Ray Mitchell's Boxing Corner: 1958--63: memories
G'day! I was just trawling the web and came across your site, and the memories of that terrific bloke Bob Moore. I'm Alan Mitchell, eldest son of the late and great Ray Mitchell, and reading Bob's note brought the memories--and the tears flooding back.
Ray (my dad) was a very popular figure on the ABC with his show: Ray Mitchell's Boxing Corner which ran from 1958 to 1963. For much of that time, Ray Mitchell's Boxing Corner was the most popular sporting programme on TV.
I was of course just a boy then:12--17 years (I'm now 61), but I remember those years as though they were yesterday. So much so, that when Dad passed away (aged 86) on November 29th, 2005, I referred much to Dad's years at the ABC in my eulogy.
They were wonderful years--I probably didn't realise--or perhaps appreciate fully the significance of those years (until much later in life), as each Saturday morning, Dad and I would catch two trains (Dad didn't own a car--nor did he ever learn to drive!) from Gymea in Sydney's south, get off at St. Leonards Station (I now work at St. Leonards, have done so for many years) and Dad and I would walk up that long hill to the Gore Hill studios.
I remember well Dad "getting the gig" at Channel Two. The late Bernie Kerr had said to Dad--"I'll give you a go Ray (Dad had put up the concept of a boxing quiz type show). I reckon it will go six weeks." Said Bernie.
The pay: the princely sum of (wait for it...): Five pounds (per episode)!!
Six Weeks! It went for five years, consistently rated its pants off, beating the World Wrestling on Channel Nine; and Ken Howard's Racing programme.
In the five year period, Dad answered in excess of 9,000 questions...was "stumped only a dozen times, and I reckon nine of those were "gerries". He built up a legion of fans--many of whom were female.
If memory serves me correctly--we're talking many years ago here, Martin Royal was Dad's first "sidekick"; followed (I think) by the great Michael Charlton--what a wonderful man Michael was. A true gentleman, and Dad and Michael got on so well. Then Bob Moore took over, the funny and at times outrageous Bob Moore. He and Dad got on like a house on fire, and the two of them along with a couple of other staffers would play
500 well into the afternoon. Bob had an infections laugh and when he did (laugh) which was all the time, you could hear him all over the studio--and beyond. A wonderful, wonderful man. In fact, the photo of Dad and Bob on your website, and indeed on the cover of Ray Mitchell's Boxing Quiz book was taken by me--with my first camera. Lovely memories.
State of Play: When Dad and I arrived at the studio, the "state of play" would go something like this: Michael or Bob, Dad and I would walk past the two ladies manning the switchboard--about 30 minutes prior to Dad having "his" makeup done. Michael/Bob would lean over to the two ladies: "How many questions in--so far?" They would ask. "About two or three" would come the reply. 28 minutes later...same question, same answer: "About two or three," they would respond.
"She'll be a quiet one today, Ray," Michael/Bob, would say.
On would go Dad--around 2.10pm (again from memory) and the telephones would go into "meltdown". Most viewers were convinced that Dad couldn't possibly know all the answers prior to going on--"It's just not possible," they would say. And as soon as he went on, the 'phones went mad!
I think the ladies used to cut them off at around 45 questions; and Dad would still be taking phone calls well after the programme finished for the day.
In later years, I think the programme was extended to 40 minutes, and of course the questions would increase. It was phenomenal.
Did he know the answers prior to going on screen (?): No. But he sure as hell knew them when asked on air. Some would cry "fake". Blessed with a wonderful photographic memory and an almost immeasurable IQ (he was a member of Mensa for many years), he wasn't a fake. He was just that good!
When Ray Mitchell's Boxing Corner finished in 1963, Dad had answered in excess of 9,000 questions on air; and I think he was paid 25.00 pounds per episode! Big payers...the ABC.
But they were wonderful years, I was blessed--I didn't realise it then, but, I was. Ray Mitchell's Boxing Corner really helped put Dad on the map.
A sporting journalist all of his working life, he edited Man Magazine in the early fifties and Adam Magazine--both KG Murray publications. He wrote for the SMH and The Daily Sun; edited his own boxing magazine--The Square Ring; wrote for many local newspapers, and overseas publications, and it is fair to say, he was as well known, respected and loved by boxing fans in the USA; England (how he loved England) and many "boxing countries" around the globe.
All in all, Dad wrote in excess of fourteen million (14 million!) words on his beloved Olympus manual typewriters--(how he would have embraced the modern era of computers!) he wore about a dozen of 'em; he refereed over 6,000 professional fights; and he promoted hundreds of professional fights. He was...an extraordinary man. A workaholic.
Known as "The man with the photographic memory" or just simply as: "Mr. Boxing" (a title to which he truly was entitled--he was very fond of this particular title) he made many friends overseas. The late and great Nat Fleisher with whom Dad corresponded for many years, Mr Fleisher was overawed by Dad's knowledge of world boxing. Nat was quoted as saying: "We will never ever see another Ray Mitchell in a lifetime." He met the great Mohamed Ali; he introduced me (again as a boy) to the late and great Rocky Marciano; and of course, through his taking me to hundreds of fight nights (Mondays) at the "Old Barn"--Rushcutters Bay Stadium, I met them all. Australian champions; overseas champions; great boxers and great fighters. Wonderful memories.
Many, many thanks for the opportunity of allowing me to share so many wonderful memories of Ray Mitchell's times at the "old" ABC TV Studios at Gore Hill through the 50's and early sixties.