Early television and The Silver Swan

We had no television at home during my childhood. A family friend halfway up the street did, however, and sometimes we were allowed in to watch it with her children. It was black and white, of course, with a small screen set in a huge wooden cabinet. Of course, to a child it was magic.

A series we watched every Tuesday was “The Silver Swan,” which came on in the early evening so children could watch it after school. It featured a girl called Lucy, staying in a big house adorned with family portraits, and containing an old violin with a silver swan on the back. Lucy stepped through the mirror each week into the past, and was there for an adventure featuring a different generation of the family in the portraits, and always involving the old violin. It was very well done, and completely absorbing. I suppose it was educational, in the way children’s TV tended to be in the early fifties.

Less educational was the TV I watched at my aunt’s in the afternoons off school. It was “The Flower Pot Men.” It was obviously intended for infants, and was totally formulaic in each episode. It taught me nothing, except how to say, “Plobble-op.”

The big TV event was the 1953 Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, shown live on television for the first time. It was enthralling pageantry, even in black and white, and featuring the reverent tones of Richard Dimbleby, who did the commentary for all important occasions.

I had a surprise for my grandmother when I left home at 18 for university. I had spent the summer working, and saved enough to buy her a TV set with an aerial installed on the roof. The point was that she would now be alone for the first time in her life, and the TV set would provide company for her in the evenings.