Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Briefing Mormon Families on the New Media: Television, 1959
 


Briefing Mormon Families on the New Media: Television, 1959

By: Ardis E. Parshall - November 05, 2009

Ensign articles on dealing with the Internet, and social networking, and the perils of the modern workplace are the current iteration of a long-established pattern: The world is changing! Mormon families are in peril!! Here, step-by-step, is how to deal with the threat!!!

Fifty years ago the new technology was television.

Like any good cautionary tale, the Instructor’s article of December 1959 begins with a case study. Little Jimmy Brown races home from school and tears through the house to what once was called the living room but, as an indication of the power of this new medium, has become “the television room.” His mother Mrs. Brown – not Sister, oddly, but Mrs. – sighs as she is reminded of how she is becoming “increasingly flustered” by the way television has invaded her home. Jimmy and his younger siblings fight for control of the TV knob (no remotes here, kiddies). Their older sister demands time for the educational programs she prefers. Mr. Brown wants to watch sports. Mrs. Brown admits that the television “has created discord between my husband and the children.”

There is a solution, sez the magazine, but warns that “it is not an easy one.” To promote the “togetherness” offered by television, the family must “work out schedules and … respect the rights of its individual members.”

But don’t despair! Call a family meeting! Appraise the schedule, plan your viewing. Practice restraint. Avoid selfishness and lack of courtesy. Reach mutual agreement.

Do this, and the family “participates together in enjoying the television programs brought into the home.” Do this, and “the medium will contribute greatly to the spirit of ‘togetherness’ and family harmony.”

Illustrating common television-viewing bad habits and the corresponding elements of an “excellent family entertainment philosophy” – and inadvertently giving readers of 2009 a glimpse of the increasingly alien family life of our parents – we find a number of do’s and don’ts, prescient of those bullet lists so favored by Ensign writers who offer pat solutions to all our current difficulties:

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Don’t let your family TV viewing schedule be determined by the one who can get her hand on the dial first. Such a means of program selection will result in disagreement and friction between family members.

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Do spend some time each week planning a careful TV viewing schedule in which each family member has a say in program selection. This method will lead to TV enjoyment as a wholesome recreational medium.

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Don’t let conflicts arise as to whether lights in the TV area stay on or off. If someone wishes to participate in other activities requiring light, he should move to another part of viewing room or the house.

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Don’t turn the volume of the TV set so loud that it irritates those not watching it and causes the neighbors to hear television without turning on their sets. Keep the volume in a pleasant and comfortable range.

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Don’t walk between the viewers and the TV set when leaving the room. If there is no other route by which to leave, walk swiftly by that area without pausing to take a final look at the TV picture.

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Don’t allow confusion to invade your home because the piano and TV are in the same room, causing the TV to be turned louder, the viewers to strain harder to hear and the pianist to hit the keys with extra force.

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Do enable your family to enjoy the TV and the piano at the same time by installing earphones on your set. Single phones are about $4.50 a set and double phones are about $12.50. See your TV dealer for details.

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Don’t ignore Mother in her call to join the family at dinner. Many meals become cold before they are eaten, and many mothers become discouraged and frustrated as well-planned menus are spoiled by TV.

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Do come immediately when Mother calls the family to dinner. Turn the TV set off so that mealtime can be enjoyed quietly and without the anxiety that will result if someone wants to see what he can hear.

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Don’t come into the TV room after everyone else is seated and try to take over a chair that is already occupied. Attempting to remove another from his place may be the beginning of an unpleasant incident.

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Do bring an extra chair for yourself when you come into the TV room after everyone else is seated and you see there are no more chairs available. This will enable those already watching to remain undisturbed.

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Don’t leave a visitor standing at the door ungreeted except by a call from across the room, half ignoring him in the hope that maybe he will leave so he will not disturb the television program you are viewing.

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Do greet your visitor at the door and make him feel welcome in your home by inviting him in and sitting down to converse with him. Unless the guest wishes to watch TV with you, the set should be turned off.

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Don’t ignore nor scowl at Mother when she answers the telephone and asks that the TV volume be turned down. In her attempt to get results she may raise her voice, much to the discomfort of her caller.

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Do turn the TV volume down as Mother answers the telephone. Mother should then excuse herself from her caller while she takes the phone to another room where she will not disturb her family unnecessarily.

