What did people do before Television?

What did people do with themselves for thousands of years before Television came in our homes causing us to live in a world of entertainment,sport ,music and TV shows and becoming couch potatoes?

Does anybody here live without a TV ?

I do not live without a TV, especially since our children are all out of the house. When they lived at home the TV was restricted in time turned on and channel watched.

I did grow up partially w/o a TV (until it was a common household appliance). Children played outside (believe it or not) and adults socialized with their neighbors and within their communities. Additionally, families commonly prayed together, lighting a candle, getting on their knees, and saying a rosary, among other prayers.

I view the use of TV today as a way to ‘unwind’ at the end of a more stressful and more difficult workday. We are now working longer and much harder than our fathers and forefathers. So, for me what that means is, I work harder now that I am much older than I did when I was young. Doesn’t make sense to anyone but the moguls.

Before television, folks entertained by socializing with their neighbors and friends. Read books, played musical instruments, etc…Many folks lived on farms and therefore was very busy throughout the day in itself with the chores. Think about when you went camping and other adventures, except that this was pretty much their way of life. They also it seems enjoyed simple things we tend to take for granted such as observing the sky at fascinating stars and the way the moon hits on the scenery around. It seems to me that you don’t know what you are missing that you don’t have, you just make do with what you have that is available. :thumbsup:

I’m assuming you mean in the evening, once all the work, play, and eating is done, and the children were settled. Many adults sat around and talked with neighbors, friends, relatives. In my family, reading, cards, correspondence, and doing puzzles were also popular. This was in the quieter crowd. Another set liked to go to some local establishment to drink and socialize.

I should point out, though, that I only lived with no television and sometimes no telephone for part of the year. I’m not old enough for anything else.

It should also be pointed out that Far more people worked jobs that were physically demanding, whether farming or factory work, and so were very tired at the end of the (long) day. Most people went to bed earlier that people do today.


Before TV, they listened as intently to the radio. Started in the morning with the breakfast news, then the soaps, and into the evening. You had dinner and then sat around to hear The Shadow, Lone Ranger etc. Right after lunch, the soaps were on and continued to right before supper about 5PM. Women ironed and listened, shelled peas and listened. And if the kids were rowdy, they were sent outside to play so they could hear their soaps.
Yes, people played more games but usually the radio was on in the background.
Before that? Well look at the popularity of the pubs in England and Ireland. You went out for a pint and to enjoy the music and conversation. And the kids went too.
In the Mediterranean and S. American countries, it is the custom to take a walk around the plaza, have coffee, hear the gossip, and listen to the music.
People like to be entertained. I’m sure in the Middle Ages everything stopped if a new storyteller or musician came to the village.

We did say the family Rosary every evening…but apart from necessary duties and chores, we played imaginative games, and built carefully balanced cubbies, with our siblings and with the neighbourhood children.
We had singsongs around the piano, and we read books for the sheer pleasure of it.
There was an hour of children’s programs, including a serialized story each afternoon.
When our father came in from work, he and my mother used to talk together for a while.
We sometimes played draughts or cards.
We would go on long walks into the country to bring home buckets of blackberries or mushrooms, depending on the season.
We’d bake on Saturdays for the weeks cookies and cakes, and home-made ice-creams, at times quite exotic.

Around Christmas we didn’t leave our parents to buy decorations, we’d make fold-over streamers our of crepe paper, and bells out of coloured milk-bottle tops smoothed into fluted shapes over the lemon squeeze, thread and hang them…and so on.
We lived quite busy lives, and there were no computers or TV or video games, but we had a wide variety of games we would play out imaginatively together.
And we planted our own individual flower gardens. We had healthy, happy childhoods…

A few glimpses from my “Fragments of the Journey”

The vanished past

Some memories surprise me, as experiences of a different era, foreign to my children’s generation. Some changes invoke rejoicing, like a better modern understanding of cultural or religious differences. We girls walked together to Saint B’s Catholic school in S…but were fearful as we passed the State School. The children customarily shouted abuse at us and chanted, “Catholic dogs sitting on logs eating maggots out of frogs.” It was very uncomfortable. Mum would urge, “Don’t answer them. Remember, ‘sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.’” Not true! However, once a stone thrown by one of the children hit my forehead, grazing it and raising a lump.

