|By Ian Price:|
My earliest memory of the commencement of activities associated with 2AAAFM is from the period commencing April 1979.
I had just returned from Sydney where I had been working, and my father, Arthur Price, mentioned to me that he was involved in a steering committee that was looking at commencing a community radio station in Wagga Wagga.
Arthur had always had an interest in media, and had commenced work as an apprentice photo engraver in the printing industry in Sydney.
During the mid sixties he was working in Cooma, and presented a weekly radio segment on the local commercial radio station in his (then) capacity as a Salvation Army Officer.
I remember as small children we were always thrilled when he would play ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ for us, and as a result, this was probably the most played song on Cooma radio that year!
I believe that the first individual to formally introduce the concept of a community radio station for Wagga Wagga was Mr Stuart Carter.
Stuart was then working as a TAFE College Coordinator, however he had come to Wagga Wagga initially as a radio announcer with 2WG.
Stuart had inserted a public notice in the Daily Advertiser in early 1979 requesting that interested persons contact him to informally discuss the concept, and Arthur Price and some other individuals replied.
In around April or May of 1979 I recall attending an initial meeting of the steering committee at the home of Dr Richard Crago. People in attendance I recall were Gulia Radatti (Govt Stenogropher), Peter Cowan Lunn (TAFE Teacher), Stuart Carter (TAFE Coordinator), Arthur Price (Hospital Social Worker) Bevan Walls (Engineer), Fr Bernie Thomas (Catholic Priest) and myself, Ian Price (Railway Employee).
Bevan Walls became the first board chairman on the subsequently elected board of management.
Bevan is also remembered by the Wagga Wagga community as the ‘driving force’ behind the establishment of the Christian College secondary school, and as such, the period described as follows was a very busy time indeed for Bevan.
Other people involved at around the time (and who could have been associated with the steering committee) included Mike Tarling, (RAAF Officer) Lee Collien, (Accountant) Lindy Richardson, (later Collien) (Academic?) David Kennedy, (Pharmacist) Elizabeth Rorrison, (Business Woman) Jan Kuiper, (Agronomist) Karl Unverhau, (Retired?) Wendy Hawthorne, (Educator) Roland Bannister, (Musician and Academic) Marion Brown, (Later Bannister, Librarian) Arthur Trewin, (Academic) Pam Byfield, (Stenographer) and David Font (TV Producer).
I may have missed a few names and apologise if this is the case, however from around mid to late 1979 many individuals became involved in the early steering committee, and these individuals can be collectively regarded as the ‘Pioneers of 2AAAFM’.
Individuals on the steering committee were delegated responsibilities that involved various sections of the organisations early operation, and subsequent move toward establishment.
Gulia Radatti and I became joint coordinators of the Rock Music committee, Elizabeth Rorrison (I think) took responsibility for the Ethnic Program Committee, a Fundraising Coordinator was appointed, Peter Cowan Lunn became Jazz Coordinator, Mike Tarling (RAAF Program), David Kennedy took ‘Popular Music’ Coordination, Peter Collien and Lindy Richardson Coordinated Classical Music and Stuart Carter, Arthur Price, Bevan Walls, Pam Byfield and others worked toward sourcing funding, gaining a provisional licence and other related activities.
In the very early days (around May or June) of 1979, the committee sourced some basic second hand technical equipment and this equipment was initially installed in the home of Mr Martin Johnson, a TV Producer with RVN2 (now PRIME TV).
I recall my first experience with utilising the broadcast panel was at Martin’s home, when a small group of individuals undertook the very first and very basic radio announcing training.
2AAAFM at that time was not ‘on air’ however there was a very concerted push by a group of very committed individuals to source a headquarters and to move toward initial on air broadcasting.
In late 1979 (approx) the committee had located an office in the old ABC radio studios in the ‘Brown Building’, adjacent to Huthwaites, in Baylis Street.
It was from this location that the station became more formalised in the provision of training for intending station presenters, and training classes were held on a weekly, and ongoing basis.
Also around this time (late ‘79 early ‘80) the first ‘test broadcast’ was held, and 107.1FM first broadcast over a weekend from a ‘set up’ studio located at the TAFE Campus Wagga Wagga.
As most presenters had only rudimentary skill in panel operation, Martin Johnson was on hand to operate the panel, and the presenters brought along their own vinyl records and (generally) back announced the various records played.
From memory, a variety of music styles were aired, and there was general promotion of the intention of advancing toward a community radio licence.
I remember being quite nervous, and I presented a variety of easy listening light rock music during that weekend.
I cannot specifically recollect all of the other presenters involved however I am sure a good representation of all of the intending presenters were ‘on air’ that weekend.
