64. TV, Tape Recorders and Other Technology

The Parkins’ Television

The Parkins had owned a television since 1951 (see Chapter 53) and mum, in particular, often noted watching TV.

The Voices…

Occasionally, mum noted what she watched. For example, in January 1955, she noted watching a TV drama, “The Voices”, set in 2021. It is worth noting that TV dramas and plays at this time were performed and broadcast live. Mum considered this drama “a bit farfetched”. A brief summary online refers to mankind’s plans to expand into outer space being threatened by an unseen alien force!

…and Hero’s Walk

Given the play’s setting of 2021, I was intrigued to see if it seemed far-fetched to me! I therefore bought the book on which it is based – “Hero’s Walk” by Robert Crane, a pseudonym for Bernard Glemser apparently. But, I found it slow going! Essentially, the book opens with aliens bombarding earth because the world’s leaders had failed to heed warnings about their plans for space exploration/colonisation. Some of the things still seem far-fetched! But, some, e.g. the so-called “recall plates”, seem pretty dated given actual technological advances with mobile phones. We still have the United Nations and no sign of it being replaced anytime soon!

Front cover of the book “Hero’s Walk

Shout Aloud Salvation

In May 1956, mum noted that the BBC showed the TV playShout Aloud Salvation” which they had first broadcast in 1951 (see Chapter 53). She noted that Auntie Bertha, Uncle Frank and Renie all came to watch it. Presumably they wanted to watch it given its focus on the Salvation Army. I also bought this book and found it to be an interesting and compelling story.

The book “Shout Aloud Salvation
Doreen Aris appeared in “Shout Aloud Salvation

Other TV Programmes

Mum noted seeing other TV programmes along with her rating when she gave one. These included…

Whiteoak Chronicles

Whiteoak Chronicles is a play based on the series of 16 novels about the Canadian Whiteoak family by Mazo de la Roche. Mum rated this play VG.

Barnet’s Folly

Barnet’s Folly is a play set in Devon. It was written by Jan Stewer (Albert John Coles) who appeared in the play. Mum rated it VVVG.

The Romantic Young Lady

The Romantic Young Lady is described as a comedy by Gregorio Martinez Sierra. Sylvia Syms played the lead role. Mum mistakenly labelled this as “The Romantic Young Girl” in her diary. She rated it VG.

The Confidential Clerk

The Confidential Clerk is a play by T S Eliot. Mum rated it QG.

The Corn is Green

The Corn is Green is a play by Emlyn Williams.

Love in a Mist

Love in a Mist is a farce by Kenneth Horne. Brian Rix starred in it. Mum rated it VVVG.

Madame Louise

Madame Louise is a farce by Vernon Sylvaine. Brian Rix starred in it. It had been turned into a film in 1951. Mum rated it good.

The Guinea Pig

I cannot find this play in the Radio Times but I have found general details of it. Preston Sturges wrote it in 1929. I wonder if it was on ITV. Mum rated it VG.

Fly Away Peter

Fly Away Peter is a comedy by A P Dearsley. ITV showed this play. The BBC had previously shown it in 1948. Mum rated it good.

Emergency Ward Ten

ITV showed Emergency Ward Ten between 1957 and 1967.

Extract from TV Times for 6 January 1959 showing details of Emergency Ward 10 among other programmes © Bradford Timeline and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Ten Little Niggers

This drama was shown on ITV. The derogatory n-word is used here because this was the term used by mum and was indeed the UK title of the book by Agatha Christie, although the book was published as “And Then There Were None” in the US. There has been criticism of Amazon for still selling the original title. Mum rated the play VG.

1958 and 1959 FA Cup

Grandad noted watching parts of the 1958 and 1959 FA Cup Finals. In the 1958 final, Bolton Wanderers beat Manchester United 2-0, while, in the 1959 final, Nottingham Forest beat Luton Town 2-1. These matches featured heavily in the Radio Times those years. In 1959, there was an article on the teams’ Road to Wembley. This is of interest to me as that year, Luton beat Norwich City in the semi-final, which remains Norwich’s best every performance in that competition. The 1959 Cup Final also merits a chapter in Jonathan Evans’ book “The Mystery of Ernie Taylor’s Abdomen”.

