see due to the large rooftop aerial which was strapped to the chimney stack.

After a while, it became the norm for friends of the Batty children to go and watch the early evening children’s programs. As Lewis Batty was my best mate, I was one of the small group that benefitted from this invitation. It is a long time ago now, but I think the children’s programs began at something like four thirty or five o’clock and lasted for about an hour until the evening news was broadcast. In any event, our daily visit was much anticipated and Mr. and Mrs. Batty were seen as great people for putting up with us.

The overall television experience was, in itself, totally different from that of the modern coverage. There were, for example, breaks which were known as intermissions. These occurred every so often between programs and seemed to have varying lengths. During such an intermission the viewer was treated to a short film. The one that sticks in my mind is that of a potter and his potter’s wheel. This appeared with alarming regularity and gave the viewer the opportunity to see, in a few minutes, how a lump of clay could be reformed into some sort of pot. Fascinating stuff and all in glorious black and white. Colour was not to arrive upon the television screen for several years.

The other notable difference with the them T.V Coverage was that it stopped at, I think, ten o’clock in the evening. Whatever the time it stopped, it did not provide all night coverage as it does today. In the early days television was the B.B.C. and commercial stations, (I.T.V ), did not appear until much later.

Presenters were then also much different all possessing, as they did, the posh upper class accents which typified the broadcasting industry of the day. No regional accents in those days. I recently saw some old clips from the period and, frankly, the presenters accents seemed to be almost comical. So different from today.
As time moved on the attempts to provide colour began and various experimental screenings were broadcast and the Test Screen, which had previously been made up of lots of black and white blocks, started to include coloured blocks. As far as I recall, the test screen had been a device to aid with the tuning and focus of the T.V. set. At one point, I remember coloured sheets of plastic like material being attached to the front of the T.V screen in order to provide a relief from black and white. These were pretty awful and I don’t think they sold very well. Colour did eventually arrive and, of course, much improved the viewing experience.
Gradually people began buying their sets and the, once popular T.V rental shops, began to die out. Who knows what the future holds, in terms of new technology, but it is probably true to assume that people of my age have lived through the most, and huge,change ever carried out over a comparatively short period of time. Television can now be watched upon all sorts of gadgets, I am told, even smart watches will provide viewing.

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