Cheryl Nicol is a writer and historian who has recently reconnected with her Christchurch roots after 33 years away.
My mother used to say, when we complained about things, that we didn’t appreciate how lucky we were.
Trying to lip-read Mr Ed on a telly behind a shopfront window wasn’t my idea of lucky. Owning a television wasn’t hers. Life in the slow lane was just her speed – never mind that we were only about three decades behind the rest of the developed world. The proof was right there in one of my father’s old issues of Popular Mechanics.
“Television is ready for the home!” announced the September 1933 edition. These were the words of Russian-American inventor, engineer and pioneer of television technology, Doctor Vladimir Kosmich Zworykin, a name not exactly compatible with a mouthful of dry crackers.
Television deprivation was one thing. Even movie-going was extremely rare. We didn’t call them movies then; this word was an Americanism not yet part of our Kiwi vernacular. Whether they were movies, pictures or plain one syllable ‘flicks’, they all cost money. And my mother didn’t spend money on entertainment when we could make our own out of old cardboard boxes, crepe paper and bits of string.
She was keen to avoid the flock mentality and what she believed was a frivolous waste of my father’s hard-earned money, but in a weak moment she made an exception for Pollyanna, starring Hayley Mills.
It was my first time in a picture theatre, a fantasy palace with its subtle lighting, ornate balconies and boxes and vast fancy ceiling. Much more interesting than church, I thought. But then everything was more interesting than church.
The lights went down, the great wall of curtains parted and a loud drumroll brought everyone to their feet. Expecting to hear a hymn I was startled by my flip seat trying to swallow me by grabbing my bottom as I stood up. Instead of a hymn, the national anthem exhorted God to save our gracious queen, signalling her arrival on horseback. She and her horse looked enormous on the screen. I had never seen anything so huge in my short little life.
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