It is unbelievable just how much technology has advanced in my lifetime.
Born in 1945 I remember having electricity downstairs but gas lighting upstairs. I think I was about seven when we had the luxury of flipping a switch in the bedroom. Before that I remember waiting on the stairs while grandma, holding a torch between her head and shoulder, would wave a lighted match around the gas mantle. The mantle was a small globe of (I think) asbestos netting that let the gas escape and gave a bright light when lit. If the match got too close, it could easily break the delicate netting and had to be replaced. This was usually a cause for much mutterings of annoyance from grandma.
The arrival of the upstairs electricity meant I could read in bed in the winter months, such luxury however the reading sessions were restricted to a half hour, probably because of cost but bedtime at 9.00pm was strictly observed by my grandma, even in the summer months.
Most people I knew at that time had a meter which had to be fed coins if gas or electricity was to be used. The meters would take shillings, which was about ten cents and would last for about four or five days, depending how much electricity was used. There were very few appliances in grandma’s home and she cooked most things in the oven fuelled by the coal fire, so it was mainly the lighting and the much used sewing machine that used power.
Washing was done in the washtub and hung outdoors to dry and ironing was still done by irons that were heated in the oven, by the fire. This was a big chore for grandma as she had to use two irons that were constantly changed as the heat cooled. All clothing was cotton and had to be ironed and gran didn’t trust me with this chore, so I thankfully escaped. My job was to fetch the newly heated iron, wipe it on a tea towel, and return the cooling one to the oven.
I remember when my mom bought a tv. My family were extremely royalist and we all stood whenever the National Anthem was played on the radio. It was not till much later in life that I realised that most people did not do this in their own homes, but that’s how I was brought up. It was 1953 and there was to be a coronation of Elizabeth 2nd. My mom somehow managed to buy a second hand tv. It had an eleven inch screen and of course only had one station, the BBC.
Gran and I spent the previous night at mom’s house so we were there for the preparations for the event. Mom had put up all sorts of bunting the day before, as did most of the town, but as she was determined not to miss a single moment of the festivities, she and grandma made sandwiches and desserts to last for the whole day. Mom had invited two neighbours in to watch the event, so we needed food for five people. I was given the job of tea making for the day so mom didn’t have to leave the tv for a moment. As an eight year old I found much of the broadcast boring, it went on for hours showing huge crowds of people lining the route and then the entire coronation ceremony. I loved the dress and huge train but most of the other stuff was a bit of a bore. However, when I went to school the next day, I was one of just a few people who had seen the event as so few people owned tv, so I was thrilled to brag about it.
I don’t think grandma bought a tv until I was about fifteen and I had been returned to live with my mom when I was eleven. Programs in those days were severely limited. The only items on through the day were rather boring, educational programs for schools. When we watched them at school it was mostly National Geographic type things that were only of interest if we caught sight of bare bottoms or breasts in the African villages depicted. At four pm there was a program for young children called watch with mother, this was followed by children’s hour and then the news. In those days everything stopped to watch the news.
After the news, the programming shut down till 7.30 as though the whole nation needed to eat dinner and do dishes by a certain time, which in fact, is what we did. Adult programming continued till 11pm and concluded with the Epilogue, a short religious program, then, nothing till the next day. We certainly didn’t get tired of the tv as it was so limited.
Most homes had a radiogram, this was a huge item of furniture containing a big radio and a record player installed into a highly polished cabinet that took up a big space in the living room. Once tv’s came into popularity, other entertainment items seemed to bloom and soon the big radiograms became obsolete as smaller radios and record players came on the market.
From that day forward t.v. sets seemed to have gone bigger and bigger while other items have reduced in size so most items can be concealed in a tiny container and operated by a switch or even a phone. In today’s world in seems that inventors are trying to create items that are extremely small but pack more and more functions into that tiny space.
When Dave and I were married in 1964 we had a small record player that we could play our singles or long playing records on. It took us a while to accumulate our collection of Elvis and Beatles originals, most of which were not even stereo, but the original monotone records of the sixties. When we came to Canada we packed them all lovingly and brought them with us. There they are still, packed in a box but hold too many happy memories to give away. Maybe when we are no longer here, our children may toss them out as garbage or they may hold on to them in remembrance of their parents who couldn’t let go of the past.