The committee found another larger office and studio area (1980) on the top floor of the Australian Arcade, Fitzmaurice Street, and soon a basic studio was set up, and an office established with filing cabinet, office equipment and furniture, basic coffee area and meeting room.
By this stage quite a handful of individuals were involved, and the committee was moving toward gaining a licence and commencing broadcasts.
Mrs Pam Byfield by this stage was very involved in station administration and was generally relied upon to take minutes, keep records, and maintain communications
Pam was instrumental in the station’s development, through her provision of voluntary administration (on an almost full time basis) at the Australian Arcade site.
At around this time the various ‘sub committees’ were being quickly consolidated and promotion, recruitment, fundraising and training were developing efficiently.
Many meetings were being held at the station premises as well as at other venues.
Gulia Radatti and I had recruited a good sized group of rock music enthusiasts and this group usually held meetings at Gulia’s flat in Fitzmaurice Street. These meetings became very social in nature and usually ended with trips to the pub or ‘The Bootleg’ wine bar.
As the Rock Music group were generally younger than other station volunteers (and predominantly single), many social occasions were held, relationships established and many parties enjoyed.
At that time (and into 1980) the Rock Committee included Gulia Radatti, Ian Price, Steve McGrath, Penny Johnson, Sue Gelvin, Judy Nicholson, with more joining as the year progressed.
Other committees were also progressing with individuals continuing with their radio training.
Fundraising became a focus and soon all sorts of events were staged.
Elizabeth Rorrison held a very successful ‘Continental Sausage’ evening at the Rules Club. Trivia nights, various fundraising raffles, country music concerts were held and the Rock Committee commenced staging regular rock concerts at the John Macarthur Tavern,
‘Happy Accidents’ were a popular university band, and on occasional Thursday nights we would organise them to perform with another couple of local bands who would donate their services.
We would charge on the door, the bands got free beer for their troubles, and generally the ‘Mac’ would be packed and the station would make money from the proceeds.
Around early to mid 1980 the station had a public meeting before the Broadcasting Tribunal at Wagga City Council Chambers, and a provisional broadcasting licence was subsequently granted.
Many volunteers attended, as well as members of the public, and representation from the existing commercial broadcaster 2WG.
At the commencement of the meeting, Mrs Yvonne Braid, Manager of 2WG rose and voiced her welcome of the ‘Wagga Wagga Community Media Cooperative’ into the local radio market, and this announcement was met with considerable appreciation by the volunteers of the intending station.
Before actual ‘to air’ broadcasts began the station organised a ‘tester’, and established speaker systems into the lower Australian Arcade as well as Hunters Stationers.
The public were invited to visit Hunters as well as the Australian Arcade during the advertised ‘broadcast’ period to get a ‘pre hearing’.
Upstairs the presenters were ‘broadcasting’ and down below (and through an intricate maze of wiring thought the arcades toilets) the devoted few (very few) listeners were congregated in a bid to hear the ‘broadcast’, and be greeted by station volunteers, handed flyers, and invited upstairs to have a coffee, inspect the studio and to hopefully ‘sign up’ as station members.
In early 1980 I became involved in the training committee and began running more specifically designed presenters courses. A number of individuals were involved in the training however Steven Gray (a primary school teacher) and I developed a package that would generally serve as a basic introduction to community broadcasting. We would have training classes of typically eight weeks duration with approximately ten ‘trainees’ one night per week.
Steve would do a classroom training session with half the class, and deliver basic station policy, broadcast law and script writing skills. I would meanwhile have the other half in the studio learning panel technique and announcing skills, and at half time we would break for coffee and change the class over and take the other half back into the studio.
This training format continued for some time until we were approached by TAFE to conduct the courses as a specific TAFE ‘Outreach’ program, and Steve and I were subsequently employed by TAFE to run the course as a TAFE training provision, utilising the 2AAAFM facilities.
Later, other individuals became involved in the training courses, and training has continued utilising both TAFE and 2AAAFM resources since.
Mr Marty Burgess (TAFE Outreach Coordinator) later utilised the basis of the 2AAAFM training curriculum, and components of that curriculum exist currently under the National Training Framework accreditation, (Certificate 2 in Community Broadcasting)
Around mid 1980 the station ‘took to the airwaves’ and my recollection was that the broadcasts were initially weekend only.
A variety of programs were aired and included classical music from Jeanette McGeoch, Lindy Richardson, Leigh Collien and Richard Crago.
Included was Jazz from Peter Cowan Lunn and David Kennedy, Ethnic (German and Dutch ) by Elizabeth Rorrison , Jan Kuiper, Karl Unverhau, Karl Winkler and later Hennie Hermes.
