(Recorded July 2003)
In the beginning 1956 PMG management passed the word around to find out who was interested to transfer over from radio to television. I and Harry Grunden were the only ones from the radio studios who transferred from Forbes Street in early 1956 to the Gore Hill transmitter building. In those days it was quite primitive, although the building was nearly completed – no power available, no facilities for making a cuppa, and no toilets in the building. In those days the PMG technician staff included Eric Halcrow, Harry Grunden, George Paterson, Morrie Menier, Reg Fay, Eric Taylor (known as Hot-Pot Taylor) and the first PMG Engineer who became involved with the transmitter was Frank Shepherd. In those early days the ABC studio building was not even started.
Dave Tapp was the first ABC technical/operational person on site. It was amazing to see the big range of programs being produced from the Arcon building (a galvanised iron building), used as a temporary studio. The whole area was originally a PMG line depot site.
Roderick Marsden (ex Marconi) was initially the leader of the the AWA team until the arrival of the Marconi team comprising of Bob Franks, Ken Franks, Eric Hitchen, Fred Kenyon and Peter Nash.
Our first job was the unpacking of all the boxes for the 5KW standby transmitter. Our job then was to put together the equipment under the direction of Roderick Marsden. He gave us some rudimentary instruction on television.
The small transmission tower was built quickly by contractors to accommodate the 5kw standby transmitter- it was called ‘little toot’ – the initial transmission was from the little tower.
The reason the standby transmitter was built first was that the Marconi people were late in getting the main transmitter built and delivered. In fact the main transmitter did not arrive until after the transmission of the Olympic Games.
When the main transmitter finally arrived, the team had to work on both transmitters, which were installed side by side.
In between the Channel 7 transmitter building and Arcon building was a huge pit. It must have been part of the brickworks. During the early stages they decided to fill in the pit. Truckload and truckload of wartime transcription records, racks of equipment, and other materials from the PMG and ABC was all thrown into this hole. That eventually became an ABC carpark.
The transmitter equipment proved to be most reliable – it always amazed me that despite the complexity of the equipment there were very few breakdowns. All the equipment at the transmitter was valve equipment; there was no transistor equipment at all in those days.
I remember the early days of maintenance at the ABC studios at Gore Hill very well. I transferred over to the ABC in 1959. Dave Tapp was partly instrumental of that change.
The facilities for television maintenance were pretty awful, as management was mainly concerned about production, and maintenance was not given any priority. We ended up working on upturned packing cases, instead of having proper benches.
Before the Maintenance Section was established, the technical staff in each area were responsible for the maintenance of all the equipment in their area. In some cases this was not working well, as staff were mainly concerned with operations.
There was quite a few problems with the Marconi equipment; for example, earthing was a problem - Marconi designed that to happen via screws to the chassis; however, paint was not removed underneath the screws, and that resulted in a lot of intermittent faults. This occurred in the Mark 3 Cameras and the Marconi Line Clamp Amplifiers.
There was an extraordinary situation in Studio 23, where there was one EMI camera and one Marconi camera; apparently the authorities could not decide which way to go, and this was their method of comparison! Marconi won this contest.
In the fifties there was only Harry Grunden and myself initially in Maintenance; then Danny Dierikx transferred over from Forbes Street. Merv Manthey was also an early staff member in maintenance. So was Neville Lambly.
George Paterson joined the PMG Radio Engineering Department in March
1940 and worked in the ABC Studios in 96 Market Street, Sydney. He transferred
to ABC Forbes Street Studios in 1942 and worked 'underground' in the war
years. In 1956 he transferred to the TV transmitter site at Gore Hill.
In 1959 he joined ABC maintenance at Gore Hill. He retired in 1981 - his
last ABC position was Principal Technical Officer (Maintenance).