It was 63 years ago, on Wednesday 6th May 1954, that Roger Bannister – with the pace-making help of his friends – broke the 4 minute mile barrier. That run is indelibly fixed in my mind – but not in the way others may remember. I recall seeing his achievement being reported in the newspapers the next day – Thursday 7th May 1954 – and thinking ‘wish I had seen the race’. In due time I did – but not quite the way others have seen it.
‘Why’s that’ you may ask.
Well – the race was not shown live on TV, and many did not have TV anyway [our family included] in 1954. It was not until 1959/60 that I saw it – many many times.
In the early days of mass television there were few morning programs but there was a morning feed for television engineers – TVs were not the most reliable pieces of equipment around at this time. At this time I was working for a small company that reworked Cathode Ray Tubes – one of the even less reliable pieces of a television. The company bought in tubes that no longer worked, rebuilt them and sold them on.
For a period of my time there my job was to test that the re-worked tubes worked OK before we sold them on. That meant that for the two hours of the morning feed I would sit and OK or throw aware the ‘repaired’ CRTs. I had two whole hours of sitting and watching Roger Bannister break the 4 minute mile barrier!
Never has one event on one day in history been so burned into my mind!