Interview with Barry Lambert

Doug - How did you find the Sydney Pye OB van?

Barry - When Mum died there were a lot of photos that I'd sent her and it made me think where was the van. This was in 1998. So I knew the van was around somewhere because in 1980 or thereabouts I'd seen an exhibition in Canberra where they had the van. It was by the National Museum when it was in its very beginnings and it was acquired for the National Estate or something and they had it one exhibition and I went up and said that "I'd worked on that van". The Security Guard told me you've got to keep away from it. I said "OK" and so I forgot about it. When Mum died and I saw the photographs, I thought, well I know the van's around, I'll try and chase it down. So I got to the Sound and Film Archives and said "I know the ABC van is around somewhere - have you got it?". They said "No we haven't got it but we'll try and find out for you". A couple of days later they rang and said "Listen it's in the National Museum storage at McEacharn Place, which is in Mitchell ACT.

Doug - Did you ever find out where it came from before?

Barry - Yes, it came from - I can go into that later. So I contacted the Museum and said "I'd like to go and have a look at it because of this and that and blah-blah blah", and they said "Great. If you can give us any of it's history we'd really appreciate it". So I went out and had a look at it. It was pitiful It was just left in a corner gathering dust and deteriorating. I thought we've got to do something about this. So I put a proposition to them that I would document the stuff that was in there (because they had no idea). Somebody had tried to do it with "metal objects with knobs" like that . So I went through and fully documented it and then I gave them the history of it. They said "Oh gee, this is really something", So then we started to push for it to be in the new Museum when it started, but there was a lot of politics. But I was fortunate being a contractor, I could carry on - I wasn't employed by them - I could call them half-wits and things like that and it wouldn't worry me. I had nothing to lose.

Doug - It was a wonder they were prepared to listen if they weren't technically inclined.

Barry - The other thing was that I didn't have to work through the hierarchy. I would go straight to the top. I could say this is what we should do and this is this and that. Everyone was sort of horrified that I wasn't working through the bureaucracy - which I can understand, but I had that freedom. So it was a matter of just pushing and pushing. It was decided to be put in and that was that.

Doug - Did the Museum fund you for your expenses?

Barry - Yes. Because I had to go overseas - a couple of trips overseas to find a source of image orthicons. Just before the Queen came out here I picked up another three from America. They only wanted about $100 each, which was a steal. They worked.

Doug - You had to bring the filaments up slowly?

Barry - Yes. I put them in and for hours to hopefully evacuate any air that could have leached into them, and they all came up with differing qualities of course. But I had to definitely get the brain-box working on how to operate a CCU after so many years. But it came back.

Doug - Now you said you knew something as to where the van had been.

Barry - The ABC was going to retain it at a Museum they were going to have in William Street. They had a big flood there and there was quite a lot of damage -not necessarily to the van but to a lot of other stuff. So they then sent it up to the National Archives at Villawood. I think they ran out of space and put it onto the National Museum saying do you want it? In their wisdom - thank Christ - they said yes. Because otherwise it would have gone the same way as the Melbourne Van. One ended up in a paddock and that would have been the GTV-9 one. I've heard that they gutted the ABC Melbourne Van, used it as a mobile audio studio for a while. Then it ended up with someone seeing it in a wreckers yard ready for crushing.

Doug - I think we can assume that Melbourne's claim to fame was that it was the first to be landed. Articles in Radio Active indicated that Melbourne had their van up and running for training just before the Sydney van - so we can assume it was landed first.

Barry - They moved the Sydney van - there must have been a lot of other stuff-because I've seen photographs of the repository where the Powerhouse has got some ABC stuff and they've got the CPS Emitron cameras but the National Museum has got the EMI flying spot Scanner. I gave Peter Cox of the Powerhouse Museum all my 729 Club memorabilia because I had a whole lot of the 729 Club coasters.

