Richard Ashton’s Story Part One

While I was in Melbourne, the filming of the feature movie On the Beach was being shot. If you look carefully at the Elizabeth Street scene where Ava Gardener gets out of the tram and walks into the building, you make catch a glimpse of me. People were asked to come into the city for the crowd scene, and to be the backdrop of this bustling scene which was normally not that way on a Sunday morning. The scene couldn’t be done during the week so Sunday morning was the only time that produces could tie up part of the centre of Melbourne, we went in to be sticky beaks, but, became part of the scene. The movie On The Beach was all about nuclear warfare and what would happen to last people after a nuclear war had taken place. Nuclear warfare at the time was on everyone’s lips. Ban the Bomb was the catch cry.

During 1958 television in Melbourne was now becoming part of everyone’s life, and in many ways advertising agencies were quickly coming to grips with the new medium. Our agency appointed a TV executive to look after our clients. He had his time cut out looking after it all, as most of the large clients were keen to advertise on the new medium. This was also due to the fact that a lot of advertising was done live to air, as at that time there was no video recording of commercials, and videoing of programs was only just about to start. In fact I was present at GTV9 when the first recording of Bert Newton new Teen-time show was recorded on a brand new Ampex video tape machine recently arrived from America.

Most of the TV commercials were made on film by independent film companies and in many cases the cost was beyond all but the biggest budget clients. Many of our clients wanted live ads in programs because they had product to sell that constantly changed. One case in point was Tip Top Bread, they had bought a spot in Channel 9’s Women’s session in the afternoons, we had engaged singing and stage show artist Eve Hayes to do the Tip Top commercials. When the ad went to air someone from the agency had to be there, to take out the script, arrange for the bread on the set and approve rehearsal. After the commercial went to air the bread and other consumables was devoured by the studio crew.

Our TV chief couldn’t keep this constant supervision up, and as this was one of my boss’s clients, he would mostly send me. Having no car, it was a tram ride to town, then on the tram to Richmond. Sometimes we would have two or three clients on Channel 9 in any one day which meant staying at 22 Bendigo Street, Richmond, till the evening to look after them, sometimes till late the In Melbourne Tonight show with TV commercial spots hosted by Hal Todd, Bert Newton and Graham Kennedy. We had quite a few clients with commercials on that and other programs.

Eating occasionally in the Channel Nine cafeteria I got to know a few people, this helped me to find my way the industry, which was at that time only some three years old, so everyone including me were on a learning curve. It was very good experience, and started me thinking of a career in the industry.

On one occasion at GTV9 I met Rex Heading, who was to become the new station manager Adelaide television. He was looking for a design for a logo the new to commence TV station in Adelaide, NWS 9. I produced a couple of sketches and then a layout, this showing the letters coming out of the face of a TV set, it look quite smart. I was pleased because it was adopted, and was used for some time when they first went to air. Also at GTV9 I met Albert Porges, he was publicity and public relations manager. Chris Whitehorn, who was now working as publicity photographer at Channel 9 and Albert and I all became friends together for many years. Even now because Albert and his wife Paula live in Como, we often catch up and phone and often talk to Chris in Adelaide or in his caravan somewhere in Australia. He has become a ham radio operator. In the early days for fun we concocted a call sign for ourselves; we called it DAD Channel 3. ‘Dad,’ was I bit of a craze at the time; everyone called each other ‘dad.’ And we use it to this day to introduce ourselves to each other on the phone.

1959

Strangely, our Agency had only a few clients telecasting on Melbourne’s Channel HSV 7, but I did get to know people there too. One was TV director Ian Jones; he was probably the greatest help in my learning the industry. Ian was related to the Crawford family, he directed the Late Show which was hosted at the time by a very young Bert Newton, and this was well before Bert went to work at GTV9. Ian would let me stay in the control room for the show at the assistant producer’s desk. I got to be a bit of the furniture around the place, it was an amazing learning experience. Unfortunately, Ian was killer in a horse riding accident, a sad loss to the TV industry and of course his family.

Also to help with the learning experience I enrolled in the production techniques course at Melbourne Technical College. They had a small but full equipped studio, set up with proper studio cameras, video switchers and audio control room, as they were also teaching TV technicians. This were I met Lloyd Lawson who was also doing the same TV course; he perchance had already accepted a position as production manager back in Perth at the soon to be on air TVW7. He was like me, a Perth boy. He had worked in Melbourne radio and was currently announcing and station manager with radio station 3UZ. The technical school course was a good one; it allowed me to get my hands on real TV cameras. Both Lloyd and I progressed well, we even had some success at directing and vision switching. The course and the TV commercial producing at GTV9 and HSV7 was helping too.