Country music was commencing with a variety of presenters. ‘Popular music’ was broadcast by Arthur Trewin, David Kennedy and others, and Arthur Price hosted the Saturday morning ‘Hospital Hour’.
Light rock was broadcast Saturday afternoon on ‘Soft Edges’ (Ian Price, Sue Gelvin) as well as Sunday lunchtime ‘Roast, Rock and Roll’ (Penny Johnson, Judy Nicholson and others) and Sunday nights starting at 7.00pm with ‘Jam and Rock Roll’ (Gulia Radatti) ‘Sunday Sonics’ (Ian Price) ‘OZ Rock Show’ (Steve McGrath) and ‘Weekend Wipeout’ (various presenters)
‘The Bootleg Winebar’ was quick to get behind the Rock Music committee, and would play the Sunday night program through its public address system, to its late weekend patrons.
‘The Bootleg’ also sponsored the Sunday night programs and held various fundraising evenings.
A short while after commencement, the station had to contemplate a ‘leap of faith’ and despite limited numbers of volunteer presenters, it was felt that a ‘weekend only’ format was not sufficient.
Elizabeth Rorrison was particularly emphatic that the station should move forward to week day broadcasts, and these commenced on a late afternoon and evening basis from late in 1980 into early 1981 (approx).
From there the station gradually and naturally evolved its broadcast to the full time format that is currently provided.
Breakfast programs were rostered among the available presenters, and as there was no set program format, and the breakfast presenters were from across the broad range of station programs, it was not uncommon to hear Radio Birdman one morning, and Rachmaninoff the next!
‘On Parade’ was broadcast on a weekday night, and was of particular significance for Wagga’s RAAF Community. A program broadcast to Wagga would the next week be aired on ‘Radio Butterworth’ in Malaysia to RAAF personnel there and the Radio Butterworth program aired to Wagga Wagga and this ‘leap frog’ broadcasting assisted RAAF families to maintain communications and messages via this innovative medium.
Liaisons began between 2AAAFM and the Aboriginal Land Council, and I was engaged to deliver a training package to a specifically indigenous group, and as a result 2AAAFM commenced broadcasting a program addressing indigenous culture, music and health matters.
As 2AAAFM was among the first community broadcasters in Australia, and staffed predominantly by volunteers with typically little or no broadcasting experience, the station developed from quite a rudimentary (although surprisingly listenable) broadcast format to what is enjoyed today.
The on air studio was small and basic. The studio was (famously, now,) lined with empty egg cartons for sound insulation, however a visually professional effect was not established under this circumstance.
I remember interviewing Ross Wilson of Australian rock band Mondo Rock in late 1981, and he was very bemused (in a gracious fashion) by the antiquated, basic, and egg carton dominated room. Ross was also highly amused when we had to stop on Ivan Jack Drive to ‘give way’ to a herd of geese crossing the street, and did make some (not unkind) remarks about the peculiarities of our fine city!
The egg cartons ‘did the trick’ in a general manner, however a real concern was the existence of a flock of (sometimes very quarrelsome) pigeons in the building gap between the studio and the adjacent building.
I can recall having an easy listening program interrupted as I was making a live sponsorship announcement, by a particularly vicious outbreak of pigeon fighting. Not only was this distracting to the presenter, it was also broadcast live to the hoards of listeners we had at the time (one of whom rang in, as he thought it was the funniest thing he had ever heard!).
The panel was very basic, a ‘Poul Kirk’ mixing desk (that is now the one utilised in the ‘Outside Broadcasting Van’). It had a line in for the news (2KY) and other lines including main and guest microphone, two REVOX tape recorders (still in current studio) and turntables (also still in current studios).
To cue a sponsorship announcement a reel to reel tape had to be inserted onto the REVOX and the whole tape would basically have to be searched (on cue) to find the required sponsor announcement. This was quite a task with up to a hundred announcements on each reel.
To assist in the process, a piece of paper could be inserted into the tape at specific places to assist in locating the whereabouts of the desired sponsorship announcement, that would be preceded by an identification voice on the tape (David Font, usually) describing the announcement following.
If the tape was started with the microphone open the loudest ‘clunk’ would be broadcast.
If a reel to reel tape was not handled properly a presenter could find themselves sitting in an ‘egg box’ surrounded by a ‘spaghetti’ of audio tape!
All records had to be manually cued and started. The introduction of ‘eight track’ cassettes were greeted with horror, as the humble presenters fought to come to terms with utilising this new technology.
It was all a far cry from today where a whole program can be seamlessly and professionally presented with no more that the click of a mouse!
