PHILIP PEARSON AND JACK CHRISTOPHER (December 2003)
Philip: I started work at Qantas as an apprentice Aircraft Ground Engineer in the Aircraft Instruments Area where Mr. George Roberts was the supervisor (The book " Qantas By George is a history of his life with Qantas) Qantas had a wonderful training scheme, and I spoke to John Watson about introducing some of those Qantas elements into the ABC trainee-ship system. When I finished the Ground Engineering & Instrument course, I completed both a Radio & Television course at Leichardt Tech. College. (Channel 9 had installed their TV Transmitter in the Tech. Building) During this course the members of the course built their own Television Receivers and mine was in operation for ABC Opening Night.
Philip: Kevin Bourke interviewed me. The strange thing was that he never asked any technical questions. I was convinced when I left the interview that he was a clerical officer. I tried to get a position of Senior Tech, but they offered me a position as Technician.
Philip: The day I started, the 27th July 1956 we first met in the city – there was Les Weldon, Eddy Berlage, Don Orid, and Peter Tkachenko. We walked to St. Peters Hall at Kings Cross and met Dave Tapp who was to be our boss at Gore Hill, along with John Hicks, John Laker. Les Weldon stayed in the City with Kevin Bourke. Jack Christopher, John Garton, Fred Haynes, Harry Adams started about a month later.
Philip: At St. Peters Hall we had 2 Marconi Mk3 Cameras, some old stage lighting equipment that John Hicks used as Lighting Director. A very simple video mixer and we had a couple of microphones and an audio panel.
Kay Kinnane was in charge of the exercise program to produce segments of shows to go into production later in the year. Of course we could not record anything, we would rehearse segments of shows and repeat them on Fridays for Kay and others to check our productions.
Philip: Peter Tkachenko and I were redeployed to Gore Hill to install the Arcon studio. & Unpack the PYE OB Van. I remember one incident with Ken Middleton our NSW Chief Engineer – Peter and I had our dustcoats on while we were working on unpacking the TV equipment from wooden cases, when Mr. Middleton walked in. He said he wanted to see us in his office later -- he told us he had noticed we did not have the buttons done up, or the belts tied. He said he did not want to see that again!
Jack: We used those packing cases up at the Cottage to make our workbenches for the OB Section. That’s where the OB Section began.
Jack: In the early days of TV-OBs we had to carry all the gear to their locations; from tripods, with the heads on them; sometimes we had to carry the 3-wheel camera trolleys and link equipment.
Jack: Our first major event was the Olympic games. There was a rumor going around that Col Stockbridge, the top Engineer from Victoria, would be trade-testing us when we got there!
Jack: I was a Senior Tech in the PMG, working in the radio studios. I was asked which television section I wanted to go into, and I said OBs. I was made an acting Super Tech A to take the OB vans to Melbourne. Lloyd Berndt – the Super Tech B - didn’t come down initially to Melbourne.
Jack: I did the Marconi School of Wireless Course for the BOCP - that was held in York Street, in the Marconi (2CH) Building. They used to hold the TVOCP exams twice a year. The practical was held at North Sydney Technical College at Gore Hill. The pass mark was set at 70%.
Jack: John Poll interviewed me for my ABC job. I was 39 years old at the time. If one was 40 years you were wiped off the list! John Garton, Pat Kavanagh and I were the first people to go over to television from radio. When the radio people found out that we were going over to Gore Hill, they tried to stop us. The sent us a letter from radio engineering that we were not released to go to GH. John Garton ignored the letter and went over first. After one week we send Radio Engineering a letter saying we were going over, and we didn’t give them time to respond! They did not do anything about it.
Philip: I met Sam Brown in 1956 – he was a special photographer with the Department of Supply where I was working at the time So when the ABC started their job advertisements, I told him to put in for a job. So we both got a job.
We were there before the start of the TV service. In later years Sam was the Supervisor of the OB Section. We were good friends and I miss him still.