Lloyd knew I was from Perth and later suggested to me to call Jim Cruthers the new chief of the station for TVW7 Perth saying it might be worth trying for a job back

home. Lloyd told me that Jim was currently in Melbourne, so I bucked up courage and from the phone box up the street from the boarding house on Toorak Road called his hotel, and was put through. I told Jim what I had been doing in Melbourne, he told me they were looking for people, and, if I was in Perth they would look favourably on WA born people who had at least some TV experience. This was some time in the last weeks of August. TV was expected to commence in WA later in the year. Well that was it, back home I would go and pretty quick too.

Settling up in Melbourne, I resigned from the agency, said goodbyes to friends, including Chris Whitehorn, and with my last £18, I bought a train ticket to cross the Nullarbor and back to Perth. So much for a working trip around Australia. Mum got a big surprise as I walked around the side of the house passed the old fig tree, and said hullo through the kitchen window at 65 The Esplanade South Perth. I had not been a terribly good correspondent, and telephoning in those days was too costly and out of the question, so she didn’t know I was coming home. I’m glad they had a bed and a bit of tucker for me, as I was stony broke.

Pretty quickly I got myself an interview, and, Lloyd had arrived back to take up his position, helped. I also saw where auditions were being held in a “get-up” studio in the photographers department at WA Newspapers in St Georges Terrace.

These auditions were being run by Beverly Gledhill and Coralee Condon. Bev was from the ABC in Sydney and Coralie was a writer and produce from Perth. Many Perth acts and performers showed there talents.

I volunteered to run a TV camera for them for a few days. This freed up the technician to be able to go back to installation work at Tuart Hill, because equipment was arriving daily, and the building was nearly finished. By September 16 I was on the staff, and told to report for work at of all places the Transmitter at Bickley!

TVW 7 Transmitter tower and TX building under construction 

My job was to help with the installation, run test signals, and trade transmission telecasts from a Telecine chain which had been unpacked and set up there. This equipment was able to show films directly into the transmitter, because the microwave link from the studio had as not yet been established, there was no vision and sound transmission yet capable of coming from Tuart Hill, but that quickly came. Oh, I also unpacked and recorded the large stock of transmitter valves and all the spare parts. 

I had borrowed some funds from Mum and bought a Vespa motor scooter to be able to get to work. It was quite a trip each day for the next two weeks, South Perth to Bickley and back. I hadn’t yet even seen Tuart Hill studio’s yet. 

What a pleasant surprise I got when I bumped into George Baker, my old friend from school days, who was installing electrician at the site. He had been working virtually on every aspect of the construction and installation since the first rock had been blasted at the site at Bickley. So at least I knew someone amongst all the technicians and other workmen. 

There were about ten technicians and engineers working on the installation, some of them when finished would be transferred to the studio. Leaving a permanent staff of seven to man the transmitter, while it is on air. Not so today, there is no-one there, not even a Caretaker, and the transmitter, which is now on air 24 hours a day, is monitored from the studio, or now 40 years later from Melbourne I suspect, but that’s another story.

TVW 7 Transmitter tower at Bickley 

While I was there, quite some interesting happenings at the site took place. Although the transmitter aerial radiators themselves are bolted to the top of the over 400 foot high tower, there were many other things that had to be fixed to the tower; this included what was known as a passive reflector. This is grill looking large frame, which had the purpose of reflecting the microwave signal from Tuart Hill, carrying the television picture and sound, down to the main transmitter building below. It was like an electrical mirror, reflecting the microwave signals to the two receiving microwave dishes, aiming up at it. These were set in a room in the roof of the transmitter hall. 

The technicians at the studio had turned the signals on at the Tuart Hill end, but no signal was being received. Technicians at the 150 foot level, where the passive reflector hung precariously off the side of the tower, were valiantly pushing it side to side, and up and down trying to get the right angle to no avail. Then someone had the bright idea of bolting the staff changing room mirror onto the face of the reflector, and with a man lying on his back on the roof of the micro wave room, looking at the mirror through a pair of binoculars, called the men up the tower to push the slotted rods back and forth and up and down, hoping the distant scene of Tuart Hill would come into his view. It didn’t work, and soon it became to dark to continue.

