Chapter 11: The Albury Experience

Towards the end of 1963, we made the massive move to Albury, where I had been appointed Programme Manager at AMV4, the television station which was still under construction in North Albury, or Lavington to be more correct.

We purchased a suitable and delightful house at 542 Paine Street, virtually in the shadow of Monument Hill. Our next door neighbours on the western side were the Wightwicks — he was a tailor in Albury.

Our neighbours on the east side were a couple of elderly ladies — the Miss Brown and Mrs Wood.

The manager of AMV4 was Ray Kidd, a nice bloke and a former manager of 2AY at Albury. Initially there were just the two of us on the staff in a small office in Townsend Street.

Eventually the studio complex in Union Road, Lavington was completed to the point where it was habitable, and we moved in and added to the staff.

Peter Duncan, from GTV9, joined us as Head Cameraman and Duty Director. Brian Ariggi, ex-ATN7 Sydney, joined us as “Chief Technical Officer” — a title which was carefully contrived to avoid the term “Chief Engineer” — which is what he really was. But if he was on the books as Chief Engineer, he would be entitled to a higher wage than a Technical Officer, so a Technical Officer he was!

As Film Manager, Ray Kidd employed a lovely man called Bernard (“Bernie”) Harper. I think Bernie was employed because he had worked as an announcer at 2AY when Ray Kidd was Manager there. Perhaps in addition to his announcing duties, Ray Kidd had once seen Bernie with a camera in his hand — and immediately assumed that Bernie knew everything there was to know about film.

Unfortunately he knew very little — if anything at all!

This was a pity because he was such a willing and co-operative worker, and a hell of a nice bloke.

But it was obvious, after a few weeks in the job, that it was beyond him, and Vic Anastasi from GTV9 joined us as Manager of the Film Department. Bernie then became Vic’s assistant, and in time he developed into a news cameraman, and a second string news-reader. As a news reader he was very good.

Of course, like all news-readers, he made the occasional “blue”. One of his most notable, which became part of the AMV4 folklore was this:

“A woman was fatally injured when struck by a car today on the corner of Dean Street and Wodonga Place. She is now in a satisfactory condition at the Albury Base Hospital.”

On the subject of news bloopers, Ross Sellars, AMV4’s sporting journalist and commentator, was once reading a news item on air which referred to a group of people who were predominately city share-holders. Unfortunately, in the heat of the moment he had trouble with the word “City”, and he referred to the group as “predominately Shitty Shareholders!”

By the time we were ready to go to air, we had a staff of about twelve, all of whom were learning how to be part of television — albeit a small one in a large provincial city.

We were ready to go to air — but the transmitting mast atop of Mount Baranduda wasn’t. We were sharing a mast and the transmitter building with the A.B.C., who were establishing a relay transmitter to cover the Albury area.

There was a delay of almost twelve months before the mast was erected, and we were able to commence our regular programmes on September 17th, 1964.

From the outset we had a Children’s Programme headed by the lovely Olgamary Whelan, with “Captain” Bernie Harper, as her assistant. Both were very good in these roles.

Paul did a once weekly puppet sequence, and I popped in occasionally as the gardener — a gormless character called Mr Snudge. The show was sponsored by Cohn’s Drinks of Wangaratta, and was called the “Cohn’s Cobbers Teleclub”.

We had a once weekly live Women’s Magazine hosted by Olgamary Whelan, a weekly gardening session, a local sporting panel hosted by Ross Sellars, and of course, live, local news-coverage with John Worthy as our news journalist and chief news-reader.

The Albury Repertory Club that year were producing the hoary old Victorian melodrama “East Lynne” at the old theatre in Dean Street, Albury.

We prevailed upon them to do a performance in our studio, with an audience to provide the appropriate interjection.

“I met her when I was a young girl — when I was abroad!”

“You still are a ‘Broad’, you old bat!!” (interjector Cliff Chamberlain)

… and other such memorable moments.

I remember we had acquired a quantity of old scenery from Channel Nine, and with a few repairs it was usable and pressed into service on a number of occasions.

We also experimented with some “forced perspective” scenery to make our conservatively proportioned studio (40ft by 50ft) look bigger than it really was.

Some of the original staff at AMV4 moved on from there to bigger and better jobs in the industry.

Ross Sellars eventually landed a top executive position with the Channel Nine network in Sydney.

Vic Anastasi set up an efficient and productive audio-visual unit, firstly with Australasian Training Aids in Albury, and then obtained the position of Executive Producer for the Visual Training Unit at the Army Apprentice Training School at Bonegilla on the shores of Lake Hume.

At the end of 1965, we moved to Perth where I had landed the job of Programme Manager at the newly established STW Channel Nine.

Albury was a stepping stone in our progress from Melbourne to Perth — but a very pleasant interlude.

Not a great amount of thespian activity — although I did play the role of Colonel Pickering in a production of “Pygmalion”, by the Albury Repertory Company at the old Civic Theatre, and was Uncle Percy in a Coronet Playhouse production of the musical “The Sentimental Bloke”, with Edwin Ride recreating the role of “The Bloke” which he had earlier played in the J.C.W. production at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre.

The Albury Production was directed by Barry Donnelly.

So, at the end of 1965, it was “Goodbye Albury — Perth here we come!”