|Legendary Radio Show - "Yes, What!"|
|My mother, Elma, 2nd from left, with Joe, Graham's and my father next to her - taken in Rockhampton in early 40s.|
|My Nana and Grandfather (Grand-Pop) on their wedding day|
|Mum aka Elma at 18 years of age|
|Chocolate-Ginger Self-Saucing Pudding|
|Carrot-Pineapple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting|
I’m ancient! I’ve been around since radio was king. Since mantle radios sat on mantles. If there was no mantle the wireless sat on a table or a shelf. We didn’t have a mantle so our wireless sat securely on a sturdy shelf.
Here’s a clue to what an antediluvian I am - I was running up and down the hills of Gympie way before black and white television screens flickered in our lounge rooms.
Television licences here in Australia were first issued in 1955, but in Sydney and Melbourne only. It wasn't until the following year test transmissions began, stirred into action because of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.
A piece of interesting trivia is the wife and mother to end all wives and mothers, the now Dame Edna Everage, when she was still the simple housewife from Moonee Ponds, Mrs. Edna Everage aka Barry Humphries, was one of the first programmes screen on HSV-7 (Channel 7) Melbourne. It takes Dame Edna to poke her nose in!
Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia lagged behind with television being introduced to those states in 1959. Lagging even further behind were Tasmania, 1960; the Australian Capital Territory, 1962 (the Pollies must have been biting at the bit by that time!); and, last of all, the Northern Territory in 1971...a fact I find so difficult to believe...but there it is!
Finally, in 1959 television arrived here in Queensland. Shiny new sets enhanced shop window displays, enticing the excited public. Nightly, in droves curious locals gathered in front of the shop windows wondering when they’d be able to afford to buy a set of their own.
When they’d gathered together enough pounds, shillings and pence to purchase a television set broadcasts were still limited to only a few hours at night, which made viewing a special event. Stations shut down at 11 pm, signing off with “God Save the Queen”; not the unforgettable Freddie and his legendary band’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, but the anthem.
Radio was king in our home when I was a child. My mother and grandmother had their favourite shows.
My brother Graham and I never missed an episode of “Jason and the Argonauts”, “The Quizz Kids”, hosted by John Dease, “Life with Dexter” (not Dexter Morgan, the anti-hero, vigilante-serial killer of the TV series) or “Yes, What” with its unforgettable characters; larrikin Rupert Bottomly, the ludicrous Cuthbert Horace Greenbottle Jnr, Ronald George Standforth, Francis Marmaduke Algenon de Pledge, and their recurring guests, Daphne and Mr. Basil Cornelius Snootles. What wonderful names created by an imaginative, quirky, lively mind. Of course, "The Adventures of Biggles" rated highly with my brother. As a family, we all giggled over "Dad & Dave from Snake Gully", mimicking the droll characters.
Addictive radio dramas such as –“The Caltex Theatre”, “The Burtons of Banner Street”, “Hagen’s Circus”, “Blue Hills” and others commanded our undivided attention. True-life crime stories depicted in “The Colda Police Report” sent chills up and down our spines, but we wouldn’t miss it for quids!
As soon as we heard Jack Davey’s cheery greeting of “Hi! Ho! Everybody” at the beginning of his weekly radio quiz shows silence reigned. Transfixed, we sat trying to come up with the correct answers to his questions.
We preferred Jack Davey to his friend and rival, American-born Bob Dyer who first came to Australia in 1936. However, we did listen to Bob, as well. Bob and Dolly Dyer’s “Pick-a-Box” was a very popular quiz show, too; one that successfully flowed onto our TV screens in 1957. Dolly, Bob Dyer’s wife was born in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. They married within two weeks of meeting in 1940 at Sydney’s Tivoli Theatre where Dolly was a showgirl. Theirs was a long and happy union.
Bob died in 1984 at the age of 75, followed 20 years later by his beloved Dolly. Dolly, aged 83 died after suffering a stroke on Christmas Day, 2004 in Gympie, my old hometown.
Both Jack Davey and Bob Dyer were the top quiz show hosts of their time. They reigned supreme for many, many years.
The radio actors and actresses became household names; their voices were as familiar to us in those times as the faces of their television counterparts are today.
Many Aussie radio actors went on to great success on stage, television and in film here or in the UK and the US; they included Rod Taylor, Ray Barrett, Peter Finch, Charles Tingwell, Michael Pate, Madge Ryan, Ron Randell, Bill Kerr, Betty McDowell, June Slater and John Meillon, among others. Michael Pate regularly played a "Red Indian" aka Native American in Hollywood westerns.
Peter Finch caused many a flutter in the hearts of fair maidens in "Elephant Walk" when he starred alongside Elizabeth Taylor. And he caused tears to be shed in "A Town Like Alice" and the wonderful D'arcy Niland story made into the film - "The Shiralee".
Rod Taylor also starred alongside the stunningly beautiful Elizabeth Taylor in "Raintree County".
By the way, while waiting for my flight out of Mackay airport back to Brisbane after the passing of my mother in 1974, I met John Meillon. He was waiting for the same delayed flight that I was. A couple of months before that day I’d seen him in “The Fourth Wish” a splendid, heart-wrenching, yet uplifting three-part television drama. Michael Craig, the British actor and scriptwriter wrote the drama series.
My conversation shared with John Meillon wherein I thanked him for his wonderful performance in “The Fourth Wish” came many years later, long after the days I'd been a keen listener to radio dramas and comedies in which Meillon's star had shone brightly.
Through the television screen we were introduced to a wealth of strangers with whom we soon became familiar. No longer were we being entertained just by voices; now we could put a face to the voice. A whole new world had entered our homes, bringing with it people we’d never expected to have ever welcomed into our lounge rooms!