The following day success was achieved, but I wasn’t there to see it, signals were now able to be passed from the studio to air from Tuart Hill. 

The two large TV transmitters sat in the main hall of the building like two sets of very tall grey coloured filing cabinets; except for the cooling fans at the top they made no noise. Every so often white coated technicians would walk along these two rows and note all the electrical measurement readings. It was all very clinical. Looking back through the control room windows one could see the pictures and hear the sound being broadcast. The transmitters put out some punch, each powered the signal to 10 kilowatts and the aerial multiplied the signal to an effective radiation of 100 kilowatts, that’s about the power of one thousand five hundred 75 watt light globes! 

The time went quickly at Bickley, with the hustle and bustle of installation, trade transmissions to air morning, afternoon and some times early evening, and a lot of Perth people had already bought TV sets from electrical retailers ready for the start. Retailers reported that TV sets were walking out the door like hot cakes; the trade transmissions were helping sales. TV was on everyone’s minds. At the transmitter at Bickley emergency power supply units were installed, the caretaker’s house completed, and a myriad of small items taken care of, so that by the middle of the second week I was told to report to the studio. I did however get to climb the tower, but only to the 150 foot level, it had an outstanding view, even from that first level. But it was a fearful experience, climbing the caged iron ladder up the side of the tower, you were considered to be chicken if you didn’t do at least that part of the climb. I couldn’t understand how people overcame their fear of heights, some of the techs would climb right to the 500 odd feet level to make adjustments to the aerial or change the red aircraft anti-collision lights. 

My first ride to the studio on the Vespa was from the transmitter. It was quite a journey for the little machine. Clearly if I was going to travel from South Perth to Tuart Hill daily things were going to have to change. There was no Narrows Bridge as yet, so one was obliged to go via the Causeway. The last little bit of road along Osborne Road was still dusty limestone to the studio, and a lot of the internal roadways around the studio were just getting finished, including the car park. My first look at the place showed one of organised ciaos. Everyone was rushing about getting their little bit ready. Crates were being unpacked, equipment installed, office desks delivered, stores including Cafeteria stoves and fridges. Program and sales people arriving from St Georges Terrace with there office files and then loads of film cans arrived and were stored to the film vault. New people started arriving every day, film people, cleaners, production, record library, news photographers, and journalists. Many of these people had been working in Perth, some for many months. The switchboard was commissioned, and the teleprinters installed. The builders and painters were barely finished before someone rushed into that room they had just vacated, with their equipment or office furniture. The car park was finally bituminised and then almost as a last thought, the becoming rougher by the day, limestone road to the studio was finished. One couldn’t have the Governor Sir Charles Gardiner and his party and other visitors arriving on something akin to bush track, and then what about the couple of hundred invited guests to the opening ceremony, all in there dinner suits and fine dresses.

Rolf Harris rehearsing for Opening night in studio 2 I’m on camera one Gordon McColl camera two, Steve Lumsdaine on the microphone boom. 

Our three studio cameras were unpacked and already up and running, the tech’s had seen to that. Apart from me, one other cameraman had been appointed and one other a lighting man. They were both experienced chaps from Sydney at ATN 7. 

Gordon McColl was head cameraman and Steve Lumsdaine was lighting, he could run cameras too. I was the trainee! Frank Evans, who was from the ABC Radio, had been appointed Floor Manager. Frank was a photographer too, so in a pinch he could run cameras. We all settled down to some pretty intense training, for all of us were new to this new type of TV camera. Because tech’s had to help run the cameras from camera control units behind the scene’s, a bit of arm twisting went on to drag them away from the last minute installation work to turn on the cameras for us. 

They too were pretty green with the camera controls, but they were keen to rehearse. There were plenty of people to train with; everyone wanted to rehearse in this new medium. Newsreaders, children session hosts, the tonight show “Spotlight” cast too. Then there was the opening ceremony, I can’t remember how many times we rehearse that but I’m glad we did. 

It was announced that TV would start on October 16. 1959. That was less then two weeks away. Two weeks to get ourselves into a team. The other best decision that was made in my opinion at the time was that, we would rehearse for one week prior, as if we were on air. That is, everyone would carry out their jobs as if we were actually on air. Opening, closings, the programs, the commercials, the news, the weather, the children’s session, the sport show on Saturday night, everything and in the sequence and the scheduled time. Even the studio clocks were reset. 

