the pre-tv generations archive

"What do you do," people ask, "if you don't watch television?" One of our members has five kids. "How do you manage?" people ask her "without children’s TV?" - as if humans spent 250 thousand years waiting for Barney.

Who cares about "the first iPod generation"? Chances are they'll be intolerably dull. What about the last generations of people to live in a world without television? How did they live, and what are we about to lose forever?

White Dot is compiling an archive of memories and advice from anyone who remembers life before TV.    Please help us add to it!

If you grew up before TV, or know someone who did, please tell us what has changed. Details details! We want to know what people did to relax, play, think alone or gather together a gang. All the parenting and social skills that TV is taking away.

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I'm not an "older adult" - I'm in my late 30s. However, my family is television-free, and as I'm raising essentially "pre-tv" children I can speak a bit to the "what do you do" question. My wife and I have two children, ages four and six.

To begin, my children have no trouble figuring out what to do... they simply play, from 7:00 in the morning until 10:00 at night. During the day they mostly play together, outdoors if the weather permits, indoors otherwise. They have a fair number standard toys - blocks, stuffed animals, Lego, as well as a collection of miscellaneous interesting-shaped bits of metal, bolts, springs and so forth that they make things from. They also do a fair bit of drawing and are starting to write. They also help with our domestic animals - we raise rabbits for meat and chickens for meat and eggs in the backyard of our suburban home. In the evenings, we make and eat dinner together, then play board games and read until it is time for all of us go to bed we do both just about every night. A couple nights a week the family goes to a Judo class together.

It all sounds a bit prosaic, but the truth is that our simple life keeps us so busy that we hardly have the time to do the things that we want, much less watch television. Last night, for example, I'd intended to do a little hobby programming, but instead ended up plucking and butchering a chicken that hadn't got back to the coop early enough and was waylaid by a raccoon. My 6-year-old daughter watched and helped, and we didn't get to bed until 10:30 even though we skipped washing the dishes.

As far as my wife and I are concerned, we home-school our children which takes up a fair bit of time for planning and activities and so forth. She also is a hobbyist blacksmith, and I have a small machine shop that I don't get to play in enough. I contribute to some open-source software projects. We make things - we make jam, and pickles, and can tomatoes and peaches and we hunt in the fall and butcher our own meat. In the summer we grow a big garden. In winter, we do nordic skiing or snowshoeing on the weekends and that takes up additional time in the evenings too, waxing skis and so forth. At bedtime, we sing songs to our kids, and it always seems to take 45 minutes or so just to get them settled in.

With all of that, we do seem to suffer from the modern affliction that it feels impossible to slow down, or have enough time to think. I've books on my nightstand that I've managed barely more than a few pages of in months, and I go to bed tired out every night. At the same time, I wouldn't be happy doing less... at least with the things we do, everything has a purpose and a product that it's easy to take satisfaction in.

KN, Boulder, Colorado USA
I agree with you on that, but the goal here was not to agtonanize the other mediums. There are some quality things on there. It's when television becomes a filler for the void I have a problem with. It's easy to get lazy in front of it. I have something against the "I turn off my brain and laughs at SPencer Pratt being a dick" mentality
I agree with you on that, but the goal here was not to agtonanize the other mediums. There are some quality things on there. It's when television becomes a filler for the void I have a problem with. It's easy to get lazy in front of it. I have something against the "I turn off my brain and laughs at SPencer Pratt being a dick" mentality
the feeling of security around other people. The natural creativity that wasn't always a product of overstimulated, or overfilled minds.
The freedom to forget 'needing' to be somewhere and instead just doing things here, without worrying about every small consequence.
I watched TV as a child, throughout my childhood and although I wasn't pre-tv, we went out a lot more (friends, siblings)in the fields and such, and played many different roles to keep us occupied.
You could paint for hours and not have to worry about the right way to do things. You didn't need to always compete so much either.
Now everything is becoming such a hodgepodge that it's hard to 'focus' on a point, without getting sidetracked or distracted by something else. Anything can be anything these days and you can be creative being, and doing literally anything without any authenticity, and what perhaps was once (and in a minority, very small minority today) in the arts an expression of the dark humour, the ironic humour, or the apparent beauty of life and for many people just plain old goodness - like baking a cake, or drawing a vase of flowers (sounds cliche but it's very true) is now tuning into a new channel - the channel of destruction is the channel also of the abstract, the mix of anachronism, falsity and pretentiousness with a dose of it being easy to play down, and using twisted moralisms as a weapon on a sedated mind, a sedated body, a sedated identity.

