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"They let me watch the
Coronation - it was amazing"

By Black Country Bugle User  |  Posted: May 04, 2006

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The article "The little box in the corner" published in Bugle 712, has switched on a few reader's memories, in particular Mrs Eva Warr from Smethwick and Alan Keeling from Oldbury.

Eva immediately recognised the Ekco 14" console in the illustration.

"The article about early television sets brought back memories of the first one we ever had." she said. "When the family lived in Sydenham Road, Smethwick, we only had a wireless set which was rented from British Relay for one shilling and sixpence a week. It was a box that we hung on the wall with just one knob to turn to the two available channels. I regularly listened to 'Woman's Hour'.

"In 1953, the year of the Coronation, the shop on the corner of Mafeking Road and Lewisham Road was owned by Mr Norman Davis and his wife, and they had a 74 gns. Ekco console on display. The Queen was being crowned and they let me watch; it was amazing. My late husband, Len, decided to rent one from Relay who had just started to bring them out. At first we had a 9" television which rested quite happily on top of the sideboard, but later we changed to a bigger screen which meant an extra piece of furniture as it had to stand on independent legs. I remember every time it went wrong the engineer would come out, even on Christmas Day. It was always the same man, a chap who had ginger hair. When the independent channels were first launched we didn't know how to get the signal, but someone told us to turn a little knob at the back of the set, and sure enough we got a picture. I remember programmes such as 'William Tell', 'Robin Hood', and 'No Hiding Place', and those darned advertisements. I believe the first ever broadcast was for Gibbs toothpaste. Notwithstanding, we were enthralled and to a certain extent the little box in the corner began to take over our lives. How times have changed now, with wide screen, surround sound and all sorts of other technological wizardry.

"I wonder if I may comment on a letter in the same Bugle issue, but on a different subject. There was a mention of Subscription Lending Libraries (Octagon Library). In the 1940s I joined one situated on Cape Hill, Smethwick, opposite the bank, which is now Wetherspoons. It cost 6d. a week and all the covers were beige in colour with the name Octagon printed on the front. I think you were allowed two books at a time."

Back to the goggle-box memories, and Alan Keeling remembers the test cards which filled television screens for several hours every day.

"In the early 1950s, housewives doing their daily shopping in the high street would always be drawn to television screens in Civic or Radio Rentals shop windows, etc., not by any programmes that were showing, but by the famous test card, there to assist the engineer when he came round to tweak the set or get a better reception. Those lucky enough to have a TV at home would of course have experienced the same service. Another screen logo was broadcast by the B.B.C. and later I.T.A. out of programme hours during morning and afternoon period, for the sake of viewers and dealers to adjust and test the receivers. For bored housewives, the music transmitted during these close down periods was pretty good too."

The Queen's Coronation in 1953 had been the catalyst to bring a television into many a home for the very first time, a revolution that would change social habits forever. As early as 1950 one of the national newspapers said, "If you let a TV through your door, life will never be the same again." In those early days television was still very much an after work activity. There was little in the way of daytime TV, and programmes ended on the stroke of eleven o'clock. There also existed the strange and deceptive interlude known as the "toddler's truce". But there were some daytime programmes of which 'Watch with Mother' was a firm favourite with younger children. The weekly schedule was as follows: Monday Picture Book; Tuesday Andy Pandy; Wednesday Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men; Thursday Rag, Tag and Bobtail; and Friday The Woodentops - and everyone had their favourite.

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