Web Page No 2238
18th February 2016
Top Picture: The family gathered around the radioSecond Picture: Daphne Oxenford
Third Picture: The Listen with Mother story book.
Listen with Mother
When we were very young, before television had invaded our homes, the highlight of the day for young children such as us was ‘Listen with Mother’ on the radio. Eagerly children sat around the radio all waiting to hear the words:- the time is quarter to two. This is the BBC Light Programme for mothers and children at home. Are you ready for the music? When it stops ………. will be here to speak to you. Then came the very distinctive chimes of the Berceuse from Faure’s Dolly Suite.
The programme was first broadcast within our lifetime on 16th January 1950 on the 'Light' programme although it was later transferred to the 'Home Service’. Most of us at that time were in the under-fives bracket then so we were the ideal audience.
The 15-minute programme consisted of stories, songs and nursery rhymes for children under the age of 5 (and their mothers). We would all sit down round the radio five minutes before the programme started and waited in high anticipation. It was on the air every weekday and at its peak, it had an audience of more than a million listeners.
Each story section of the programme began with the familiar phrase: 'Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin'. Regular presenters and story readers included Daphne Oxenford and Dorothy Smith, who each contributed to the programme for more than 20 years, before it ended in 1982.
The producer of the programme always had in in the back of his mind a home situation with just a single child or a couple of children in the intimate setting of the home, with or without mother, although the programme was called ‘Listen with Mother’ mother was not obligatory.
For the young children of the early 1950s this was a magical time and many of them really did believe that the storyteller is inside that magic box in the corner; although it was reported that many children had asked their mothers, ‘How can they get a piano into such a small box?’
Many children believed that the storyteller could actually hear them and that he or she could hear their replies. Almost every child believed that it was an individual programme broadcast just for him or for her.
To anyone who didn't grow up in the 1950s and 60s it is difficult to explain how such a basic formula captivated such a large audience for 15 minutes after lunch, slotted in before mum finished the washing up and sat down to Woman's Hour at 2pm and did so for over thirty years.
However it wasn't only the children who listened in, but seamen on board ship were also regular listeners, as were the occupants of Buckingham Palace. Broadcasting was in its infancy when the programme first began and the music and stories were recorded onto 78 rpm records which had a yellow crayon mark showing where to put the needle down. The presenters were of course properly dressed in something like a tweed suit and they sat in front of the famous BBC 'lollypop microphone. The women presenters were not allowed to wear trousers in the BBC until 1971.
One of the original presenters, Daphne Oxenford, died peacefully at the age of 93 in December 2012, she was the original voice of ‘Are you sitting comfortably?’ He was a trained actress and during her broadcasting career she played many parts and was one of the original cast members of Coronation Street, playing Esther Hayes who kept leaving the Street and coming back for several years latterly she was also a cast member of Midsomer Murders until 2008.
She also forged a long partnership with comedian Les Dawson, appearing as his comic foil both on the TV sketch show The Dawson Watch and the Radio 2 series, Listen to Les.
After her husband died in 2003 she moved to Denville Hall, a retirement home for actors, in Northwood, Middlesex. She continued to work until 2008, filming her last role alongside David Tennant in the Doctor Who episode The Unicorn and the Wasp. She played an elderly Dame Agatha Christie, but her scenes were cut from the episode as broadcast (they were later released on DVD). She is survived by her two daughters, Kate and Sophie (whose Godmother was Joyce Grenfell who was a close personal friend. , and two grandsons.
The programme transferred to the Home Service during the 60's but the audience numbers diminished over the years with the advent of Watch with Mother and the programme finally ended in 1982. In fact Eileen Browne, an early presenter, later moved to "Watch with Mother" and provided the voice of "Jenny" in "The Woodentops".
Even in those early days of radio entertainment for the very young the BBC saw a financial opportunity and issued Listen with Mother story books.
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Another Poem from Bett this time about school
Another Poem from Bett this time about school
I remember, I remember those happiest days When Summer was longer, glimpsed now through a haze Veiled by time, all memories sweet Even the sour ones cannot defeat That treasure from childhood I now hold dear From memories we should have nothing to fear
Can you see me now as I skip along
Over the railway bridge, humming a song Up to the bus stop, I'd wait for Jen there Then off to the sweet shop to spend my fare On two penny lollies and then we'd walk Or I'd scoot her bike alongside while we'd talk
You walked or cycled, your way to school No parents drove you, that wasn't cool But Jen and I were sometimes late
We'd try to sneak quietly in through the gate And if you were caught, Miss Pipe was there She could frighten you, merely with a stare
I'd walk home with Chris up Drayton Lane And then later on, walk back down again Along Scholars Walk to an evening class For our O-levels, hoping to get a good pass
Oh yes, I remember those days long ago
My personal treasures for when I am low These treasures from childhood I now hold dear From memories we should have nothing to fear
© Bett Plummer (Seymour) 30-31.01.16 All rights reserved
I loved David Kossoff as Lemmie in Journey into space, he was my favourite character and I was always eager to sit my the radio for every instalment. I also loved his story telling, all so simple and easy to understand for a child or an adult and I still have his book called "You have a minute, Lord?" described as "A sort of prayer book", I used it for the Brownies as it is his talks with the Lord about everyday things and usually starts with 'Lord, you have a minute'. Lovely man and so sad at the needless loss of his son Paul, there is a section in the book dedicated to Paul and he is trying to make sense of his loss by talking to The Lord as if they were sitting drinking coffee by the fireside.
I am so glad you have the sort of mind that can stir the memories that I thought were long forgotten. A couple of weeks ago my eldest daughter spent a couple of days with me and we got out the projector and looked at all the slides from my Mother's collection and the slides my husband had taken during the early years of our marriage - that really brought back memories and it was fascinating to recall the clothes we were wearing in the late sixties/early seventies.
News and Views:
Griff points out this Highbury Celebration
On this day 18th February 1960-1965
On 18/02/1960 the number one single was Why - Anthony Newley and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was not listed and the box office smash was Some Like It Hot. A pound of today's money was worth £13.68 and Burnley were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.The big news story of the week was EMI's last coarse-groove 78 rpm record was issued
On 18/02/1961 the number one single was Are you Lonesome Tonight? - Elvis Presley and the number one album was GI Blues - Elvis Presley. The top rated TV show was No Hiding Place (AR) and the box office smash was One Hundred and One Dalmations. A pound of today's money was worth £13.25 and Tottenham Hotspur were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 18/02/1962 the number one single was The Young Ones - Cliff Richard & the Shadows and the number one album was Blue Hawaii - Elvis Presley. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was Lawrence of Arabia. A pound of today's money was worth £12.89 and Ipswich Town were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the week was unknown Sean Connery cast as 007 in Dr No
On 18/02/1963 the number one single was Diamonds - Jet Harris & Tony Meehan and the number one album was Summer Holiday - Cliff Richard & the Shadows. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Great Escape. A pound of today's money was worth £12.64 and Everton were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. Liz Taylor films Cleopatra
On 18/02/1964 the number one single was Diane - Bachelors and the number one album was With the Beatles - The Beatles. The top rated TV show was Steptoe & Son (BBC) and the box office smash was Dr Strangelove. A pound of today's money was worth £12.24 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the week was Malcolm X visits Cassius Clay's training camp
On 18/02/1965 the number one single was Tired of Waiting For You - The Kinks and the number one album was Rolling Stones Number 2 - The Rolling Stones. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Sound of Music. A pound of today's money was worth £11.69 and Manchester United were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.