|Interviewer: Robin Hughes
Recorded: November 12, 2002
This is a transcript of the complete original interview conducted for the Australian Biography project. Each transcript page covers one videotape (approximately 35 minutes). There is also QuickTime video of the full interview available. To play the video, click on the icon in the right hand column. In addition, each question in the transcript is linked to the video. Clicking on a question will play the video from that point. (Help with this feature.) Optionally, you can download the video file for offline viewing (approx. 10MB).
The interview has been left it in its original state so that you can get a sense of how the conversation developed. The repetition of some questions, or a question followed by another question, is often due to the end of a particular tape or some other interruption, and has been indicated at the appropriate place in the text. There has been minimal tidying up of the text so that the flavour of the encounter has been kept.
Bud, I want to go right back to the beginning, to when you were born and could you tell me what kind of a family you were born into?
Well, it was a close family, a Coogee family in Sydney and there was my mother and father, of course. Both grandparents were alive. My mother's father died not long after I was born, I can't remember exactly how long. I have no memory of him but lots of memories of my maternal grandmother, Nan, as we called her. Dad's parents had died when he was quite young so none of us had met his parents. And it was - and my mother's brothers, Uncle Viv and Uncle Charles, and Uncle Charles was my godfather and, yes it was just a beaut Coogee family. We lived, I think, in a house in Byron Street or Melody Street from memory. And we never really moved out of the area until we - the furthest away we went was Randwick.
We had a flat in Randwick for a while, some years later, and then went back to Coogee in Carrington Road. And, yeah, and of course that meant the surf club where I got my nickname, I'm told, before I was born. "What's budding there?" was said on the front at Coogee when the pregnancy was becoming obvious with Mum. Mum was very slim and slight and so I presume I was becoming quite apparent. And so they called me The Bud before I was born and I didn't find that out until many, many years after Mum died. I've got a feeling she didn't want me to know. But an uncle told me about it, not all that long ago, I guess. A few years ago now.
But I've just got very happy memories of a sort of an ordinary family who had quite a link with the sea through Coogee Surf Life Saving Club and my godfather, Uncle Charles, in fact I've got it up on a wall there somewhere, got a certificate of bravery for a shark rescue. He was part of about four or five chaps who raced in and pulled out a man called Mickey Coughlan, Milton Coughlan. And I think Frank Beaurepaire, his name was Frank Beaurepaire, who got the gold medal or something, and Uncle Charles got the certificate. So, it was a, you know, we had a strong connection with the water and, of course, I joined the surf club as soon as I was sixteen, got my Bronze Medallion and did all the swimming training and all that. And that's about it really.
When was your first memory of seeing a film or a play or some actor performing?
Well, I found an old photograph the other day, that's got the, a huge tree in a park at Coogee, opposite the surf club and it used to be opposite the Boomerang Cinema which isn't there now. And I can remember seeing a close-up on the screen in the Boomerang Cinema and I have a feeling I must have only been about two or three, and screaming in horror. I don't know who's close-up it was, I don't think it was a horror movie. It was probably just some poor Hollywood actor. Suddenly this huge face must have frightened me and I remember, I can remember being taken out of the cinema and sitting under that huge tree which isn't there now. Nor is the cinema. But I've got a distinct memory of that. Now, I have no idea what the film was. I think my mother and I had talked about it but not in great detail. But that's a very, very early memory. So I'm kind of surprised, looking back, that I ever went into films.
When do you first remember performing yourself?
Well, it was at Randwick Intermediate High School.
Not before that? Not when you were little? You weren't brought out for the relatives?
No, no, no. I think I was probably told not to show off or something. But, no I remember sitting next to Owen Weingott, who died not all that long ago, and he and I sat next to each other. I think the T's and the W's and the A's and the B's were all alphabetically sort of linked somehow. And our English master in first year, Ernie Silk, encouraged Owen and I to try to do little pretend radio plays because we were very, very keen on the new thing called radio drama. Radio serials. This would have been about 1935. And Owen and I used to do pretend radio plays, which Owen used to write and we'd go behind a cupboard. We didn't have any equipment. No microphones or anything like that. But Owen had a book on sound effects, you know, lead shot on a tin tray for rain and coconut shells for horses and things like that. And then Owen's ambitions started to expand and [he] wanted to do proper little sketches and then he got even more ambitious, well I don't know if we were in second year by then.