1958 FA Cup Final programme front cover
1959 FA Cup Final programme front cover

1958 World Cup Semi-Final

In June 1958, mum watched the World Cup semi-final, between France and Brazil, at Edna Bust’s. The whole game was shown on the BBC with a break at half-time for the news and cricket scores.

1958 World Cup semi-final programme front cover
Teams for the World Cup semi-final
Scores and team changes for World Cup semi-final

As a Rule, Grandad Did Not Note What He Watched

In general, grandad did not record watching TV very much and rarely noted what he watched,

An Exception – 64,000 Question

However, in October 1956, he noted that someone called Jane Brown from Wolverhampton won over £3,000 on the ITV quiz show 64,000 question answering questions about Charles Dickens. ITV based this show on the US show, the $64,000 question. It ran from 1956 to 1958. Originally, it offered a top prize of 64,000 sixpences (£1,600) but this was doubled to 64,000 shillings (£3,200).

The show was revived in the 1990s. In the 1950s, the level of prizes offered far exceeded anything else on TV at the time. This may explain why it grabbed grandad’s attention. Later, quiz shows imposed prize limits following the quiz show scandals in the United States. These were only lifted in 1993, paving the way for the arrival of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”.

Board game based on the popular TV series “The 64,000 Question
Sample question from the board game “The 64,000 Question

ITA Start Broadcasting to the Midlands in 1956

In February 1956, mum noted that ITA started to broadcast to the Midlands. She also noted that they had their convertor. Apparently, for older televisions to receive ITV, they needed a set-top convertor. She also noted that they did not have an aerial but they were able to get the signal OK. Apparently, this was possible if the BBC and ITV signals came from roughly the same direction. If not, a separate aerial was needed. Grandad’s diary confirms this and notes that the aerial was to be added later.

Looking to Lichfield

Grandad referred to watching the new channel as “looking in to Lichfield” as this is where the transmitter was. Apparently, it functioned as the main ITV transmitter for the Midlands from 1956 to 1985. In 1961, a tall guyed mast replaced the tower which went to Jersey. All broadcasting using the Lichfield station ended in 2011.

TV tower that was originally in Lichfield, now at Fremont Point in Jersey © Danrok and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

A New Aerial

The new aerial was fitted in early March 1956. Grandad noted that the cost of the converter and aerial had been £17 10s and that grandma paid this to Mr Carter.

In July 1958 Mum and Dad Get a New TV from Fishers in Huthwaite

In July 1958, grandad noted that mum and dad went to Fishers, Huthwaite to look at new televisions. This TV and electrical business was located on the corner of George Street and Huthwaite Road in what is now the extreme western end of Sutton in Ashfield. Mum noted that they ordered one. Two days later, mum waited in for the TV to be delivered but it was apparently too windy to put the aerial up. The TV came the next day.

In September 1958 Grandma and Grandad’s TV Goes Faulty

In September 1958, grandad’s TV went faulty and Carter collected it for repairs. I have not managed to find details of a firm by this name. It is possible that this referred to an individual.

In January 1959, Grandma and Grandad Got a New TV from Fishers

In January 1959, grandma rang Fishers and they brought two TV sets for them to try out.


One of them was made by Pye who were an electronics company founded in Cambridge in 1896. They merged with EKCO in 1960.


The other was made by EKCO who were a British electronics company that produced TVs and radios from 1924 until 1960. Grandad recorded this as ECKO.


The next day, Fishers brought another TV, a Bush. Bush operated as a company from 1932 to 1962. Bush continues as a brand name owned by Sainsbury’s. However, this Bush television did not have a radio. They took the EKCO to Walter Maltby for him to look at. Grandma and grandad decided to have the Bush TV but they wanted to order the one with a radio.

Example of 1950s Bush television © Electro Mechanic812291 and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence


Fishers provided an old Stella television while they were waiting for the new Bush TV to arrive. Stella made TVs and radios. By 1961, it was part of Philips and it seems it was liquidated in 1966.

The New Television Arrives in February 1959

The new Bush television with radio was delivered on 4 February 1959. Grandad noted that it cost eighty Guineas. They had some teething problems with it which grandad described as “going wonky”. But, by the time someone from Fishers came, the problem had resolved itself. In March 1959, grandad noted going to Fishers to pay for the TV set. The cost was £84 with a discount of £1 10 0 so he paid £82 10 0. However, I am not completely sure which TV this was payment for, whether it was grandma and grandad’s or mum and dad’s. In November 1959, mum and dad had problems with their TV. Someone came from Fishers and fixed it. Apparently, there had been a loose wire in the aerial.

