DISCUSSION WITH GORDON WATERHOUSE - 18 JANUARY 2005
At Chatswood Club - 11 Help Street Chatswood.

Background of Gordon's Career:

Gordon's father's first cousin was the Waterhouse associated with Eryldene at Gordon (Professor Evan Garry Waterhouse - Modern Languages). Gordon's father was Professor L.L. Waterhouse - a Professor of Geology. Gordon's father's brother was Professor Walter Waterhouse who carried on William Farrar's work on rust resistant wheat - a professor of Agriculture at Sydney University.

After Matriculation, Gordon didn't go on to University straight away, and went to the Marconi School in Clarence Street behind AWA (Mr. Gray was the Principal).

He did his First Class ticket - at the time he was with OTC; Initially Gordon joined AWA (1945). AWA Communications Services (Beam Wireless) and Cable and Wireless Ltd., (UK) had become nationalised by the Chifley Government in 1946/47 which became OTC. Whilst there, he started as a morse operator (high-speed telegraphist) then transferred to Technical staff and got to a Supervising Technician and then took on the Engineering Diploma Course (GradIE) at Sydney Tech.

Proceeded studying part time with the Course and then after graduation went from OTC to United Press from 1951 to 1956 (at OTC he was receiving the United Press Newscasts each night - which involved very fast Morse - and the UP boss invited Gordon to join them as they wanted to set up their own radio station). He won several awards for Morse - was up to 54.6 words/ minute (aural morse - not auto). From there joined the ABC.

ABC History (1956 - 1960):


Gordon saw the ABC position advertised in the Sydney Morning Herald. He had applied for 3 jobs at the same time and got the lot, viz., - House Master at Knox Grammar teaching Music and German; - Position with the Anglican School at Mossvale teaching Music and German; He was engaged at the time and was looking for accommodation (both the above jobs had accommodation offered).

However, he was accepted by the ABC and thought there would be more of a future in Television.

  • Gordon joined the ABC attending at 264 Pitt Street. In those days this was Broadcast House next door to the Pitt Street Congregational Church. Went to the 4th. floor at 9AM to the office of the Staff Clerk (Mr. Ted Lawrence) to take the Commonwealth Secrecy Oath. Then he was told to report to Studio 228 (St. Peters Church Hall). Gordon was there for several weeks. Mungo McCallum and Kay Kinnane were Trainers. This was a venue for training on how to use cameras, how to set up staging etc. There was no sound training.
  • Ken Middleton was SupEng (NSW) during Gordon's time and Lloyd Hadfield was Controller of Technical Services. He got a Senior Technician position.
  • Moving onto Opening Night, Gordon remembered going over to Studio 227 in Kellet Street in an OB truck, lugging the heavy Pye Cameras and their stands up the stairs and then running the cables. The van was parked at the rear in Kellett Street.
  • Michael Charlton opened transmission from the Arcon temporary Studios at Gore Hill - Marconi cameras were used in the Arcon Building. They crossed live to Studio 227 (Kellett Street) for Menotti's opera "The Telephone" - produced by George Trevare (Leader of the ABC Dance Band). Gordon remembered Trevare as "an absolute madman" (temperamental) but a good musician. It all went successfully without any hiccoughs that Gordon could remember.

(The Menotti Opera was not broadcast on the first night of transmission, but on Thursday December 20 - Web Coordinator)

Gordon started in Studios, then to OB's then Telecine - the duties were all mixed up. He never worked in Master Control or in Telerecording. Some interesting facets of the trip down the Melbourne for the Olympic coverage - they got lost in Canberra. Gordon was in one of the older vans with Eddie Berlage (he was formerly known as Eddie Van Barneveldt). When the team went to Melbourne for the Olympic Games they were billeted at a Melbourne University Hall of residence during the Uni vacation. The rooms were so filthy, they complained to Lloyd Berndt (a Super Tech. on the team) and they were moved to the Victoria Hotel in Little Collins Street.

