Space, Weddings and Funerals – on TV.

Here in Britain, we have just had a royal wedding. I’m sure you all heard about it so I won’t say any more on the subject. I was away on holiday in another country when it was on but even so, my friends and I were able to watch it together.

50s tv set    60s tv set

The following memories are of my very early TV experiences and are more about the excitement of viewing a live occasion than about the events themselves.

alexandra's wedding

I have very clear memories of some big state occasions (weddings and funerals) in the early 60s. In 1960, Princess Margaret the Queen’s sister, married Anthony Armstrong Jones. We knew it was being televised. My mum and her friends and their children really wanted to watch it – but none of us had TVs. Then my mum’s friend Miriam, who lived on a farm in our village, said that her Aunty Gladys had a TV. Gladys lived in the tiny town (which seemed big to us!) five miles away. TV had reached there before it stretched out to the remote surrounding villages. Anyway, this dear old lady said we could all watch it at her house. We children were enthralled with being able to watch TV – the content was less important to us. The mums really enjoyed watching their first televised state occasion. There was, of course, tea, cakes and biscuits.


In April 1961 the world saw the first human being, Yuri Gagarin, launched into space. There were still no homes in my village with a TV but – amidst huge excitement – my primary school headteacher decided to buy a TV for school use and to buy it in time for the whole school (all 28 of us!) to watch the launch live. Space travel and live TV at the same time – we were SO amazed and I’ve never forgotten it.

kents wedding

Also in 1961 was the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Kent. I remember it very clearly. We also watched this at Aunty Gladys’ house and I remember thinking Katherine, the Duchess of Kent, was absolutely beautiful.

alexandra's wedding

In 1963, Princess Alexandra married Angus Ogilvy and, once again, the mums and children of the village wanted to watch it. By this time we had a TV of our own. Some friends in the village didn’t have a TV yet and came to us to watch it.

churchill    ch fun

Similarly, in 1965, the country mourned the death of Winston Churchill. Friends came to watch it at our house. These occasions were daytime events and at that time there was hardly any daytime TV. When you watched anything during daylight hours the curtains were always closed. The image transmitted was so weak that in the light of day it was very hard to see.

Summer Holidays

The summer holiday was a big thing in the 1950’s. Family holidays were taken mainly in the school summer holidays i.e. second half of July/ all of August. Families went for one week or two, usually to somewhere by ‘the seaside’. Few people took holidays outside of the summer weeks apart from visiting relatives.

I remember that for a week before we went away we had to wear our tattiest clothes as all our decent stuff was being washed, dried and ironed by Mum ready to pack. Now we can whizz a few last minute washes through the washer and dryer and not everything needs ironing since the advent of synthetic fabrics.

A bucket, spade and ball were the only toys children needed for a day on the beach. Nobody knew the dangers of sunburn and sun creams were little more than moisturiser. So we burned. Then our mums put calamine lotion on the sore bits.

Traffic jams were a feature of summer travel all over the UK. Thus was before motorways, dual carriageways and bypasses and also, nobody went abroad on holiday. So jams were a regular feature. I remember that some years we set off on holiday at bedtime and while we children slept in the car – we were supposed to but were usually too excited – my dad would drive through the night.

Everybody sent postcards. My mum used to take her address book away on holiday and would spend ages writing cards to all her friends and relatives. I think her list of postcard recipients was probably the same as her Christmas one.

We rarely ate out – money was tight – and when we did it would be lunch in a cafe on a rainy day when it was too wet and cold for a picnic. Although I do remember wet, cold picnics too!

The holiday was planned months in advance. There was no last then. I imagine, I can’t ask them now as they both died a few years ago, that everything was arranged by post. I have no idea how my mum and dad found the caravans, B and B’s (boarding houses as they were known) or holiday rentals we used. We went to locations all over Britain so it certainly wasn’t down to local knowledge. From our home in Wales we had holidays in Scotland, Yorkshire, Dorset, Kent and many other places. In this Internet age it’s really hard for me to picture how my mum and dad arranged the annual family holiday.

The pictures above have all been found on Google Images. They are adverts, mostly for rail travel. I have talked about car journeys but many, many families went on holiday by train too. The posters all advertise places I went to on holiday as a child but I have also chosen them because they are great posters and so evocative of the era.