It is so furiously mixed up that it can't even get on the stand to deny or not deny something is wrong/dull or irritating or grating to the human senses and nervous system.
Instead it goes 'so, we're here, this is the new generation, this is the hipster-hipster-hipster's of hipster age, so what, get over it....?' with a sarcastic question mark.
Yea I noticed. I keep noticing, but if 'noticing' is the only thing to KEEP doing, what ELSE is there to do? Everything is meant to be open minded now. But it's become a brand like everything else.
Be New Age, be open minded, buy my debut CD.
Buy my misc. Get my new t-shirt by Eckart Toll.
Watch Jim Carey stare at you on a youtube video and waste 1 minute of your time, feeling him 'emanate pure love' at you with all the suggestion in the world.
Whilst he's still living a very good life with all the money in the world too. And this spiritual stuff is so far away from just going down to the woods somewhere as kids and not feeling the residual fear that spirituality can thrust upon you, and yet it 'all' seems so simple.
You know.
anonymous for now
Although I was born in 1958 I'm afraid to say that I grew up with television and my mother liked to watch it all evening as she could do that and knit at the same time. However it was only black and white television until I was fourteen so not so interesting to watch. We only had the Radio Times delivered to our door from the local newsagent and at the time it showed only programmes on BBC One and Two so we didn't know what was on ITV apart from looking in the newspaper and finding out that day's programmes. There wasn't much in the way of children's programmes which started at around 4.30 pm and ended at 6 pm. Then we had tea while the news was on and watched a sit com with the family afterwards. I was also into watching sport as well as sometimes there was nothing else on. So basically I grew up watching adult programmes as there were no special children's channels. However when we went away on holiday self catering it was television free or the television was coin operated so we only watched the occasional programme. We listened to the radio instead. When I became an adult most pubs had juke boxes in them not television sets and the more upmarket pubs that served food and coffee had no music or television.
Lemsip from Cardiff
I was born in 1960 in South Yorkshire in England and was about 5 years old when TV appeared in my life. My parents lived with my paternal family and so my earliest memories are about trailing after older children who took me everywhere. The playgrounds were the streets immediately outside the front door and the fields on which there are now private housing estates. Though TV appeared when I was 5 having it in the house was more of a status symbol that something I used regularly, that did not come until we moved into one of the prestigious private housing estates and there was no-one to play with as they were all glued to their status symbols. This happened when i was about 12.Until then long summer nights and quite a lot of the winter ones too if we could get out, were spent playing street wide communal games with all the other kids on the street. kick can,football, british bull dog, hide and seek, statues, stealing bonfire wood from each others gardens in November or playing war games (anyone under 8 was german whether they liked it or not), making dens and lying in said fields just watching clouds drift past, making daisy chains, throwing sticks in streams, watching bugs drag stuff around the fields, endless boredom which had to be endured but if you went home your mother would find something for you to do so you just lay there. Hours and hours of it. It wasn't all idyllic by any means, we fought and fell out with each other like all children but there was a sense of being able to roam that we all knew staying inside to watch TV was purgatory until we could get outside again and meet up with other kids.

TV was a way our parents controlled us, punishment was ironically having to stay inside and watch TV on a sunny day and not be allowed out to play.