But we were studying 'Tale of Two Cities'. So he decided that he wanted to do a classroom production of 'A Tale of Two Cities' which I thought was pretty ambitious as it's about the French Revolution. And my first role was Lucie Manette in a borrowed dress of Mum's in a boys high school - and it was rugby league school and probably still is - and I played full back and it was pretty embarrassing. But Owen says - told me once that, no we were in a sort of before and after marriage sketch even before that. But certainly my early work was terribly, terribly embarrassing. And we went to different schools after the Intermediate and I went to Sydney Grammar School which had a very good dramatic society run by a man called Arnold Moate. And Owen went to Sydney High School where I really wanted to go because all my mates were going on there and they had a very good dramatic society. But they had a tremendous advantage over us at Grammar because they could use the Sydney Girls' High School Dramatic Society when they did plays. So they could work with real girls. But after my experience with Lucie Manette I said "No, no more female roles for me".
And I found that, looking back over, my youngest brother, not long ago, found a review of a play I was in at Grammar in which I got a fabulous review, a notice. And, for a comedy called 'The Crimson Coconut'. And it's all a lovely sort of mixed up jumble of school stuff. But Owen's ambitions then took us, as we lived near each other, despite the fact we were at different schools, we, he used to talk me into entering radio competitions. And there were a lot of radio competitions for amateur actors in those days. One of which was 'Do You Want to Be an Actor?' compered by a man called Rod Gainford. Now we both took part. Owen won his heat. I didn't win anything although somebody sent up a consolation prize for the young man in the light sports coat, which was me. But that night Joy Nichols, who went on to great fame in England, she won the finals that night. And then Owen went on and I think he won his final.
But I didn't win any prizes at all until he talked me into taking part in another competition which was for amateur dramatic groups. And I said, "But we're not in one". He said, "Well we'll form one". So we formed a phoney amateur dramatic group. Took part in this competition on 2GB I think it was then and I got one of the leads in a radio serial with Jack Davey as a result of that. Because the producer of the competition was also the producer, John Appleton, of the radio serial. So Owen's hard work and enterprise resulted in me getting a proper, professional job. Still at school and I used to do - record my episodes after school. And Owen went on to do very good work in the theatre, mainly the amateur theatre for a while, and then, I think became a professional actor after I did which was a bit unfair considering that he did all the work.
Did your interest in all of this, your interest in radio and so on, predated [sic] your meeting with Owen?
Well I suppose it did. I can't remember when we got our first radio but I remember, like everybody else, we used to cluster round the radio set to hear whatever was, the famous cricket broadcasts of course with the pencil on the desk for the click of the bat and ball. Brilliant stuff that they were doing, particularly at the ABC. But there were serials I remember called 'Betty and Bob' which I think came from America and then the great George Edwards started his production company up in the thirties. They were doing 'Dad and Dave' with wonderful actors like John Saul who became a great mentor and director, a great mentor of mine and Rod Taylor's and Dinah Shearing's and a wonderful influence on a lot of us. So that's all a bit of a jumble, I can't remember exactly when but the interest was there.
And for people who can remember the start of television, it was about as exciting as that. It was a big, big thing and you got hooked on your favourite radio serials, no matter where they came from.
What were your parents' ambitions for you?
Dad had left school very young because his parents died young and I think he had to sort of go out. I think he claimed to be the first employee of, I think it was Kiwi Boot Polish. He used to help fill the tins or something. But when it got - survived World War I and was overseas and wounded a lot - he studied accountancy and he became a qualified accountant and he got a job with one of the big car companies and was retrenched in 1930 when the Depression hit. So for a while they were having a good run and I think he wanted me to be an accountant and, to satisfy Dad, I did work for a while in what was then known as Smith, Johnson and Co, a firm of rather posh chartered accountants. And I had the right school tie and that got me a job. But I then managed to fail the elementary exam in my first exam as a clerk or whatever it was - I forget what we were called - doing all the additions and ticking all the figures and things. And I think it's quite hard to fail the elementary exam in accountancy. But it sort of proved to Dad that I wasn't going to be a very good one and by then I was, I had been doing that radio serial.
