This was written in the early 2000s.
Can anyone born in the last 20 or 30 years imagine a time of very little or no television (unless you were wealthy), certainly no computers and computer games; when travel by aircraft and ship were the preserve of the wealthy, and jet planes had not long been in service and only as military devices? When many houses still had outdoor toilets, often shared with neighbours!
back to the time when I was growing up as a child (between 1944 and 1955), I
now realize that I was a member of that band of people that were being born
into the Brave New World of television, jet aircraft and computers – and not
least into the Nuclear Age. Then there was the identification of the DNA
structure and other scientific breakthroughs. In the
Even when TV did become more popularly available in 1955, there were only two channels available (BBC and ITV) in ‘natural’ (!) black and white, and they normally only transmitted from early evening till before midnight. It was to be another 30 years before television was normally available all day long.
family did not have a TV until 1955, and the Queen’s Coronation in 1953 could
only be seen at my aunt’s house across the road, in company with many other
members of the extended family. For most, TV was then quite a luxury –
something that’s hard to imagine now. My
aunt excelled in her supply of sandwiches, cakes and tea that day! I also remember the news that same month, of
Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing reaching Everest’s summit. Although the news was relayed to us by radio
and newspaper, relative to how news is now transmitted, it almost seems that
the news had come via bush telegraph! My great-grandfather’s highly extreme
pre-WW2 dictum that "the civilized world ends at
That period seemed much more innocent in character – perhaps more so as I was still a child! But, as already intimated, there was something of a sinister air in respect of what opinions were held towards ‘foreigners’ and other religions, and children were still "to be seen but not heard". As a child, however, the world then also consisted of a great deal of wonderment, and in respect of the locality I was brought up in, there was full opportunity to explore what then amounted to a countryside within suburbia – bricks and cement were still far from covering up the acres of grassland and trees that existed nearby. Later in life I was to discover that the author J. R. Tolkien lived part of his childhood close to the nearby Sarehole Mill, and I understand that his childhood playings there later contributed to his highly imaginative writings, such as The Hobbitt. Small wonder, therefore, that I was also imbued with wonderment at what I found, although by then that suburbia was not what it was in Tolkien’s day when the River Cole and its locality supported otters and other wild-life.
should not suggest that I only knew about the ‘good’ side of
To secondary school, and Bordesley Green Tech.,
to get there in time, I'd have to nearly break my neck!
At lunch-time we'd play football on the clinker tip -
and on Saltley Gas Works' air we'd sip!
Childhood then was rather like as described in a mailshot I received recently:
We drank water from the garden hose
and NOT from a bottle.
We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.
We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank koolade made with sugar, but we weren't overweight because WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING !
We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K.
We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down
the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.
We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVD's, no surround-sound or CD's, no cell phones, no personal computer! , no Internet or chat rooms....... WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!
We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.
Made up games with sticks and tennis balls and, although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes..
We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them!
These generations have produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever!
The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.
We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL!
In time, my father (as a bread-salesman) arranged for me to come and ‘help’ him on his rounds during school holiday times, and that experience became my one way of keeping close to my father until he changed jobs when I was eleven years of age. As with most fathers of that time, working hours were long and family life was an irregular aspect of our lives. On Sundays I was sent off to Sunday School, firstly C. of E., my father’s church, and later Methodist, my mother’s church; and then Boy’s Brigade. But my parents did not share church life with me, as Socialism was my father’s (and his brothers’) practical religion. Although from a keen church-going family, my mother had suspended her religious practice, but was a very open-hearted person with whom no-one could find fault. I was not, therefore, oppressed at home according to my parents’ perception of Biblical right and wrong, and the notion of ‘guilt’ was not as strong as with those brought up religiously, though it was present.
Even as a young teenager, and having read an encyclopaedic history of the Great War at my aunt’s house across the road, I wondered why my life was unlikely to require sacrifice to warfare in the way of those who fought and died in that War. Why should my life be clear of such commitment, and their’s not? Was I supposed to ‘make up’ for this situation by taking on a conscience-driven life? Did I need to justify my existence? Was I supposed to fear God? What was this Jesus crucifixion thing all about?
BIG questions for a teenager! But having been brought into the world of TV a bit late, and with no computers to take up my time, reading, playing and thinking were my main activities. It was about that time I seriously considered becoming a priest. Though I somehow talked myself out of that approach, my subsequent life was for many years a process of trying to sort out how to balance the business of living according to ‘normal’ values and Christian values. I did discern – in that very different age – that there was something vaguely different between what Jesus taught and what our supposed Christian country expected. I became aware that many people thought that there were intrinsic Christian values transmitted from their forefathers to enable them to live out their daily lives, but I felt that those incomplete values were pointing to something else. For a long time, I could not figure out what it was all about.
Yes, with rock music, they were changing times. It took until the 1960s before we saw a more full expression of the changes, many of which were positive, and the greater influx of peoples from overseas, bringing with them their very different religions and spirituality. And that period was the start of popular air travel as we know it today. But it was not until the 1970s that the subject of ecology and ‘green’ thinking seriously manifested itself.
The years just after World War 2 – before popular television – were the last years of the old world and its faults, and those years were perhaps the last time when young people were free of the pollution of excessive television, arguably one of the main faults – together with computer games – of modern life.
P.S. (2016) And now mobile phones and their offspring have taken over!