When I got to university in 1979 the first thing I did was get rid of the TV. I didn't have one until 2000 when my mother bought my then 8 year old son one for his birthday. She couldn't bear him not having one. Overnightthis kid who made stuff everywhere turned into a zombie and the TV was back. After she'd bought him 3 TV's I gave up trying as he was hooked by the so I hat to outwait it and her. However, when he went to university in September 2010,the TV was the first thing to go. Bliss, just like old times.
Lynne from Sheffield
horsewhippings
anonymous from anytown
I grew up having a TV set. I watched it because I was mostly alone. My brothers and sisters are much older than me and didnīt want to play with a little child.Also, my parents left me alone to play with myself, and TV was the easiest thing around.
But at family vacations we went to grandmaīs house up in the hills, where there was no tv. There adults, young adults and children were always together. We did all kinds of things. We gathered wood, cooked, walked by the lake, fed the chickens... I spent time with everyone and it was great. I think the best thing of not having a TV around so much is that you get to know the people near you.
Children like to participate in normal adult activities, even if it is "cleaning the house", as long as there is a lively conversation going on and the child can really make a connection.
I am trying to talk to people around me about giving up tv, but they are very resistant. The most resistant are those with kids. They say things like: "I dont know what to do with them when I have housework or cooking to do... whem I have to wash my car or mow the lawn." Well, get your kids involved. Let them help you. Donīt just dump the chores on them and go away. Children love their parents and want to be with them and do things together. They donīt mind washing your car or stirring a pot... they just want to do it together.
metropolis girl
The best years of my life occured when I first started college. I was a full time student with a heavy courseload and a part time job. I spent my time in philosophical debates with my peers, playing the wonderful grand piano in the dormitory commons, and hoofin' it to and from class, clubs, and the tennis court. I don't remember having a TV in college, or seeing one around. I am grateful for that!
anonymous from anytown
After my siblings and I hit puberty, my family spent most of its time in front of the television set.
Prior to that era, most of my memories from childhood include riding my bike (and doing stunts), hanging with neighbor friends, swimming all summer long, impromptu baseball games with kids we just met, inventions, building, exploring nature, laughing and making each other laugh. We played Spy, Can't Touch the Ground, and other games requiring intense creativity, agility, and espionage.
Then something just turned off inside of us. Video games became a daily escape immediately after school. How many hours did it take to master Mario Brothers? A better question would be how many weeks.

The TV years sucked. I think at some point things got so stressful that my parents needed an escape. We were "forced" to participate with the family - which meant "come watch TV with us." They didn't have the coping skills they needed to deal with everything going on. You know what? They still don't.

I believe a big part of them not "moving on" with life is because they are still glued to the set.

I hate TV and I hate that my wife wastes 3 hours every evening glued to it.

I feel ignored, distracted and annoyed. Something has to change. I will definately not being renewing our network subscription.
anonymous from anytown
The ability to make small talk and learn interesting things about other people.
Wendy from Wichita
I remember when I was very young I used to go to my Greatgrandmas' house. She had an old television. Really old. It was a large wooden cabinet with a very small round screen. Black and white of course. The cabinet was much taller than it was wide.It still worked and the sound was crackly. I was always fascinated by that set.This would've been in the late 60s'. I couldn't tell you how old that t.v. was. It looked like a museum piece. The house there had a large concrete porch which was nice and cool on hot summer nights. Just sit out there and listen to the evening,crickets,tree frogs and the like. There was a railroad salvage place down the road and we would walk down there a lot to see what the world had dropped there. She gardened and tended to her place with little to no t.v. just fine. Thank You.