So he - I did a deal with him. I said, "Let me go back to school and have another go at some exams and continue with the radio". And he did and he even found a job for me by finding an advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald for a cadet announcer/panel operator for a well known, unnamed commercial radio station. He said, "Apply for that and see how you go". I did. It turned out to be 2CH and I got the job. He found that there had been something like three hundred applicants for it so I got his blessing to become a radio announcer and I did.
Before we get into your career, how did you get on at school generally?
I think I did very well at Coogee Public School which was only round the corner from where we were living then. I can't remember whether that was Byron Street or Melody Street, but not far from Coogee Public School, which I believe is still there. I was selected to go to a special school in Woollahra for likely lads and, it was boys, that's right, yes. I suppose, you know.
Opportunity school, I think they're called... opportunity school.
Yes, you know, I hate to use the word, for 'gifted children'. And the idea was you did your two years at the end of primary school and more or less automatically went to one of the great schools like Sydney High School or Fort Street. And I didn't quite get to Sydney High School so I had to go to Randwick High School and I'm very grateful for that because I met Owen, I got into this amazingly interesting business, because of Randwick.
And then he went on to Sydney High for the senior years, as the Randwick boys did, but you didn't. Why was that?
Well, Dad won a big prize in the lottery in 1937 and he very carefully looked after the money, put a new kitchen on for Mum, bought the small house we were renting in Carrington Road, tarted it up a bit and then put me and my brothers down for Sydney Grammar School to give us the opportunities that he did not have because he left school so young. The difficulty for me was, I had to go past Sydney High School, the school I really wanted to go to, every day in the tram to get to College Street where Sydney Grammar School is. And that was a bit difficult.
You were given no say in the matter?
I think I probably was but the logic of Dad's problem got to me. How could he have one, two lads at the posh school and the other lad at the highly respected, but not quite as posh, school. I think by me saying yes, got him off a bit of a hook, I guess, there. I didn't pass too many exams after that. I think the first time I did the Leaving I got two A's and a B and you had to have four subjects. Now, in the Intermediate, I got three A's and five B's which was a very respectable result. But I did do well in English and things like that.
By the time you were in the senior years, were your ambitions really turned toward radio then?
I suppose they were but by then the war was on. The war started in 1940 and I was still at school and I was having that exciting thing of doing the radio acting with the great Jack Davey. But I think most of us of my age group were thinking, got to get into the army and, and that strange thought process that hits young, vigorous fellas who - and women I'm sure - will the war last long enough for me to be in it? And then Dad wouldn't let me join the army when I did turn eighteen because he had, he had, legally had the say so. But he said, you can join the air force. Now he, his logic was that if I joined air crew and trained as a pilot, there'd be such a long period of training that with luck the war might be over. But, of course, it wasn't.
While we're still with your early years, how did you get on with your brothers?
Oh great. We were great mates, yeah. But I do remember having a punch up with Barry which was unwise because he was very good. I seem to remember he thumped me, hard. But he was the younger brother. He went on to be a QANTAS pilot and he was a pilot as well in the air force. But - and Pat was the very quiet. Barry was two years younger than I am, Pat is seven years younger than I am. So he was very much the little brother for a quite a long time. Very quiet, ultimately brilliant.
Were you a dominating big brother or a teasing big brother or ...?
More a teasing one I should think, yeah. But I know we all loved to play cowboys and Indians. Barry, the one who became a QANTAS pilot should have been the actor. He was very - he was taller than I, very handsome and years later, before he started flying with QANTAS, when he got out of the air force, he was doing a clerk's job in a shipping company. And because he was rather keen on one of the girls in the office, who happened to belong to an amateur group, he joined the amateur group and took over the lead in a play and was brilliant. And taught me a lot. I started to pass radio auditions because of one tip Barry gave me. And I was already a professional radio actor, but occasionally I couldn't pass the Macquarie audition or something, you know. And Barry taught me how to obey punctuation to create light and shade and change of pace and different thought processes. Looking back, that was pretty advanced stuff. And anyhow he, they did the play, we went to see it, he was wonderful but then he got his invitation from QANTAS and away he went and became a QANTAS pilot.
