The Wireless Begins
The wireless or radio was patented in 1896. However, it was not used widely in Australia or New Zealand until the 1930`s.
In 1932, Australian Prime Minister, Joseph Lyons, inaugurated the ABC. The ABC ran 12 radio stations across the country. The country. The stations operated during the mornings and evenings and were closed for the period of time during the day. There were also commercial radio stations.
These early radio stations operated on a subscription basis. After paying a fee, people received a radio that was set on the frequency of the stations they had subscribed to.
A Family Affair
During the 1930s, 40s, 50s, families gathered each evening around the wireless in their lounge room. Initially, radios were quite expensive to buy, and you also need to purchase a radio license. For this reason, many people made their own crystal sets.
Did you ever make or own a crystal set?
Early radios were essentially a large timber cabinet with a glass face. The names of national radio stations were embossed on to the front of the face, and an operating know moved a large white needle onto the desired station.
In the 1940s and 50s, radios became smaller. They were designed to sit on the mantelpiece of be moved around as portable transistors.
Do you remember your family`s first wireless?
What did it look like?
Where did it sit?
During WWII, radio`s popularity increased. For the first time, Australians could actually listen to reports from the battle front, rather than reading about them in the paper. Soap operas and radio dramas provided a welcome distraction form the war
Everybody had their favourite wireless programs, which they tuned in to regularly. Often these programs were 15-minute serials.
Favourite programs were often:
- Comedies such as `Dad and Dave`
- Detective stories such as `You be the Detective
- Soap operas such as `Blue Hills` or `Portia Faces Life`
- Quiz shows such as `Pick-A-Box` or
- Live sport such as cricket commentary.
What were some of your favourite radio serials?
Did you ever listen to Blue Hills?
For The Kids
There were a whole range of wireless programs especially for kids. Starting in the 1930s, school teachers utilised ABC educational radio programs as part of their weekly curriculum. During the war years, Kindergarten of the Air entertained thousands of pre-schoolers who were unable to attend preschool due to the war.
Older children were entertained and enthralled by various adventure serials such as the Jeffrey Blackburn Adventures and Biggles Sweeps the Desert.
Perhaps most famously, the Argonauts Club began in Melbourne in 1933, before going national in 1941. The program ran six days a week for 28 years and encouraged children`s contributions of writing, music, poetry and art. There were over 50 000 Club members by 1950.
Were you or a sibling ever part of the Argonauts Club?
What were some of your favourite wireless shows as a child?
There were many well-known radio personalities during radio`s golden era. To name just one, Jack Davey on Sydney`s Radio 2GB was the golden boy of prime time commercial radio during the 1940s. Many of his shows were syndicated nationally, and he was instantly recognised by his familiar greeting, `Hi ho everybody`.
In 1946, Roy `Mo` Rene of vaudeville fame also joined radio. His radio spot, McCackie Mansion became a radio sensation. Listeners were enthralled by his flamboyant phrases such as, `Don`t come the raw prawn with me.`
Who were some of your favourite radio personalities?
Did you enjoy listening to Jack Davey, the King of Quiz?
What about Bob Dyer from Pick a Box?
Jingles and Ads
Radio has long been an important advertising medium for business, charities and government. During WWII, the amount of newspaper advertising space available for businesses diminished. Businesses started sponsoring radio programs instead. The name `Soap Opera` was actually coined after major soap powder manufacturers started sponsoring radio serials.
They also created nifty little jingles for their customers to remember. The `Happy Little Vegemite` jingle is perhaps the most famous Aussie jingle. Apart from jingles, some companies tried to entice listener to their products with carefully scripted advertisement. (To hear a range of old/fashioned Australian advertisements and jingles, to www.australianotr.com.au)
The End Of An Era?
When television was introduced to Australia in 1956, many people thought that radio`s days were numbered. However, radio and television coexist today in a complimentary fashion.
How do you think radio has changed over the years?