Friday, May 1, 2015

in the Fifties my key influence was always TV - in the Sixties it was never TV

My partner Rebecca and I always get into disputes about me letting her son's daughter Sam watch so much videos on the computer : Peppa Pig, Little Bear, Arthur and Franklin and the like.

I myself loathe TV, rarely watch movies (but do enjoy detective mystery series from TV, as long as they are not thrillers).

I like popular music (though don't listen to it on the radio as much as when I was younger), never read fiction (though I liked it plenty until I left high school) but above all, am a total non fiction bookworm.

I read books, magazines, newspapers and increasingly, on the computer.

Rebecca is the one who watches TV or listens to CBC radio - not me --- I am the much bigger reader.

So you'd think I'd be the one to restrain Sam's TV time, but that's not so.

Because when I was small, before I could read (and even after I could read) I didn't really read much - more enjoyed simply staring at photos or illustrations and then trying to understand the short descriptive cutlines or captions below them.

Instead (from age six till I turned ten) I much preferred to play and talk with a big bunch of other kids, watch grownup movies or TV shows with my parents on the family TV or gaze out the car window soaking it all in, when our family went for long drives.

On the TV, war movies, murder mysteries, a few TV situation comedies, TV docudramas and Fifties Sci Fi movies made the biggest impression on me.

But in September 1961, that all abruptly ended - I wasn't allowed to leave our new rural home to visit other kids, there was no TV and no money to go to city movie houses or have a daily newspaper.

Print had to take up the slack and with two weeks I found I could read adult level books and magazines as fast and as easily as any adult who was a good reader.

But back in the Fifties, as a little kid, I could either not read at all, or so poorly, that I couldn't possibly hope to learn about worlds beyond my own through my print-understanding abilities.

But even as a small kid, I learned a lot about the adult world through observing the sounds, dialogue and actions of films and TV shows --- and matured in doing so.

Because even at age seven I thought A Walk In The Sun was a war movie well above the rest I had seen and I had already seen plenty by then.

Professional adult film critics (then and now) thoroughly agree with my childhood assessment.

I only wish my mother had stuck two year old me in front of a TV sometimes, instead of always outside, behind a wire fence enclosure ,to stare all day, every day, at the few cars that went past our home just beyond Dartmouth's 1954 town limits.

I was bored out of my skull - could have used some brain stimulation.

I was conceived in 1950 and was eight and a half in 1960, so I recall nothing of that decade from the simple-minded Dick and Jane books we had to read in school.

But the TV I watched at home was fully adult and its lessons taught me how to understand the adult 1950s world I saw outside my home.

As a result, I 'get' the 1950s, I really do --- and while I have much studied the 1940s, I don't get them at all.

Sam is a very smart two year old and she has no trouble separating the good children's shows from the bad children's shows - and she can tell me the plots and characters better than I can - and I watch them with her.

TV expands her mind as much as playtime and kids books do, I can see it do so in her.

And that it matches my memories of just what I can recall from a 1950s childhood - and it wasn't anything we were taught in school .

(Besides the exploding of Ripple Rock and the death of Pope Pius - interestingly, two external adult happenings brought into our simple classroom days by our teachers.)

So, no I never heard of 1957's Strontium 90 till 1962 but I saw its indirect effect on the world in all those junky Sci Fi films I saw back in the 1950s.

So let Sam watch TV and videos, I say - it'll expand her brain, not rot it ...

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