In the early days of the 1960s, I was a TV repairman.
Unlike nowadays,at that time, plastic was an excotic material, anything “made in Japan” was junk, British motorbikes were king of the road, we had “dinner” between 1 and 2 pm and had our tea at 6 pm.
It was a simpler time, when you could always find parking space anywhere on the main streets of Limerick, (if you were one of the more affulent that could afford a car). Parking discs were something far, far into the future, as were traffic wardens. A brand new style Ford Anglia could be had from the Ford Motor Company at upper William Street for ?499. Petrol was 25 pence a gallon.
Then came Television.
On a cold January night in 1961 RTE came on the air.
For many people on the east coast,it was no big deal,they had BBC and ITV (british channels) but for the many people outside the pale – dublin – it was nothing short of a revolution.
I started a job in a furniture store in Patrick Street, who also sold radio’s, so it was natural they started to sell Televisions. It was a sellers market, people were hungry to have a TV, many people could not afford one, the average price of a 19″ black and white TV was £100. (about €1500 in todays money) so many people bought on the “never never”.
On every street, in every housing estate in the city, it was known who had a TV, the aerial on the roof was almost a status symbol. The neighbours would find excuses to visit the house that had one,after 6 PM, when the programmes started. The children in that house became very popular with the rest of the children on the street. Husbands started staying away from the pubs, until the pubs copped on very quickly and installed the TV in the pub. Some people turned on there television at 4 PM when the test card appeared and watched that until the programmes started as if not believing that this was going to be a permanent part of there lives.
I started to install televisions.
When a household bought a TV from the shop I worked for,everybody on the street knew and awaited my appearance in my grey Ford van with the ladders in the back.
When I turned into the street or avenue to the house whose chimney awaited the aerial that would bring the magic of moving pictures into the sitting room of a very excited household, I would be preceded by a group of excited children shouting at the top of there lungs “MAM…MAM…THE MAN IS HERE”
In the years after, installing and repairing TV’s I was never known as anything only “THE MAN”
The TV brought into peoples lives, the magic of such programmes as “Have Gun Will Travel”…”The Donna Reed Show”…”The Everglades”…”Lassie”.
By about 1963, Gay Byrne’s “Late Late Show” arrived, (the longest running chat show in the world) and as a policitian once said: “there was no sex in ireland before the Late Late Show”. Because the presenter Gay Byrne asked a lady on the show what she wore when going to bed at night and she replied “nothing” and nothing was ever the same again.
At that time a TV had 13 old fashoned valves running the set and this generated a lot of heat so “breakdowns” were frequent. I recieved about 6 phone calls, or visits to the shop each day, to report a “breakdown”. I set off on my rounds each evening to repair or take the TV back to the workshop for repair. I always had a few replacements with me and if I had to take the precious TV away I always gave priority to the household with a big family, often to the relief of the woman of the house .
There were a lot of widows and widowers, living alone in the city for whome the TV was a lifeline and they always, without exception, were left a replacement TV if there own one had to return to the workshop.
I once installed a TV in a convent. There was great excitment among the nuns as they all gathered into the room where I had installed the set. I swiched it on and there was a farming programme on (this was still one channell land) and a farmer was standing over a sow as it was giving birth to about a thousand piglets, or so it seemed to me. As I was explaining to the reverend mother how to use the switches on the set, I’m not sure which of our faces won first prize for being red in black and white TV one channell land.
From time to time in those years gone by if somebody important died, like a cardinal, to the despair of the children of the nation, all there favorite programmes were taken off that night and replaced with classical music programmes or religious programmes. TV programmes on “Good Friday” were almost all religious and when somebody died on a street or avenue, the funeral went from the persons home and as a mark of respect, the neighbours would never swich on a radio or the TV until the corpse went to the church. And the children on that street mourned the loss of there favorite programme.
I stopped installing and repairing TVs in about 1965 and moved on to other things.But I still have vivid memories of a bunch of kids running ahead of my van shouting at the top of there lungs as they ran in the path to their house, “MAM,MAM…THE MAN IS HERE.”
The early 60s was a more gentle and innocent time. Today we have cable and satelite TV, sometimes running into hundreds of channels, and that is accepted as normal, as is the internet. But the excitement at the arrival of television to Limerick in 1961 will never be equaled.