Early Television.


It was surprising that, after our arrival in 1956, Australia had yet to welcome Television. The Dutch introduced black and white television in 1951 with Phillips being the first to manufacture the television set. It wasn’t till 1989 that the Dutch Government even allowed public broadcasting of commercials on the radio and television. Even today Holland seems fairly modest in public display of advertising hoardings. Thank goodness for that. On TV, it is however just as hellish with advertising in Holland as in Australia. One reason we never watch the commercial stations, except for SBS channel. We are now experiencing another form of movie watching in Netflix.  I bet it too will include advertisements urging us to add and buy enhancing lifestyle products.

My early impression of TV watching was in Holland standing in front of radio shops. The introduction of Television was of such national interest that people queued up in front of electrical shops selling the first of television sets. Even just the flickering of the screen was greeted by many Dutch burghers being mesmerized by it all, sometimes standing ten deep in front of those shops. When the weak transmission signal came good and actual images were produced the crowd broke into an applause sometimes even shouting ‘encore’ as if in a life theatre.

IMG_1087Milo 2017

When the event of the television came to Australia around the late fifties, it immediately was accompanied by advertisements. Favourite advertisements were for electric Sunbeam fry-pans, Omo soap powders, Camel cigarettes and of course the much desired  TV sets made from wood veneer and standing somewhat forlorn on splayed legs over which many a family member would stumble. Now of course there are whole jungles of electronics available. Most would now be regarded as lifestyle accoutrements. Sooner or later though, no matter what form of electronic device one buys, it will be loaded with advertisements.

One early advertisement still etched belatedly in my fading memory during those heady early TV broadcasts in Australia was the advertisement of Kellogg’s Cornflakes.  It was shown on TV with the help of a beautiful woman seated at a luridly coloured laminex table with similar splayed legs. She was seductively eating this wonderful crunchy Kellogg’s breakfast with the promise of making her ‘regular’. I foolishly confused her outrageous claim to regularity with being in time. I thought that this breakfast was making her come in time for her work, taking children to school or appointment with the hairdresser, and never thought it had anything to do with the delicate state of her bowels.

In fact, during those early years almost all food advertisements were pitched at making women achieve good levels of regularity. It was years later when I learned that women were keenly addicted to head-ache powders containing phenacetin. Apart from the resulting obstinate persistence of cemented bowels,  many suffered kidney failure in later life when those particular pain killers were banned. It must have caused many to suffer from bouts of unimaginable constipation. In factories, canny Medicine moguls installed coin operated headache powder dispensers. Women would flock to put in a penny and get and APC or Bex powder. I was perplexed that so many would queue up to buy those powders. I asked and one woman told me it would ‘pick her up.’  The expression ‘having a cup-o-tea, a Bex powder, and a good lie-down’ came from that period

I don’t know if Kellogg’s cornflakes helped those utterly confused female bowels. The TV did promise so many things. For some reason, men were not shown to suffer bouts of irregularity on TV. Perhaps it lacked masculinity. No doubt with their enormous beer consumption, the male bowel was in robust health all the time.

Our early years in Australia were used productively in a fast ‘learning curve.’

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18 Responses to “Early Television.”

  1. leggypeggy Says:

    I have very little memory of early television, except for ‘I Love Lucy’. probably just as well.

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I think the Flintstones were greatly enjoyed by my father. He could never get enough of the last few seconds, when, after the cat was put outside in the evening, cat would rush back inside and close the door behind him leaving the boss of the house outside. He would furiously yell ” Elma, Elma.” It was a kind of visual comic strip about domesticity.
      Bonanza and other cowboy movies I remember. 77 Sunset Strip, there were so many.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. auntyuta Says:

    I think it was on Sundays after we had moved already into our own home when we used to watch Disneyland movies on TV with our children at another family’s place for we did not own yet a TV set. We also had no telephone at the time. But we already lived in our own home from 1964 on. We had purchased a very low priced house in a very low priced suburb near Port Kembla Steelworks in New South Wales, Australia.

