The TV’s place in a typical Australian family home has changed dramatically over several decades. In order to better understand the evolution of television, I interviewed my father and asked him to recall memories and experiences while watching TV, and its existence in the family home as he was growing up.
In a four-bedroom home in the rural town of Wagga Wagga, NSW, dad lived with his parents, and five bothers. My father, Terry, believes it would have been during the mid 60’s that his family got their first black and white television (during this time television was available in most of Australia). He has no distinct memory of getting it or how it may have changed his family’s day-to-day activities, as he couldn’t recall a time in his childhood when the family was without one – ‘I suppose it just turned up one day’.
The black and white set was quite small so it sat on a small cabinet in the corner of the lounge room – sharing a wall – in the other corner was a small fireplace. There was a large lounge on the opposite wall and two single seated chairs, maybe a bean bag or two placed around the main feature: the TV. When I asked dad if anyone had a specific seat for watching TV, he could clearly recall that ‘Dad had one seat that he would always sit in’. When I asked if grandma did too, he told me ‘she didn’t watch it that much, she had stuff to do… He [his dad] didn’t watch it much either’. As for the six brothers, they all fought over their preferred seats, but in the end, it was a matter of ‘first in, best dressed’.
After hearing other students describe their parent’s memories of television being filled with excitement and delight, I was intrigued to hear how my fathers experience was different. The interview revealed how comparatively, he was disinterested and unimpressed with TV as a child – my words, not his – ha! I found that the TV wasn’t something dad and his family relied upon as he described it as ‘just another distraction and something to fill in time’. When he spoke of his childhood, his memories were mostly of the time that the six young boys spent together, playing outside – not in front of a TV set. Although dad struggled to remember, he dug deep and could recall watching cartoons – more specifically – ‘Disneyland’, on a Sunday night when he was 9 or 10.
Dad couldn’t think of many rules that the family had around TV time, rather a routine. The boys would come home from school, do their homework, go outside to play, watch TV at night after dinner, and then go to bed at a certain time. The TV was ‘an entertainment thing’; it wasn’t a way of bringing the family together to bond, as his parents often didn’t watch it and that’s what they’d do over dinner.
Fast forward to the early 70’s when dad was about 13. His family bought their second black and white set that found a home on a side cupboard in their dining room – still visible from the kitchen. If the TV was on during dinnertime, it was probably because it was ‘news time; and it remained ‘just something that was there’. Dinner was a time to eat and talk and as dad said, ‘with 6 boys eating and two parents, it gets a bit messy if you’re all focused on the TV’.
It is evident that with the evolution of television, it slowly became an integral part of daily activities and routines, changing our behaviours and attitudes. Although my father wasn’t very interested in TV, he still spoke of it as being integrated into his daily activities as a child. This changed with him watching more TV as he grew older and technology advanced.