It was the best thing that could have happened; we ironed out all the problems as they happened, so that on the night we would be perfect. Well, nearly so.

Studio 2 rehearsal Jeff Walker Channel 7 newsreader, me running camera one 

This new job changed my life, I was no longer a nine to five person, and for one thing I now started work at 4 pm and finished at midnight, and worked on the weekends. I was to do this, on and off, for the next 8 years. 

Opening Night Channel 7 October 16 1959.
State Governor Sir Charles Gairdner declares television is now On the Air. Left to right: Sir Charles’s ADC, Chairman of TVW Ltd. Mr. C G Friend, 

the Governor and General Manager Jim Cruthers (later Sir James) 

Getting to and from Tuart Hill was quite a task for the Vespa. The trip via the Causeway then through to Mount Lawley, then up Flinders Street and along Cobham Ave to the station and back was quite a journey. The trip home at night was quite hazardous with just a little light on the front of the bike; the intensity of this head light very depended on the engine revs. And to make matters worse the bike was a brute to start and occasionally suffered from slipping clutch. 

Clearly something had to be done. Many of the other staff either lived close to work or had good car. George Baker had an Austin A40, he had miles to travel back and forwards to Gosnells, a couple of the other chaps had Holden’s, and Colin Gorey had an FJ Holden. The Holden seems that would be the one to go for, my knowledge of cars at the time was a little bit light on. I started trying to work out the budget. Dad held by introducing me to Mr Tapping, manager at the at the R & I Bank Georges Terrace branch. I had been at the branch in my younger days when I worked at COR. 

I had always been keen on sports cars ever since knowing Ken Hill. He had an open Lancia Lambda model at the time, and I had ridden many times in Jim Dyer’s dad’s 1933 Lagonda a big sports machine. I think Ken suggested talking to another old mate John Croft. Ken said he was going to quit his MG TC for more family type car. I call on John who said yes he would be willing to part with it for £500. At that stage a 12-year-old TC for £500 was a bit much, but after a test drive it was “MG’s forever.” Mr Tapping at the bank must have thought I was crazy, but he gave me the loan, and soon the car was mine! I parted company with the Vespa to my sister Sandy’s friend Topsy who like my sister wanted a scooter to get about. Sandy had Lambretta scooter. 

The MG was tops, it needed a little bit of work internally with the trim but mechanically it was very sound. In fact I learned from John that five years earlier the chassis and engine had been the basis of John Walker’s TC supercharged special racing car that he had raced on the old Caversham circuit, and from couple of years in 1956 and 1957 held the State 1500cc Championship. In that form it had been known as the Byfield MG, a very smart bright red open wheeler body built of aluminium. 

My first car MG TC No. 6497 

There were 10,000 TC’s made between 1945 and 1949. Mine was number 6497, made between September 17 and 28 in 1948. After its racing exploits it was put back to standard and licensed for the road, and the supercharger was taken off, but it still had the racing wheels 15 inch size. It looked very sporting; TC’s at the time had 19 inch wheels, very spindly. The small wheels with the big tires are still on the car today, and the car is still in the family, my brother Bruce purchased it in 1962 when I was going to trade it in on a new MGA. But more of that later. 

The MG solved the travel to and from work problem, of course the new, soon to be opened, Narrows Bridge would help too. Because work was mostly started from 4 p.m. and finished at midnight, I had quite a lot of time on my hands during the day and the TC had a lot of TLC, polishing and cleaning inside out. At one stage I even cleaned the body with Brasso. 

I also used the MG in doing some volunteer work at lunchtime with the Meals on Wheels, two days a week. The deliveries were mostly around Victoria Park and South Perth. You should have seen the car, the passenger seat and behind the seat stacked up with canvas carrying bags which held the metal containers full of “tucker.” Later on with a few changes of shifts, the meals on wheels deliveries had to go. But I did meet a lot of nice old folk in the district. There was one old chap who lived in a small house down by the Causeway. He was always pleased to see one. His house was of the older type, very early construction with a small well kept garden. Inside the place was spotless too, everything, the wooden floor, the varnish skirting boards it was like new even though the place probably would had been made 72 to 100 years ago. The most impressive thing was in the very tidy small kitchen, it was an old- fashioned wood fire cooking stove. The whole thing was spotlessly clean, highly polished with an old-fashioned lead cleaner, it was magnificent to behold.