What - what was your relationship with your father like?
Oh, it was, it was great. I had tremendous - it's very difficult - well, admiration for him. He was badly deafened in the First World War. Really in the last few months. He was wounded a lot. I think he worked out he had five Blighty wounds. A Blighty wound was a wound bad enough to take you out of the line and if they could get you across the Channel to a hospital in England, and then when you're fixed up, back into the line again. And, but in the last few months of the war a very close shell burst partially deafened him and he'd lost about forty percent of his hearing. And it's a really difficult problem for anybody that because you can hear a lot, but not quite enough. And therefore in family conversations, we used to - must have driven him mad. We'd have two levels of discussion. We'd be, Barry and I and Pat would be chatting about school, Dad'd say, "Speak up, speak up". "Oh, I was just saying", and then you'd have to project. And that made some difficulties.
As we got older and could go into a pub it was great because Dad couldn't hear the background noise because of his form of deafness. He could only hear people shouting over it so he could have happy conversations with people. Some forms of deafness it's the other way round, you can hear the background but not the voice. In his case it was the other way round. And it wasn't until about 1940 that they developed a hearing aid that gave him any help. And then it was - it was considerable to see the difference in him when he could happily join in conversations. And he had a great sense of humour. Probably should have been an actor.
Did - did your parents have a good relationship?
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Dad was pretty handsome. I'm pretty sure there were a few, Aunt so and so, and Aunt so and so, who weren't really relatives I'm sure they fancied Dad. But I saw no evidence of any - anything naughty happening at all. But no, they had a great, great strong relationship. Yeah.
And your mother, how would you describe her character?
Oh Mum was great. She was, she was small, very energetic and, I think, happily disorganised. Was always running a little bit late and she had a very strict English friend, Auntie Elsie, they lived up at Pymble. And they were school friends. They'd met at Claremont College, I think, in Randwick. And I remember Auntie Elsie always saying, "Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up", whenever they were going anywhere and Mum would always be trailing. But she was terribly charmed, you know charming about everything and her mother, Nan, she was a great person. I remember if there were any family fights at all, especially involving me, or getting into trouble, I'd always go to Nan when she was staying with us and she seemed to be staying with us a lot. I vaguely remember that the house, or even the flat, when we had a flat in Randwick, was always full of other people like a relative who didn't have anywhere to stay so they'd stay with us. Or my grandmother would stay with us or an uncle or a dear friend of, particularly friends of my uncles.
And I remember a very nice guy called Tom, Tom Quine came out of the army, he'd joined the AIF very quickly at the beginning of World War II and - but he came back and seemed to be with us for years and years, looking back, after the war. And I, I used to wonder occasionally, I wonder what it would be like if it was just us? Just Mum and Dad and the three of us. But I don't remember that. There was always somebody there. But that was purely out of the goodness of Mum's heart.
What effect did the Depression have on the family?
Oh, considerable. Though I was pretty unaware. The only memory I've got of it, we were living in a flat in Randwick, in Daintree Crescent, and I remember being allowed to nurse Pat, my brother, when he was born. He was born at home in the flat and I can still remember holding him. But I didn't know, but just before that happened Dad had lost, had been retrenched. There were - he was one of two cost accountants in one of the big car companies and they kept the other guy and let Dad go. And Dad apparently used to do what a lot of fellows did, pretend to go to work. Especially in the last few months.
You mean, he didn't tell your mother?
Yeah. Ooh, sorry. It's got to me a bit. Yeah, I think.
Because he didn't want to worry her with the baby due.
Sure. I think he used pretend to go to work, dress up and, you know, and then after Pat was born and safely born, she found out. And that's when I think their real battles started. And then he got a job as a humble clerk in one the government departments, I think it was the Taxation Department, and he stayed there forever and ever. And he was always on the temporary staff I remember. Never made permanent and so, when he won the lottery in 1937, that was a huge deal. Five thousand pounds. Gosh. And, but then they didn't spend any of it on themselves, I don't think. Except for the nice kitchen, that's all.