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Dad bought a television on ‘easy terms’ and thought it would keep the children home. The younger ones did but I used to escape and watch TV at my friend’s place. Sometimes the friends watched at my place.
      I soon got bored with Bonanza and Zorro.


  3. Big M Says:

    It is ironic that us Australians were relatively late adopters of the television, as the first transmission of moving pictures was achieved by Henry Sutton, in 1885. He was dismissed as a local eccentric, what with his telephane (an early tv) various telephones, dynamos, batteries, hand built car, etc. There were transmissions of tv as early as the 1920s, but, would it catch on? I think there were government committees appointed for the next thirty years.

    I do believe that the creation of corn flakes was due to an accident in the Kelloggs factory. They were first sold as a cure for masturbation, although one wonders how, and to what they were applied?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Curt Mekemson Says:

    The ability to record TV shows and then fast forward through the ads has to be one of mankind greatest inventions, Gerard! Not that I watch much TV, but I would watch it at all otherwise. And I remember our first TV in the late 50s. I always had my homework done by Sunday evening so I could watch Bonanza. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, Bonanza was also one of my first experiences. Some of those early cowboy films used the same set of rocks for horses and their riders to run around while shooting villains from the hip.
      Perhaps they were not even real rocks but made from paper.

      We also had a very good radio program ‘Smokey Dawson’. It was much better than TV. As kids we used to huddle around the Bakelite radio. The whole of Australia used to be mesmerised by good radio plays.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Curt Mekemson Says:

        I was into radio as well, Gerard, before TV: The Lone Ranger, Sargent Preston of the Yukon, the Green Hornet, the Shadow!
        There is a set of hills just below Mt. Whitney in California that was used for numerous westerns. –Curt

        Liked by 2 people

  5. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    Of course when I was growing up we were grateful to have Little Orphan Annie on the radio–no TV for a couple of decades. When it did come, we watched on friend’s 5″ black and white sets, and couldn’t wait to afford our own. When children were growing up, it was Ed Sullivan on Sunday nights. Now it is PBS only with NO commercials to jump past.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      The ads were used to put the kettle on for a cup-o-tea in Australia.

      There were no advertisements allowed on Dutch TV or radios till the late eighties.

      It was so amazing, after arriving in Australia and watching local TV to see a commercial for Omo being hailed as the best washing powder only to be followed up ten minutes later with someone claiming Persil was the best.

      In my pure Dutch-ness I could not understand that blatant lying was allowed, and in public as well! Australia was a bit dodgy already then.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. shoreacres Says:

    One of my earliest tv-watching memories was the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953. I was seven years old at the time, and we’d had our television for perhaps a year. Broadcasting didn’t begin until 7 in the morning, and ended sometime at night — maybe 11, or midnight. In between, there was only the test pattern. We’d watch that, too, while we were waiting for the programming to start.

    There was a lot of good tv in the 1950s. I remember Kraft Circle Theater, the news/history program “You Are There,” with Walter Cronkite, “Ozzie and Harriet,” and “Dragnet.” There still was good radio, too. It’s delightful that many of those programs can be found online now — just as good as ever.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      No, I did not see the Coronation but I do remember people on the streets of The Hague shouting that English King had died.
      We never had TV while still in Holland.

      Getting a TV, even in Australia was rare at the beginning and terribly expensive. Recently I found a TV in working order on the street’s ‘nature strip,’ next to an abandoned shopping trolley.

      I remember in one early TV show, a character was always combing his hair and flicking it back. Was this 77 Sunset Strip? I think his name was Cookie. I used a lot of brylcreme to imitate his curvy hair style.

      Mum complained the bed pillow was always so greasy!


  7. DisandDat Says:

    The Untouchables with Elliot Ness was my and brother’s favourite. We had no TV as yet and watched it at my school friend’s place. He was a only child. Both his mum and dad worked so they must have had money. My friend was allowed treats like Coca Cola, milk shakes and lollies and “put it on the slate” !


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