1960. 

After the initial flush and excitement of TV starting, programs started to settle down to a steady pace. The children session Children’s Channel 7 was now live for days a week, Harry Butler now introduced talks on wild animals. Len McKenna did a great hobbies segment. Many other local programs were introduced. A new program called Viewpoint was introduced; a panel of interested people in various subjects and issues of the day was telecast. The TV writer for the West Australian Keith Flannigan reported that television production which much smoother now. During 1960 other hosts were added to the children’s program. One of them was Judy Lee a bright young girl with a lot of talent she helped out Rolf Harris. Another children’s programme segment was introduced called the Mickey Mouse Club it was hosted by Carolyn Noble, she was to become the children’s hostess in many TV programs for the next 10 years. On Wednesdays during the afternoon another program started. Televist was for women’s interests and hosted by Joan Wilson. 

Hosts Joan Wilson and David Farr show Perth models latest fashions on TV Televisit. 

She was helped out by another pretty young woman called Pam Leuba. Pam had super voice and went on to read the News and became the first lady newsreader in

Australia. Geoff Walker our main newsreader also made appearances on the program. Another program was telecast on Saturday afternoons at 5:25. It was called Teenbeat originally hosted by David Farr, a young chap called Ken Hiscock took over the program. It featured many local bands and singers, featuring songs from the hit parade. Occasionally big-name eastern states groups came to the studio to be part of the program which went to where live. And groups of young people came to jive and early rock ‘n’ roll in front of the cameras to the music. 

On Saturday, October 15, 1960 the first year of television birthday was celebrated. A special program called house party went live to wear to celebrate well-known Melbourne singer Dorothy baker came over as a special guest for the show which was hosted by Jeff Walker. Melbourne musical director Max Bostock accompanied Dorothy, he conducted the small orchestra. The local entertainers or on the program including singers Lyn Sly and Jim Willis, the Rhythm Spinners were also featured. Max must have liked the place and decided to stay and went on to work at Channel 7 the many years. In all it had been an exciting, interesting year. The Postmaster General’s Department announced that there were 50,797 TV licences in WA. We must have had many people viewing. 

In the world news late in the here on November 9, John Fitzgerald Kennedy won the US presidential election. We remember his famous saying. “It is not what the country could do to you, but what you can do to your country.” Three years later JFK is slain by assassin and Dallas Texas his name is Lea Harvey Oswald. 

1961. 

In April, 27-year-old Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin is the first orbit the earth in his for a half ton Russian-made spacecraft. He was followed by the 26-year-old first woman cosmonaut in the space on June 16 1963; she was Valentia Tereshkova of the Soviet Union. 

Me. 26 years old. 

1962.

Me having my say from behind a studio camera 

Program coordinator. Commonwealth Games Perry Lakes Stadium. 

Colonel John Glenn on February the 20th makes the first orbital flight in space when he encircles the earth in the spaceship called Friendship seven. The Lord Mayor of Perth Howard called for all citizens to put on their lights so that Glenn could see Perth from space after he had crossed the Indian Ocean. John Glenn acknowledged the lights and thanks the people of Perth. We should also note the unfortunate death of famous film star Marilyn Monroe who dies in this year in San Francisco in the USA. On April 12 the first passenger train from Sydney using the new uniform gauge line arrives in Melbourne. The new golden blue locomotive pulls the passenger train and the service is called the Southern Aurora. At Newport Rhode Island on September 26, the Australian challenger, built by Sir Frank Packer, called Gretel after his wife, loses the series for the America’s Cup to the American yacht Weatherly four to one. 

1963.

During the year at TVW I had become very keen on a pretty girl who worked in Managing Directors office. Ronda and I had been out to parties, the drive-in movies and other functions and had much enjoyed each others company. We only had a short engagement and decided to marry, there was no reason to prolong matters the date was set. I asked her mum Great Nan, and she had agreed. 

Ronda and I were married on January 31 1963 this year at the registry office in Perth.

Ronda and I back from the registry office in the back yard at south Perth

We found a small flat in Ruby Street North Perth and set up house there.

New MGA, New House, Ruby Street North our first home 

1964. 

