Popular Prize- winner!
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.