Nevertheless, we drew pleasure from picking wild black-centred yellow daisies, as we walked to school, as we also did later on our walk to St M’s in T… We made daisy chains by creating slits in the stems with our fingernails and pulling through the next stem. In T…, there were also yellow trumpet flowers that grew in clover-like clumps whose stems were pleasantly sour to chew as we walked.

During my childhood, Mass was still conducted in Latin, and the altar boys gave Latin responses for the congregation. I had a missal that I received as an academic prize. It had Latin on one page and English on the facing page. The priest said Mass with his back to the people, and distributed communion on the tongues of communicants kneeling at the Communion rail. An altar boy held the paten, a gold plate, under people’s chins as the Priest deposited the Blessed Sacrament on their tongues. As there were no Eucharistic ministers to assist him, the process seemed to take a long time. The people never drank from the chalice. Communicants fasted from the previous midnight. In the school choir, conducted by a nun, we sang parts of the Mass in Latin. It was a mortal sin to eat meat on Friday, so we ate fish. Mum usually bought flake because it was cheapest. ‘Flake’ was actually shark flesh.

Some changes are reflective of scientific developments. My boys experienced refrigerators to keep our food cold, as did my family by the time I was nine or ten. Prior to that, we had a green ‘icebox’ that had a separate upper door to an ice compartment with thick metal lining. Each week the iceman came along the streets in his van, to bring large oblong blocks of ice for the icebox. My father would chip the ice to shape for the compartment in the top of the icebox, and once the icepick slipped, right though his thumb and finger. He made no sound; only, at Mum’s request he later showed us the holes with a smile on his face. I wondered if men feel pain, if they felt things as we did. Children would run to the back of iceman’s truck to ask him for chips of clear ice to suck.

Milk containers were not plastic or cardboard as is customary now, but generally were pint glass bottles. For decades, third-pint bottles of milk were daily delivered to the nation’s primary schools for each child. This supplement to the diet of Australian children was only discontinued when my sons were pre-schoolers. The gold or silver, and occasionally red, blue or green foil bottle tops that were crimped over the milk bottles were a resource for Christmas decorations both at home and at school. The tops were scalloped into shape over fluted lemon squeezers and then threaded. Colourful crepe paper was cut into lengths then progressively folded into each other to become bright three-dimensional garlands taped to corners and draped around the rooms. Garlands were also created out of colourful paper looped in rings. Christmas along with other seasons, was more intimate and less commercialised when I was young.

I liked the smell of the pine Christmas trees, and was thrilled one year when we found an empty nest in one of the pine branches. It was exciting to wait for Christmas. I do not recall any particular gift, except that one year I received a cricket set, and another, Mum foolishly gave us little flash-lights that I used to read under the covers in bed. Gifts invariably, and delightfully, included books. One year in a raffle, Dad won a large Christmas tree laden with presents.

From ones bed, one might hear the weekly clatter of the ‘night-man’, as he replaced the large full bucket from the outside toilet with an empty one. Once he tripped and spilled the contents in our back yard. Because there was no indoor facility, at night we used decorated china potties that we slid under cover in the bedrooms, and which some unlucky person had the chore of emptying next morning. If I ventured to go outside to the ‘dunny’ at night, I would make a fearful mad dash back into the house, but going out in the very early morning was magic for me with the dew gleaming colourfully on the grass. (In my later childhood in T…, my father built on to the house a rumpus room, a laundry and an internal flushing toilet, and the outdoor facility was demolished.)

Never also have my children and grandchildren heard the pre-dawn clip clop of horses pulling the milk cart around the streets in daily delivery of milk. Nor are they familiar with the daily bread delivery, when white bread was indeed white bread, but ‘brown bread’ was dyed thus! They have not known the double delivery of mail, morning and afternoons, and on Saturdays, with the ‘postman’ on his cycle making a short blast of his whistle when he deposited letters in the post box. Nor have they received a telegram of urgent family news or of congratulations or at the door. We had never heard of computers or email; and telephone calls were always personally connected by an operator. Toasters were not ‘pop-up. They had side flaps that one opened to turn and to retrieve the toast, hopefully before it burned. When I toasted bread for family breakfast, I took care to ensure that the toast was golden.

When we moved to T… and someone let us read their comics, usually barred, I recall how silly it seemed to read of a man on the moon or spaceships. Thus, we watched in awe on a black-and-white television when they sent a monkey into space, and the first man went into space, and then we watched spellbound when Neil Armstrong and the others set down on the moon. I wanted to talk about it to the girls at K…, but they were still speaking of boys even after such an event.

