Conversation with Prue Bavin (now Wyndham)

21 March 2006

My first job in the ABC was working in the General Managers Office, and my main job was to make coffee for Charles Moses! I also did general office work, showed people in, and so on. After a while I decided to go to England so I parted company with the ABC.

When I came back from England in 1955 I really wanted to get a job back with the ABC. I went to Broadcast House in Pitt Street, and ran into Huck Finlay – I knew him when I used to make the GM’s tea in my previous job. He was a very nice man. I told him I was looking for a job. Anyway, the staff people found me a job – it was rather boring and I was wondering if I did the right thing in coming back to the ABC. One day someone tapped me on the shoulder – I was suddenly told that Huck Finlay said for me to go to St.Peters Hall. I asked why, and was told that the ABC was getting ready for television, and that was where the TV school was.

So I went to St.Peters Hall and met Dave Tapp who was setting up the school. He was getting all the equipment read. He told me that when the school started I was going to be the vision mixer. Now, I didn’t know what he was talking about. But after some time thanks to the techs who were there I learnt how to operate the vision mixer.

Anyone could walk in off the street into St.Peters Hall. We never worried about security. Our doors were never locked. However, one day someone stole my handbag, and that was most annoying.

Mr. Judd, who was the minister of St. Peters Church, was most disapproving and unsmiling – he was not the least impressed by television. He thought we were a frivolous lot.

The first training course at St.Peters Hall was held at the end of 1955. There were approximately 20 people there, mostly ABC staff who wanted to get trained in television.

We did a variety of training exercises. The people who were doing the producing were very nervous – I felt quite knowledgeable and confident - by that time I knew how to work the vision mixer, while they were absolutely new to television. Besides Mungo McCullum and Kay Kinane, (who were planning and directing the activities of the school) I was the only other production person there. There were a series of training courses in television during 1956.

I don’t remember ever applying for a script assistant position – however, Mungo asked me to work with him and I slotted in as his script assistant. By that stage we started planning the opening night of ABN2. That would have been in the second half of 1956.

It was exciting being involved in the opening night. Mungo was the producer and I was there as his script assistant. The OB Van was parked in Kellet Street. We used a large radio/orchestral training studio above Woolworths as the opening night studio. That’s where the official party was located. Michael Charlton was did all the presentation from the same studio. The production team there included Ray Menmuir as the producer and Ruth Page as the script assistant. We were all chewing our fingernails, but the whole thing went off very well.

I remember seeing Channel 9’s opening with Bruce Gyngell. It was quite different. They went straight into "I Love Lucy", after a short opening. They didn’t make it live and personal. Mungo showed the broad aspect of ABC TV; he had a variety of segments and artists and interviews. All of this was live television.

After the opening night the OB Van went to Melbourne for the Olympic Games. I wasn’t involved with the sporting events, but I was involved with the opening and closing ceremonies. There was a lot of planning involved in that. In those days there were no security checks – it was easy to move around and talk to people. We had our base at Melbourne University – this included our accommodation and meals.

The OB Van was used so much during those early days by the Talks Department. We had church OBs, peoples houses, sport, Canberra OBs, Royal visits, Royal Easter Show, etc. It was a very pleasant time to be working for the ABC. I spent a lot of time looking at cricket fields – we used to do so much cricket in those days.

Some people I remember working with - I used to drive Bill Kennard mad, asking for graphics at the last moment; Doreen Castle was in charge of make-up; she was great to work with. Bob Fleming (son of Athol Fleming of Radio Childrens Programmes) went on to big things in British television; Barbara Potter who was one of the first presentation people in television.

I worked with Mungo McCullum until he was made assistant Director of Talks. Then I started to work with Arthur Wyndham, Alan Burke, Colin Dean and Ray Menmuir. I did the first 4 Corners program with Bob Raymond. I worked quite a lot with TV Drama. I remember working on Richard II, a great production of the times. Both Studio 21 and Studio 22 were used for that production. We used to work in the Woolworths studio for our rehearsals.

We used to have so much fun in those days. After the completion of a big production we used to have parties in the producers’ homes. It was all so friendy and nice. I remember once we had a sporting part on the roof at William Street – I can still remember Keith Miller swaying on the roof, and I wondered if he would topple over! Everyone from the top down seemed so nice. My office was in the ABC building on the corner of William and Forbes streets.

 

Prue Bavin first joined the ABC in 1950 and worked in the GM's office. She left in 1951 but came back to the ABC in 1955 and soon after became one of the first members of the television training team. She worked as a script assistant until she left in 1963.

 

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