Sunday, 22 November 2015

Buying a TV from Park Wireless in the August of 1951

I am looking at an advert for Park Wireless a company which sold electrical goods across south Manchester including Chorlton.*  

The year is 1951 and therein is the first hint that the advert will reveal much about life in the early 1950s.

The war had been over just six years and the consumer boom was yet to take off.  There were still rationing, as well as shortages and plenty of those ugly bomb sites which added to the gloom.

And the distance we have travelled from then to now is summed up by the word wireless.  It was what my parents and grandparents called the radio and it would have been the word I used as well.

When the wireless became the radio I am not quite sure, but within a decade of this advert I rather think radio had taken over and later for a brief moment it was superseded  by the transistor and for a few by the tranny.

So Park Wireless anchors us in those early years of the 1950s with the Home Service, the Light Programme and the Third Programme each with their own distinctive output.

The Home Service focused on the serious stuff ranging from news to drama and talks.  The Light Programme as its name suggests offered up light entrainment and music and was really the continuation of the wartime BBC Forces Programme which had been renamed the General Forces Programme. The Third concentrated on the Arts; commissioned musical works as well as putting on the plays by writers such as Samuel Becket, Harold Pinter, Joe Orton and Dylan Thomas.

Not that any of these feature in the advert which is primarily about television and so pride of place goes to the PYE FBIC Consule retailing at £85.

Ours I remember was similar but had doors.  Now I have never quite understood the doors but I suppose those that suggest it was too hide the screen during the day might be right.
What strikes me first about the advert is the “TV Demonstrations every Friday at Moss Side and Timperley.” 

At a time when there were very few sets in people’s homes the pull of a demonstration must have been quite powerful, and this I think is different from a trip to a modern store where you trawl what is on offer comparing price and specification.

Back then the demonstration was as much about selling the idea of a TV as actually selling the box.

As always the prices are interesting and there will be those who will remember how much they took home and what was left for saving up for such things as a telly.

But what also intrigued me was the reference to the “Progress Report on Holme Moss” which turns out to be a TV Transmitting station.  It was launched on October 12th 1951 and covered west Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and Derbyshire.

Its opening meant that “television comes within the reach of millions more potential viewers” and with recent tests promising “excellent reception in the Manchester districts” the age of the telly was about to happen.

But then there is the warning about making "sure of your set - they may become scarce" which is less I suspect about hard selling and a very real problem of supply, which of course takes us back to the shortages of the 1950s.

Nor is this quite the end for those old machine with the big valves were not so reliable and if this was to be the age of the telly it was also the age of the telly repair man.

And it was also that powerful smell they could give off, a mix of heat and dust.

But that is for another time.

Picture; from Manchester City News, August 10 1951

*There were branches at Chorlton, Didsbury, Moss Side, Northenden and Timperley.
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