Stan and Eddie
The sad death last week of actress Jean Alexander, of Hilda Ogden fame, reminded me of how we used to watch ‘the tele’ at Keele in the seventies
When I first arrived, the idea of anyone having a television in their room was unthinkable. In those days, at least in my circle of friends in Feltham, no one had more than one TV in their house. Some had still not upgraded to colour
No, in 1971 if you wanted to watch TV, you had to go to the Union, climb two sets of stairs, and go into one of the two television rooms, each of which had a small (25 inches?) colour TV set and about 50 chairs. At most times of the evening, there were very few students in there. But when Monty Python, Top of the Pops, Match of the Day and a few other popular programmes were on, you had to get there early or risk not getting in at all. And, without recording, once you’d missed an episode of something like Monty Python, you’d missed it forever. You had to sit in silence while everyone else was doing ‘Upper Class Twit of the Year’ or the ‘Parrot Sketch’!
I also have fond memories of whiling away many an afternoon in the company of Jim Cass, Alan Avis, Brian Evans and other horse racing enthusiasts watching John Rickman, Peter O’Sullevan et al take us through another day’s racing from Doncaster, Epsom or wherever
By the time I moved into Barnes flats in 1974, TVs were more affordable, even if you had to rent them from Radio Rentals (I always thought that was a strange name for a TV hire shop, or did we also really rent out radios?) So for the next 5 years we were able to watch TV like ‘normal’ people. In reality, though, we didn’t watch all that much. Indoor League with Freddie ‘I’ll sithee’ Trueman was a must for lunchtime viewing, followed when possible by the aforementioned horse racing. Evening viewing during the week was largely focused on the soaps, and that really meant Coronation Street on Mondays and Wednesdays at 7.30
I’d never watched ‘the Street’ before going to Keele (we were strictly a Crossroads house), but soon fell under its spell, specifically because of Stan Ogden and Eddie Yates, the window cleaner and the binman, and the Rovers’ return’s best customers. In those days nothing much happened in soaps beyond the odd adulterous fling (Elsie Tanner, Mike Baldwin), marriages (Len and Rita, Ernest and Emily, Ken and Janet, Ray and Deidre), births (Tracy, to Ray and Deirdre, the only child born in the Street in the whole of the 70s) and deaths ( a surprisingly high count of 16 in the 70s), most from natural causes (Cyril Turpin, Jack Walker) but some from the odd car crash (David and Darrin Barlow), a couple of suicides (Joe Donnelli, Janet Barlow) and, amazingly, because I thought it was a modern day envelopment, even a couple of killings (Lynn Johnson beaten by Roy Johnson and Ernest Bishop shot by Ed Jackson. For the rest of the time life trundled on. I’ve just looked it up and in the noughties there were 50 deaths in what has clearly become a very dangerous Weatherfield!
Another big day for TV was Saturday, with TISWAS in the morning and then , in between playing football and going out for the evening, watching BBC was de rigeur. It was Dr. Who followed by The Generation Game, followed by the American ‘drama’ series of the moment; Kojak (‘who loves ya, baby), Starsky and Hutch, The Dukes of Hazzard. What better preparation for a few beers!
The highlight of what was usually a very quiet Sunday was Star Soccer, hosted by Billy Wright and with Hugh Johns as the main commentator. On Midlands based clubs’ home matches were shown as the main match and then highlights from two other games, usually with a Midlands club as the away team
Now things seem to have come, if not full circle, then close to it. I don’t think too many students have TVs in their rooms or even their flats any more. All watching is done on laptops or tablets. Things like football, however, are watched, as back in the 70s, in the Union, though the screens are scattered throughout the place and are used for promotional purposes for most of the day. So this evening I’ll be off to the Union to join the football club lads for Barcelona v Man City