Do you remember television as it was?

Few of those I teach seem to watch traditional television channels. If television is watched at all it is Sky Sports or Netflix, otherwise time is passed on social media platforms.

It is strange to think that traditional television seems to be going the way of printed newspapers. It is suggested that linear television, where programmes are broadcast in a scheduled, published sequence, lacks a long-term future. Programmes will be made available for people to watch them on demand; the concept of everyone watching at the same time will disappear altogether.

There will never be the excitement that watching television brought fifty years ago. Children’s programmes were very limited. There were only three channels, and BBC 2 only showed programming directed at younger viewers on Saturday afternoons.

BBC 1 began with Play School, then there was Jackanory, the storytelling programme. On Mondays and Thursdays, Blue Peter was shown at five minutes to five o’clock; on  Fridays, it was Crackerjack. Somewhere in the schedule, there must have been space for other programmes, for the reflection brought memories of Casey Jones, the theme music playing and replaying itself through my mind:

Stop, look, listen ’cos you’re gonna hear
A brand new story ’bout a great engineer,
He’s the greatest of them all we claim
Number one’s his engine, Casey Jones his name.

Casey Jones a steamin’ and a rollin’,
Casey Jones you never have to guess
When you hear the tootin’ of the whistle
It’s Casey at the throttle of the Cannonball Express!

There’ll be Casey Junior and old Redrock too,
Fireman Wally and the rest of the crew.
In a thrilling adventure that’s a lot of fun
When Casey takes the throttle for another run!

Episodes of Casey Jones were watched with enthusiasm, the characters seemed to have as much flesh and blood reality as the people who appeared on the television news. It was a surprise to discover that the two series that were made of Casey Jones dated from 1957-1958.  The programmes I watched with enthusiasm were at least ten years old before they were broadcast in England between 1967 and 1975.

Watching clips from Casey Jones online, it seems unlikely that the programme would now have the power to grip the imaginations of younger people, but nor do the programmes that are being made now and nor do the social media platforms. In fifty years’ time, no-one will remember the clips from YouTube and Tik Tok and the like, in the way that Children’s Hour programmes from the 1960s are now remembered.

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4 Responses to Do you remember television as it was?

  1. Steve A says:

    Do you remember the series set around a haulage company in Canada called Cannonball, from the same era as Casey Jones.

    • Ian says:

      Cannonball was a bit before my time. As it was a Canadian-British production,it seems odd that it didn’t get re-runs.

      Canada was a mythical place in those years, I had cousins in Ottawa who seemed to live in a world far more exciting than anything in rural Somerset.

  2. Chromatistes says:

    Indeed, I recall Casey Jones, and also (with distaste) Pussy Cat Willum. The first thing received on my parents’ TV set (via Hire Purchase) was Billy Bunter. That would have been 1960. Two channels, 405 lines in black and white, with broadcasting hours of 12:00 to 13:30, then 16:00 to c. 23:00, when The Epilogue would be on.

    • Ian says:

      My father was a radio and radar technician so seemed able to improvise a television from parts of others, avoiding the need for HP. (After leaving the Royal Navy he worked very briefly for Curry’s where he was asked to leave because he would tell people their radio or television could be repaired instead of selling them a new one, and presumably gain Curry’s the HP interest).

      The old 405 line VHF frequency did seem more accessible. It was possible for us to get TWW/HTV, Westward, and Southern (when the weather was damp).

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