Are you sitting comfortably? then we'll begin. Familiar words to anyone of a certain age. How many children remember the day their dad brought home the family's first ever little box in the corner?
Over the past few weeks Alan Keeling and others have been keeping us entertained with memories of TV programmes from a bygone era. See how many characters you can remember from his latest installment. Roll the tape!
"In the fifties, shows that featured jungle heroics such as Ramar of the Jungle, African Patrol and the never to be forgotten Jungle Boy, appeared in the very early ITV schedules." Alan writes. "However, in 1959, American 'B' movie actor Rhodes Reason starred in the 39-episode half hour series called White Hunter, co-starring his native bearer side-kicks, Harry Baird and Earl Cameron. Shot in black and white, and on location in Africa and at the Twickenham Film Studios, it was produced by ITP and Bernard L. Shubert. Rhodes Reason, who played John Hunter (based on a real life hero) was also the hero of many a young whippersnapper at the time as he was the fastest shot in Africa, I think possibly a spill over from the wild west. At the end of each episode, when Hunter had once again saved the day, he turned face on to the camera and said, 'Until next week, good luck and good hunting!'
"As a youngster growing up in the early sixties, I enjoyed ATV's re-runs of their 1954 swashbuckling series, Adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel, which I have to admit I enjoyed more than Richard Greene's Robin Hood. Although I expect the Robin Hood signature tune, Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen, springs to mind quite easily. The Scarlet Pimpernel series was made a year before ITV went on air for the first time, and was made by Rayant Films and Towers of London Productions. The main character, Sir Percy Blakeney, was played by a youthful Marius Goring, with Patrick Troughton (later Dr Who) as his delightful sidekick Sir Andrew Foulkes. It originally began on the wireless and in the end only 18 episodes were produced for British television viewers, but second time round (yes I know they were repeats) they were just as good, so I've been told. Based on Baroness Orenzy's novel, our hero adopted various disguises whilst rescuing British aristocrats from 'Madame' Guillotine. Some notable appearances were made by Robert Shaw, Christopher Lee and Peter O'Toole. In the Midlands it was one of the first shows broadcast by ATV in 1956, and was last screened in 1963.
"The immortal pen of James Fenimore Cooper brings you thrilling tales of excitement and blazing action on the early American frontier. Stirring adventures filled with the daring and courage of Hawkeye, first of the long rifles, and his blood brother Chingachgook, last of the Mohicans. And so began another half-hour episode in the Hawkeye series starring former 'B' movie serial actor John Hart in the leading role and Lon Chaney Jr. as the last of the Mohicans and sworn enemy of the Huron Indians. Set in the 1750's, every show involved the pair in perilous adventures that had us young 'uns on the edge of our seats. There were 39 episodes in total, the first, the pilot show, was filmed in Hollywood, and the others were shot in Canada with the co-operation of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, distributed by ITC. When Hawkeye was screened on ATV in 1957 it had a 7pm slot and was later shown by ABC on Sunday afternoons as part of the 'ABC Family Hour' The last time it appeared on independant television was in 1967/68, and in 1996 I had the pleasure of meeting the one and only John Hart at a 'B' western movie convention at Rowley Regis College.
"Ahoy there, shipmates, became a familiar phrase on ATV in the Midlands when Popeye hit the small screen for the first time in October 1958. The old Paramount Studio's Popeye cartoons were produced by Max Fleisher, and came direct from the Aston studios in Birmingham, hosted by actor and Wolverhampton landlord Gerald Cuff.
"For his role as host Gerald smoked a pipe (just like Popeye), sported a nautical beard, and wore a peaked-cap and a navy polo-neck sweater. He became as familiar as the cartoon character himself and was soon nick-named 'The Bosun'. Many kids would tune in just in case he read out messages and birthday greetings to them on the air, and occasionally he would demonstrate the art of putting a ship into a bottle and tieing nautical knots. Popeye had a 5.25 pm slot on Monday afternoons following Seeing Sport, and ran succesfully until the middle of 1962. The old cartoons were repeated over and over again and subtly mixed in with the later ones, but because the cartoon was so popular there were never any complaints."
Remember Popeye's battle with the termites, the insects that were determined to eat him out of house and home? Everyone has their favourite Popeye moment. Between 1933 and 1958 two hundred Popeye cartoons were made for the cinema. Then between 1960 and 1963 King Features produced 220 more Popeye cartoons for television which were shown on ATV in 1969/70, but they never seemed to live up to the original. So long, shipmates.
We hope you've all enjoyed reliving your childhood viewing, and please let us know here at the Bugle your own treasured memories of early television. In the meantime, Ron Southall-Owen has done just that, writing from Lawley Road in Bilston:
"The 'television of yesterday' item brought back many fond memories to me. My late father Harry, who was fondly known as 'Mr Bilston' and has had several articles printed in the Bugle, was possibly one of the first people to have a television set in Bilston. My earliest memories of the little box in the corner include series such as Robin Hood with Richard Greene, Ivanhoe starring Roger Moore, William Tell and Sir Lancelot. There were also classic westerns like Sugar Foot Bronco, Have Gun will Travel, and Cheyenne. Then there were the comedy shows like The Larkins starring Peggy Mount, The Army Game, and who could forget Bootsie and Snudge?
These days there are plenty of pop music shows throughout a myriad of channels to choose from. In the 'good' old days there were Oh Boy, Wham, Juke Box Jury, Thank Your Lucky Stars, and of course Ready, Steady, Go. Finally, one of my favourite children's shows was called Five o'Clock Club, and was broadcast when I was aged about fourteen. It was hosted by Muriel Young and featured the guitar legend Bert Weedon who appeared on every show. I still correspond with Bert, who has just celebrated his 86th birthday. Now, whatever happened to TV announcers Pat Asley and Jean Morton?"