Amber in Indiana now
I grew up in a very small town in the Ozarks thru the 60s' and 70s'. In that part of the country at that time there was only two t.v. stations at first. They broadcast in black and white. Then along came our third station KOLR out of Springfield, Mo. I think. It was the first color station I saw regularly. The t.v.( or idiot box as my mom called it) was only on for one hour during the day for my moms' soap opera watching pleasure. (Days of Our Lives)The news would be on come evening and it was mostly actually news. It seems there was less sensationalism. I remember seeing bodies in coffins coming off planes thru Viet Nam. They don't show you that now.My parents were always telling me that "they" tell lies and distored truths. To watch "them" carefully and to believe it when you see it. To always question those on the "boob tube". What did I do instead of t.v.? Wow. O.K. There was always work to be done somewhere around the place. Chores and such.I rode horses for chores and pleasure. With and without friends. Chores on horseback? Go get a BIG bag of Black Walnuts down by the lake, go get a bag of persimmons (you had to stand on the horses back to reach the fruit), go swimming with friends and we spent a lot I mean a lot of time out in the woods. The deep woods.My dad was quite the organic gardener before it was the in thing. Long before. I was taught to conserve and reuse everything. You go fishing and eat the fish yes but you also bury the rest of it in next years garden spot for fertilizer. You take used barn hay and let it soak in 55 gal. drums until after it "cooks" and use it for fertilizer. We grew grapes,strawberries ( a lot, enough for freezing), pears,cherries,apples,peaches, various veggies too. We made home made ice cream and watched stars in the summer. Chased lightening bugs.Watched the grass grow.Oh yeah and we raed actual books. Ones that didn't require a battery or charge of some sort. Even under the covers with a flashlight after bedtime.( o.k. that requirs a battery) Camping,fishing,hunting,seeing nature in ways a lot of people have never done. Sad for them. As we got older we ran backroads in muscle cars and went dirtbiking in the wilds. We would take our horses down to the tourist beach and make a little side money entertaining the tourists. Entreprenurial we were.I remember some t.v. stuff. The Jackson Five Show, Sonny and Cher, Bobby Goldsboro, Dean Martin.It was always clear in that house that the idiot box was just that. It was entertainment and for news. It would sit and not be on for days sometimes. Thank you for reminding me of these things. There are 5 televisions in this house. I am ashamed. I still grow my own garden although not on my folks' scale, I tend to my own yard and outside stuff. Still do my chores mostly. LOL I get up in the morning now and make a pot of coffee and turn on world news. It always upsets me. I WILL limit myself to two days a week from here on. Again Thank All Ya'll, Amber out.
Amber in Indiana now
I am 28 and grew up without TV. My sisters and I played OUTSIDE as often as possible. We read books, played dolls, made houses for our dolls and stables for our horses out of boxes. We played board games, climbed trees and were pioneer women and Egyptians by the Nile. We used our imaginations to be anyone, anywhere we chose. Thank you Mom and Dad!
anonymous from anytown
People who actually want to meet face to face as opposed to watching tv or being on facebook. I'm young and yet I wish I'd been born years ago because it's so hard to make and get hold of any real friends who will have 'time' to meet up.
Miss Uncool
Im a 22 year old mother of 2. I grew up without a tv and found plenty to do with my time. Mostly playing outdoors. My children were watching tv before I found this website and im glad I did. From the time I read the infomation on this website a week ago we have been cold turkey NO TV. I have noticed my 18 month old son to be more responsive and even saying a couple of new words. I don't miss it and he seems to be better off without it.
anonymous from anytown
My experience isn't as "wholesome" as the others on here, but I can say that I grew up without TV mostly, and that I had internet but only used it at night when everyone else went home.

