'Great Wall' TV and the fading of a hustler's status symbol

The Great Wall TV was handy and rarely broke down. [iStockphoto]

TVs were rare in Kenya as we grew up with most hustlers watching them for the first time in high school.

It has been argued that one reason for burning schools and specifically dormitories was rare then is that life was better in school than at home. Today, it’s the opposite.

We loved school, it was more “resting” than home. No milking, no planting, no weeding, no harvesting, no cutting trees for firewood, no fetching water, no fishing, among other chores. And for most families taking care of the younger siblings. 

Schooling then was prestigious. It made many leave the village for the first time. 

That blue metal box which is slowly being edged out by suite cases had lots of “respect” at that time. Schooling was then a sure route to upward mobility. 

Enough of nostalgia. In the countryside, we were generally equal, it was not long after Uhuru. Freedom songs still hung in the air.  A hungover from our past kept our African socialism alive. It was not uncommon where I grew up to share salt, tea leaves or “fire“ with neighbours.

Then in the 1980s, socialism started to unveil and individualism cropped in. New terms like market economy (soko huru) came into our lexicon. The first casualty of soko huru was cooperative societies through which farmers marketed their produce. A crop of middlemen (brokers) came in to fill the void and grew rich.

This became the first crop of senior hustlers in the countryside. There we other senior hustlers mostly civil servants and teachers. The bicycle was then a symbol of affluence; most of my teachers in primary school, who did not live in the compound owned one.

After soko uhuru revolution, a new status symbol appeared on the scene. The Great Wall TV.

A long aerial on the roof was evidence of TV ownership. The Great Wall TV was handy and rarely broke down. 

During the FIFA World Cup, it was hard to keep off visitors from such homes. 

I no longer see the black and white Great Wall TV on sale. It was replaced by flat-screen TVs. If you lived through the age of Great Wall Tvs, you can easily explain why current TVs are called flat screens. 

Did you know Great Wall referred to the Great Wall of China? Did your family own a Great Wall TV? Where is it now? Talk to us.