Popular Prize- win­ner!

Evergreen - - Contents - Peter Finch

In Oc­to­ber 1955, a month after com­mer­cial tele­vi­sion be­gan, my mother was the first per­son to win a car on a game show. I was 10- years- old, we lived in sleepy Ruis­lip and it was a fan­tas­tic mo­ment in my child­hood, which put the town on the map long be­fore Les­lie Thomas or the Rus­sian spies the Krogers!

My par­ents had tick­ets to go and watch Michael Miles’ Take Your Pick pro­gramme recorded and tele­vised from Associated- Red­if­fu­sion’s stu­dios at Wem­b­ley. Mother wore a dark blue evening gown to go and watch the show. Now peo­ple just wear jeans and t- shirts.

As the au­di­ence took their seats, it was usual for Michael Miles to look at his mon­i­tor as the cam­eras scanned the au­di­ence for prospec­tive con­tes­tants. He must have spot­ted her sit­ting to­wards the back. When Michael Miles first came onto the stage and asked who wanted to be on the show most peo­ple put up their hands. Fa­ther nudged Mother to do the same, which she did. She was wear­ing a pearl neck­lace at the time and Miles called out: “That lady in blue wear­ing the pearls.” She put her hand to her neck and he said: “Yes, that’s right, you!”

She went up with other con­tes­tants and went through the “Yes- No In­ter­lude”, with Alec Dane on the gong. The game was not to answer Miles’ ques­tions with a “yes” or “no”, nor to shake one’s head. Un­for­tu­nately, my mother failed, hav­ing said “Yes, that’s right,” to a ques­tion and was “gonged out” by Alec and missed out on her five bob prize ( 25p)! How­ever, she re­turned to the stage for the next ses­sion to answer three gen­eral knowl­edge ques­tions, some­thing she was good at, and she an­swered them all correctly.

She chose the key to box num­ber five, as it was her lucky num­ber. She turned down the £ 8- 10s (£ 8.50) of­fered by Miles and he in­vited her to open the box. In­side was a brown paper par­cel marked “Box 13”. Miles then told her that there was a small card in­side say­ing that she had ei­ther won a tie- pin, or a brand new Ford Popular. The au­di­ence gasped! Mother was of­fered £ 20 to sell the box, but she turned down the of­fer.

Michael Miles told her she was to take the box home and come back the fol­low­ing week. Be­fore she left the stage, Ex- De­tec­tive Su­per­in­ten­dent Charles Vanstone ex­am­ined the box mak­ing sure it was prop­erly sealed with string and wax.

I was awake when my par­ents re­turned home that night and I lis­tened ex­cit­edly as Mother told me and my brother what had hap­pened. The pro­gramme had been recorded and was shown a few days later. Fol­low­ing its broad­cast our fam­ily ex­pe­ri­enced a de­gree of fame. We had many press re­porters com­ing round and I re­mem­ber the phone ring­ing and Mother ar­rang­ing for yet an­other re­porter to come to the house for an in­ter­view. We were even in the TV Times and she and I posed for a pho­to­graphic ses­sion in Ruis­lip High Street!

A week later Mother re­turned to the stu­dios, the box was ex­am­ined for tam­per­ing by the former CID of­fi­cer, and she was of­fered £ 50, which she turned down. After the show she brought the box back home again. Fi­nally, when she re­turned to the stu­dios for the last record­ing, I was al­lowed to go along and sat in the au­di­ence with Fa­ther. Mother was sit­ting be­hind us be­fore she went on the stage. Michael Miles asked the au­di­ence: “What will Mrs. Finch be do­ing tonight? Tak­ing the money, or open­ing the box?”

Even­tu­ally, Mother went on stage and was of­fered a fur­ther £ 100, which was a lot of money in those days, es­pe­cially for a tie- pin! Once again, she turned it down and Miles told her to, “Open the box.” She did and in­side was a card with the words: “You have won a Ford Popular.” She was asked to read this out and there were gasps and ap­plause from the au­di­ence. The cur­tains opened and there was the car, which would be de­liv­ered to our home.

Michael Miles hosted Take Your Pick from 1955 to 1968.

Lil­ian Finch and her fam­ily fea­tured in TV Times mag­a­zine.

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