At Channel 7 on March 5 1964, the new look Children’s Channel 7 television programme was hosted by Carolyn Noble and Jim Atkinson, Jan Bedford and Gary Carvolth also took part in a segment they called Starship Seven. Jan Bedford was an Olympic gymnast. On Saturdays and Gary Carvolth now hosted Club7Teen

Left to right: Senior cameraman Gordon McColl, Program Director John Brown and Me acting the goat during a break in rehearsal. 

March 23 1964 the night time variety programme Tonight on Seven was hosted by Eric Walters with a special made from Bullen Brothers circus acts. Bob Dyers Pick a Box telecast at seven o’clock was a popular program; on this night’s programme a WA woman wins £5000. 

The West Australian newspaper announced on Tuesday March 24 1964 that agreement had been reached between the two TV stations and the W A. Football league, that extra TV coverage of the football had been arranged. Channel 7 would show half an hour or football on Saturday nights which was a substantial increase on last season’s. TVW7 and ABW2 announced yesterday that they had decided to accept the terms of the offer. Channel 7 would show videotape recordings of the last quarter of a selected match at 1030 on Saturday night, and this would be repeated in the world sport program on Sundays commencing in April 11.

On July 17 1964 on Lake Eyre in South Australia, Donald Campbell, British world land speed record holder, established a new world land speed record of 403 mph. In the coming December Campbell expects to lift the present world water land speed record to 260 miles an hour in his Bluebird hydroplane. 

1965. 

Ronda and my first son was born at St. John of God Hospital, Wembley in April 16 1965. In those days St Johns was run strictly by the Nun’s, they considered the men were not necessary at the berthing, so I was sent home to wait. Ronda had quite a quick birth and I was hardly home when old Doctor Gollow called on the phone to say it was a boy. We called him Westly Richard. 

The new little chap Westly 

He was a dear little bloke and Ronda was a devoted mother and because I worked quite a evening life he quickly fitted in with the night time routine. We still kept up our social life with parties at the flat and West fitted in with all the party goers.

My script assistant Jean Hunsley, Me standing in front of the vision mixer unit looking into the studio and the studio camera picture monitors, with my technical director Ross McDonald 

Here is an indication of what it feels like just before going to direct a television programme which is going live to air a live TV production of a night time musical and chat program of an hour in half’s duration. It was called In Perth Tonight. I was television director for the 1965 season. Sitting next to me on my right, is my script assistant, and on my left is the studio supervising technician and then a camera control unit operator, alongside him is the lighting director and his assistant. All looking at their TV screens in front of them, all are making last minute adjustments, to the lighting levels, and to the brightness and contrasts of the camera pictures. 

The little talkback speaker at the back of the switcher, announces to you. 

“60 seconds to you in the studio one.”
“Thank you” 
I respond, pressing the Master Control talkback button, on the right of video switching panel. 

I glance up looking through to the studio, through the double glazed control room windows. The glow of the studio lights attached to be lighting grid is showing, below that are the hundreds of lamps, all pointing in different directions, at the various sets and settings, artists and production people and presenters below them in the studio proper. Added to that is the large studio audience. 

My script assistant, using her talkback, announces calmly to all the studio crew, including our floor manager, who are all listening on earphones. “Stand by studio, one minute, stand by for the opening cue’s.” 

I glance down at my script, the words all look a bit of a blur, you wonder briefly what you left out, anything missed, it’s too late to correct any anything now. You look back up to at that the bank of monitors in front of you. Each shows the pictures that you had called for, according to the script, the first of the shots that you have rehearsed with the cameras and cameramen. They are ready too. They too feel nervous, somehow you can sense their feelings, you can sense the feelings of just about everyone in the studio.

They too feel nervous, somehow you can sense their feelings, you can sense the feelings of just about everyone in the studio, especially the talent, who are about to appear to the thousands of viewers sitting patiently in their homes waiting for their favourite hosts and artists to appear, ready to enjoy the next hour and a half.

My script assistant calmly reads out the next sequence of events which will commence the program. “Shot one camera two, wide shot of the curtain area.” She is saying. She has been working on the script all-day, and has sat through all rehearsals, making notes and corrections to the script and into the music cues.
The little talkback speaker announces. “30 seconds to you studio.”
The full studio audience is quiet now; they had just been entertained and coached by the warm up announcer. They have been seated in the studio for about 30 minutes, they have practiced laughing, and they have practiced clapping. They know now when to do this because, hanging from the lighting grid is a large illuminated sign, when on cue from me all my script assistant, flashes the word “applause” from your cue.

