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Monday, 7 February 2011

Radio & TV: 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History - Week 6

This is the sixth challenge in a weekly series from GeneaBloggers called 52 weeks of personal genealogy and  history, suggested  by Amy Coffin,  that invite genealogists to record memories and insights about their own lives for future descendants.  Week 6 - Radio and TV

Calling all British bloggers - do you let me know if these memories strike a chord with you? 

There could only be one key memory of radio in my childhood- "Listen with Mother" with its phrase "Are you sitting comfortably, then I'll begin" - with 15 minutes of a story and rhyme, sitting on my mother's knee;  closely followed by Saturday morning's "Children's Favourites" with Uncle Mac - singing along to such music as:

The Owl and the Pussy Cat, sung by Elton Hayes, 
There was an Old Lady who swallowed a fly, and Big Rock Candy Mountain  sung by Burl Ives,
The Animals went in Two by Two 
Nelly the Elephant, sung by Mandy Miller  (my favourite)
Happy Wanderer
The Runaway Train went over the Hill
The Laughing Policeman.
Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace

I remember sitting at  Saturday or Sunday lunch with Family Favourites (Cliff Michelmore and Jean Metcalfe) playing requests for soldiers  in BFBO  (I loved the sound of reciting those initials for British Forces Stationed Abroad).  Later years brought the comedy  programmes such as Hancock's Half Hour and The Navy Lark.  Sunday was a favourite  radio night for the family with popular classics on Melodies for You, Sunday Half Hour (hymns) and 100 Best Tunes.  

1953 was the year television came to our house in the shape of a small 10inch screen Bush set , so we could watch the Queen's Coronation on June 2nd.  There was only one channel and broadcasts were generally just in the evening, introduced by the announcers in dinner jackets (Macdonald Hobley) and evening dress (Sylvia Peters and Mary Malcolm) - talking  what seemed very pucka la-di-da accents to someone from the North of England. If we switched on too early we got the test card with the little girl with long hair in the centre.  The interludes were as much a delight - the potter's wheel, or horses ploughing a field.

 Children's TV seemed to centre on puppets - Muffin the Mule and Sooty (with the spin off toys as  Christmas present).   I must surely have been too old for Andy Pandy,  and Bill and Ben the Flower Pot Men, but perhaps saw them with my brother.   The  forerunner of family soaps The Grove Family and The Appleyards were also favourites;  as were  were Billy Bunter's Schooldays (I had a crush on  Bob Cherry), George Cansdale from London Zoo on Looking at Animals, and Crackerjack, with its Double or Drop challenge
Mum, Dad, Chris & myself c. 1954

Saturday and Sunday were treats in that we had tea on the trolley around the television to watch such programmes as the Lone Ranger (Tonto and Hiya Silver!) and Circus Boy - my brother's favourites, and All Your Own presented by Huw Weldon and introducing talented youngsters.  

Then there were the memorable  BBC  Sunday serials which we enjoyed so much as a family and which fostered my love of history, costume  and reading the classics - Children of the New Forest, David Copperfield, Nicholas Nickelby, Tale of Two Cities,  Great Expectations, Count of Monte Chrsto, Railway Children, Pride and Prejudice, Worzel Gummidge. Robin Hood, Emil and the Detectives, Robin Hood, and the Silver Sword - which  told   the story of children caught up in Poland during the war - a time close enough to have meaning of what living during the war must have been like.  

When the new ITV channel first came on the scene, our old television could not receive it, so I missed out on the school gossip of the previous night's Emergency Ward Ten and Coronation Street, though once we got a new set, I later became fans along with the other soap Compact, set on a woman's magazine - I was an avid follower of that.

Programmes I remember from my teenage years:
Z Cars  (Jock Weir my favourite)
Billy Cotton's Bandshow 
Black and White Minstrels (now very politically incorrect,  but I enjoyed the music, singing and dancing)  
What's My Line
Eric Robinson's Music For You.
Francis Durbridge Detective Stories
This is Your Life
Sunday Night at the London Palladium
Man from Uncle (David McCallum my favourite)
Opportunity Knocks (with my father often said to look like Hughie Green)
Eurovision Song Competition where we were impressed with presenter Katie Boyle speaking French)
Gripping modern drama which seemed either to be Welsh miners trapped underground, or a plane about to crash with the crew going down with food poisoning and a passenger saving the flight.  
Comedy such as Charlie Drake, Hancock's Half Hour, Likely Lads, Morecombe and Wise  
For my brother - Doctor  Who.
For myself - classical ballet, especially at Christmas  - seeing Margot Fonteyn, Svetlana Beriosova, Nadia Nerina, Nicholai Faderechev (the names just roll off my tongue!)   

American programmes came into vogue:
Doctor Kildare
Phil Silvers

Dick van Dyke Show
Jack Benny Show
George Burns and Gracie Allan
I love Lucy
Perry Como Show

The BBC was the natural channel for current affairs and we always had the news on and special coverage to see Yuri Gargarin, the first man in space, the Amercan space launches, and ocean splash downs;  major events such as royal weddings, funeral of Sir Winston Churchill,  Aberfan disaster, assassination of John F. Kennedy. Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. By the time of the first man in the  moon, we set the alarm to get up during the middle of the night to see the "first step", and then dashed into the garden to look up at the moon in the sky.

Two programmes my father absolutely refused to have on were the new satirical comedy show  "That was the Week that Was" and irreverent comedy Till Death Us Part  - the previews were enough for him to ban them.  He always had to watch Panorama - until they were showing a programme on maternity care  when he suddenly decided this was not family viewing.  

Pop Culture passed me by and I was never into it,  though I remember 6.5 special and Top of the Pops. Of course everything I saw was in black and white, and  I did not see colour TV until 1970 which I think was when it reached Scotland.

But I was enough of a TV teenage child to compile a scrapbook, with cuttings from the "Radio Times "of cast lists and photographs of my favourite actors and performers to pour over and admire!  


  1. Happy times Sue. I recall many of the programmes you talk about so fondly. Think I have mentioned some of the same ones. However TV in our house didn't arrive until about 1960 from what I can remember.

  2. I remember Watch With Mother, Andy Pandy and later Dr Who (too scary) and Blue Peter. Mum liked The Golden Shot (with Bob Monkhouse) and let us stay up to watch Star Trek with her, if we were good. I didn't like Star Trek, but I liked to be allowed to stay up :-) Jo


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