Radio, Television and Records

The radio, or wireless as it was known, was something to sit down to and listen to in its own right, not just continual background noise as it is these days. There was no television when I was young, so radio was the only outside entertainment. My favourite programme at pre-school age was Nursery Singsong, when Violet Carson, who played Ena Sharples in Coronation Street, sang nursery rhymes and other songs at the children's request. My favourite song was:

Down by the station, early in the morning,
See the little puff-a-billies all in a row.
See the station master turn his little handle
chuff, chuff - oo - oo, off we go.
This is for the people who never rode a train
Whether in California, or even up in Spain.
Makes no difference if you're two or a hundred and two
You'll get a treat if you order a seat
On the old choo choo.

I always had, and still have, a great passion for steam trains.

Another favourite of mine was:

There's a worm at the bottom of the garden
And his name is wiggly-woo.
There's a worm at the bottom of the garden
And all that he can do
Is wiggle all night and wiggle all day
The people down here, they all say
There's a worm at the bottom of the garden
And his name is wiggly-woo

She also sang They're changing the guard at Buckingham Palace and Christopher Robin is saying his prayers.

As I grew older I used to like the serials on Children's Hour, particularly the adventure stories like The Derringer Children and Norman and Henry Bones, the Boy Detectives.

I used to listen to Listen With Mother which was followed by Women's Hour at 2.00pm. A couple of articles from those far off programmes have stuck in my memory ever since. One was by a woman who had everything prepared for her first baby but, when she went into hospital it was still-born. I was more upset about the waste of time getting everything ready, than losing her baby. The other incident was of a woman who had a children's party and they had all got rather out of hand. Some of her best crockery was broken, jelly was trodden into her carpet and orange juice was down the wallpaper. I was terribly upset over this and used to think all parties would end in a shambles like that.

There was a local programme in the evening called The Northcountryman. One talk on this programme was about bare-fisted boxing in the old days. They described one man who hit his opponent so hard that he broken his ribs and his hand went right inside his opponent's chest. It still makes me shudder to remember that as I hate any kind of violence.

My favourite radio programme of all time was Journing into Space, a real cliff-hangar of 4 men - Jet, Lenny, Mitch and Doc - in their space-ship who travelled to Mars and the Moon and the wonderful things they met there. This was years before any space-travel became a reality. It was broadcast on Monday evenings at 7.30 and repeated on Sundays at 7.00pm. Once I tried to have the willpower to wait right through till the next Sunday to hear a certain episode, but I lost the strength of will half-way through and listened to the last 15 minutes.

There was an hour of Children's Favourites with Uncle Mac on Saturdays from 9.10am. On Sunday mornings my mother and I always listened to The Chapel in the Valley with Sandy Mcpherson, and Sunday dinnertimes we listened to The Billy Cotton Band Show and Peter Brough and Max Bygraves in Educating Archive.

My Mother was an avid follower of Mrs Dales Diary, but I couldn't stand it. When I was very young I called it Mrs Dales Diarrhoea and my father said it was a good name for it. BEfore this, in the afternoons was half an hour of Music While you Work, usually a band playing cheerful popular music. From 12.20 - 12.55 every week day was Workers' Playtime which came from the canteen of different factories and was a variety show.

Also on radio - Wilfred Pickles' Have a Go with Mabel at the table and Harry Hudson at the piano. The programme went round different villages and towns talking to people who came up on stage. He always asked any young people 'Are you courting?'

I must have been about eight the first time I saw a television. Patr and Marilyn Bell's father owned an electrical shop and brought one of the first models he had home for his family to see. I had been playing with the girls that afternoon and was asked if I would like to see it too. The television was on their oak sideboard in their dining room - a very small picture by today's standards. The programme we saw was a puppet show about a family, mother, father and three children, I can't remember the story. I know the programme didn't last very long but I went home thrilled to bits and announced, very proudly, that I had seen a television.

Gradually, over the next year, 3 other families bought television sets, and went to all four houses to watch at various times. There was no fear of children getting 'square eyes' in those days as the programmes were very few and far between with long spaces in the middle with just the test card showing; and, of course, there was only one channel - the BBC. There would also be interludes in between programmes when, to suitable musical accompaniment, a potter would make a pot on his potter's wheel or a waterwheel would turn languidly. In the middle of every morning, between the test cards was a short film persuading people to have suppressors fitted on their cars as, every time a car without one drove past, it would make a series of dotted lines across the television screen. In this film it showed a man having a suppressor easily fitted in his car and driving past a house and not causing any interference. Then a really dilapidated old car drove by, of course without a suppressor. The man in the house was so angry that he picked up an ornament and threw it at the television screen, which caused the old car outside to blow up!

The was a short programme in the afternoon for women followed by a quarter of an hour for tiny children, either Andy Pandy or The Flowerpot Men. Television then closed down till 5.30 when the Children's Hour was broadcast. It closed down again from 6.30 - 7.30 when the adult evening programmes came on.

The programme I most looked forward to was Hank. This was a very amateurish cartoon series which any modern child would think most unsophisticated, but we loved it. Hank was a little cowboy with very bowed legs, both on and off his horse. The two other main characters were Mexican Pete with his big sombrero, and Big Chief Dirty Face, the villainous Indian, whose theme song was:
Me Big Chief Dirty Face
Me always in disgrace
'cause me never wash my face

They used to have marvellous chases across the prairie, which was literally scattered with enormous and vicious looking cacti, to the rapid sound of coconut shells. Hank would save trains in the rick of time as the viaduct was about to be blown up by Mexican Pete. He was a wonderful character.

Another favourite Saturday series was The Grove Family, with funny little Grandma. One of the variety programmes, Crackerjack, which went on for many years, had the famous 'double or drop' quiz. There were four children, two boys and two girls, and every time they answered a question correctly they received numerous curious prizes which could be anything from an umbrella to a cabbage. They had to hold as many things as possible but, they dropped something, they were out, and the one who lasted the longest was the winner. But all contestants received a Crackerjack pencil. My favourite cowboy was the Lone Ranger and Tonto. I think we enjoyed television much more than children today because it was a novelty, and because there was such a limited viewing time, and we weren't spoiled for choise like they are today.

We had a TV in December 1955 which was 'modern', it could get ITV on it!! The earlier ones could only receive BBC. Friends came round to see programmes they couldn't get. Some favourite programmes were The Buccaneers, Robin Hood, and William Tell. In the evenings The Army Game, Michael Miles and Open the Box, Hughie Green and Emergency Ward Ten.

Penny Hammill