Bruce Cunningham’s 1964 Household Rules

I was churning through a pile of papers, and discovered three sheets of old,  pale green lined accounting-pad paper, covered with my father-in-law’s distinctive all-caps writing style. The sheets were the kind with the line down the middle, and  had been yanked from a spiral-top binding).

Is it possible I over-value scraps?
You be the judge:

FAMILY T.V. RULES March 1964

1) TV WEEK—from Sat 12:00 pm…..end  Sat 12:00 pm

2) STARTS  1 March 64   Doug Week

3) LOCATION in either of boy’s rooms, or in living room

by special arrangement with Mother & Dad

4) Use of TV  (Renegotiate the trial 4-wk period from 1 Mar)

a) School days: max 90 min

b) Non-school days: max 180 min, for each viewer.

During the week, TV will be placed in ONE of boy’s rooms, only programs select by occupant of the room will be viewed. On non-school days double viewing IS possible (per 4(b) above)

c) Behavior in TV room MUST be acceptable to occupant of room. Visitors must leave on FIRST request to do so by occupant.

5) When above agreement is violated in the opinion of Mother and Dad person guilty of violation will lose TV rights for period of one week. In such case TV will be placed in storage for period of penalty.


a) Mother &  Dad have right to watch any designated program on 1 hr. adv. notice.

b) School work has precedence over TV viewing

d) No TV viewing between 6 and 6:30 on School Days.

Signed and dated on this 1st of March, 1964  “Doug” (13 yrs ), “Charlie” (16-yrs) “Bruce” (42 yrs)

Then the attention turns to snakes:


– No more pets are to be brough home w/o specific permission by both Dad & Mother

-No more pet are to be quartered in the house w/ospecific permission by both Mother + Dad

-The only pets permitted in Dougs room are kingsnake, boa, & kangaroo rat. All above pets will be kept on top of hutch only.

-Any significant problems (‘significant’ is to be determined by Dad +Mother) that arise due to pets in house will result in their permanent removal from the house.

(Sanitation-escape-school work).

Since Bruce was freshly out of the military, the notes have a stern, yet immanently accountable feel to them…I forget if the boys had to say “sir”(we sure did, but my father wasn’t a military man. He simply loved the power of controlling his scared little brood).
When I read these notes (which I was about to throw away) to Charlie he laughed and recalled that those rules lasted about a month, and the experiment in paternal omnipotence deteriorated. What touched me about these seemingly reasonable rules was the fact that the Dad was willing to put himself on the line, and be accountable in this ernest contract.

This is about forty years before parents would be coached to create contracts with their children (was Bruce way ahead of his time, or hopelessly mistaken that his little Cunningtroop might be dutiful little soldiers?).

~ by jacquiephelan on October 21, 2012.

5 Responses to “Bruce Cunningham’s 1964 Household Rules”

  1. I think the only thing missing here is requiring the boys to generate their own electricty to power the TV. I have heard of parents building something that can be powered by an exercise bike. When kids have to work out their desires with sweat equity, it puts a whole new “spin” on it.

  2. Frame it! I’m starting to frame my weird scraps. It aggrandizes them. Basically that means I have a pile of scraps AND a pile of frames, and neither on the wall…
    I found your tiny printed St. Packrat pieces last night while organizing the shed! I was like “those don’t really belong with the bike stuff,” but there they stayed.

  3. Brilliant. Doug’s room sounds like a lively place. It seems only a month passed before the TV became commonplace.

  4. That’s fab. Sounds like brother Doug was a spiritual brother of my childhood friend Riley, who was infamous for harboring small snakes, turtles, rodents, and insects, in any combination and quantity. Once he smuggled a guinea pig into school in the lining of his jacket. Not so subtle when you consider that his jacket appeared to be running laps and making chuckling sounds as it went.

    It also reminds me of the time my sister and I, having learned of the concept of “allowance” from TV, decided to negotiate with our parents for pocket money. It turned out to be so much bother for all parties concerned that our allowance, which had been meant to be $1/week (in the 1980s!) lasted maybe a month, at most.

  5. Jacquie – now I have an understanding of how my mom (Suzi – Carol’s sister) came up with our schedule of TV watching! Though I don’t recall having had to sign a contract and we never had our own TV – the rest of it sounds like she got her idea from him. The bad part (for us) is that she stuck with it longer than a month. I got a great chuckle reading this tonight! Janet Meyer Anderson

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