Was everyone already tired of television by the 1960s?
It may be quite possible that no single phenomena would shape the lives and our future more than the exciting arrival of television in the early 1950s. For those of you who were growing up in that rock-in/sock-in era, like yours truly, we will never forget that thrilling invasion of our comfortable living rooms of a shiny wooden box with a glass window that featured black and white moving pictures with real sound and music.
As ‘TV fever’ hit the nation with such sudden impact for most families, the roof-tops of our houses became a sea of ugly and tall steel antennas with many appendages that instantly attracted hundreds of birds and lightning. The local radio shops were, however, ecstatic , as you had to have them if you wanted to watch all those great new shows that were featured for a few hours each and every day between the test patterns. It has been claimed that by 1960 every Canadian was watching a few hours a day of television in their homes, at the neighbours, or even at the local tavern. Whether we rushed home from school to catch Howdy Doody or the Lone Ranger or were allowed to stay up and watch Bonanza or the Ed Sullivan Show in the evening, each household would develop very strict rules about watching this magnificent and totally addicting form of mostly family entertainment and of course the news. In our little Riverside Drive bungalow just like many others it was chores, dishes and homework before it could be turned on after supper, we had to be totally quiet while our parents were watching the news, and we had to spend all day away from the TV and outside playing, unless it was bad weather, we were sick or it was special treat.
Jack Kelly, my crusty and outspoken Editor at the Ponoka Herald so many years ago, wrote this stern but delightful editorial in the Jan. 24, 1961 edition explaining his opinion about the invasion and conundrum of television into our busy and thriving community. It was entitled A Retreat From Television.
One of the significant developments of the current winter appears to be the amazing number of people who have become completely fed up with Television. Just a mention of TV casually in a conversation and a torrent of exasperation pours out of almost everyone. Most of these harsh words are directed at the people responsible for selecting the program material. There is however an apparent growing number who have decided that peeking through a key hole at old movies does not make for an enchanted evening. As the T.V. is being left dark more and more or being used only for the amusement of the very small children, most of our folks are rushing back into the movie theatres in steadily growing numbers, and Box office receipts are climbing in all parts of Canada.
Some very shrewd business people, who had been paying huge prices for their T.V. advertising have finally grown suspicious of the huge audience claims being made by some stations. A sharp research specialist was hired to look into the matter and rigged up a gadget which could be placed on a TV receiver and planted in a number of homes to record what they were actually watching. The results of these tests have shattered the nerves of many in the massive TV power pyramid, and here are some of the amazing observations.
• The vast majority of the average family of television viewers were pre-school children, and most adults and teenagers were paying very little attention to what was on the screen. They appeared to pay absolutely no attention to the gold-plated messages of the high-paying sponsors, which were also likely called ‘commercials’ way back then.
• Many a household head was observed to be sound asleep in his easy chair with his feet pointed in the general direction of the T.V. set. The extremely popular and long-running ‘I Love Lucy Show’ was loved by all but did not get good ratings for the advertisers, and the reason was found to be that the audience was so busy laughing, chatting, or taking a quick bathroom break, that most of the poor sponsors words were never heard.• In some other households the only T.V. audience was two young people so intent on each other that they didn’t even know that the television set was on.
• On many occasions wives were observed to sit through an entire program while talking the entire time to a friend on the phone. Even if the material is hot and of good quality, people were becoming bored if they saw too much of it, and let’s face it, everyone is so easily distracted by all the other things that are going on around the house or neighbourhood.
Whatever the case, this so-called dislike and boredom for television way back then did not make much of an impression, as by the 1970s a survey had revealed that two thirds of Canadian families had a television set, and many of those had more than one in their homes. We have now been teased and pampered with 24/7 television on an option of sets that come as mini-models to as big as a wall, and come with so many perks and remotes that it takes a Master’s degree to operate them. Many of us will likely always complain that there are far too many channels and commercials, but the bottom line is that it should always be OUR CHOICE to relax in our favourite chair and watch our shows and games, but also to TURN IT OFF and take lots of precious time to enjoy family and friends, play some face to face games, as well getting outside as the fresh air and many amenities of our great supernatural and totally alive and free environment.