But I associate that with a lot of unhappiness too because Mum became very ill, coincidentally that year and had to go into hospital for an operation. May have been a hysterectomy, something like that. And young Pat, the youngest brother, tripped and fell when they were adding and fixing the kitchen and a bit of a sleep out, the equivalent of a family room, I suppose. Picked up some infection from the timber they were using and he had a very bad time. But recovered brilliantly. But we weren't too sure whether he was going to recover for a while. So, winning the lottery, wow, what a great thing. But there was a down side as well. And I, for many years sort of resented the fact that he had won it because I wouldn't have had to have gone to Sydney Grammar School, you know and all those things.
And so it didn't actually mean anything positive to you as a kid at all really?
Oh, I suppose, it was good to see that they didn't seem to have too many financial worries suddenly but they didn't spend the money on themselves. He never bought a car or anything like that.
When you were a little kid and they were - you know he was in this difficulty and, I mean, you can imagine what it must have been like. Obviously you can imagine it. When you were a small child though, were you aware of it? Did they shield you from it or did you know that there was a lot of worry?
No I don't, I don't remember having a hard time at all or being aware. Except that Mum used to make most of our clothes. But I think most mums probably did. I remember she used to make the short pants we wore at school. I don't know that they always fitted terribly well but she made them and that was the norm, you know. I mean you were conscious of the family up the road had, you know, "Ooh, they've got a car", you know. "They must be rich." But I don't remember any jealousy or anything about that.
Do you recall that the gap between the rich and poor, they say was much less than it is now. Did you have a sense that people were, some were a bit better off and some less ... How do you remember that?
Yes, I'm sure. And I know there was a lovely family next door to us when we were in the flats when Pat was born in Daintree Crescent. And they were a big legal family and, in fact, the son became, until he died not all that long ago, Adrian was my lawyer when I bought the house and things like that. But we weren't, they were just very nice people. I don't remember ever thinking, "Ooh aren't they lucky cos they're rich?" And I suppose because we didn't much know what rich people did. I know we didn't go to things that cost a lot of money like the theatre and things like, we'd go to Randwick pictures because our friend Tommy Quine who stayed with us for a long time, one of his jobs when he got out of the army, and I think even before he joined the army, was to be an usher on the door at Randwick pictures. And if Tommy was on duty, we could get in for nothing. And that was a great help. Now, Audrey, my wife, on the other hand, they lived at Randwick and she and her mother had permanent bookings on Saturday nights in the dress circle and so, and we didn't, but if Tommy was on duty we could get in for nothing and otherwise you saved your - whatever pocket money we might have got - and went to the pictures.
The job you got with Jack Davey? What was the show?
Oh, it was marvellous. It was sort of illogical looking back but they got the rights to 'Billy Bunter of Greyfriars', one of the great sort of English school comic stories. And Jack Davey, who was by the standards of those days, very round. By today's standards he probably looks quite slim. But, Jack I think had something to do with the production company and he elected to play Billy Bunter and I played, I was cast as Bob Cherry by John Appleton, who was the producer who'd also produced that radio competition where they found me. And then we had people like Howard Craven playing Harry Wharton and I think there was a great actor called Ronald Morse, one of the big stars, he played the headmaster I think. And Redmond Phillips who went on to be a great writer as well. I think Red may have something to do with the script as well. And it was, sort of, I was in the deep end with some of the best radio actors that Australia had in those days.
Looking back, what do you think it was about you at the time, untrained, raw, that they saw ... ?
Golly, what a good question. I don't know. Because, you know, I'm not very tall and I wasn't sort of really movie star material. Whatever looks I have was a combination of Mum and Dad. Although I thought Dad was handsome, Mum, you know, oh she was very pretty when young, your Mum. I was very English, very interested in English as a subject and also in the spoken language long before I got into radio. And Owen and I, I think one of our, Owen Weingott and I used to love imitating the, whoever the big radio stars were. Most kids do and still do with telly stars and things. So I think we got very much involved in pronunciations of things and, this is without trying to sound posh or anything. And I think we were, considered ourselves very good at American accents as well and all that sort of thing.
Did your family speak the way you speak?