The program host, who has come quietly into the studio, is now standing behind the curtains, ready to come through on cue. He has been in the makeup room and his own dressing-room getting ready since the last rehearsals about 40 minutes ago. BroomeThe orchestra of eight to ten musicians is sitting quietly looking at the music stands holding their instruments at the ready; they have just come into the studio after a short break in the prop area. Their conductor is now standing poised, holding his batten, looking towards the floor manager for his music cue.
He and his musicians are ready to play the opening theme. I guess the conductor and his musicians have that excited nervous feeling too. 

Over to my own right, through a glass separation window is my audio operator. The panel in front of him contains all the faders controlling the many microphones in the studio. 

He has microphones on the band, the host set, and on the end of the microphone boom, which is poised aloft over the position where the host will make his opening remarks. My soundman has been through all rehearsals and sound checks with us. I guess he’s a little nervous too. 

The talkback from Master Control squawks. “Ten seconds…nine…eight…seven.” 

The floor manager is now standing out of camera range just behind the silver threaded curtains across from the bandstand area. He is saying quietly to the conductor “six…five…four…three” then holds his finger up, and on zero drops it and points directly at him. The conductor, who has had his batten raised, drops it now in rhythm to the opening theme music of the program, and the small orchestra plays away. 

My opening vision, wide shot of the curtain area, has been switched to air and can now be seen on the studio’s off air monitor, as I bring up the vision fader on the opening title graphic showing the words.

In Perth Tonight. And I superimpose it over the camera two’s vision using the vision mixing switcher. The opening theme starts and I now cue the studio announcer. He is tucked away in announcing booth, behind the audio operator. My soundman reduces the sound slightly of the studio orchestra. Jim Atkinson opens his microphone and announces with gusto. 

“In Perth Tonight…your popular Friday night variety show … and here is your host for this evening… Gary Meadow’s.” 

I have changed the vision is switcher to superimpose the next graphic card showing the hosts name, and as he steps through the curtain I slowly fade the graphic card away, and my script assistant presses the button flashing the applause sign hung over the audience. 

The last notes of the orchestra’s opening theme finished with a flourish. The audience microphones are open now, so their applause his heard to the viewers at home. The boom microphone lowers a little to catch Gary’s the first words. 

“Thank you…thank you… and good evening… On tonight’s program…” 

We are underway; a lot of nervousness has slipped away as we now concentrate for the next hour or so, but the excitement is still there. It is quite nerve wracking going live to air. 

The In Perth Tonight program ran on Friday evenings for many years. It had a number of different hosts and many guests, from locally in Perth and from the eastern states and overseas. 

1966. 

Our second son Jeremy James was born on November 29 1966. 

The Family: Me, Westly, Dad holding Jeremy and Ronda in the backyard at South Perth

The census was taken this year and the population of Australia increased 11.5 million and they were just over 80,000 for blood aboriginals. 

On January the 20th after 16 years of Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies retires and hands over to his successor Harold Holt. Later in the month Adelaide police now mount huge search for three small children who disappeared yesterday from the Glenelg. 

This year sees the Australian racing driver Jack Brabham take the world drivers title. Prime Minister Harold Holt who had supported the war in Vietnam’s pledges to United States Government that we would go “All the way with LBJ”. President Lyndon Baines Johnson received a rousing reception when he visited here in October of 1966 but many Australians were not happy with the visit and in Melbourne paint is thrown over his car despite the fact that 750,000 people turned out to meet him.

1967. 

The cult flower power starts in San Francisco. Colour television starts in England with the BBC on the first of July broadcasting the Wimbledon tennis in colour. England and Europe have adopted the 625 line PAL system of television broadcasting which is considered superior to the 405 line NTSC system of America. It will be eight years before colour TV comes to Australia. It’s this year that I was appointed senior producer director at Channel 7 televising sport and variety shows and directing parts of the first Telethon charity program, to raise money for a foundation for research into children’s medical problems and care. This year saw the arrival of a system for editing videotape. Previously if a mistake was made during the videotaping of an actual item it would have to be started again. Videotape editing would change the way many programs and commercials would be put together. John Dee and I produced to short demonstrations which were shown to clients…. Bill Gill on piano… the new valiant car commercial… 

Speedway telecasts, . .. Moving to Dianella. 

1968. 

