Location: New South Wales, Australia
Date: 1969

So there I was working as a clerk at the Department of Motor Transport, doing a bit of booth announcer work, and managing The Dynamics when I heard about Radio DJ. It was basically a garage in a backyard in Bondi fitted out as a radio studio but not for broadcast. Programs were taped and then dispatched to Australian bases in Vietnam where they were played over the PA system in canteens and other places where troops gathered for rest and recreation. All the DJs were volunteers - aspiring radio announcers like myself looking for experience. It was useful because we could keep copies of the tapes of our shows and include them with applications for jobs at "real" radio stations.

Incidentally, I suggested to the parents of the boys in The Dynamics that it would be good experience to volunteer the band for service in Vietnam to entertain Aussie diggers. The response was a big fat resounding NO from all parents. I was disappointed of course because all Aussie entertainers were volunteering for service over there.

The Sydney Morning Herald was not a newspaper I normally read, and especially not the classified section. But one Saturday morning in 1969, I decided to take a peek and guess what? It was most unusual to find an advertisement in the SMH for an announcer job in radio. They were usually placed in trade magazines like B&T (Broadcasting & Television). I grabbed a Radio DJ tape, wrote an application stating my experience as a DJ at Long John's and my subsequent experience as a booth announcer at Channel 10, and sent it off to 2LF.

Wow! $45.05 a week! That was about half what I earned at the Department of Motor Transport but, hey, it was a job in radio! However, before I was hired, I had to go for an interview at 2GB in Sydney. The station manager there spoke to me for a while, then phoned 2LF and said, "Yes, Gary is definitely the radio type". What he meant exactly I still don't know but at least I got the job. So I resigned from the DMT and headed off to Young.

I arrived late in town on a Sunday and headed straight to the Royal Hotel where I was to be accommodated until I found my own digs. The old Royal was demolished in the early 70s to make way for the Mill Hotel (above) which is part of a large shopping complex. I phoned the Young Historical Society just now and spoke to Joyce, who is a dear sweet thing. She's sending me a copy of the original Royal Hotel by snail mail which I expect to receive next week for inclusion here.

And here it is! The hotel was built in about 1864 and judging by the cars parked out front, this pic was taken in the late '20s or early '30s. You can see how the shape of the old pub fits the newer building in the pic above. In fact, that street lamp post is still there.

I have fond memories of the old Royal, not that I remember much about it. But being a naive kid from the city who was about to arrive in Young as a superstar, I fully expected the local press and TV station to be there to photograph and interview me. Hehe. Needless to say I was disappointed. In fact, when I arrived at the station next morning, my boss Mr Finlayson said, "Don't let it go to your head, Gary, we hired you because you were the best of a very bad bunch." I was late for work on a couple of occasions so I bought an alarm clock with two large bells on top, and presented it to Finlayson as a peace offering. I met him about 30 years later and asked if he remembered me and/or the clock. He said no. Hehe.

UPDATE: September 28, 2014. Copper1, better known to his mates as Gaz, is a retired police officer and member of the Grey Nomads forum. He posted a pic on the forum this morning of 2LF Young. He's touring Oz with his missus and happened to be in the area, so he thought of me and took this pic. Isn't that kind of him? Very much appreciated too. It's 45 years ago now, but I vaguely remember that building and the parking area around the back. Not quite as glamorous as I'd anticipated in my starry-eyed dreams but, hey, it was a real, fair dinkum radio station!

Glad to see the old logo is still there.

I don't have a pic of 2LF's on air studio but this is roughly similar except that the console is a 6-pot. Ours was equipped with a 4-pot, 8 channel, AWA valve console and 5 turntables, some of which were used to play ads recorded on 45rpm acetate disks distributed by city advertising agencies for national clients. The other turntables were used to play music records or large transcriptions of radio serials. Ads other than live reads were copied to a huge Ampex tape recorder set to one side of the broadcast desk, remotely controlled from the desk. A gap of 1 or 2 seconds was left between each commercial so that you didn't have to re-cue the tape everytime you played an ad. You just had to remember to stop the tape before the next ad. Hehe. Yes, folks, we country announcers didn't have the luxury of a panel operator or producer. We had to do the whole damn shebang ourselves. Often we were the only person manning the entire station, including the phones.

A year or two later, cartridge tapes and players (1/4" inch tape @ 7 1/2 ips) were introduced which made the recording and playing of ads much simpler. Some stations even put their music on cartridge.

Anyway, after I arrived that first morning, I was sent to the production studio which was basically a twin of the on-air studio, and told to play radio announcers. I was having a ball, spinning records and doing time calls and weather reports and reading a few ads. After all, no one was listening and I was all alone. Wrong! My performance was being secretly piped into the boss's office. "You're doing fine, Gary. We'll put you on air today... the afternoon program." 

LF by the way stands for Lambing Flats, which was the name of the town before it was changed to Young. These days it's famous for its cherries.

I sat in the chair in the on-air studio and one of the other announcers stood behind me. "When the newsreader from Sydney says 'This has been Macquarie National News', close the channel, open the mic, make an announcement about the station and who you are and then start the record." Well, I didn't do any of that. I completely froze in fright. I don't remember what happened directly thereafter but I do remember getting into the swing of things fairly quickly and from then on I was unstoppable. In fact I was often told to stop talking too much. 

2LF was a small country station which nevertheless managed to produce talent that went on to become quite famous. Ken Sutcliffe was one. He's been Channel 9's sport anchor man for over 30 years. He was the night DJ when I was at 2LF and I remember him dribbling into the mic. There was a saying in radio that you should make "love" to the mic but I thought he overdid it big time. Ew! According to another announcer at 2LF, Ken was often seen checking his reflection in the studio window and combing his hair.

Ray Warren is another ex-2LFer. He's a famous race and football caller in Sydney and has been for decades. I worked with him later at 2GB. A real Aussie larrikin. When ever "Rabbit" Warren called a horse race, you could always tell which galloper he had his money on hehe.

Anyway, I didn't stay long at 2LF - about 4 months. It was a real culture shock, leaving Sydney for the first time as well as all my friends. I made regular trips back to Sydney for weekends. Apart from that, inland country towns tended to be fairly insular. They didn't have a lot of tourism (or didn't back then) and outsiders were treated with some suspicion. So I applied for the breakfast announcer job at 2LM Lismore.

UPDATE: April 7, 2011. Here's an email I received from an old 2LFer this morning titled Memory Lane: 

G'day Gary,
The internet is an incredible thing. I stumbled across your website while doing a google search about something else altogether. It was only a week ago but already I have forgotten what combination of search words led me there but it was a reference to 2KY (also one of my former employers) that prompted me to click on your site.

I was very pleased that I found it. It was very nostalgic to read about your days at Radio DJ at Bondi, your appearance on Channel Ten's New Faces and start in radio at 2LF.
I travelled those same three paths.
Your website prompted me to pull out my letter of appointment to 2LF for the first time in decades. My letter arrived in early May 1969, also offering me the grand sum of $45.05 a week. I loved your description of Ken Sutcliffe's microphone technique. I remember it clearly although it's probably the first time I have recalled it since working there all those years ago.
I also recall, although pretty vaguely given the more than forty years that have passed, that I saw you on the day you left Young to drive to Lismore. I think you had all your belongings packed into an old VW.
I am now 90 per cent retired but am still doing the occasional weekend shift at 2GB, writing and reading the sport news when an emergency arises. Hope you are well.
Peter Shanahan

Scrapbook Part 4 
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