I am not known for spending every Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights in thrall to the UK’s most famous soap opera but last night was special as it sandwiched its current ersatz “Disaster Movie” output with a screening of the very first episode from December 7th 1960. At just over 7 years old , I remember watching this.
Why would I have watched this at 7 years old? It was December , cold and dark and the whole family would have been in the living room as we had no central heating. There were only 2 TV channels, BBC and ITV. BBC2 was 4 years away , Channel 4 some 22 years distant and satellite, well, it would be another 6 months before Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. I also recall there was a fair amount of publicity around this new programme and it was seen as very much breaking new ground.
What fascinates me is the way Coronation Street reflects life and it’s changes . One of the main reasons I personally fail to watch it is because I feel it is no longer a true reflection of life today in Northern cities. It certainly was at first , all these characters were very real in every sense, speech patterns, attitudes and dress. The social make up too was very accurate with some nuclear families, widows and widowers and only the very few “broken” families. But perhaps I am being too much of a philistine and people still identify with the current people and their lives in some way. If the viewers need a more accurate vision of 21st century manchester then they can always watch “Shameless”
The first episode was still very watchable, with new characters and plots skilfully introduced. The speech patterns were very accurate for the time. Mancunian , or Salfordian if you prefer, was a form of Lancashire dialect Tha’ knows with a few choice idiomatic expressions so familiar to those of us over 50.
” Ee, Elsie, tha’s about ready for knacker yard”
“Yer Grandma were that bandy , she couldn’t have stopped a pig in an entry”
How often these days would you hear the expressions: “Tick”, “Get Shut” or “Give over”?
What is also so apparent is the lack of social mobility, the young Ken Barlow seen as high and mighty with his new “college” ways by his own father and the limited horizons with statements like “Like all foreigners” and “She married a Pole” Even moving streets could be hazardous as shown by Ena Sharples noting that Florrie is from “Esmerelda Street, all very Bay Window down there ”
Above all , it shows how much life and the standard of living has changed in the last half century. My own father and Grandfathers lives would have not looked that much different in 1910 or 1920 to the Coronation Street of 1960.
You can see more of the early stuff on You Tube here: