The first wireless (yes, it was called ‘wireless’, in those days) I can remember is a big old wooden one that my parents hired from Radio Rentals. I loved playing with the dial, tuning in to foreign stations, not really knowing what I was doing. My Dad listened to the BBC Home Service but while he was at work, my Mum would listen to the Light Programme. The Third Network was too posh for us: they played classical music which, sadly, meant nothing to my parents.
In early 1965, my Nan gave us a large item of furniture that she had no use for. It was a radiogram. A combined radio and record player. Well, at this point, we had no records at all, so for that reason, and probably, it was far too big for our house, it was taken away again.
Smaller radios were becoming available, and more affordable, so eventually the rental wireless was returned and for the first time, as far as I’m aware, we owned our own in the house. I used to listen to the pirate stations, Radio London and Radio Caroline but if Dad caught me, he’d retune the receiver. I really think he thought that if I were caught, I’d be sent to jail, merely for listening.
Well, it got to the point where I wanted to listen to the wireless. I swapped my beloved train-sets for a small, portable transistor radio that I could listen to in the privacy of the room that I still shared with my sister. It was at this point that I listened to Fab 208, Radio Luxembourg, under my bedclothes.
I admit, I did watch a lot of TV as well. It was exciting when we installed our first television set. Of course, it wasn’t ours, it too was rented. It was Pay-As-You-View. There was a meter attached to the back which we fed with 6d coins (six old pence is 2½p) and each tanner would provide us with half an hour’s viewing. Needless to say, the picture would disappear half-way through Doctor Who almost every Saturday afternoon. there was enough money in the meter for Dad to get through Grandstand on BBC TV and the wrestling on ITV. But not enough for Doctor Who. Just saying. But I did then, and still do, prefer the simpler medium of radio. Some say the pictures are better. Some say you can do other things while listening whereas TV demands your full attention. You’re free to use your imagination more. I don’t know, all of the above, maybe.
But now with my first radio under the pillow, I could go to sleep listening to music from Luxembourg and if the atmospheric conditions allowed, the American Forces Network (AFN) from Germany. This was all on the long-, medium- and short-wave bands. Plenty of French stations to choose from too, although I usually moved on by them.
But, now, much as I enjoyed the listening experience at the time, I do occasioanlly yearn for my old train-sets.
So, this takes us up to about 1970. VHF radio was new (now called FM) and for a while it was a technology that remained strange to me.