28 April 2009

"Frank Avis's Memoirs of 42 Years in Radio"

A highlight of John Pearce's radio memoirs (see earlier post) is his remote broadcast from a country dance for 3SH Swan Hill, probably some time in the late 1940s.

I've just found another entertaining account of a country dance broadcast, this time from Frank Avis in The Ball Broadcast, recalling his time at 2LF Young in the mid-1950s. Avis, best known as a radio newsman, is publishing his memoirs as a blog at FrankAvis.com.

Frank Avis started in radio at 2MG Mudgee, and his latest post (15 February) takes his career up to 2DAY-FM Sydney in the 80s and 90s. Along the way, he's worked at 2LF Young, 3BO Bendigo, 7HO Hobart, 3UZ, 3XY, 3AK and 3DB Melbourne, 6PR Perth, 3MP Mornington Peninsula, and 2GB and 2MMM-FM Sydney.

Frank arrived at 3BO not long after the young John Laws left, and he tells a couple of good yarns about Laws's time at the station.

Great stories from a radio insider: highly recommended.

2QN Deniliquin

In the last post I mentioned 2QN Deniliquin, where John Pearce started in radio in the 1940s before moving on to 3SH Swan Hill.

When we lived in Swan Hill in the 60s, 2QN was one of the stations I could pick up clearly if I was roaming the dial looking for pop music. Another was 2WG Wagga Wagga. Like most country stations at the time, they had their moments of good Top 40 programming, presented by disc jockeys who could sound just as good as their big city counterparts. One of the 2QN announcers had an American accent, something unusual on Aussie country radio.

This Melbourne Argus story from 23 February 1945 (via the NLA's Australian Newspapers archive) shows how a financially weak 2QN nearly lost its licence to Wangaratta, a town in north-eastern Victoria. Click here for larger image.

Wangaratta didn't get its own commercial station until 3NE opened in 1954.

27 April 2009

John Pearce at 3SH Swan Hill

[The Argus, 1932]

For the Love of Mike, the memoirs of Australian radio announcer John Pearce, were published online a few years ago. His radio career starts just after the War, when he chanced upon a job at 2QN Deniliquin after he was de-mobbed from the RAAF. He went on to 3SH Swan Hill, 7HO Hobart, and to 2GB Sydney, where he was one of the pioneers of Australian talk-back radio.

Pearce's site is no longer online, but fortunately we can still access the whole work at the Internet Archive [title page, table of contents].

Being a radio fanatic from way back, I find this insider's view of radio irresistible, especially the chapter on 3SH, our local station during my teenage years. Pearce seems to have been at 3SH around the late 40s to early 1950s.

Pearce calls 3SH a "fun station", a "happy station", and this comes through in his reminiscences. There are plenty of endearing characters and entertaining stories: the outside broadcast at a local dance (how quaint!), hillbilly amateurs on the Christmas Appeal radiothon, grappling with a local politician to make sure he stayed near the mike, locking the duty announcer in the outside dunny while a three-minute song was playing...

The station manager at 3SH was Harry Lithgow, still there when we moved to Swan Hill in 1961. I believe Chief Engineer Bernie Walsh was still around then too.

Since For the Love of Mike has disappeared from an active website, and does not seem to have been published as a book, I'm posting the chapter on 3SH, which gives a great insight into the workings of a country commercial station in the pre-rock'n'roll era.

Victorians to the North:

Chapter 7 of John Pearce - For the Love of Mike

In the days when broadcasting meant radio, and not television and/or radio, the Victorian Broadcasting Network consisted of a head office in Melbourne and three country radio stations.

The main one was in Hamilton, the second best was in Sale and what was left went to Swan Hill, way north on the River Murray, the dividing line between Australia and Victoria. I got a job as an announcer at the latter. I can't remember how I got it, not even how I learned about it. Read it in the paper, maybe. However, it was mine; and I arrived after the adventure of the drive in my vintage Hupmobile...

Continued here...

23 April 2009

Boofhead book, 1945

I found this ad for a Boofhead anthology in the Melbourne Argus, Saturday, 18 August 1945. The other bloke just has to look at Boofhead and his hat flies off.

This whole edition of the Argus is online at NLA's Australian Newspapers website. This was a big news week: the Japanese had surrendered a few days earlier, and the main headline is AUSTRALIANS FOR JAPAN: INCLUSION IN FORCES OF OCCUPATION.

(It says something about my preoccupations that I would bypass the end of the War in the Pacific to focus on a tiny ad for Boofhead. Oh, and if you want to go straight to the comics pages they're here and here.)

Australian Newspapers is one of a number of digitalised historical newspaper sites, some of which I've listed at this section of my links page.

For more on the Boofhead phenomenon, see my earlier post about this unique Australian comic strip.