We're nearly there, the royal celebrations I mean. You'll all be there, sitting round your televisions. I remember it first time round in 1953. So I thought this might amuse. (Taken from my ebook. Out any time soon, I'll let you know, as they say in some parts, 'I'm rait excited.')
But the year belonged to Elizabeth II, the Coronation being for many the event of the year, an event to be remembered by young and old literally throughout the land. (Tuesday 2nd June.) The government even devised for our delectation ‘Coronation Chicken’, a so-called, ‘sophisticated chilled cooked chicken in a mild curry mayonnaise cooked in advance and eaten on your knee’. Undoubtedly a meal for TV viewing; if Elizabeth was queen, television was now king. Many did view the Coronation on television, though only 16% of the population had a television, black and white picture, BBC only; an estimated twenty million watched seven hours of coronation coverage. (Colour television had in fact arrived in the USA.)
Village halls were a popular place to view, the whole event so enthralling that many decided to join the list of television owners. Television was becoming an important part of life. The television drama The Quatermass Experiment made a big impression. The BBC had in fact introduced science fiction with Journey into Space, the first programme of its kind on the radio. Panorama also appeared for the first time, as did children’s favourites Rag, Tag and Bobtail. Sport was becoming an important part of television broadcasting, including Rugby Union and League plus some Wimbledon tennis, though as yet no League Association Football.
Exciting times indeed, all in the year the cost of a school meal went up from seven to nine pence and the nature of DNA was discovered by Doctors Crick and Watson.
In 1953 only 16% of the population had a television set, black and white pictures, BBC only. Not surprisingly therefore televisions were rare in the village. Some were literally homemade, usually by clever ex-forces individuals from parts purloined from aircraft and using knowledge borne of years as technicians in the air force; the result, tiny televisions with seven or nine inch screens, projecting pictures of a strange green hue. Yet of sufficient fascination to warrant large audiences, gathering round with straining eyes in awe of the ghost like apparitions who drifted across the tiny screens.
But none could compare with Ivan’s colour phenomenon. Ivan, a village character, school crossing person and village odds job man, plus special constable; was he joking when he said “On account of the free boots”! Who nevertheless brought up five children, adequately clothed and fed. One of his claims to fame being the owner of the largest colour television in the village if not the entire county, and all this at a time when money was scarce and colour television had not even been invented.
The television itself was not massive yet neither was it as minute as the home made sets prized by some. What made Ivan’s television unusual, even unique, was the thick glass magnifying screen placed strategically several inches in front of the set. The effect was sensational, if bizarre. A colourful presentation of each and every programme; whether a studio interview or a panoramic view of sweeping countryside; each and every picture comprising the same colours in the same order. The top of the screen blue, changing to green beneath the blue, then to yellow, to orange, to brown and finally red at the bottom of the screen. So skies were always blue, as was a presenter’s hair. Bodies were mainly orange, animals at least two tone, green and yellow dogs abounded. The programmes may have been rubbish, but no matter, interest never waned. The audience, drawn from every street in the village, would sit transfixed, mesmerised. Those sitting slightly to one side would have a different perception of events to those sitting in a more frontal position. For the screen, as well as its colour aberrations, distorted the picture when looked at from any other than a simple head on viewing. Irritating in a way, but no matter, it merely added to the interest, an unsophisticated audience in awe of equally unsophisticated technology.