Making a Separate Wireless

In March 1957, grandad took the radio set out of the TV and he bought some wood to make a cabinet for that “wireless”. It seems he may have fixed the ITV convertor in where the radio had been. In the end, he made a cabinet for the “wireless” out of a TV cabinet. In April 1957, grandad paid Carter £2 10s to fix a new metal convertor and new valve to the television.

Radio Broadcast from Kirkby

In June 1958, both mum and grandad noted listening to a BBC broadcast from Kirkby in Ashfield Festival Hall. It lasted from 9 to 10.30pm. Grandad recorded excerpts from it.

For details of the Festival Hall, see Chapter 59. According to the Radio Times, music was provided by the BBC Midland Light Orchestra, the Ransome and Marles Works Band and the Eastwood Colliery Male Voice Choir. Ransome and Marles was a bearings factory in Newark and grandad had noted that it was hit by an air raid in 1941 – see Chapter 34. In 1954, the Eastwood Colliery Male Voice Choir had visited Bourne – see Chapter 54.

A Wireless for Annie and Battery Eliminators

In March 1957, grandad got a “wireless” for Annie from Mrs Gent in Golden Valley. In November 1957, grandad took Annie’s “wireless” into Mansfield to see if he could get a battery eliminator for it. Apparently, a battery eliminator provides electrical power from a source other than a battery thus eliminating the need for a battery. Grandad must have failed to find a battery eliminator as, ten days later, Walter Maltby brought him one. This cost 25/6. In September 1958, Annie sent grandad her “wireless” as it was not working properly. Grandad took it to someone and had a new battery fitted. In April 1959, grandad had a battery eliminator come from Leeds for Annie’s “portable”. However, it was faulty so grandad returned it. Another one came in May and this one worked.

Converting an Old TV into a Radiogram

In February 1959, mum and grandad went to Fishers in Huthwaite to see, according to grandad, “about an amplifier for a record player”. He said there was “nothing doing”. From mum’s diary, it seems that what grandad wanted to do was to convert the old TV into a radiogram, which is defined as a piece of furniture that combines a radio and a record player. But, the Fishers people said it could not be done. So, it seems grandad decided to do it himself anyway!

On 17 February, grandad noted that he took the Ferranti television[2] out of the cabinet ready to fit in a record player for mum. This was the first television that the Parkins owned in 1951 (see Chapter 53). A few days later, he and grandma went to visit Robert Ollerenshaw to see his “gramophone pick up”. Two days later, grandad went to the bank to get a cheque for £13 to buy the motor for mum’s record player. That same day, mum noted that grandad had sent for a record player and amplifier. They arrived three days later and grandad started to assemble them. After a couple of days, he had got it working and Walter Maltby came and “did a bit of soldering on it”. Following this, mum considered that it was finished.  

Mum’s Records

Mum clearly had confidence in what grandad was doing as she bought her first record which was Max Bygraves singing “My Ukelele” and “Come to My Coming Out Party”. She noted that she paid 6s 3½d for it. In early March, she bought another Max Bygraves record, “Tulips from Amsterdam” and “You Need Hands”.

Mum had a number of Max Bygraves’ records – image © Alwyn Ladell and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Finishing off the Record Player

Grandad bought her a wire record holder for 11/9. Grandad only considered that the record player was finished at this point. Mum noted that he had now finished the record player and cabinet. She lined it with Fablon.

1965 advert for Fablon

Other Records – My Fair Lady

On 8 March 1959, when Tricia was ten months old, mum noted that she bought her a record – “My Fair Lady” for Mothering Sunday. According to mum’s notes, this record was by the Embassy singers. It appears that Embassy Records was a UK budget label owned by Woolworths that mainly produced cheap cover versions of hit songs between 1954 and 1965.  They also produced EPs of songs from musicals including this record from “My Fair Lady”.

Record cover of songs from My Fair Lady produced by Embassy Records in 1958

George Formby

In April 1959, mum noted that they bought new records. Grandma and grandad bought nursery rhymes and mum bought a George Formby record – “Leaning on a Lamp Post” and “When I’m Cleaning Windows”.

