Let me take you back to a time when my mother was just four years old. Her favourite things to do were carving pictures into rocks and riding her pet dinosaur (juuust kidding, sorry Mum if you ever read this). The year was 1968 and a redbrick house in Sydney’s Sylvania Heights was home to Robyn, her parents, and her 4 siblings, as well as a tortoise, several ducks and even more chickens. Enter the front door of the redbrick house and head towards the back of the home, and you’d come to what Robyn refers to as the sitting room. In that sitting room, all the furniture pointed towards a teak-coloured (apparently teak is a colour, who knew?) television which stood on four long legs. Switch on the TV and you’d be presented with four channels all shown in vivid black and white. To choose between these channels, you would press a long button which would flick between channels – if you miss the channel you want you have to go all the way through the channels again.
It’s crazy to consider how far technology has come in a relatively short amount of time in the scheme of things. Being of an age where I was born into a world that was already immersed in the television culture, it is quite difficult to imagine what life was like back then – life without colour television, let alone Blu-ray discs and 3D viewing. In an attempt to understand and appreciate these earlier times, I spoke to my mother about her memories of the television as a child and how much she has seen technology change. Amongst the countless “I’m 52, how do you expect me to remember!” statements, a real insight into my mother’s life as a child arose.
Robyn recalls sitting on the floor watching the television, as the lounge was only for adults. Shows like Lassie, Gilligan’s Island and Saturday morning cartoons were what Robyn has the most memory of, but she emphasizes that she didn’t spend a lot of time watching television, “When we were children, you had breakfast and you had to go outside, and you would come back inside when the sun went down.” Robyn definitely didn’t spend hours at a time watching television, and unlike her daughter, she most certainly did not procrastinate and watch late night TV (guilty), simply because at around 10 o’clock at night the channels finished and were replaced by “that barcode picture thingy”. Sharing a room with two other sisters, Robyn remembers listening to 2SM on a battery-powered radio as she went to sleep – a fairly rare notion nowadays. Similarly, she speaks happily of the fact that the television shows were much more innocent, simpler and family orientated than today. Shows, according to Robyn, were how you educated yourself, “now you would use the computer, but back then the TV was what you would use, or you’d walk down to the corner phone box to ask someone something. Technology has just come so far.”
A fond memory that Robyn recalls was noticing that every day, without fail, her mother would stop whatever she was doing at 1pm to ensure that she didn’t miss a second of Days of our Lives or The Young and the Restless. But this is what every housewife did apparently; similarly, due to the lack of variety in the shows, every single person watched the same shows, which definitely meant there were opportunities to talk about them outside of TV hours. Robyn speaks of her Grandma who saw the actors on The Days of Our Lives as real people – she was so invested in and connected to the characters that she spoke of them as if she knew them (by the way, thanks The Young and the Restless for the inspiration to my mother to name me the very original and creative name of Ashleigh 😐 ).
The television was not the main focus of the house back then like it is now. Robyn, who started out with one tiny black and white television, now has eight set up in her house. When asked if she preferred the television culture back then or now, Robyn answered “well I don’t want to talk to you guys all the time, so yeah I like that we can all watch TV separately”. Naw thanks Mum ❤ lovely to hear about your childhood.
For a little humour (well my mum thinks it’s funny), check out this great post on what it was like growing up in the 70’s and 80’s – http://www.thesuburbanjungle.com/things-we-did-in-the-70s-and-80s-that-would-horrify-us-now#sthash.zIoge7dq.dpbs