Fundraising continued into 1981 with the view to establishing the stations own modern facility.
A site was found at the corner of Young and Coleman Streets and rented from Council on a ‘peppercorn basis’ and the station board, its various committees volunteers and others began to organise a new studio
This site formerly contained a tennis court and club house, and I played tennis there in my high school years in the early 1970’s.
There is still the large flat area adjacent to Young Street visible. This was the surface of the tennis court and is now planted with trees and shrubs.
A local farmer on the Old Narrandera Road (just over Malebo Hill), donated an old church on his property and a social ‘working bee’ was enjoyed with about twenty people demolishing the building, gathering, cleaning and stacking bricks. These bricks were later transported to the present studio site where they became the structural foundation bricks of the station (a local philanthropic bricklayer later donated his time and trade to lay the outside skin of ‘dress bricks’).
While demolishing the church it was exciting to discover a ‘time capsule’, being a tin box laid into the foundation stones. This box was opened and a quantity of paper basically disintegrated before our eyes. The box and its contents were taken to the Riverina Archives, and what has become of them now is anyone’s guess!
These working bees and social occasions provided many happy experiences, and as a result many individuals enjoyed the social aspects of the station as is the case today at 2AAAFM.
A ‘buy a brick campaign’ was staged and volunteers pounded the main street on Saturday mornings selling ‘bricks’ which were basically tickets printed to look like a brick. The buyers name was put on the ticket and as a result the many bricks that now make up the station premises are ‘owned’ by many people throughout the area.
The move was made into the new station in late 1982 and it was officially opened by local Liberal Federal MP Mr Wal Fife on February 26th 1983, and the photo exists now on the station wall.
2AAAFM sponsored a young lady, Monique Last, in the Miss Wagga Quest during the early eighties.
Monique was a brilliant ambassador for the station and many fundraising events were held during that year. Monique was employed by the Daily Advertiser, and during her tenure as our Miss Wagga entrant, she undertook the training course, attended a variety of events, spoke at many Wagga business and social functions and basically gave a year of very valuable and positive promotion to the station.
Monique left Wagga to pursue a media career in Sydney, and has since also married and started a growing family.
Many of the early presenters have passed on. Arthur Price died on 31st July 1982, and had presented the ‘Hospital Hour’ earlier that morning.
Karl Unverhau had presented the German Language program for many years.
Jan Kuiper was very instrumental in the initial stages of setting up the station, as well as presenting the Dutch programs.
John Ansell was a very well respected local jazz musician and jazz presenter. His wife Shirley, son Roger and daughter Gwyn are well known in the jazz music community in Wagga today.
Ross Vincent was a very popular presenter specialising in brass band music, and it is good to hear that ‘around the bandstand’ is still a weekly fixture presented by David Font.
Arthur Trewin was involved as a board member and Chairman for a number of years, as well as a presenter of light popular and classical music.
Mario Baron was a very well respected Wagga Wagga businessman, musician, community member, 2AAAFM board chairman Italian Community representative and presenter of Italian programs.
Dawn Wilson was instrumental in establishing the library into the professional resource collection that it is today.
Greg Ward will always be remembered as a station ‘character’ who loved his music and broadcasting, and Narelle our office assistant sadly passed away some years ago, after dedicating many volunteer hours in the office.
Most recently Keith Churchill passed away after being a very popular member of the station as well as a very competent ‘Sunday Breakfast’ presenter.
I recently attended a wedding in Ganmain, and was approached by a young woman who I had trained at the studio in the early eighties. She advised me that she had just returned from England where she had been for many years, and had been employed as a presenter at a London Jazz Music station.
Since the ‘early years’ it has been interesting to observe the development of the station.
Particularly with the advent of the MJM computer system, the station has begun to ‘sound’ vastly more ‘professional’ than in the twenty or so years preceding the introduction of this system.
The professional marketing of the station to the business community, together with the program formatting and demographic targeting 2AAAFM has progressed into a very professional radio station and community resource, enjoyed by a wide variety of members of the Wagga Wagga and surrounding community.
It is now widely recognised that involvement in community broadcasting very often leads individuals into further employment in radio and other broadcast media.
The benefits to a community by having a local representative broadcaster are difficult to measure, with many individuals gaining a wide range of skills, experiences, social interactions and personal development as a result of the energies expended within the community radio facility.
2AAAFM has a reliable and dedicated base of listeners and this base is expanding all the time, with the listening community enjoying a diversity of music, health, ethnic and indigenous, sport and local community information sessions together with the ongoing comedy, saga and serial segments.
Let’s turn it up and all look forward to the next twenty five years!
Ian Price, July 2006
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