I didn't have TV, cable, and my internet access was shoddy (and I'm currently 19 btw) But I did a bunch of things--I spent alot of time listening to music, I would read, I would play my flute, I would play chess, I would chisel wood on my front step to make things--basically, I found entertainment in the simplest of ways.

I hung out with the neighborhood kids alot, who'd also become my best friends; we would go to the teen center and play pool, go "aztec fishing" (with a spear), go to the gym to work out, smoke weed, drink and have good conversation, and walk around to people's houses to visit friends. we'd do that almost all day during the summer. I was never bored, I was never lonely, and I was actually pretty happy.
Steve from Santa Rosa
open air orgies
mr. proudhon.
I hate t.v. I was born in 1982, so TV has always been around me. Even though I am not that old, most of my memories were from all of the neighborhood kids playing sports. Tag football, baseball, anything. We could not throw our backpacks inside fast enough so that we could take off on our bikes to go play. Now, my wife and I have been without a TV for almost 2 years now every since our daughter was born and we love it. We rent movies from netflix and watch them after our daughter has gone to bed. We are very stressed though because it seems like we are up against the world. Both my wife and I's families are heavy TV watchers and give us a hard time about not having the TV on when we visit. It is like pulling teeth. Both this subject and not feeding our daughter junk has driven a wedge in our relationships with our families since she was born. I could say so much about the positive aspects of getting rid of TV but there simply isn't enough space. People now are drones who waste hours in front of a TV to watch shows they have to see, only to not remember what the show was about a week later. It's crazy. Instead of watching TV when we are together, my wife, kid, and I role around and play, take stroller rides,read books, and just learn. We walk around the house and teach her what random items are like an iron or the blinds to windows. And what a suprise, at 16 months, she knows so much. Her favorite things in the world are books, as opposed to my cousin's 3 year old who only wants TV show dvd's and carries around doritoes bags stuffing himself. Oh.. I need to stop. If there is anybody reading this that is on the fence, dump the TV, you won't regret it. Thanks..
Mike, age 28, from Georgia
For several years in my early 20's that I lived without TV with the exception of occasional movies. At that time I now realize I was more creative and had a lot of time on my hands to do what I needed to. My attention span could last longer too. Now that I am married and watch TV a lot with my husband in the evenings I am very forgetful and unmotivated. I want to spend time with him but he doesn't want to turn off the television and as long as its on it draws my attention too.
Brandi age 30 from TX
My great-grandfather was born in the 1880's in Southampton in England. He joined the British army as a teenager and was sent to Canada, where he got married and settled down. Unfortunately, WW I broke out the next year and he was called up and returned to Europe. According to family myth, he was gassed at Ypres but returned to the front after a short convalescence.
After the war, he returned to Canada, started a family with his wife who faithfully awaited for his return, and made his living as an egg and chicken farmer and occasional lumberjack and ice seller. He died in 1977 when he was in his 90's.
I remember visiting him during the 1970's when I was a small child. His house stood out in my mind because it was the only home I had been to that didn't have a TV.
The furniture in the living room was arranged in such a way to facilitate conversation and social interaction.
There was a German cuckoo clock on the wall which was the loudest thing inside his house--he lived on a farm very far from any road.
He drank rum or scotch straight or with water and only in moderation.
He always smoked a pipe.
The played the accordion and sang for entertainment. I was told he could play the bagpipes but never saw it myself.
He was the last person in the family who could play ANY musical instrument.
He planted a garden every year and was an organic gardener before the word was invented: he forbade the use of chemical fertilizers etc. I remember spending summer with my grandparents in the garden when I was a kid weeding by hand.
We also could eat the carrots pulled straight from the ground and washed with water from the hand pump in the house.
When he died, he got sick on a Friday and passed away on Sunday at home. Otherwise, he never got ill.
Compared to my grandparents, parents and even my generation (I was born in 1968), it was an enviable life, full, robust , healthy and happy and completely TV-free.
Tony B. Halifax, N.S., Canada
My family watches television constantly. The tv is always on regardless of whether or not anyone is in the room. As an adult, I have come to realize that tv is a time and energy sucker. It sucks the life out of your day. I cancelled cable and rent Netflix when I want to see a movie. I have so much more time, am healthier and get involved in real life.
Laura from N.Greenbush, NY
I was born in 1956. Untill I was about ten we had a black and white tv. I was not allowed to watch very much tv nor did I even want to. I was outside every day playing with my friends. Learning to ride my bike. Making huts in the woods and pretending the back of my fathers truck was a boat. Our little minds were always spinning on new ways to have fun and/or get into trouble. Like stealing my mothers lipstick when we decided it would be a great idea to play war and that bright red would make perfect blood. oh what trouble I was in then lol. Red lipstick does not come out of clothes.
I feel sad for todays kids, they have really missed out. People are too afraid to let their kids play outside, in some places its just not possible. TV has robbed us of our creativity and imaginations. I believe it to be the all time brain drain. Instead of doing we just sit and watch others do. Then we wonder why depression is at an all time high, frighteningly so among children. Exercise, fresh air and sunshine are the cures for that if you ask me.
Carol from Mass. USA
I was born in 1972, so I didn't grow up without TV. But, what do I remember about my childhood? My most vivid memories are of riding my bike around the neighborhood. Trying to fly a kite while riding my bike (didn't work out so well). Jumping little ramps with my bike. Walking down to a small wooded area outside my school. Soccer, basketball, and football practice, and games.

As for TV, I remember the Brady Bunch, Happy Days, and Dukes of Hazard. I don't think I could tell you any of the actual stories on the shows though. I wonder what more I would have done if there were no TV?
David, St. Clair Shores, Michigan
we had a power cut in london a few months ago for 3 days,,after the first day everybody was out knocking on peoples houses an making sure there nabours were ok,,making sure the elderly had war soup an bread after the 2nd day everybody was talking again an said how funny this was if we had no electric we would al be wrapped up in our houses,,but the truth is it would be the tv they would be wrapped up in,,an everybosy caught up with each other an belive it or not when the power came on nobody cam out again,,
what my point here is switching off tv for a week is nuthing we should bann tv completly,,we ae humands for gods sake people what has become of our minds,,weve lost our heads in tv an dont look for anything as to solve this problem but as to turn the channel over????

