Conversation with Barbara Potter (now Sanders)
4 April 2006
I was recovering from a broken leg in 1956, and was wondering what to do next when my friend Prue Bavin, as she was then, who was working with Mungo McCallum in Australia's new and exciting television industry, thought I may be suitable for a television presentation announcer. So she suggested that I might audition for the position. I was most interested and auditioned. Those auditions were put on hold. Prue reported that I had had a good audition and should try again when the job was really available - so I did and got the job.
I was thrilled and in early1957 I was given a year’s contract as the A.B.C.'s first television presenter in N.S.W. and the second in Australia. The first was Victoria's Corrine Kirby.
I was very excited with the job even though I had no training of any kind in that field
Our main job in those days was to give the audience a run-down of the television programmes for that night. I am not sure whether the daily papers printed the programs for all the TV channels. We used to have a five minute live slot just before the 7 o’clock news. We also had the slots in between programs. Often the presentation was done live to air. It was very new and great fun. Having spent quite a bit of time in England as a child, my pronunciation was not considered Australian enough. I remember having to read the papers to Gordon Scott, who corrected my pronunciation. There was a pronunciation committee that made decisions on approved Australian pronunciation. There was no other training that I can remember. I am interested in a wide range of things so I was able to memorise facts quickly, and speak about them in my own words. I could learn a list of things quite quickly.
Once when I was promoting a programme on Hannibal I said thought it would be interesting to learn how he got those elephants across the Alps! I was told that T.V was to entertain, not to teach.
Some of the people I used to work with – I remember Geoff Powell who was my boss at first; there was Jim Lyons also from presentation. I remember Geoff teaching me how to handle vinyl discs. There were all the newsreaders – Jim Dibble, Martin Royal, Paul Maclay, John West, John Chance and Michael Charlton. There was also Al Gordon - He was in charge of ABC presentation.
I was known as the girl with no legs. This was how I was described in the papers; people wondered if I had legs as I was only shown from waist up!
I loved working in the Arcon shed. It was very primitive, but I really liked it. You got to know everyone. I made so many friends then. It was a lovely atmosphere and a fun place. That’s were I met my husband. Bob Sanders.
Some of the floor staff I remember are Bob Fleming and John Plowman who were floor managers, Doreen Castle was in charge of make-up; she was very English. Some technical producers I worked with were Dave Tapp, Les Weldon and John Hicks. I remember Les Weldon requesting that my eye shadow was much to heavy and should be removed just before I was due to go to air. Barbara Still from make up became a very close friend for life and godmother to my daughter Shena.
I compered the hit-parade twice – that’s when I tried to talk to the end of the large studio and my voice became shrill studio, and my voice went high – nobody told me not to try to project it to the end of the studio but to speak gently in the mike. The programme went to air on the radio immediately following the T.V. show so I was able to hear it on the car's radio. I was horrified. With no training I had no idea that by projecting my voice to the end of the large studio I constricted my voice box and made my voice very squeaky.
My worst incident happened when John Butte was directing ‘Find the Link’. A great friend of our family was appearing on ‘Find the Link’. The programme finished on a very funny note, and I had to immediately follow on with my presentation. I knew that our whole family was watching, and our friend’s family was watching. However, I lost concentration, and made an awful blunder. I announced a show for the next night and then gave the cue to roll film for the following programme twisting the numbers ---"This program will be on Channel 9 at 2 o’clock; you are watching ABC television and it’s half past eight". I looked up at the clock and saw it was 9 o'clock. Realising I had made a dreadful blunder and was about to be cut off all I could do was to put my hand in front of my face and look horrified. Alexander MacDonnell wrote about this incident in the afternoon paper. Al Gordon thought that if I wore high heels. It could make me think on my feet!
The General Manager, Charles Moses certainly didn’t like what happened. I was told he had said I didn't want the job. When it was time for my contract to be reviewed, I was told to go to Broadcast House – it was there that Talbot Duckmanton told me that there would be no extension to my contract! After I left they picked trained actresses for the presentation work.
I returned to design and architecture, eventually Bob and I married, and have two children. I have worked in Census and Statistics, sold World Book, and became a Real Estate Agent which all helped educating the children. I am now retired and enjoying playing a lot of bridge.