Gordon was 25/26 during the Games (born in 1930); Gordon was on Camera 1 during the Melbourne Olympic Games; Gordon remembers being on a camera at a venue at the top of Bourke Street for the coverage of the arrival of the Duke of Edinburgh. There was also coverage at the Festival Hall at West Melbourne for the coverage of the Boxing, and at the Swimming Centre in Batman Avenue (the ABV crew); Gordon remembered going to the ABV's to Opening Party during the Olympics and had never seen such a drunken party (beer trickling down the concrete stairs). It was held at ABV at Elsternwick. He remembered Brian Madely was at the Transmitter - he came out from Marconi. The first Supervising Tech at the transmitter after Frank Shepherd and Brian Madeley's time, was Peter Martin (a PMG Tech). He married Doug Ferguson's daughter Sandra (Ferguson Transformers).

Gordon mentioned his time as a Purchasing Officer. (John Starr had mentioned to Doug Grant that Dick Cohen had been a Purchasing Officer. Gordon indicated that Dick Cohen took over from Gordon. Gordon was the first ABC Engineering Purchasing Officer. Gerry Sabin followed on from Dick Cohen.) He remembers getting quotes for the ABC vans and lighting, cable etc. (not the cameras - they were done prior to this stage).

CPS Emitrons were used in Studio 23. ABC went to air with 3" Image Orthicons. Lloyd Hadfield came from EMI in England where he had been involved in developing the Flying Spot Scanners and (Gordon thought) Emitrons. Lloyd was an Australian. He was a champion discuss thrower.

Gordon remembered the Telerecording SuperTech in charge as Vic LePla. One of the early OB's in Sydney on their return was the coverage of the ABC's "Sportsman of the Year" at the Sydney Town Hall. Gordon recalled being in the hall early in the morning setting up camera cables running around the floor of the balconies (out of camera-shot). His ladder slipped on the polished floor. Attendants came running in. He didn't do any damage to himself only bruises.

Gordon remembered an OB of Club Rugby at Coogee Oval. He remembered a rostered OB Van Driver (nameless at this stage). Whilst the OB was on, this gentleman went to the local pub and "got as full as a boot". Les Weldon was in charge on that day. He told Gordon that he would have to drive the van back to base, because he was the only one with a Class 4 licence. Gordon took the van back to Gore Hill and the driver had to go home independently.

Barry Lambert was a technical assistant who worked to Gordon. Barry moved to Canberra and later joined Jacoby Mitchell. Don Crowley came from Brisbane after the Navy (a Chief Petty Officer) then returned to Brisbane for ABQ's start. Owen Thomas (Pat) Kavanagh came from PMG Switch Room.

Gordon discussed the difficulty a number of people employed at the start of the TV era had had with Ken Middleton (Kenneth Noel Middleton) who appeared to take sets against various people. Gordon thinks his problem with Ken was due to Gordon's friendship with Warwick Mehaffey. Ken appeared to resent Gordon's frequent visits to Warwick's office and their common interest in music. Gordon felt that his career opportunities were limited at the ABC and decided to move out in 1960;

Recollections of the start of the 729 Club:

Gordon described the beginnings of the 729 Club. He referred to Geoff Powell, a Presentation bloke. Geoff and Gordon organised a 3-Station Christmas Party in 1957 (he thought). It was held in the Bullbrooks Building on the Pacific Highway (Bullbrooks were timber storage firm). Sought permission from Huck Finlay (then AGM under Sir Charles Moses). He gave permission for the party. Geoff and Gordon contacted friends at Channels 7 and 9 and had the most marvellous New Years Eve Party. All the original people from 9 and 7 came across. Geoff and Gordon had big headaches but went down next morning (in shorts) and cleaned up. At that time Gordon said to Geoff that he felt that there was so much interest that they should consider a 3-Station Club. Later in the day Gordon went down to Geoff's place at Neutral Bay, talked about it, and drew up some plans. They wrote a Constitution, had it approved by lawyers and then applied for a licence. The first premises were above Jim Archer's electrical business (Jim owned the building) in Falcon Street, Crows Nest. They leased the premises and that is where the 729 Club started. Gordon handed out the first 120 badges. Gordon remembers John Buttle very clearly. Gordon was handing out the very first 120 badges for the 729 Club after they got the licence. John said he wouldn’t join unless he had badge No. 1. He gave him No. 1. After that John went to Canberra.

The Secretary/Manager for the 729 Club was Eric (Russell Victor) Webb. Gordon remembers him as a member of West Pymble Bowling Club for years.


Gordon Waterhouse joined ABC TV in 1956. He left the ABC in 1960 and was involved in the running of a number of electrical/electronic businesses. He retired in 1996.

 

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