When we last met I was about to get on the train, at the age of 17, to start my career at 2MG, Mudgee.
But this is all happening live folks courtesy of my aging memory. As I write one thing, I suddenly remember something I should have told you about earlier on.
So, forgive me if I take you back to the Savoy Players in Sydney with Allan Kitson starring in a particularly gruesome Grand Guinol effort where he was supposed to die, bitten by a spider which was lowered from above down on to his head.
Unfortunately as this final act reached its climax it became obvious that Allan and the descending spider simply weren’t going to meet in the same place on stage. The audience sat there not wondering about whether Allan would die in the end, but wondering whether the spider was going to hit its target.
Allan, preparing for the big finale, was also getting worried as he’d said his final line and the spider wasn’t in sight. He started to take a few upward glances to see if he could track down this elusive spider.
He moved left but the spider seemed to move right. Then he moved right but the spider had already over-corrected and was going in the other direction. Suddenly, sick of all of this indecision, Allan grabbed the spider, stuck it on top of his head, and died magnificently on centre stage.
The audience applauded to a man, not so much for the play. But they loved how Allan triumphed over that bloody spider.
So, with all these memories I went to Central Station and caught the train to Mudgee.
I absolutely loved the town. The manager Bill Marsden met me at the station and installed me in a local hotel which was to be my base. The weather was absolutely glorious. Ok, it was hot in summer but it wasn’t an oppressive heat and at 17, when you’re learning to be an announcer, who cares about the heat.
I remember several names from those days... Assistant Manager Ron Camplin and two announcers Peter Pauling and I think it was Bob Wallbrink(?). When we needed a technician I think I remember Bill Dennis(?) had to ride his motorbike over from another Macquarie station. And boy did we need a technician!
The transmitter was in the room adjoining the studio and anything out of the ordinary would cause it to blow a fuse. One of the first things I had to learn was how to change a fuse in the TX without electrocuting myself or--more importantly--without damaging the transmitter.
It took only some sudden laughter in Jack Davey’s Ask Me Another or Bob Dyer’s Pick a Box for the TX to blow a fuse. Ah, they were the days.
Anyway, in my early days there I assisted in starting a system of index cards for the music library.
The manager found me typing away in the library one afternoon and remarked that I could type really fast. And I responded by telling him that I’d worked 9 months in the State Railways where I learned to touch type and do Pittman’s shorthand. This was a very serious error of judgement and Mr Marsden promptly promoted me to become 2MG’s resident journalist who, by a remarkable fluke, would be covering one of the biggest court stories ever to hit Mudgee starting tomorrow. I’d never been to court, didn’t want to go to court, but I was the only person on staff who did shorthand and typing.
I turned up the next day to find out that I was supposed to be covering a complex defamation case against the local newspaper. For a day and a half I took copious notes mostly in shorthand that even I couldn’t read. And I wrote it.
Then suddenly early the next afternoon the judge called the prosecution and defence over to the bench, announced that the parties had agreed to a settlement and gave a brief outline of what that settlement was. I’ve got to be honest--I didn’t have a clue about the statement. The judge left as did the public until all that was left was the lonely 17 year old figure in the press gallery (I was the only person in the press gallery because the local paper was represented by the defendant, the Editor).
So there we were the last two people left in the court. The Editor writing his copy for the following day and me trying to make sense of 48 feet of copy, written in Pittman’s shorthand.
After a while he looked across to me, asking what I thought of the decision.
I made several grunting noises, busily shuffling paper and he finally looked across and said "You don’t have a clue what happened here today do you?". I think I had the look of a drowning man.
He smiled and said "I’ll write your story for you" and that’s how my first big story made it on to radio, written by the defendant in the case I was supposed to be covering.
To this day I still have no idea what the verdict was. But I made sure I didn’t cover any court cases for a long time afterwards.
When we next catch up--I’ll tell what it was like to work for the Railways in the 50’s and about the great Mudgee floods of the mid-50’s.