When TV stopped on Sundays and famous wrestlers came to town
Ithink that these days, television plays much too big a part not only in the lives of children but all of us, and I’m as guilty as anyone. Why should it be easier to switch on the old goggle-box and stick the kids in front of it than do something a bit more energetic and interactive? Back in my day being sent to your bedroom was a punishment, these days most kids’ rooms are like an amusement arcade and will almost certainly have a portable TV in there to boot. When I was growing up TV was supposed to be a treat and not a habit, a bit like chocolate or sweets. Wednesday was sweet day and there was chocolate on a Friday after fish and chips. And TV was the same, it was only ever put on at certain times for certain programmes. After school we had an hour of children’s TV before tea. I was always more Magpie than Blue Peter. My favourite animation was Mary, Mungo and Midge, and again Fridays were always a special treat with Crackerjack. Sunday nights were very memorable as it was a bit different. It was bath night at 5.30pm, my brother in first then me in the same water. I’d come down to the front room and dry off in front of the gas heater and listen to the Top 20 on our Rediffusion TV mainly because TV stopped on Sunday afternoon until Songs of Praise at 7.15pm, which meant we also had 15 minutes of Sing Something Simple. The highlight of the evening was That’s Life with Esther Rantzen and dogs that spoke words like “sausages” and various vegetables that looked like other stuff, including Jesus and “naughty parts”. But there is one thing that sticks out above all the others in the TV scheduling that shall be embossed and at the front of my brain forever. Before my beloved nan Ada moved down from east London to Ashford permanently, she would visit us regularly. And my fondest memory was sitting down with her on a Saturday afternoon, watching World of Sport with Dickie Davies and waiting with baited breath in anticipation for the start of the all-in wrestling. My nan adored it and I never saw her so animated. She would also curse and swear like a trooper, especially at the ultimate anti-hero, Mick McManus. It truly was wonderful, harmless entertainment, and that was just watching my nan. A few years later my nan and I would book our ringside seats at the Stour Centre to watch some of our local wrestling legends battle it out in the Thomas Hall. I was now old enough for my nan to let me join in with the cursing as we watched the likes of Bill Beaney, Romany Riley and his son John, and, of course, the Lynch brothers, Danny and Butch. Basically, there seemed to be much more for us to do back then rather than just veg out in front of the TV and, of course, if there wasn’t anything to do we’d make our own entertainment – be it runouts or a bit of tag wrestling with some mates in the sand-pit at the swing-park by Sheldwich, Sandling and Eastry Close on Stanhope. Oh, the glory years.