SO I AM SAYING RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW ,,I ,,,,,ME ,,AM ALIVE AN IM NOT GONNA SIT THERE AN WATHC MY LIFE DIE WATCHING TV,,,,
ENGLAND NORTH LONDON
insted of driving parking walking round the super markets queing then cooking or microwaving the food..
walk into your garden dig out the greens an what els you fancy wash them an cook from home from the garden,,quicker an easier then supermarket shopping,,
get back to our lifes..tasting food trying new foods knowing how to do things like cook an grow food from home.. make must know befor your 10 years of age..
an no food with bright colours an barcodes on it..
talla from south london
I rode horses, read books, played scrabble and bridge.
american quilter.
Hi, I'm Australian, under 40 and grew up without TV except for the odd occasion when my parents hired one in order to watch a BBC series (every couple of years). I roamed the neighbourhood with a gang of other kids aged 5 - 10, we had our own world that didn't include our parents,it was "us against them". Of course until dinner time, when we became civilized again. As we grew older we read - and read and read and read! My children don't have tv and also spend a lot of time reading. They do have the internet, we have two Macs and they use them quite creatively, but they don't spend much time on them. Neither are interested in video games at all. My 8 year old boy will come home from his friends house if the boys start playing x box. He says it's stupid. I love living without tv, my life doesn't revolve around a tv schedule. People tell me they "need" tv for their kids, as if their kids would somehow overwhelm them with their needs if they didn't have the tv babysitting them. I find this very weird, my kids are independant and able to entertain themselves BECAUSE they don't have tv. It's the kids that are used to having their brains addled that become whingey and clingy when it's turned off.
I feel like an outsider in my own generation......
Jennie from Byron Bay, Australia
i'm french. i was born in 1980 and my parents didn't have any tv.
i remenber, after school, i went back at home and had a small snack. i worked for a very short time and then went out : playing with my neighboors, my sister or alone (i created imaginary worlds and friends and stories that i shared next with my real friends).
In the evening, my parents called me to come back home. i helped them to set the table and then we shared a dinner, talking about what we did during the day, at school for me and at work for them. we talked about many things.
sometimes we played to board games or watch pictures or slides (on a slide projector). during the week end, we organised small outdoor games with friends or picnics. i played a lot with my sister, like role playing or football-rugby game (we created that!). i also read a lot (and i still do ot!) particularly before to sleep.
i can remenber people outside in the evening. i grew up in a small village in Provence. i played and ran my bike and walked in the whole village alone (i mean without any adults) because everybody was outside and knew me and my family and could protect me in case...
it was peacefull and exciting (to meet friends and play for hours!).
i don't want to look backward everytime but i really think tv is breaking many things in our societies and avoid people to think by themselves, to communicate all together. and a lot of problems come from tv.
and we could live better without tv. we could live without tv. that's all. sorry for my english. and thanks for the website!
Laure from Rocbaron, France
My grandfather worked when he was a child. He was a farmer. The most fun thing he talks about was using sod to block the creek & then swimming in the pond they made. Life is just a lot different now.

I think you should also have a current-generation archive and split these stories between it. I have friends with kids & no TV, and they read books all the time, the way I did when I was young. But it does take a lot more parenting time. The parents have decided it is worth giving up some of their own hobbies, and also worth having grandparents around a lot.
Joanna from Illinois
I'm still 22 and I'm raised in a family with TV. I'm the only family member who doesn't watch TV for more than 2 hours a week. I don't know how did I become like that since my parents are avid TV watchers. but I'm glad because that way I can do a lot of things I enjoy.

I read a lot, I still do snail mail correspondence and stamps collecting, I learned crochet by myself, cross stitch, creative writing, playing with my own minds - making up silly theories and exploring anything that can be hidden in my own mind, stargazing, watching people quietly from the bench outside, listening to good music they never play on TV... so much fun, and those activities certainly require no TV.

I don't need TV, and my future child will be a lucky one to be raised in a small TV-free family.
Fei Rose from Indonesia
My dad was a headteacher and he also played the fiddle. One of my earliest memories was seeing him play on the Sooty show. It was most probably 1953. I can remember we walked up to Mrs Francis's house, she was a dinner lady at our school to see dad on television as we didn't have one. It was really exciting seeing my dad on television and I can remember lots of balloons falling down as he played at the end of the show. Walking home I asked mam, "Does Mrs Francis earn more than dad?" Mam said, "No. Dad earns more than Mrs Francis." Me, "Why don't we have a television?" I think we eventually got on in 1956.
Mari from Brighton, UK
Like M., I'm under 30. Still I've noticed a marked change from my younger days.

Back when I was a kid, I played basketball with the other kids in the neighborhood or we'd have street hockey in the driveway. I was on a local kids' soccer team and practiced three nights a week. If I didn't want to play, I'd still go outside and sit a little on the porch, reading.