Our music came from the radio (then more commonly called the 'wireless’) or from flat hard-plastic records placed on the gramophone turntable, with music created through the passage of the gramophone needle in the sound grooves. I remember in the early 1960’s when transistor radios appeared, and women began to wear ‘trousers’, then later, short miniskirts. I remember, when suddenly, the town bristled with bent T.V. antennas during a strong windstorm. A friend of my parents allowed us to visit once weekly to see “Hop-along Cassidy” on their new black-and–white television. Change was normal. Schoolchildren surged to the railway Station to welcome the first electric train to town, heralding the end of the familiar, impressive steam train; and Dad became one of the first City Councillors when the town was declared a city. Later, my granddaughter would not dream of wearing a hat and gloves to a job interview, but it was still a requirement my mother enforced when I originally applied for work."

It wasn’t just the electronic stuff that was different, you see, and our world was full without them, not knowing of them, not needing them.

From “Fragments”


During summer school holidays Mum’s nostalgia for the country and perhaps her desire for solitude, periodically prompted her to dispatch us for a day to the Bush. Taking a packed lunch, we children walked along the ‘old M… Road’ to search for blackberries or for mushrooms, depending on the season. I loved the gum-trees, the golden grass, and the chortle of magpies as we walked. We girls carried the younger ones home as their legs grew tired. We ate some of the blackberries we picked from the brambles; but always brought some home in buckets to have with ice cream and cream that was carefully siphoned from the top of each milk-bottle and whipped for dessert.

From earliest childhood, my sisters, and later my brothers, shared imaginative play that assimilated simpler creative concepts that are often suppressed by modern multimedia and electronic entertainment. We girls played at ‘dressing up’ on rainy days with clothes out of Mum’s ‘glory box’. With the ignorance of young children, we played at ‘saying Mass’ with circles of bread, just as we played the Fatima story in the bushland across the road from our S… house. Spiritual things were part of the natural order of life.

Later, in T…, we played hide and seek, and made tents out of the double bunks in our bedroom. Outside in the yard we built precarious ‘cubbies’ out of timber or whatever we could find on the scrap heap. Our best constructions were grass huts in the paddock beside our house. We tied together the tips of the innumerable pliant poplar saplings and lined them by weaving long dry golden grass, leaving only a single entry. I made the neatest ones, and my little brothers would ask to come in and share them with me. We played ‘pirates’ whose ship was a heap of timber on the same property. Eventually a house was built there spoiling our fun, and the spring jonquils that had grown wild there, disappeared.

When Dad cut down a large tree that bedded too many dead leaves in the roof gutters, we climbed around it pretending that it was a forest, and that the cat was a tiger. We played happily in the forest for several days until Dad sawed the tree into small lengths set aside for firewood. Apart from the fireplace in the large living room, we had a slow combustion woodstove that formed the warm centre of cold afternoons when we walked in from school. My father entered the warm kitchen from work to share a sherry and a chat with Mum before dinner.

As we grew older, Dad introduced us to cards around the large covered billiard table that served as our dining table. There was need for self-entertainment because it was many years before we received our black-and-white television. I was a gift from our priest who came to dinner every Saturday night. The time came when I no longer helped to weave creative play with my siblings."

Most evenings when we were supposed to be sleeping, I would tell my sister a little more of the stories I created as t related them, and their reactions often aided the direction of my stories. If they pleaded that something might not occur, I knew it had dramatic value to lead the story that way, but Mum had ears that heard the faintest whispers, so it was never long before her protests silenced my stories, for the night at least!

No, we were never bored!