Philip: Grahame Sibley came along around that time, so did Lloyd Berndt, John Garton and Fred Haynes and Lou Robson.
Philip: There were 3 factions in those days – the PMG, DCA and the rest! We had a lot to thank Dave Tapp – he envisaged the system that the technicians would maintain and also operate, thus we were independent from the engineers. In those days Dave Tapp was in charge of operations and maintenance.
Philip: All of us were self trained – everybody used to read the television text books of the time – books by Grob, Chin, Amos & Birkenshaw, etc.
Philip: In those days we had to have the TVOCP to get promotion. To sit for that exam we had to have the BOCP or equivalent, people with the PMG Seniors Tech qualification did not have to sit for the BOCP. I remember applying for both the exams – passing the BOCP and then sitting for the TVOCP all within 3 months. The exams covered a wide field of knowledge.
Philip: I was doing programmes as CCU Operator and the maintenance of the OB Van before I went to studios to help install Studio 23 and then John Lark took over from me on the OB Van.
In the studios for opening night, Greg South was on the boom in the studio; Len Richardson and Harry Adams were on the two cameras. Fred Haynes did the sound, Les Weldon arrived just before opening night and did the vision mixing; John Garton and I do all the camera adjustments. The Drama we produced was " The Twelve Pound Look "
Philip: This is the letter that I received from Charles Moses:
" The 5th November is a very important milestone of the National Service and one the ABC will remember not only because it marks the opening of our Television Service but today for the first time ABC programs will be presented to the public by Program and Technical Officers who are all members of the ABC team".
Philip: The Arcon was made from aluminium tubing and straw covered panels The Arcon was built in the big PMG fibro shed – alongside was Master Control, Telecine, and at the far end we had the Telerecod machines set up. We produced the first ABC TV drama program there with two cameras. (The Twelve Pound Look). We all had the difficulty in those days that there were no pedestals – we had to set the wheels on the tripods trolley no matter what shot we had.
It was an exciting time to be at work in those days – one looked forward to going to work. Also, all the public used to talk about television – people used to stand in front of shop windows looking at television programs. The newspapers used to write up stories about early TV programs.
Philip: I remember when Eddy Berlage was on camera and we did a programme from the rotolacter agricultural show from Menagle – the position of his camera was such that he got the backsides of all the cows as they came around. We hardly got to use his shots as all they seemed to show was the cows doing their ‘drops’ – when it came to packing up, we had to wash off all that mess from the camera cables.
Philip: The eating facilities in those days were pretty primitive. At some stage they gave us the use of a small shed as our canteen. Zilla, the wardrobe lady, used to have her cats there.
Jack: One of the unique features of those days was that we had to work out the link paths back to the studios. For example we had to link over the Blue Mountains when we did the Bathurst car races. We had the first broadcast from Canberra; we had the first linking of a Davis Cup from White City to Melbourne. Then we turned it around and took the Third Test from Melbourne and linked it to Sydney. If we had insufficient link equipment, we took a signal off-air at a remote point and then began our linking system.
Jack: A lot of people say that we had links for the Olympic games in 1956. What they saw was films of events being re-broadcast in Sydney. No one outside Melbourne saw anything live.
Philip: In those days we never had to sign on when coming to work. We never had to use a bundy system. It was an honour system.
Jack: I remember one day at the Sydney Town Hall, when we were setting up for an OB. Normally the Town hall electrician gave us standard 240 volt service, however on this day he wired us across 2 phases so we were getting 415 volts. We were not aware of this. I was adjusting a lamp on a parapet high above the body of the hall, when the globe exploded and the glass went everywhere. I still get the shivers when I think of this, and how easily I could have fallen over the parapet with the shock of the explosion.
When Jack and I have a chat about the past we now look back at 50 years of Television and are proud to have been involved from day one. Technical Production is still of a very high standard but the Programmes could be better.