Photograph of George Formby from the Imperial War Museum in the public domain

Bernard Bresslaw

In June 1959, one of the things mum bought for dad’s birthday was a Bernard Bresslaw record. This included the four tracksI only arsked”, “You Need Feet”, “Alone Together” and “Mad Passionate Love

Photograph of Bernard Bresslaw licenced for re-use from Alamy

Paul Robeson

Also, in 1959, mum bought dad a Paul Robeson record and a pipe rack for Father’s Day. Songs included “Ol’ Man River”, “I still suits me”, “Ma Curly Headed Baby” and “Mah Lindy Lou”.  

Photograph of Paul Robeson by Gordon Parks in the public domain

Lonnie Donegan

For her birthday in 1959, dad bought mum a Lonnie Donegan record. Tracks included “The Battle of New Orleans” and “Darlin’ Corey”.

Photograph of Lonnie Donegan © Bradford Timeline and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

 List of mum’s records in her 1959 diary
Photograph of the Beverley Sisters licenced from Alamy

My Recollections

I do not recall all of these records but I do remember records that mum and dad had when I was a child. These include some of those listed here including those by George Formby. I also recall “My Old Man’s a Dustman” by Lonnie Donegan, “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” by Brian Hyland and “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose its Flavour…” also by Lonnie Donegan.

Interest in Slide Projectors

Another thing that piqued grandad’s interest around this time was the use of a slide projector to display and present photographs for all to see. He was particularly impressed when these were in colour. In September 1958, mum, dad, grandma, grandad and Tricia went to Cyril’s in Ilkeston. Basil was there and he presented some colour photos.  In October 1958, Albert and Frances came to grandma and grandad’ s to show some slides to them and to Auntie Bertha, Uncle Frank and Renie. However, they were not able to show them because of a burst bulb. It is not clear if Albert and Frances returned before this date but they did return in September 1959 and “Albert showed us some coloured photos (he had taken) onto a screen set in the bay window”.

Interest in Tape Recorders

In June 1956, when mum and dad got married, grandad was prevented by ill-health from attending. Mr Pinchbeck, the pastor of the Full Gospel church made a recording on his reel-to-reel tape recorder that grandad was able to listen to later. Grandad noted that 28 people gathered to hear the playback of mum’s wedding.

So, at the beginning of July, grandad went with mum and dad into Mansfield to look at reel-to-reel tape recorders and, a few days later, grandad bought one, a Philips.  Grandad noted that someone from Alex Owen in Nottingham brought him two tape recorders to look at and he went with the Philips. It was 39 Guineas. Grandad paid £40, a discount of 19 shillings.

Alex Owen

Alex Owen established a network of television shops from his base in Chilwell/Beeston. In 1955, he opened a shop in Nottingham, at 51 Carrington Street (although it appears that that property no longer exists). The shop was opened by Terry Thomas who was appearing at Nottingham Empire Theatre (see Chapter 21) at the time.

My Recollections

I remember him having such a tape recorder when I was a child. I don’t know if it was this one or a subsequent one but it did look like the picture and it was massive! It seems it was probably a subsequent one as he bought a new one in 1960 (see Chapter 84). As far as I know, there are no surviving tapes though.

Example of Philips’ reel-to-reel tape recorder from 1952 © Sagarsarkar69 and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Using the Tape Recorder

Both grandad and mum used the tape recorder a lot. Mr Pinchbeck made a copy of the wedding tape for grandad to play on his own recorder. Grandad took the recorder to Ken Hodges to help him with his piano practice. He also recorded some poems with Mrs Bust.

Mum made some form of cover for the tape recorder. She used it to record services at church, Sunday School, Bright Hour and Rainbow Follies concerts. She also recorded her friends’ weddings including Joan Storer & Graham Hardy, Margaret Varnam & Ken Roome, Joy Munns & Alan Jones, Margaret Bostock & Robert Ollerenshaw, Maureen Hobbs & John Smith, and Hazel Munns & Richard Ward.

Grandma also sometimes used the tape recorder to record church services. In August 1958, Bert, grandma’s brother, recorded Tricia’s christening service. Presumably he did this with grandad’s tape recorder.