This weeks task was to interview someone about their first experience with the great almighty television. I chose to interview my uncle mainly because he was the oldest person within my immediate vicinity and also because I thought he might have some interesting stories to share. My uncles name is Kenny and as he likes to so elegantly put it he has been 42 (the number of life the universe and everything) for over 25 years; in other words he is 69 years young.
Going straight for the hard hitting questions I asked him if he remembered his very first encounter with television and sure enough he did. He explained that he would of been about 12 at the time. This makes perfect sense as it would place the year around 1957 two years after televisions full scale introduction into Australia, when it was still relatively new and awe inspiring. He was in the car on the way to his aunties house when his mother joyfully informed him the purpose of this particular visit was to take a look at her new Television. He described to me the anticipation he felt sitting in the back of that car as they drove closer and closer towards the house. He had seen TV in store windows before but had never had a full scale, personal experience with one.
I asked him to tell me what it was like seeing it for the first time and he simply said he could not describe it. He did however remember being enthralled by it, sitting in front of the gigantic box with the grainy pictures and bad reception, taking everything in for hours. He could not even recall what it was that he was watching but he said he will never forget that day. He even said the adds were exciting because they were something entirely knew to him. This surprised me as my uncle isn’t particularly found of adds these days, so much so that he mutes the television every time they come on.
Speaking of days that he will never forget I ask him if he remembers the Kennedy assassination he replies with “Off course, everyone remembers that day”. He then proceeds to tell me his story… “I was running late to work when I heard the announcement on the radio”… “I stopped the car straight away and pulled over to the side of the road, other cars did the same so I knew they were also listening”. After siting there and listening to the broadcast for several minutes he eventually continued on to work. He told me that he must of been about 30 minutes late, but nobody noticed. “It was if the world stopped functioning for a moment, like time had stopped”.
I pondered on what a moment like that must have felt like. When a simple broadcast of information has such power and spread that it can stop an entire world in an instant. The closest thing to that experience I can recall is 9/11. As a child I remember waking up to watch my morning cartoons and thinking, whats going on? Where is my Dragon Ball Z? Then i just sat there watching the replay over and over. I felt extremely saddened but I didn’t exactly understand why. I continued to watch alone in the living room as I waited for my mother to wake up and explain what was happening.
My uncle also had a 9/11 story which differed greatly from mine. He was arriving home from night-shift at 11pm and turned on the TV to what he thought was a repeat of Die Hard or some other, in his words, “stupid action movie”. He was confused as to why they kept playing the same scene. Thinking this is one poorly directed movie it suddenly dawned on him that this was not a movie at all.
Wanting to end this interview on a more positive note I change the subject by asking him what shows he liked to watch. He said that he liked all of them, particularly Pick-A-Box hosted by husband and wife duo Bob and Dolly Dyer. Pick a Box was one of first game shows to be broadcast on Australian television airing from March 2, 1957 to June 28, 1971.
He also said he liked the classic movies best, he asked me if I remember any of them or any show in black in white for that matter. I laugh and tell him I was borne in the 90’s. He then tells me that in a way I am lucky because watching a film back then was like watching one now with the volume and saturation down while someone holds a sheer curtain in front of the screen. He then goes on to say that I am unlucky because shows today just aren’t as good. His favorite thing about modern TV is that it allows him to watch classic movies in high definition, again this makes me laugh.