As far as I can remember, yeah. Yeah.
So, your accent hasn't altered?
Yes, I think it has because I met a very great radio man called Charles Cousens who with John Dease were the two senior announcers at 2GB - and this was before Charles went into the army, who was, he was a Sandhurst graduate from there, they were both English. And he gave us some marvellous tips about learning to speak clearly. Not with a posh accent or anything but just clearly. And one of them was to read the leader article in the Sydney Morning Herald aloud every day. Not because you agreed with it or anything, but usually that language was not normally meant to be read aloud so it was probably more difficult to read but it was perfect English. Or it had gone through several processes before it was printed. So you knew you were reading very good English and well constructed sentences.
And then I used to add another level to my sort of private practice and try to read it as if I was making it up and it was me talking. Owen and I were pretty interested in naturalistic acting as demonstrated by some of the greats of the day on films, like Spencer Tracy and Fredric March and the greats like Robert Donat in England and I suppose the early Redgraves and people like that. Wherever there was really realistic acting, I used to get locked off on that. I was always a great fan of that. Owen, I think, moved more into the classical, you know, the great Shakespearean voices and things like that. And I think we both developed very phoney voices and accents for quite a long while and, though I remember Owen and I had to meet a producer about something and, as we were walking away he said, "That is the phoniest accent I've ever heard". "What do you mean?" He said, "You put on that terribly phoney voice". And it was very good instruction because I don't think I was any more phoney than Owen was but he noticed it and he said so.
And I think that after a while the way you speak is probably the way you have to, you know - I often say to, you know, to people, well how do you learn to speak posh, or whatever and - or read a lot. And I think people who have to talk a lot, whether they're very upper crust or working people, or whatever, if they've got to speak a lot, tend to speak clearly after a while. And whether they're rough diamond trade unionists or whatever, they eventually use the language in a clear speaking way.
So you practiced?
Oh I practiced, yeah, yeah, yeah.
And after you got this job at 2CH, that you described how you got it before, what were you doing? What was the job to do?
It was [a] cadet announcer and panel operator. And a panel operator was the person who put the records and flicked the mic switch and sometimes, as a cadet announcer, you had to introducer the big star announcer. Our senior announcer was Ken Layton and often I was the man who introduced Ken doing the evening show. For a while I was put onto the breakfast program and then, during the day I'd have to introduce people like the great Joan Reid, who was the star woman's announcer, personality, whatever. And she was really a very big, big name. And, I had to, and sometimes you'd do the commercials for them. It was a combination of doing, you know, but technical stuff, of course, compared to today was very basic.
But you used to have to change the needles for every record and I've still got little scars on the fingertips where you had to screw them up tight otherwise they sounded funny. If you used a certain type of needle, you could use that for commercials and you could use that for a few playing, sort of a ten inch or a twelve inch record. Otherwise they were copper needles and they had to be changed every time you played a record which were the old discs of course. Yes, it wasn't much more technical than that. But I, I remember getting, when I'd only been at 2CH a few months, I was chosen by the Commercial Federation of Stations in Australia to do a [sic] outside broadcast describing the handing over by the Dutch government to the Australian government of a ship called the Oranje which was a very good ship and became a hospital ship. One of the two main hospital ships and my eventual father-in-law was chief engineer of the other one, the famous Manunda which got bombed in Darwin.
But that - and I remember getting a terribly brutally frank comment on my work from a taxi driver. They gave me a taxi to go home after the broadcast down on the wharves in Sydney. And the taxi driver saying, "I believe they've just given us a ship, the Dutch?" I said, "Yeah". He said, "Yeah I heard the broadcast". I said, "What did you listen to, ABC or the commercial?" He said, "I listened to the commercial for a while then went to the ABC". I said, "What was it like?" He said, "Oh, the commercial bloke was crook". And that was me. And so, and he finished up with the ABC. So that was a bit of a blow to the ego. But it was good experience of course.
How did you approach that job when you got it? Were you nervous or confident as a young man?