+Houses were often set up very differently :slight_smile: in years past . . . my maternal grandparents . . . along with many others of their era . . . had a comfortable library/den . . . filled . . . with floor to ceiling shelves of all kinds of books for reading :coffeeread: along all its walls . . . and I was raised in a home with bookcases of all sizes in every room . . . some floor to ceiling . . . filled with wholesome books for children and adults and wholesome magazines for both children and adults . . . and raised my children with the same (along with television) . . . plus public libraries were much utilized . . . radios were used for all levels of music, news and entertainment programs . . . working on a table of puzzles of all kinds and sizes was a common entertainment pursuit . . . board and children’s card games were much in use in-doors as families generally had several children . . . along with multiple church activities . . . adults often had bridge clubs, canasta clubs, domino clubs, book clubs, gardening clubs, dinner clubs, and for the more wealthy, country clubs, etc. where they socialized with others . . . and all kinds of outside games and activities :juggle: for children in particular, such as ball :ballspin: games, kick ball, ice skating, swimming, marbles, hide and seek, roller skating, etc., were played by all . . . letter writing and receiving was a favorite recreation . . . visiting neighbors was much more common . . . hobbies were prevalent such as sewing, knitting, crocheting or embroidery for girls and women . . . woodworking and repair shop areas for guys of all ages for building things and working on cars, etc., . . . all kinds of arts and crafts, scrapbooking, etc., and practicing musical instruments were encouraged . . . etc., . . . kitchen hobbies such as baking cookies, cupcake decorating, candy making, making popcorn, etc. were common for parties . . . plus kids generally had regular chores they had to take care of for the households . . . and Church activities and involvement were never limited to “just Sunday” . . . memorizing considerable portions of Sacred :bible1: Scripture and the Catechism were common pursuits and goals for children . . . family meals and family pray:gopray2:er were common every day activities . . . church picnics and potlucks were common place . . . as were **Bible :bible1: **study and Rosary pray:gopray2:er groups . . .

[RIGHT]. . . all for Jesus+[/RIGHT]

I only use the TV to watch Catholic Movies or Catholic related things. I live in the country so I don’t even get the local channels and do not subscribe to cable. I find life peaceful without the barrage that the TV would stream in my life, of course it is a grace, because I used to watch inordinate amounts of TV.

People read, they spent more time with their families and what no. Pretty much what I do, except I don’t spend time with my family as they live quite a long distance from me.

God bless.

In the 1960s, we were encouraged to watch only a little TV and to go out and play, especially in the summer. We would go to the local school field and spend time on the swings or play baseball. There were great magazines (without porn or profanity) to read. Some people built model kits of planes or ships. We played cards and Monopoly. We went to the local park as a family to look at the natural beauty and to relax. We picked cherries and appples at orchards (when it was still allowed). My dad caught fish as a hobby and we sometimes collected bugs and coins. The radio had calm, civil people on it and there was Father Justin’s Rosary Hour (in Polish) which my mother listened to. Neighbors had little parties and get togethers at each other’s homes. Some kids played hockey and watched it on TV.

No, the time period was not perfect but going to Church every Sunday was a natural part of our lives. God was integrated into our communities even if we all weren’t Catholics but held to some Christian faith and the TV at the time generally reflected and respected our moral values.


I had a similar upbringing in many ways. What younger people often don’t know is that TV offered fewer choices back in the 1960s and 1970s (when I grew up - I’m 53) . The numerous cable channels offering uncut movies without commercials, cable channels catering to different interests (sports, all-news channels, kid’s channels like Noggin and Nickelodeon), 24 hours a day, just didn’t exist back then. In most metropolitan markets, you had ABC, CBS, and NBC, and maybe a couple if local channels. If you lived on the outskirts of town, you might not have good reception. Most stations “signed off” the air around midnight, after the Johnny Carson show ended, maybe staying up a little later on weekends to let the Late Show run. (I remember the sign off for the CBS affiliate in Phoenix in the 1970s showing an Air Force-supplied sign-off each night, showing stock footage of jet fighters while a narrator read the poem about “I have burst the surly bonds of Earth,” with the final sign-off voice-over (which also used during the hourly station identification) being “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” Imagine doing THAT today!

There were only certain times when “children’s programming” on - Saturday morning cartoons, occasionally the first episode in a weeknight line-up like “The Flintstones” or “Jonny Quest” or inoffensive sitcoms with a broad appeal like “The Brady Bunch” or “Gilligan’s Island.” Other than early-morning shows for the very young, like “Captain Kangaroo,” that was pretty much it for kids. In my house, after watching the Saturday morning cartoons you were “encouraged” to leave the house and “get some fresh air,” so you would go out and play softball in a vacant lot (not many parks in my neighborhood, but vacant lots were generally considered shared community space as long as you weren’t doing anything wrong), ride your bicycle around aimlessly, play “war” with your friends, come back, eat lunch, go to the library, etc. After the Saturday morning cartoons ended, there was a sharp programming divide for shows of little interest to kids (such as shows about Turkey Hunting) anyway, so no one would think about hanging around and watching TV. We tended to go to church a lot, as our church was also the parochial school and my grandmother was a secretary for the diocese and so it was the center of our lives and all my friends were from there.

