Shape up girls, TV is coming


I wanted to start with a little blast from the past that I doubt many (any) of you will have seen.

1) It is ridiculous. Points for originality, though.

2) This is an ad shown on TV around ’83 in Australia for department store Waltons.

My dad’s first memory of television was staring down at a ‘Waltons’ truck at the side alley of his first family home, watching two men deliver his first family television. His memories were pretty vague until they moved to their own new home shortly after in 1966/7, depending on who you talk to (I’m looking at you, grandma).

Around age 5 he can only remember small details. Like the WHOLE TWO STATIONS to pick from. Commercial channel or ABC. Spoiled for choice really. He also recalls the test pattern that was played before the stations were switched on for broadcasting. And that the stations only switched on “around lunch time”. Trips to Sydney to visit his grandmother, his mother’s mother, were a wild time apparently. He remembers being able to watch cartoons in the morning, and there wasn’t just two channels, no no, Sydney had three. But really, for a child entering an era of television, this must’ve been pretty amazing.

Around the age of 15-16, Dad recalls seeing colour television for the first time. He remarked his amazement in seeing cartoons in vivid colour having only known them in black and white. He has a fond memory of sprawling all over the lounges with his cousin Greg to cheer on a young Shane Gould in the 1972 Munich Olympics. These memories were revealed interspersed with passing mention of Rocky & Bullwinkle, Get Smart and “football with dad”.

After my interview with dad was cut short (busy parents do not make for good interviewees), I wanted to get my grandma’s perspective on dad’s childhood television memories but she offered up her own instead. Classic grannies.

Around the time when tellies were starting to make their way into homes across Australia, Nan was employed at local Dubbo radio station 2DU. She vividly remembers her employment being at this time because her advertising manager once told the lady staffers to “shape up, TV is coming”. She assumes he was concerned for his job with advertising dollar leaning towards television over radio.

When I asked about any kind of rules she imposed on Dad and his siblings, nan’s no- nonsense attitude is reflected. One time, when the children were fixed to the television and defiant to come to dinner, cool as a cucumber my nan turns off the power switch, unplugs the cord and cuts it in half. On the contrary to this, I get the impression nan’s house would’ve been pretty ‘lax in most aspects. Also, she loves Doris Day.



Talking to her I get a general impression she, much like my father, doesn’t have much of a nostalgic connection to what was on the television but rather they use the television as an icon to remember times & events passed. Wanting a bit of a different perspective, I decided to call my mum. She recalled much more vivid memories of what the television phenomena was like for her growing up in a rural community in NSW.

Born in 1963, like others born around that time, she witnessed the moon landing from a child’s perspective. It’s pretty easy to see how incredible it would’ve been to view with her own eyes & in real-time, something that “seemed totally impossible”. She likened it to me sitting down to watch the news, and suddenly witnessing footage of the discovery of life on Mars. I gave her props for this because it really made me reflect on the link between technological progress and perspective. What should we expect to witness in our future? What Mum watched on a fourteen-inch television set, we would watch in a surround sound high-res flat-screen. This pattern of technological advancement in television also makes me question HOW we will be witnessing media in the future. We’ve already come up with the 3D TV, a viewing experience that literally brings a whole new dimension with it and in many cinemas, it is used with sound, space and movement to further engage the viewer. I would say that this isn’t an every day, in-the-home experience for most so, for example, our future of television could be one that sees 3D technologies standardised in homes across the globe.

Out of curiosity I also asked each interviewee what the most memorable television advertisement was, for them. I can honestly say it was no surprise when each one recalled (and one sung) the ‘Happy little Vegemite’ tune as being both super iconic and damn catchy.

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