John Garton and Bruce Valentine
Interviewed July 2003
John : I started in 1956 – the nucleus of the technical staff came from the PMG broadcasting section, and quite a few transferred over to Gore Hill. The ABC got agreement that it should have its own dedicated technical staff. That’s when people like Dave Tapp, John Hicks, Jack Christopher and Harry Adams came to television. We were almost looked at like traitors because we left the PMG and joined the ABC. It was actually a very talented group that came over.
I first went over to Leichardt Technical College to do a course on television. I remember that John Rothenbery was there also. At that stage I was still working in radio, so it was a personal initiative. It wasn’t a TVOCP course, just a technical course on television. When we transferred over to the ABC we started work in St.Peters Church Hall – one section was divided into a control room and another part was made into a studio. Kay Kinnane was in charge of the training. There were many production people their receiving their TV training. We spent many months there practising making segments of programs.
Bruce : I was managing a radio station in Taree in the fifties, and when television started, I took a whole year off – it was 1957 – to do the TVOCP. It was quite a challenge – even though I had my BOCP which I studied for in 46/47, my work in the radio station at that time was not always technical and taking on subjects like pulse techniques was quiet different to radio. So, for that year, I worked in a television factory and did the TV Ops course at night. I used to have a sticky-beak in at the Arcon and St.Peters Hall – it was quite interesting to see the training. Channel 9 also used that Hall. I joined the ABC at Gore Hill in March 1958.
John : I remember one day at St. Peters Hall after we did a practice show on chickens; I was locking the place up at the end of the day I heard the chip-chip of a chik that just hatched in the incubator – so I ended up taking it home, and it became quite a pet. We called it ‘tv-chook’.
As soon as the Arcon Studio became available, we transferred all the equipment from St.Peters Hall, and continued our training and practice there.
When we first came to the Arcon, I was allocated to studio work; we did not specialize but had to be able to do different jobs. My main jobs were sound and CCU. The studio was tiny by modern standards, and it used to get quite hot as we did not have any air-conditioning. It was lined with straw bales to get it sound proofed as far as possible. We had two Marconi Mark 3 cameras. Telecine was just across a passageway – it was the EMI flying spot scanners.
The facilities in the Arcon were very cramped and meager; I remember we had a sliding door as there was no room for a normal door. I remember the producer George Trevare, who was a volatile character, once jumped up out of his seat in the control room and rushed in to the studio, tried to open the door forgetting it was a sliding door, so he took the door with him as he entered the studio. The lights were slung very low, and the camera people had to be careful not to get lens flare; they had to be very careful when tilting the camera. We did a lot of magazine type shows with interviews and demonstrations. We also did light entertainment shows; people singing songs, piano and instrumental items; it was all fairly basic but quite adequate for the times. We could not anything on a large scale until the new large studios opened. Dave Tapp and John Hicks were our two TP’s. John mainly did the lighting. Don Crowley was in charge of the telecine facilities. Fred Haines was there in the early days; he mainly did sound work. We had Mungo McCallum do many of the ‘talks’ shows – I remember someone once called him Mango McCullum and he was not amused!
Ken Middleton was our main NSW engineer; there was also John Poll. He was known for his expensive cars, he usually drove a flashy Jaguar.
I remember the first day of transmission at the end of 1956 when we had both the Arcon and our OB unit working. We did a one-act play, The Twelve Pound Look, and the OB was the formal opening of the service, which came from a Kings Cross – ABC radio studio 227 on Darlinghurst Road. The hours of transmission were from 7pm to 9.50pm.
The Emitrons were great for tonal range as compared with the Marconi Mk 3’s which were very sharp. Initially we had two Emitrons in Studio 23. However, after the Mk 3’s arrived at the station, a spare camera was installed in Studio 23 later in 1958, together with one Emitron camera. This resulted in mismatching – a soft tonal picture followed by a sharp picture with high contrast. I spent those early years in Studio 23.
I remember one time in Studio 21 when we were ready to go on air with compere Mary Rossi and Women’s World. In those days a presentation announcer was in the studio to give a live introduction to the show; on this occasion it was Michael Charlton. They were fooling around, one of them sat on the others knee – suddenly, without any warning, it was realised that the studio was on air. Someone made an error in the Presentation Section. It was some time before the error was discovered, so there were some red faces over this incident.
Bruce : When I first joined ABN Channel 2, I went to OB’s, I did camera, sound and CCU and had to get familiar with the Pye Cameras. In those days we did our own repairs as there was no maintenance section. We had to able to use a soldering iron to repair the number of dry soldering joints!
Some of the people I worked with on OBs were Jack Christopher, Bob Hoerger, John Laker, John Lark, Jurgen Schmidt, John Rothenbery. We did some very interesting OB’s in those days. I remember us going to various parts of Sydney to a series of historical programs. Kay Kinnane was one of the producers. I came over to the Studios later in 1958. I did camera initially when Len Richardson was the senior cameraman, then switched over to sound work. Rex Henry was another cameraman. We had to learn new different microphone techniques as compared to radio operations.
John Garton started work as a Technician with the PMG Radio in 1949 at the Forbes Street Studios. He transferred to Gore Hill in 1956 as a Senior Technician. He subsequently was promoted to a Technical Producer and then Supervisor of Studio Operations. He also had several years work as the Supervisor of the Training Studio. John retired in mid 1981.