INTERVIEW WITH JOHN WATSON BY PHONE FROM LEURA
19TH AUGUST 2006

John Watson

Doug -
I believe you came from Perth?

John - Yes - originally it was from NSW - but yes - more recently came from Perth with my good wife.

Doug - Did you do your own training as a PMG Technician in Perth?

John - No, it was all done by private study and by passing internal examinations.

Doug - You did work in the ABC Studios as a PMG Technician?

John - Yes in the broadcasting studios in St. Georges Terrace.

Doug - How was it that you came to make the move to Sydney?

John - I moved on from Broadcast Technician into the PMG Training School in Lord Street North Perth. I made this move into training and it just developed from there.

Doug - I believe you came across to Sydney in 1957?

John - Yes.

Doug - Can you remember how you were recruited for the ABC position?

John - Yes. I'd just finished a Course in Sydney, a Rehab Course qualifying me for the First Class Commercial Certificate. They advertised the vacancy - Supervising Technician Training Grade B was it?

Doug - You mentioned Rehab?

John - Rehabilitation after the war.. I was discharged from the Airforce in 1945. When I enlisted in the Airforce, at that time they were opening up north-west radar stations to keep an eye on what was coming in from overseas. The Rehab Course was at the Marconi School in Sydney. I got my discharge in Perth.  - I'm skipping bits here - and then came over to Sydney for a Course with Marconi.  I then went back to Perth when I finished the Course and I sorted things out - it needed to be either the Department of Civil Aviation, or the PMG. I applied for both places, had the option of either and went for the PMG.

Doug - When you came across to the ABC - that was to the newly-formed Technical Services Division. Who interviewed you?

John - It was Ken Middleton and I think Dave Hirst. I came over for the interview at the Cottage. I'd been doing a bit of TV training in Perth. They had good Courses running there prior to coming over and I'd done 2 or 3 years of that Course over there. The Marconi School was the base qualification then several examinations within PMG for Senior technician in Radio, Senior Tech. In Telephones, and Senior Tech. In Research, then I did the Course with the Perth Tech. College with George Hatton. He was a good guy with experience overseas. I think that was the first time that I met Warwick Davies. He was in DCA at the time.

Doug - When you came to Sydney you were put in charge of the new Training function at Gore Hill. And presumably you had to pull together the requirements for the first intake?

John - It had started when I got over there. I arrived in November 1957; there were 2 or 3 or 4 recruits for the first Course to start off the following year.

Doug - So the Courses hadn't started but the people like Arthur Gray were arriving?

John - I don't think Arthur was one of the first in and I can't recall who it was. Ken Middleton and Dave Hirst had been looking at the requirements and I'm not sure what advertising they'd put into effect. There were already 3 or 4 slotted in for the Course that was going to commence the following year.

Doug - Did the first intake trainees share their time between the PMG Training School and the Sydney or North Sydney Techs?

John - They spent time at Sydney Tech.  Training was not carried by the PMG.

Doug - North Sydney Tech. didn't come into the picture until later?

John - No they came in from the first year.  The PMG School wasn't involved in the project at all. That suited my inclinations at that time. I wanted to paddle the canoe myself, I didn't want to pass it over to someone else.

Doug - Were you working alone at the outset?

John - I was part of the staff in Gore Hill in the Engineering area  - I was the only training person. I had no assistants. That suited my style.

Doug - Who were you working to?

John - Ken Middleton.

Doug - Did you have any involvement with the Victorian Trainee scheme?

John - No. There was recruitment in both Sydney and Melbourne concurrently for that instructional position. The first position in Melbourne was filled by an ex-Navy bloke. We had no dealings.

Doug - Were you given free reign in your conduct of the technical training role?

John - Yes It was the most enjoyable 3 or 4 years of my technical life. The trainees were all a first rate group. We had the training scheme under our own control. We set the standards. We called on the Tech. College at North Sydney to assist us in the basic electrical and electronic training as background. And then put a layer of emphasis in the broadcasting, especially television area. That continued for the first couple of years of the trainees and then we started putting in more time on ABC television principles and operations,

Doug - Was the TVOCP something that had to be done as supplementary training for the basic Technician qualification?

John - No, but I used to encourage the chaps to run through the TVOPS Certificate as a sort of training run for the full TIT qualification. They were quite separate entities - the examining authorities are different. It was for a general broadening of their horizons. At that time there was some doubt as to whether all the number of Technicians coming through - and there weren't so may God bless -would be able to placed in vacant positions when they graduated. The TVOCP would be an entre to the commercial world if indeed they had to go that way or if it took their preference at some later time.

John Watson started work at Gore Hill in 1957 as a Supervising Technician Grade B (Training). He retired in 1984 as Head ABC Training.

 

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