We always rented a TV set when they changed to colour transmissions because if a colour TV set broke down, and they did with alarming regularity, you needed to sell the house to get it repaired, the one phrase that you didn’t want to hear when the TV repair man came around was a long breath drawn in through clenched teeth and then “oooh, thats yer tube is that mate…”
Before colour TV was introduced we just had any old monchrome set, we had a succession of them in our house, all of them bought second hand from any of the dodgy places my father knew of, or accepted free gratis from someone who was throwing one away because they’d just invested in a colour one – we had one mono TV that appeared from nowhere that had “auto-tuning”, a marvellous invention that saved you the trouble of having the select a channel, you just pressed a bar on the front of the TV and some weird whirring noises came from inside it and a couple of minutes later the other channel appeared.
Yes “the other” channel, there was only two, well three if you count BBC2 but we hadn’t upgraded our aerial to receive that as our dad told us BBC2 was only for posh people.
You might wonder why on earth you’d need an auto-tuning TV set if it only had two channels to pick from and you’d probably be right in assuming that it would be actually much quicker to tune the set manually from one channel to the other, but the auto-tuner made a funny mechanical noise that was pleasing to the ear, like a big Meccano set inside the telly was whirring the tuning knob around by means of rubber bands, and by the time you’d walked back to your seat it had chosen the other channel as if by magic, this was the 1960s, we were sending men to circle the moon, we’d invented a passenger aircraft that could fly at twice the speed of sound, nothing was impossible in the 1960s and if an auto-tune TV was available then by heck we wanted it, even if the alternative was easier to do.
When Leeds played in the 1968 Challenge Cup Final at Wembley our posh Auntie Phyllis had just got herself a colour TV and so my dad shoved me into the car and we drove around to her house, barged in the door, sat ourself down on their settee, said hello to my Uncle Tommy and then told him to put Grandstand on his new TV set, “But…” is all he could say before my dad shouted at him to bloody hurry up or we’d miss “Abide With Me”.
It was a miracle of the modern age was colour TV and yet my dad managed to side-step the issue for several years, “Dad, can’t we have a colour telly ?” we’d ask, “No” is all he’d say, no reason, no excuses, just “No” although occasionally he’d add “Have you seen how much a licence costs for a colour tv ?” and it was true, a colour tv licence was a couple of pounds more than a mono one, it was all the difference he needed.
And then one day the amazing monochrome auto-tuning TV set broke for good, it wouldn’t auto-tune any more so unless we all wanted to watch ITV for the rest of time then he was going to have to get a new TV and it was DER that came to the rescue.
Our new colour TV, rented for just a few pounds a month, arrived under wraps so embarrassed were we to be the last family in Leeds to be upgrading to colour, “Oh we wore the last colour TV out” my dad shouted loudly in the street so that all the neighbours could hear while the poor DER man stood right next to him wondered why the hell this bloke had suddenly started shouting at him, “we’re on our second set now, oh yes, we’ve had colour for ages, us”
The colours on our colour TV set were amazing, well they would be compared to grey, and after the DER man had left our dad started twiddling the knobs to make the colours brighter and more intense, it was like after 30 years of black and white TV he wanted to overdose on colour, or as I suspect, he wanted to wring as much colour out of it as he could being that he was now having to pay more for the licence, and that began a lifelong obsession with wringing as much colour out of the colour TV set as possible, for the rest of his life his colour TV set resembled an Andy Warhol pop art installation and on the nights when the TV programmes had too much red in them you could all go to bed with a sun tan.
But it wasn’t just the colour that totally bowled us over with amazement, this new TV set had – remote control.
The wonder of the age our TV remote control had an Off button and a volume control, up or down, and, erm, thats it, so it was a small remote control handset.
But rather strangely it wasn’t quite as remote a remote control as you’d expect, for this remote control had to be plugged in to a socket in the front of the TV and then a long cable unravelled the length of the sitting room to my dads chair from whence he could then merrily turn the volume up or down as much as he liked.
The fact that he’d had to get out of his chair and walk to the TV set to plug the remote control in in the first place seemed to go over his head completely so he’d walk to the TV, plug the remote control in, walk back to his chair and turn the volume up rather than just turn it up while he was stood at the TV plugging the remote control in.
And of course in those long distant days of yore the TV set had to match your furniture, no black plastic for us, oh no, a mahogany TV set is what we had and our dad chose the set simply because it matched the china cabinet. When it was delivered he rubbed a hand across its plastic mahogany grained case and proudly proclaimed it to be “A lovely bit of furniture” and then warning my mother that she’d better keep it dusted and polished or it would be going back to the rental shop and so it was that every day my mother would get the Pledge furniture polish out and rub the TV set until it shone with a rich deep glaze as good as the china cabinet.
Those sort of standards just don’t exist any more.