Barry - The Museum has got a lot of old paper work and in fact the Museum has got Dave Tapp's old training documents from the BBC - the training schedule and training notes. Dave went overseas early on. I can remember him because my Mum used to work for the ABC in the Newsroom. She was up in Kellett Street. When I was still going to school she took me out to the Royal Easter Show -in what must have been 1954/55 and they had a television demonstration out there. Then on News Years Eve in Kings Cross where the El Alamein fountain is they had a big park with a big projection black and white screen - an Eidophor - displaying the celebrations. That would have been '55. John Laker was involved. Gordon Waterhouse wouldn't have been with them then because he joined at the same time as I did.

Doug - Tell me about your "Messenger" duties.

Barry - That was the way of getting into the ABC. They advertised for TV Techos and TV staff. The quickest way, and Mum worked this out, to go into the ABC was to go in as a Messenger. I was in National Grooming(?) for a little while but that was purely a transition. It was fairly brief and all I know is that it was a temporary position until the process of transfer was complete. I was basically involved at St.Peter's Hall, and audio stuff in William Street, waiting for the OB van to arrive, while that was going on and they organised all their staffing. It was apparently quite a traumatic change from PMG control to ABC Engineering. The PMG still maintained control of the transmitters, but they were very suspicious of the ABC stealing a lot of their staff, which they did, because a lot of staff came across. We had a mixture of staff from PMG, Airforce, and Navy because they'd had radar experience. Fortunately for them it was an ideal point of coming into civvy street. Military qualifications weren't accepted in civvy street. They had a different strata of qualifications so a Techo in the Navy wasn't necessarily accepted - they couldn't go into the PMG as Technicians.

Doug - Ted Travers came from the Navy - submarines.

Barry - He was in Telecine. Bert Pearson was Head of Training at one stage up in Kings Cross.

Doug - Did you get involved with the actual installations in the Arcon?

Barry - No because I was OB's and we did a heck of a lot of link training whilst the Arcon was going on.

Barry - Channel 9 used to be called the Dexion Station. In those days we used to have quite a reasonable relationship with the other channels. And there was none of that animosity. We did Head of the River from Penrith. I was on Camera 3 on the finishing line. Channel 9 couldn't get their van down there so they took a split of our feed.

Doug - John Laker said there was no fraternisation at the Olympic Games.

Barry - He'd know more than I would. I can remember sitting in the Channel 9 van. The Head of the River was funny because we'd cut backwards and forwards as each race was going, but Channel 9 took us all the time. And of course at the end of the race they'd stay on Camera 3 and I'd pan around. But I would go right down the boobs of girls on front of the camera point. The Channel 9 people screamed out give us the wide shots we're still on air - and here am I.

Barry - Channel 9 in Melbourne had a little Pye run-about and they got around the coverage very well. They were very envious of us because we had two vans. We worked from 7AM to 1AM the following morning. because we had enough cable to pre-cable ahead. We had enough for three sites. As soon as one van finished we could pull the cable out and cable something else. We were pissed off because the worst venue was the swimming. We'd cable for the morning and have to pull down and re-cable for the evening. We had drums and drums of cable.

Barry - Equalisation. I forget what the cameras were rated for with voltage drops etc. but they used to test the cameras at the factory for 2000 feet. On the sideback wall they had the cable lengths and they tested the cameras for top-notch performance. If it worked over 2000 feet they knew they were getting good performance over 500'.

Barry - The Pye Engineer who came out to commission the van would be named in the Pye Book in the OB section.

Barry - When they were doing the acceptance tests of the Pye cameras in the van, and the Marconi cameras, they found that the Marconi cameras didn't meet specifications and the Pye cameras did. After a lot of soul searching and hunting down, they found out that Marconi were using the old Cossor CRO's and Pye were using the Tektronix 524's and of course the Cossors wouldn't even show overshoot. They were setting their specs on the Cossor CRO's.

Interview with Doug Grant - September 2005, Canberra


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