Now with many Australians fighting in Vietnam’s we see the massive Tet offensive taking place between the north and the south. And we mark with sadness, the murder of black American activist Martin Luther King. 

Because a big shareholder in TVW 7 was the Catholic Church, and as part of our reason for holding a TV licence we were to telecast certain portion of program material which had to be of a religious nature. 

On one occasion we mounted an Outside Broadcast of the Catholic Easter Service. The OB truck which was built up by the technicians at TVW was used. We took over the Alter and other parts of St Mary’s Cathedral with the usual scaffolds, lights and cameras, with the OB van parked as usual out in the street. 

Producing the OB was Coralie Condon who was of the faith, and me directing who was not, toghter we ran the telecast. Between us both we had the ceremony all worked out, and the service and telecast got under way. 

The Austin OB truck was not very big so we had audio operator, Coralie and me at the Video switcher on the upper level, and the camera control units in front us but lower down. Half way through the service at one stage I called “ready camera two wide shot please”… then “Take camera two, on you two” and I punched the Cam 2 button on the vision switcher, and the camera picture went to air. However as I took my finger off the lighted button, the end, which had a spring loaded return, flew off out over my right shoulder. “Hell” I think I said, or worse, forgetting we were closed to God. The Technical Director who was behind me dived to the floor and in the semi dark started to quickly search for the end of the button. 

But the savoir was one of the CCU operators; he promptly stood up from in front reached over and stuck a pencil in the empty hole left on the VMU so that we could switch again, pushing the pencil.

1969. 

The frantic efforts of the United States of America attempt and to catch the Russians up as far as space travel was concerned this sees Neil Armstrong Edwin Buzz Aldrin landing on the moon from their spacecraft Apollo 11. Neil’s famous words greeted listeners and viewers on television round the world saying, “Tranquillity base here, the Eagle has landed… One small step for Man and one giant step from Mankind.” Michael Collins was pilot of the Apollo 11 spacecraft circled the moon while they were on the moon surface at Tranquillity Base. He was ready to pick them up again and make the 238,000 mile triumphal journey back to earth to a huge welcome. 

Apollo 11 landing on the moon. Tranquillity Base. One small step for mankind. 

I was fortunate to be the television director in charge of the program leaving Channel 7 to go on air while the Apollo crew landed on the moon. Thinking later about the event I suppose that was one of the highlights of my years of work in the TV industry.

1971. 

Kristy Gay Ashton 

Our daughter Kristy Gay was born at Osborne Park Hospital on June 24, 1971. 

I commenced flying lessons at Civil Flying School on December 11 1971. As far as all this flying about was concerned, it must have got into the system for two other friends at Channel 7 had just started too. Because it was so expensive in those days $18 per hour, it took till October 20 1976 for me to finally get my restricted license. When I finally let my license elapse, I had amassed a total of 103.88 hours of flying time in command, this was in August 1978. It was just too expensive and there were other family pressures on the finances. My other two Channel 7 flying friends, Norman O’Locklin and Tim Thunder eventually gave up too flying, probably about the same reason.

Civil Flying Services Charlie Tango Foxtrot Piper Cherokee PA 28 one of my aircraft. 

Me and Neville Wynne TVW 7 workshop manager enjoy a flight together. 

Flying 1500 foot circuits at Jandakot air field. 

Still enjoying a flight in Tim Boase’s Channel 7 helicopter TVG 

More flying fun later in when we flew up north with Pollack’s Flying Circus. And later in the Australian air race, with Don Pollack

We should note here for 1971 the enormous success of the stage musical Jesus Christ Superstar which, this year commenced its record-breaking season in New York.
As far as television was concerned the enormously popular Doctor Kildaire and Sergeant BilcoMod SquadThe Naked City and the very popular long-running series Days of our Lives entertained us. Local production saw Stephanie Quinlin’s Today show telecast and the popular weatherman Jeff Newman commenced hosting the schools quiz program Its Academic. With the enormous popularity of cartoon characters such as Humphrey B. Bear we at Seven decided to create our own children’s character, to be called Fat Cat. Fat Cat remained a very popular children’s character personality even to this day, he was designed by Judith Byrne wife of Greg Byrne Channel 7’s sales manager. Several suits were made before we got the final one right. Inside the suit was Reg Whiteman who played the character for the next 20 years. Reg was a dancer, he with four others danced on the opening nights variety show called Spotlight on Channel 7 in October 16 1959.