There were of course no VCRs or computers or Internet, so if you missed an episode of your favorite show or a special or a ball game or a movie you wanted to see, you were out of luck until (if) it was re-run half-a-year later. In some cases, the series you liked might be canceled without reruns and you would have to wait until DVD sets were invented several decades later to find out what happened.

There was, to be honest, a lot of boredom in our lives back then - I remember riding my bike to the airport with friends to go up to the observation deck and watch planes landing, just to have something to do (which nowadays, would probably get us detained by the TSA), or going to the mall to hang out when we became teens - but generally we found ways to spend our time that involved actually talking and interacting with each other.

I read a book a few years ago (can’t remember the title) that looked at diaries and writings from times before electric lights, and examined how average people spent their time after the sun set during the pre-industrial age. You can’t sleep all that time (try sleeping from sunrise to sunset, even if you’ve done a day of hard physical labor), yet candles were both expensive and dangerous (fire was a big hazard in homes in the middle ages), and it was difficult to read by them even if you were literate (there was also a concern that a lit-up house could attract bandits). Some would catch up on the day’s labor or doing work like candling eggs or sewing, but many people seemed to just sit in the dark and talk, which seems odd to us now, or just sit quietly and think if you lived alone. What I found most interesting is that in the middle ages, most Europeans had a different sleep cycle than we do - they would go to bed shortly after sunset, then wake up around 10:00 pm or so, and stay awake until about 2:00 am and then go back to sleep until sunrise. Many people would spend that time in prayer or saying the rosary, talking with family, having a small second meal, making love to a spouse, etc.

That seems like a very odd thing now, but I wonder if there could be some advantages to it. Maybe I should experiment with it, but I’d probably drive my wife and kids crazy.

Sounds like you all had wonderful experiences back in older times

How is your life now?

Are your lives very busy with Internet ,phones and TV now?

Do you miss those old times?

I know i do alot

I spent 3 years in Botswana where there was no TV. With 8 kids in the family we played outside until supper then off out again until bedtime. We spent many evenings playing cards with my folks, weekend nights put tents outside to ‘camp’.Some of us kids liked to read others had hobbies and with plenty of animals there was always something to keep you busy, miss those days…:slight_smile:

we never had a TV full time unless my dad was repairing one, so we might watch for a few nights. I missed a lot of those classic 50s & 60s programs, and did some catch up when I got to college. we played outside, winter and summer, until suppertime, or when the street lights came on, then came inside for homework, or to play board games, dolls, erector set etc. or just read.

by the time I was 14 I was working so would not have had much spare time for TV. They finally got one when I was in high school but I never was home much and in any case parents watched their own shows, kids were not allowed to monopolize it.

DH puts the satellite on vacation while he is gone and I get back before he does, which gives me 2-3 months with no TV, a time I cherish. I love the quiet, listen to a lot of music, which is impossible when somebody else is watching TV.

My life is not busy with either of the three. The only time I use the internet is to do forum work, check email, and see if any new latch hook kits are up on EBAY.

I don’t miss the old times, because my old times were not pleasant as others posters have had in their past.

I am thankful for the peace and quiet.

God bless.

Perhaps busy with the internet now. I use it so that I can do work at home. I watch TV, but not in the usual way. Every so often we will borrow a season of a show on DVD and watch it over many nights. My friends and family will tell you that I don’t really use phones.

I miss having people around so that we can sit on the porch and chat. I replace that with places like CAF, but it is not the same.

I was very fortunate to be raised in a small town in Ohio in the fifties…things were slower, simpler, and made more sense, than they do now…There were NO stores open on sundays, only one gas station… On sat nites, we’d all gather up town and listen to the school band play, or have a FREE movie outdoors…After everything was over, we walked home, no rapes, no danger, no drugs… They were good times… The Sunday Mass of course was in Latin, and I was an alter boy, There were no altar girls back then.My mom and sisters sang in the choir and they were still way up in the choir loft…That’s when my love of church organ music began…and as Trishie said, we fasted from midnite on for Holy Communion…We respected the priest to the point of being afraid of him sometimes, which was all in our minds…Would I like to go back to those days?? You betcha!!. for most things…but in the sixties, everything changed and not for the better, in my opinion…

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