I also loved listening to rebroadcasts of old radio plays, and occasionally some newer fare. I liked "Fibber McGee and Molly", "Inner Sanctum", "The Shadow", tending to appreciate the mysteries and horror stories a little more than the comedies. They also ran then-almost contemporary series like "Nightfall".

All this early reading and listening to radio plays left me with a well-developed visual imagination. Sometimes it was too well developed. I felt faint reading the story of the death of Old Dan the hunting dog in "Where the Red Fern Grows". Very embarrassing for me, since I was reading it out loud in class! But this problem aside, so many boys and girls, even young people in their early twenties, lack an ability to conceive of an image they haven't already seen on television.

It amazes me how much people in fairly safe suburban neighborhoods have convinced themselves that they're fundamentally unsafe and it's better to leave the children outside, stifling on Nintendo and television, rather than "risk" letting them go outside to find their own entertainment. I grew up in the heart of a large city, in a working class neighborhood, and we never had the fear I see in people from gated communities far to the east and north of San Diego.

So while television is part of the problem, we also need to convince fairly well-to-do parents to stop hovering over their children out of fear and possessiveness. For good measure, have them tune into the occasional tinny-sounding old radio play if they can find one: it's good for the mind.
Kevin from San Diego
We are missing the opportunity (not the limitation) of adding our own sound effects, crash sounds, skidding sounds, to the movement of our Dinky and Corgi toys. These are now arbitrarily (and pretty poorly) provided by chips and ratty little speakers.

We are missing the notion of exploration. Of turning the neighbourhood, and especially the vacant lot, into everything from a battleground to an ancient Mayan ruin.

We rarely have a chance today to take a couple of 2 x 4's, other scrap wood, wheels off an old lawn mower, and create a go-kart powered either by a friend who pushes, or by a nearby hill. That's how we learned about tightening bolts and lock nuts and castellted nuts with cotter pins... about essential physics (OUCH!!!). Today, of course, it's all battery powered, complete, again, with dumbass sound effects.

Our generation would be dumbfounded by the "Dollar Store" notion (it would have been the "Nickel Store" back in the late fifties and early sixties. What a gold mine for the imagination and the creation of toys and games.
mike hicks from Ottawa, Canada
Well, we learned how to entertain ourselves without the benefit of a screen to look at!
Kids spent time outdoors, on foot and on bicycles, and outdoor games like Kick the Can and baseball were played almost daily. We took our toys outside and played together, pooling our resources and doubling the fun. People who had front porches spent time on them every evening in good weather. Adults read more than they do today, and the big time entertainment at home was radio. The radio came in an important looking cabinet and was placed in the living room, where the family listened to it together most evenings. Radio gave you the storyline and stimulated your imagination to do the rest. The closest I come to that experience now, is when listening to an audiobook on my car radio. When I reached high school I got my own radio and was very proud of it. It was an ivory-colored Silvertone (Sears) portable - which meant it had a handle on top so you could carry it around, but you still had to plug it in. Record players were important too, and since you could only play one disc at a time, they required a lot of tending. Outside the home, of course, the movies dominated entertainment and most people I knew went every week.

Now I watch TV for awhile most evenings, never in the daytime, and rely mostly on DVD entertainment minus the tedious commercials. But I still turn it OFF when I'm into a good book.
anonymous from Louisville, KY
Girls did embroidery, sewing, mending, played the card game-Authors, poker, Monopoly,
played dolls, house in winter time. In norhtern states during winter and snow bikes were stored in basement where we would attempt to ride around somewhat...it was limited but we missed our bikes. We had Nancy Drew Book Reading Contests over the 3 MONTH SUMMER BREAK JUNE, JULY, AUGUST and did not return to school until after Labor Day in September each year. TV naturally went off about 11pm with Star Spangled Banner playing and a waving American Flag or Military group holding a flag.
You were forced to read more, interact with others including family members and even some good neighbors.
anonymous from anytown
Kids laughter outdoors. I couldnt go a day without hearing ,"Mom, can I go outside" from either myself or friends. Nowadays, I dont EVER hear any of my younger cousins ask to go and play outside and never hear any children playing in my neighborhood. If I do, it is rare. And Im only 24!
M. FROM LAS VEGAS
My parents got TV around 1965, when I just had left for university. I remember from the years of childhood and youth between 1950 and 1965 having been engaged or occupied with this:

