Friday, July 21, 2017

Sepia Saturday #377: Watching TV on a hot summer day

Recycling this blog with a few edits from a couple of years ago.....

This is my only photo featuring a TV set as part of a little tableau. My Aunt Addie is on the left with a proud aunt hand on my cousin Brian's shoulder. The 24" TV set, encased in its shiny blond wood cabinet, is hogging most of the scene. Atop the TV are miscellaneous items typical of the period. T he tiered lamp (orange was involved) is now back in vogue.
Qind Comfort.  Volta Tribal Print Shade £230

No serious photographer would be caught without his or her package of Westinghouse flash cubes or magic cubes. House plants were fashionable. My aunt's stem of ivy was struggling to escape from the planter box built into the wall on the right. The warmth of the TV set attracted the ivy which would regularly launch escapes from its roommate, the stern sharp "mother's in-law's tongue" plant. For those who aren't familiar with it, it's those two leaves sticking straight up. Addie's MILT was the Canadian indoor version of the plant seen below which is the California type that has lush leaves jammed tightly together. When there's only one leaf on the plant, with sharp points and edges, you can see how the plant inspired the name. By the way, it's almost impossible to kill, which also could have had something to do with the moniker. 

You couldn't pair up two more opposite plants—the curving, undulating ivy full surprises (where will it go next?) and the rigid, stiff tongue, stuck in place and content to stay there. During the summer months with more light, the ivy would curl around the rabbit ears and across the TV. Addie would wind it round and round the lamp to keep it neat. 

Behind the pleasant scene hang chic black drapes decorated with a bird-of-paradise motif. I'm guessing the date to be the mid-50's when Hawaiian/tropical themes dominated home design, even in Canada. Many of us had aluminum flamingo screen doors but had never seen a live flamingo or a real bird-of-paradise plant. Truer to our own geography, we should have had robins on our aluminum screen doors and pine trees or wheat sheaves on our wallpaper. 

The cast of characters: 

Aunt Addie
My aunt had a classic heart-shaped face with a broad forehead and a little chin. I cannot remember ever seeing her without a smile. She was petite and fluttery. We loved her visits because she didn't have children and spoiled us—not with things, but with her very desirable attention. She was the person closest to my mother, emotionally. 
Addie and Mom tipsy in a water-hole on a hot summer's day.

They would giggle together, confide in each other, commiserate over my aging grandparents, complain about their husbands and for holiday dinners, they'd cook together, pumping out a turkey dinner for twelve to fifteen people out of our tiny kitchen, which was like a boat galley. As I recall, everything was served on warmed plates and when we sat down to the table there was no jumping up for the forgotten this or that. They would have considered "Jack-in-the Boxing" during dinner very poor form. Organization for these events was key in the small houses and the meal was expected to be carried off without too much fuss. How the two of them managed to turn out the feasts they did is a wonder to me. I took their culinary accomplishments totally for granted. If I could spend just one more Thanksgiving with them in our kitchen on Dominion Street, I would present them with diamond tiaras befitting the experts they were. 

Cousin Brian
My cousin Brian, with the pipe, probably rarely looked at that television or any television. I think he was attending St. Paul's college at that time, where he studied for a couple of years. He was always studying. Later, he passed the Actuarial exams at a time when most of us had no idea what an Actuary was. Now they are sometimes lumped together with Data Scientists (who do not have to pass stringent exams). Pipe smoking was in fashion in those days with intellectual types. 

The TV
During this era, typical TV shows we would have enjoyed were The Ed Sullivan Show, I Love Lucy, Father Knows Best, The Honeymooners, American Bandstand and perhaps La Famille Plouffe, a teleroman series, like the telenovelas of Latin America. The show was about a Quebecois family during the end of the depression and through the forties. The characters, Theophile, his wife Josephine and their four adult children: Napoleon, Ovide, Cecile, Guillame were very popular with my French Canadian relatives. The clip is in French but a quick glance gives you an idea of Canadian content so typical of those times.

The host near the end extols the virtues of Players and Matinee cigarettes. 

Aunt Addie, my mother and grandmother enjoyed the shows thoroughly and would compare notes about the programs the day after they aired. The show was probably subsidized by the Canadian government which feared Canadian culture would be over run entirely by U.S. entertainment with the advent of wide-spread broadcast TV.  

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau once said said he felt that: "Living next to you [The United States] is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly or temperate the beast, one is affected by every twitch and grunt."

The government set up strict laws regarding the amount of Canadian content TV stations were required to air. There were regulations governing daytime content and prime time content. As a consequence, our TV's in the 50's mostly broadcast this: 

"RCA Indian Head test pattern" by RCA - Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -  caption
Until I googled the image below, I'd never seen how each portion of the test pattern was used. 

I wonder why the Canadian government didn't require a Canadian Indian to be on our test pattern instead of the generic American Indian? How about this splendid photo of a Cree Indian? They could have used the designs on the blankets for the fine tuning.
"Cree" photograph by George Foley, Maple Creek Saskatchewan

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  1. Did you notice your cousin Brian is smoking a pipe just as the father is on the prompt boat? If so, good match! If not, lucky match. :)

  2. Quite a trip through the 50s there.

  3. Brian's pipe is what I noticed first. It's a long time since I've seen anyone smoking a pipe. Around here more people seem to chew or dip tobacco rather than smoke. You're right about the "mother's in-law's tongue" plant. We have one that must be nearly 50 years old at least. The Quebecois soap opera was fun, especially when I turned on YouTube's English translation which made it ridiculously laughable!

  4. I think you enjoyed writing this as much as we did reading it. I particularly liked the description of your mother and aunt cooking the dinner.

  5. I love the photo of your mother and aunt in the water together. Sounds like they had a fun time together. Very interesting about the test pattern.

  6. There's just so much fun in this one. With the immediate mention of flashcubes I thought of how my friend always licked them before putting them in her camera. My camera, an Instamatic, was older than hers and used bulbs instead of flashcubes. I never found licking the bulbs to be of any benefit, but she swore by it with the cubes. And thanks for the memory of the test pattern. And that sound that accompanied it was so annoying. It was pure hell for night owls hunting for something to watch. Finally with the introduction of UHF channels there was always something on, no matter how bad it might have been.

  7. Great fun, especially imagining your holiday dinners coming out of a tally-size kitchen. I've been there, done that!

  8. I love that you found another pipe smoker and a television!
    I never understood those test patterns (or thought much bout them, really), so am glad to see this explanation.