In 1955 at ten years old Mary Jennings (now Bush) listened to the radio. In these years the radio was a source of education and entertainment, a favourite evening pastime. She can still hear the announcers introducing ‘Blue Hills by Gwen Meredith’ a daily serial that was her favourite played for only 15 minutes every day. Television was coming though and everything was soon to change.
From as early as 1935 Television was experimentally broadcasted in European cities and was a great success. A success until World War 2 struck and all television sales and broadcasts were put on hold. By 1940’s television resumed and it wasn’t long until Australia joined in with the rest of the world.
The country town of Harden at the old Post Office residence was Mary’s first experience of television in a home. Before this shop windows were the only place that she had witnessed the new phenomenon. Vividly remembering one afternoon Mary went home from school with her friend to watch the Mickey Mouse Club for the first time. She couldn’t believe it and was so amazed even if the colours were only black and white.
Later, in 1956, the Jennings household bought their own television placed into their lounge room, which before then had rarely been used. They were part of a small minority, according to the ABS during the first five years of television in Australia only 55% of households had the new digital feature. Most households only owned one TV shared between the many members of the family.
Television at first was exclusive to only Sydney and Melbourne arriving just in time to broadcast the 1956 Melbourne Olympic games. Its availability was dependent on the capability of each towns broadcasting channels.
The Jennings family only watched television after dinner at nighttime and only once Mary, her 3 sisters and 2 brothers had washed the dishes. Their little square box was supported by legs attached at the bottom, the internal antenna sitting on top allowing them to receive content from all over Australia in their little country town. “We always sat on the lounge or lounge chairs,” Mary recalls. “We never laid on the floor. Mum and Dad would watch the ABC news whilst we did the dishes, so we had no say in what we wanted to watch!”
She recalls a variety of shows during her childhood such as The Price is Right, The Ed Sullivan Show, I love Lucy and the Benny Hill Show. Other shows like Pick a Box were a family favourite as they had crossed platforms from radio to television. ‘Pick a Box’ hosted by Bob and Dolly Dyer was sponsored by BP and was one of the first game shows to be televised on Australian television.
The new technology caught on fast and changed society completely. People began to stay at home to watch television rather than going out. Cinemas even began to lose their charm due to the availability of a screen in the home. Everyday life changed with the introduction of television, as with any new form of media people at first were anxious but you can see now just how far we’ve come. From black and white to colour, new technologies like VCR and DVD created the introduction of television has led to many more inventions.
From the Mickey Mouse Club to Pick a Box, Mary has had the opportunity to witness many great and influential events over the years from the little square box that was once a foreign concept beyond belief. Royal Weddings to Terrorist attacks television has delivered and united all; the stories it has told, the people it has connected.
There is nothing quite like the Media, connecting the Audience, in so many different Places.
– Eliza x