Playing outdoors "cowboy and indians" a lot; sledge in winter for many hours without interruption (close to get frozen).
Jumping from one broken iceblock to the next at the coast in Holstein during low tide.
Frequent weekend tours with the parents on byke to nearby places; byke tours through Germany and Danmark during the vacations.
$ a.m. walks to the forest to watch deer and other animals. Walking my old grandmother around, up to 10 km on feet.
I had penpals in Malaysia, Birma, India, Trinidad y Tobago, Finland, USA, Japan. (Met some of them later.)
Founding and leading for some time the Protestant Church's youth group in our village.
Long frequent evening sessions with our pastor discussing "God and the World".
Founding and leading a political party's youth group in our village. Participating in election campaigns.
Being an active member in the Young European Federalists.
Working actively at the pupils' newsmagazine at our school.
Being a member of a mixed group of young pupils, farmers' kids, apprentices, workers, police academy students and more, who met quite often, did a lot of nonsense and sometimes got quite drunk ...
And over all other activities: reading hundreds of books, starting at 7 years with cookbooks and the whole Bible (did not make it, just about 400 pp.) Listening to the radio (AFN Germany, Radio Luxemburg, London).
Becoming a war resister and pacifist. Going sometimes to the cinema (not often), and go to every circus, which appeared in our region. Sometimes went a 100 km to Hamburg to the theater (with school). Started to see a little bit more TV from 1981 on. Most TV programme today is so unacceptable, dull, brutal and stupid, one cannot stand it; but today's kids can, obviously ...
Gerd, a German living in TV spoilt Nicaragua ...
Part 3

Still more activities we had as youths:

Stamp collecting, coin collecting, baseball cards.

Games:

Hide and seek, Little League baseball

Concerts and plays, school orchestra

Hebrew school and Sunday school

Nature collections:

Butterflies, moths, caterpillars, turtles, snakes, rocks - just about anything

Camping

Weather observation, hurricane tracking, measuring rainfall and snowfall

Stargazing

Science: Erector set, electric set, chemistry set

In our generation we were in direct touch with the whole world, not through the TV or computer screen.
Joel from Connecticut (Part 3)
Part 2

Now I recall more activities we had without TV as youths:

Swimming at the local pool or at the beach

Reading books - we read all the Hardy Boys mysteries, which we borrowed from our town library

Playing cards and chess

School extramural activities - sports, chess club, plays and dances

To reiterate: Parents must take responsibility for providing wholesome, educational activities for their children. In many ways the Interent is even worse and more corrupting than TV, and even if you don't have a TV at home, your children can watch it through the Internet as my wife's children do. By all means, limit your children's exposure to both TV and the Internet!!
Joel from Connecticut (Part 2)
I grew up in a small town in Connecticut, U.S. in the 1950's and 1960's. We didn't have TV until 1961. Before that most of our leisure time was spent outside, playing baseball in summer and sledding in winter, and hiking all year round. In the early 1960's we went to summer camp where there was no TV either. The TV that we had back then was rather tame and innocent and included sports (baseball and football), childrens' programs, and comedies such as I Love Lucy and Get Smart, although watching reruns of the Three Stooges ruined our table manners…

In school there was no television, except on special occasions; for example, live coverage of the launching of one of the U.S. space missions around 1962.

Our parents occasionally took us to the cinema and this was a family event. I still remember "The Ten Commandments" around 1960 as the first movie I saw. "Babes In Toyland" followed not long afterwards.

In October 1973, I first came to Israel as a volunteer on an orthodox religious kibbutz in the wake of the Yom Kippur War and spent a year. The kibbutz had a television in the social hall, but I never watched it. Instead I found satisfaction picking oranges all day and learning Torah in the synagogue in the evening. Here too we were taken once together into Tel Aviv to the cinema, as a treat, but I was not impressed.

Both my wife and I need the Internet for our work and we have it in our home. Unfortunately this is the greatest single issued that divides us. Her children from a previous marriage watch Israel television programs with no supervision until the small hours of the night and morning, and just today I saw a news item reporting that Israeli educators have severe criticism for one of the programs I believe they are watching. I am firmly against any use of the Internet by youth. Instead, parents should select materials that have only wholesome educational content and present it to their children as a prize for good behaviour.
Joel from Connecticut, U.S.
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before we all got boring


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