Oh, I think I was pretty nervous. I remember they did some good research and gave me a bit sheet with all the quotes about, you know, the, the details of the ship that we might have been allowed to say. I imagine there would be fairly strong security limitations too. So, I had quite a lot of information and, as it wasn't on television, I could look at the notes. But then I had to ad lib, you know, a lot of stuff and I'd love to hear it. I'm sure there are no archival records of it. I bet it was pretty raw.
When - do you remember when you first started the job at 2CH altogether? Do you remember how you felt starting off then, what it was like?
Yeah, I must have been pretty daunted by it. We had a couple of radio magazines then, I think it was the Radio Pictorial and also the Wireless Weekly or something. And I know suddenly the odd picture started to appear of Charles Tingwell, the youngest announcer at 2CH and then there was one where I was, at one stage, the youngest announcer in Australia. And there was a great organist called Charles Tuckwell and that, that created some publicity when Charles Tuckwell was introduced by Charles Tingwell. So little things like that. And I, I'm ashamed to admit that I loved all that. I loved the publicity and I really thought I'd arrived and - but I don't know. I was daunted, I suppose, by the, by the fact that I'd actually got the job and there were about three hundred applicants for it which pleased Dad and he wished me well when I got that job which was because he'd seen that advertisement.
Were you paid well?
Three pounds a week. A bit embarrassing when I joined the air force because in those days your employer had to make up the difference in your pay and the service pay. So that if you had a six pound a week job and you joined the air force and the air force pay was three pounds a week, your employer had to make up the difference and you got that three pounds a week as a, somehow I suppose some sort of deferred pay, bonus of some kind. I forget how the technical things were. Didn't apply to me because actually my air force pay was bigger than my radio stardom pay of three pounds a week. I think I got three pounds, two and six in the air force or something. But I mean three pounds a week, you know, I used to give Mum two pounds a week or something and four pence for tram to the city to walk down to Martin Place to where 2CH was in the AWA building.
How old were you when you got the job?
Seventeen and soon to be eighteen.
And how old you when you joined up?
Well I was eighteen in the beginning of January in 1941 and I think Dad let me enrol in the air force, you know put, sign the papers in about March or April that year. And then we had to - if you were accepted for air crew training, you had to do a few months on what was called the air crew reserve and attend night classes on maths and navigation and things like that. And Dad was very pleased about that because that delayed my actual, you know, active service, I suppose.
In that period before you, before you went away, you were working as a panel operator and an announcer. Did you do any drama at all? What was happening with your acting?
I'm pretty sure that I didn't do any, with any amateur groups. I think that was after the war. Certainly Owen was. Owen was, was working I think at the Independent Theatre in North Sydney. That was sort of a bit above my head. I was, that was a bit, I didn't feel confident enough to have a go at that. And it would have been difficult because it would have meant I couldn't do night duties as an announcer and that sort of thing. The radio commitment was pretty all powerful. I had to - when I joined 2CH I had to give up the radio acting work. That was a bit of a blow. Apart from the financial advantage that might have been, I would have loved to have been able to continue working with those great people like Davey and Howard Craven and co. But the terms of my employment said, thou shalt not have an outside job. So I didn't.
Now, you did this training and you did the preparation for the air force. What happened when you were actually sent?
Well, I was called up to start training in - shouldn't have used the word called up because we were all voluntary and all that. But your, your, your batch will start training in September 1941. I could have started training in August '41, that is putting the uniform on and doing the ground training at Summers in Victoria. Again Dad was a bit concerned about that because I was a bit young to be going so far away from home and I think he pulled a string or two through some of his old First World War mates and got me delayed until September '41 when I went to Bradfield Park which was at Lindfield and only up the road from where we lived in Sydney. But - and that consisted of lots of ground training, lots of marching and getting fit and arms drill. All the things that a lot of the army guys were learning but on top of that we were learning things like navigation and a lot of maths. And then I had to have my tonsils out so I had, I was pulled back of course while I had my tonsils out in the air force. And I completed training about a month or so later than our original batch. Which, for all I know, saved my life.
I don't know but it was out, Dad's plan about keeping me out of action, you know, away from the war for a while fell apart when our particular batch not only, you know, the September lot but the October, November lot, we really copped a lot of pretty heavy stuff during the war and very few of my mates that I trained with actually survived. So I was a bit lucky.
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