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Don’t disregard the clock where young children and their TV habits are concerned. Avoid the common practice of parents and older children sleeping while young children eagerly watch the late, late show.

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Do set a time limit on TV viewing. The youngest children will go to bed first, and the older ones will watch for a while longer with the volume turned down so as not to disturb those who are sleeping.

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15 Comments »

  1. This is really awesome. I will definitely use these photos in a family home evening lesson.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — November 5, 2009 @ 11:04 am

  2. Notice that although he has removed his tie, Daddy is apparently still wearing his white shirt and suit coat. All the ladies are wearing dresses. I expect you to dress appropriately for this FHE lesson, Kent.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 5, 2009 @ 11:15 am

  3. My parents “solved” this problem by not getting a television for another 12 years after this article was published. My siblings and I had to fight about other things instead.

    Comment by Mark B. — November 5, 2009 @ 11:25 am

  4. The phrase “the beginning of an unpleasant incident” is one that I will definitely be employing in future! And the picture illustrating use of the headphones obviously totally disgregards the omitted advice of not sitting less then two feet away from the set…to the optometrist’s with those children, Mother!

    Comment by Alison — November 5, 2009 @ 11:27 am

  5. The piano vs. TV smackdown was pretty epic.

    Comment by Steve Evans — November 5, 2009 @ 12:53 pm

  6. It seems that getting a 2nd 3rd or 4th tv in the home would eliminate most of these problems. :)

    I love the picture of the kid dragging the sibling from the couch withthe sibling holding on for dear life. This is exactly how tv watching was practiced in my house growing up. If only we’d had that Ensign article.

    They are missing one rule of ettiquette which is what to do when a person gets up for a minute and his seat is immediately taken by another. In my childhood that’s usually what started the sibling pulling scene.

    Comment by Steve G. — November 5, 2009 @ 12:56 pm

  7. Steve G.: Before leaving one’s seat, one had to call “seat saved.”

    Comment by Bookslinger — November 5, 2009 @ 1:38 pm

  8. “Don’t leave a visitor standing at the door ungreeted except by a call from across the room, half ignoring him in the hope that maybe he will leave so he will not disturb the television program you are viewing.”

    Who knew this was bad behavior? I mean really!

    Comment by Hunter — November 5, 2009 @ 1:50 pm

  9. Oh my. I’m not the only one whose parents avoided all this drama and training in asociality (is that a word?) by doing away with the television altogether? Of course, that just meant that we snitched each others’ library books.

    Comment by Researcher — November 5, 2009 @ 2:00 pm

  10. Wow, for some of us older Saints this brings back memories. We we a military family and many of our bases didn’t have TV, just some base sponsered programs kind of like those old local cable shows. I remember you couldn’t just run home to watch TV because it didn’t start till late afternoon. You would set there and watch the test pattern. TV also went off at midnight with the flag waving and the nation anthem or something close to that. Best of all it was in black and white, so cool. We kids were the remote control. We had rabbit ears with tinfoil and all. I remember getting a lesson from my parents about proper TV manners.

    Comment by Mex Davis — November 5, 2009 @ 3:33 pm

  11. Come on! Doing your Home Teaching with the TV still on was part of the process. Wasn’t it?

    Comment by Bruce Crow — November 5, 2009 @ 4:05 pm

  12. I know I used to wish that my sisters could install “earphones” on the piano, so they could practice without the rest of us being subjected to the noise!

    Comment by Mark B. — November 5, 2009 @ 4:12 pm

  13. Growing up, I lived next door to my grandpa. We treated both houses like our own. When grandpa decided to get a TV–a small black and white thing (my parents weren’t financially able to get one), my little brother asked grandpa which house he was going to put it in.

    Comment by Maurine — November 5, 2009 @ 11:06 pm

  14. This post got a guffaw out of me. My tip: don’t own a TV.

    Comment by Michelle Glauser — November 7, 2009 @ 11:41 am

  15. Take the phone into another room? In 1959? Until sometime in the Ford Administration, we always had one black rotary phone attached to the wall with a 3-foot receiver cord. But the phone was always in the kitchen or in a hallway, so interference with the television wasn’t a problem anyway.

    Comment by Left Field — November 7, 2009 @ 6:34 pm

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