Tales of the Little Screen: Leone Cordingley

Leone Cordingley was well on her way to adulthood when television entered her home for the first time.

Family_watching_television_1958
An example of Leone’s era. Evert F. Baumgardner- National Archives and Records Administration

 

Leone, now 74-years-old, reflects on the changes that this new media form featured in her home, family relationships, and dance schedule.

“It had a very small screen, in a very big cabinet.” Leone’s first television; strictly black and white, was brought home when she was 16 and living in Liverpool with her mother, brother, and two younger sisters. It was 1957, and this alien medium of entertainment had only been released to the mainstream public one year prior.

“[Mum] was always a goer, she had to have it… kept us at home, and off the streets.”

Leone’s fondest memories of television come from the show Bandstand,  which aired every Saturday night at 6 o’clock. Just in time for Leone to watch the televised musicians before going out to the local town hall for the live music.

The living room turned into the dance hall for the McCalla family.

“We danced holes into the Feltex…and Mum danced with us, we had a lot of good fun.”

However, the new arrangement of the living  room also begun the now-eternal sibling rivalry of ‘Who gets the best spot’.

Faced with the mathematical struggle of a 5 member family with a 3-seater lounge, Leone created her own solution. “I always tried to get the lounge, because I was the older child, I always pulled rank.” The unfortunate extras were left with the floor for a seat.

Leone laughs while she recalls this. It is clear that her first memories of television, despite the 60 years since then, have resonated deeply with her. Yet the actual specifics of the television, and the very first day of its arrival are lost to Leone. It is only the associated memories of family and fun that truly stand out to her.

“We rock n’ rolled…”

This conversation with Leone brought about some very clear trends with television that I think most of us experience (Darian-Smith and Turnbull, 2012) . For example, the moments when she discussed dancing in front of the television with her family; the joy was evident in her laugh and her wistful tone.

It brought to mind my own memories of dancing with my family, although that was to the ‘Fresh Summer Hits of 2006’. That feeling of inclusiveness and fun brought to us from the television, created then, and creates now, a whole new media space.

What surprised me most about this conversation was the normalcy with which the television was so quickly inducted. Not one year from commercial release in  Australia, Leone’s view of television was not that of a foreign object; now smooshed into the corner of the living room, but rather that of an extension of her world. The television had slipped, so subtly, into the family’s regular lifestyle, to the point that actual life was held off to ensure that it was watched, as seen with Bandstand.

Going into the conversation, I was sure that Leone would remember clearly the historic day that a television was brought into her home. Yet it seems she almost took it for granted as much as I did as child… Okay maybe not that much. Regardless, it is evident that the experience was not as life-altering as I originally believed it would be.

The one thing I would like to investigate further with Leone was her unique position, a little later in life, to know people both on and off the tiny screen.

In our conversation Leone revealed that her mother had actually known the manager, Ted Quigg, of many famous acts, such as Frank Ifield, Jimmy Little, and Noeleen Batley. Thus Ted, and his esteemed clients would visit Leone’s house, Frank Ifield even asked Leone out at one point, she politely put him down, believing he was too in love with himself for her.

That contrast between reality and television would have altered Leone’s media space in her home. I would enjoy discovering that difference with her, should she accept.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Leone now in her home. Photo by Tayla Bosley

Overall, this conversation led me to the conclusion that your media space is not defined by how big your TV is or how many seats you have, but by the people that you have to enjoy that space with.

 

Bibliography

Darian-Smith, K. and Turnbull, S. (2012). Remembering television. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Pub.

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