Location: New South Wales, Australia
So there I was working as a clerk at the Department of Motor Transport,
doing a bit of booth announcer work, and managing The Dynamics when I heard
about Radio DJ. It was basically a garage in a backyard in Bondi fitted
out as a radio studio but not for broadcast. Programs were taped and then
dispatched to Australian bases in Vietnam where they were played over the
PA system in canteens and other places where troops gathered for rest and
recreation. All the DJs were volunteers - aspiring radio announcers like
myself looking for experience. It was useful because we could keep copies
of the tapes of our shows and include them with applications for jobs at
"real" radio stations.
Incidentally, I suggested to the parents of the boys in The Dynamics
that it would be good experience to volunteer the band for service in Vietnam
to entertain Aussie diggers. The response was a big fat resounding NO from
all parents. I was disappointed of course because all Aussie entertainers
were volunteering for service over there.
The Sydney Morning Herald was not a newspaper I normally read, and
especially not the classified section. But one Saturday morning in 1969,
I decided to take a peek and guess what? It was most unusual to find an
advertisement in the SMH for an announcer job in radio. They were usually
placed in trade magazines like B&T (Broadcasting & Television).
I grabbed a Radio DJ tape, wrote an application stating my experience as
a DJ at Long John's and my subsequent experience as a booth announcer at
Channel 10, and sent it off to 2LF.
Wow! $45.05 a week! That was about half what I earned at the Department
of Motor Transport but, hey, it was a job in radio! However, before I was
hired, I had to go for an interview at 2GB in Sydney. The station manager
there spoke to me for a while, then phoned 2LF and said, "Yes, Gary is
definitely the radio type". What he meant exactly I still don't know but
at least I got the job. So I resigned from the DMT and headed off to Young.
I arrived late in town on a Sunday and headed straight to the Royal
Hotel where I was to be accommodated until I found my own digs. The old
Royal was demolished in the early 70s to make way for the Mill Hotel (above)
which is part of a large shopping complex. I phoned the Young Historical
Society just now and spoke to Joyce, who is a dear sweet thing. She's sending
me a copy of the original Royal Hotel by snail mail which I expect to receive
next week for inclusion here.
And here it is! The hotel was built in about 1864 and judging by the
cars parked out front, this pic was taken in the late '20s or early '30s.
You can see how the shape of the old pub fits the newer building in the
pic above. In fact, that street lamp post is still there.
I have fond memories of the old Royal, not that I remember much about
it. But being a naive kid from the city who was about to arrive in Young
as a superstar, I fully expected the local press and TV station to be there
to photograph and interview me. Hehe. Needless to say I was disappointed.
In fact, when I arrived at the station next morning, my boss Mr Finlayson
said, "Don't let it go to your head, Gary, we hired you because you were
the best of a very bad bunch." I was late for work on a couple of occasions
so I bought an alarm clock with two large bells on top, and presented it
to Finlayson as a peace offering. I met him about 30 years later and asked
if he remembered me and/or the clock. He said no. Hehe.
UPDATE: September 28, 2014. Copper1,
better known to his mates as Gaz, is a retired police officer and
member of the Grey Nomads forum. He posted a pic on the forum this
morning of 2LF Young. He's touring Oz with his missus and happened to
be in the area, so he thought of me and took this pic. Isn't that kind
of him? Very much appreciated too. It's 45 years ago now, but I vaguely
remember that building and the parking area around the back. Not quite
as glamorous as I'd anticipated in my starry-eyed dreams but, hey, it
was a real, fair dinkum radio station!
Glad to see the old logo is still there.
I don't have a pic of 2LF's on air studio but this is roughly similar
except that the console is a 6-pot. Ours was equipped with a 4-pot, 8 channel,
AWA valve console and 5 turntables, some of which were used to play ads
recorded on 45rpm acetate disks distributed by city advertising agencies
for national clients. The other turntables were used to play music records
or large transcriptions of radio serials. Ads other than live reads were
copied to a huge Ampex tape recorder set to one side of the broadcast desk,
remotely controlled from the desk. A gap of 1 or 2 seconds was left between
each commercial so that you didn't have to re-cue the tape everytime you
played an ad. You just had to remember to stop the tape before the next
ad. Hehe. Yes, folks, we country announcers didn't have the luxury of a
panel operator or producer. We had to do the whole damn shebang ourselves.
Often we were the only person manning the entire station, including the
A year or two later, cartridge tapes and players (1/4" inch tape @ 7
1/2 ips) were introduced which made the recording and playing of ads much
simpler. Some stations even put their music on cartridge.
Anyway, after I arrived that first morning, I was sent to the production
studio which was basically a twin of the on-air studio, and told to play
radio announcers. I was having a ball, spinning records and doing time
calls and weather reports and reading a few ads. After all, no one was
listening and I was all alone. Wrong! My performance was being secretly
piped into the boss's office. "You're doing fine, Gary. We'll put you on
air today... the afternoon program."
LF by the way stands for Lambing Flats, which was the name of the town
before it was changed to Young. These days it's famous for its cherries.
I sat in the chair in the on-air studio and one of the other announcers
stood behind me. "When the newsreader from Sydney says 'This has been Macquarie
National News', close the channel, open the mic, make an announcement about
the station and who you are and then start the record." Well, I didn't
do any of that. I completely froze in fright. I don't remember what happened
directly thereafter but I do remember getting into the swing of things
fairly quickly and from then on I was unstoppable. In fact I was often
told to stop talking too much.
2LF was a small country station which nevertheless managed to produce
talent that went on to become quite famous. Ken Sutcliffe was one. He's
been Channel 9's sport anchor man for over 30 years. He was the night DJ
when I was at 2LF and I remember him dribbling into the mic. There was
a saying in radio that you should make "love" to the mic but I thought
he overdid it big time. Ew! According to another announcer at 2LF, Ken
was often seen checking his reflection in the studio window and combing
Ray Warren is another ex-2LFer. He's a famous race and football caller
in Sydney and has been for decades. I worked with him later at 2GB. A real
Aussie larrikin. When ever "Rabbit" Warren called a horse race, you could
always tell which galloper he had his money on hehe.
Anyway, I didn't stay long at 2LF - about 4 months. It was a real culture
shock, leaving Sydney for the first time as well as all my friends. I made
regular trips back to Sydney for weekends. Apart from that, inland country
towns tended to be fairly insular. They didn't have a lot of tourism (or
didn't back then) and outsiders were treated with some suspicion. So I
applied for the breakfast announcer job at 2LM Lismore.
UPDATE: April 7, 2011. Here's an email I received from an old
2LFer this morning titled Memory Lane:
The internet is an incredible thing. I stumbled across your website
while doing a google search about something else altogether. It was only
a week ago but already I have forgotten what combination of search words
led me there but it was a reference to 2KY (also one of my former employers)
that prompted me to click on your site.
I was very pleased that I found it. It was very nostalgic to read
about your days at Radio DJ at Bondi, your appearance on Channel Ten's
New Faces and start in radio at 2LF.
I travelled those same three paths.
Your website prompted me to pull out my letter of appointment to
2LF for the first time in decades. My letter arrived in early May 1969,
also offering me the grand sum of $45.05 a week. I loved your description
of Ken Sutcliffe's microphone technique. I remember it clearly although
it's probably the first time I have recalled it since working there all
those years ago.
I also recall, although pretty vaguely given the more than forty
years that have passed, that I saw you on the day you left Young to drive
to Lismore. I think you had all your belongings packed into an old VW.
I am now 90 per cent retired but am still doing the occasional weekend
shift at 2GB, writing and reading the sport news when an emergency arises.
Hope you are well.
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