I am writing this on June 2, the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation. Now I am not one for great royal occasions but I make an exception in this case for the miracle that was going on in darkened living rooms all round the land.
The Coronation of 1953, more than any other event, brought the ‘goggle box’ to homes throughout Falkirk and after that nothing was ever quite the same again.
The funeral of King George VI in February 1952 was the start of television in Scotland and, as the service expanded, along came expensive TV sets and strange ‘H’ shaped aerials appeared on roofs across the town.
It was a pretty costly business at first and not many ordinary working people could join the new age. My uncle in Merchiston Avenue managed it, though how I don’t know - maybe he robbed a bank!
Towards the end of 1952 we were invited down to see ‘the television’ in a room with curtains drawn. There it stood like a big radiogram with a tiny 14-inch curved screen set behind a flat glass plate. Before the switching ceremony Uncle Peter called out, “Ethel, a clean hanky please,” which he then used to dust and polish the glass.
He pressed the switch and . . . .nothing! Then a wee white dot appeared and after a minute or so slowly grew into a picture. The screen gave out a shimmering green light like something from another world which, of course, it was. We sat in the dark and watched the Interludes which filled up the spaces between programmes: a potter’s hands fashioning a vase or a windmill going round and round and then listened as a posh lady with a cut glass accent told us what was going on in the world.
It was sensational. One black and white channel and the show all over by 9.30 p.m. every night. My father was captivated. We must have one of these, but how?
He was earning about £15 a week and a TV cost £100. As Coronation Day drew near the shops made reductions and special offers but it took the miracle of Vernon’s Pools to save the day.
Eight draws on the Treble Chance brought a prize of £504. It was enough and the floor-standing Marconi from Alexanders Stores arrived in time for June 2, 1953.
I think it was the first one in Balmoral Street and all our neighbours packed into the front room for the great event. My mother spent half the time running in and out with sandwiches to feed the crowd.
It was a scene repeated all over the town and afterwards became a regular part of life.
The Lone Ranger and other westerns were the Friday treat in our house for all my pals until as the months and years passed everybody had one of their own.
Chairs that once surrounded the fireplace now turned to face the future. We had a new Queen and a new master.
These days when I look at my high definition 40-inch flat screen monster with 150 channels I remember those simpler times six decades ago when we were more easily amused and more frequently amazed.