We loved Lucy. My brother and I enjoyed raising a “bite” from our Mum, by calling her “Lucy”. Our mischievous teasing always succeeded. Mum was a natural red-head and her blue eyes would flash with annoyance when we’d start giggling and carrying on like two fruit bats! She’d huff and puff while telling us to behave ourselves, which made us giggle and tease more. Knowing our mother’s sense of humour; her sense of the ridiculous, she would’ve been laughing inside. Years later she and I laughed about those times.
Western movies were no longer confined to Saturday afternoon matinees now James Garner aka Maverick; the towering, softly-spoken Cheyenne aka Clint Walker as well as Ward Bond and his Wagon Train played out their adventures in our homes. Dragnet and Perry Mason showed us how it was done, and Father always knew best.
Our own Aussie-produced shows quickly began to filter through. We weren’t going to be left behind.
“Bandstand” hosted by Brian Henderson was a show never missed in our household, nor was Johnny O’Keefe’s “Six O’Clock Rock”. During our childhood Graham and I had been surrounded by music. Mum had been a keen and wonderful pianist, so piano music regularly filled our home. Nana played piano as well, and so did I. Our radio was always on, too, so when the television programmes came on showcasing Australian talent singing and performing the "songs of the day" our eyes were glued to the screen.
Where once we’d gather around the radio as a family to listen to our favourite shows, we now sat in front of “the box” and enraptured by with a whole new set of faces and entertainment.
Bakelite or polished wood radios took a back seat. Computers and today’s technology were only future dreams and sci-fi movie themes.
There was little money to spare, if any, when I was growing up. My brother and I, as I’ve written previously, were raised by our mother and her mother, our Nana.
Immediately upon leaving school at the tender age of 14 years, my brother commenced working for Queensland Railways, Soon after Graham started working the first item he bought after saving diligently and rapidly was a new, little gas fridge for the family to use. Up until then, in the late Fifties, an ice chest held the food that needed to be kept cold. Throughout our childhood our little wooden ice chest did the job required of it extremely well; but like everything in life, its day had come.
The next thing he purchased was a new, lairy (compared to our old one) dining table with chairs to match.
Shortly after television sets hit the Gympie electrical stores, Graham bought a set. We felt like we were the kings and queens of Fern Street, Gympie; the street in which we lived.
As far back as I can remember Mum worked outside of the home. She was the breadwinner; our Nana was the “bread-maker” – the homemaker.
Our mother was a barmaid, a job at which she was very capable, but it was a job that wasn’t held in high esteem in some quarters back then in the Fifties. However, our mother looked the world squarely in the eye, without a blink; her head held high. She was always well-dressed and immaculately groomed. She was good at her job and she was rightfully aware of her abilities. Mum was one of the best, if not the best barmaid in town, and because of her adeptness at what she did she was much sought after by Gympie publicans.
Our mother was continuously employed. I don't recall there was ever a time she'd not held a job. As children, Graham and I never returned from school to an empty house. Nana was always at home to greet us; always ready to learn of our day’s events; ever ready to sympathise, empathise, comfort and advise.
During my working years it was television that took the back seat. I watched very little TV. For years, particularly when working within the hospitality industry, my hours were long; extending through the daylight hours, well into the nights; a lot of the time seven days a week.
Freely I admit, without embarrassment or apology, nowadays I love my TV.
I have my preferred shows. Those I can’t watch “on-the-spot” I record to view at a later time.
At the moment, one show I’m fond of is the series “Blue Bloods”. It’s a cop show based in New York City, if you’re not already aware. Season Five is being shown at present.
Along with the story-lines, I enjoy the family dinner scenes in “Blue Bloods”. Each episode has one or two segments of the Reagan family gathered around the patriarch’s dinner table.
Our family wasn’t as large as the Reagans, but we ate our meals at the table, as a family unit. Sunday lunches, in particular, were always grand affairs. Sunday lunch was our “Feature of the Week”. The main features at the Saturday matinees had nothing on our Sunday feasts in our humble home.
Nana was chief cook and dish-washer; my brother and I were chief “dryer-upperers”, table-setters and clearers of the table. Mum was chief “clear-outerer”! Without fail, Mum succeeded in disappearing when the dinner chores needed doing. It was Mum’s special knack. She’d honed it to a fine art. We’d tease her, good-humouredly, about her ability to successfully dodge the washing and drying-up.
As children we missed out on very little. There was always ample food on the table and in the cupboards…and in our sturdy, little ice chest. At all times we had clean clothes on our backs and shoes on our feet – that is, other than when we weren’t running about bare-footed in play! Graham and I always had a new outfit each to wear to Gympie’s annual show/fair. Mum and Nana did good by us and for us.
Family memories are important. Mothers and grandmothers are important. They are very special people.
Of my family I’m the last of the Mohicans.
Graham passed away in 1998.
He and I were raised by a single parent in an era when single parent households were a rarity; particularly one in which divorce was involved. Our mother wasn’t a widow – she was a divorcee. However, I don’t think of my childhood as being “raised by a single parent”. My brother and I were raised by both our mother and our grandmother…two good women who dual-parented without the assistance of a male, monetary or otherwise.
The photo I posted above shows my mother, Elma (second from the left) holding hands with Joe, Graham's and my biological father. The photo was taken before I was born. It was the wedding of one of Joe's sisters, Tessie...she married a US soldier...it was during the Second World War. The weird thing about this is - I received this photo on 8th April, 2015 from a first cousin on my father's side...the son of another of his sisters.
You may well wonder what is so strange about this seemingly innocuous thing...this is the first and only photograph I've ever seen of my mother and father together...ever...until this very year...2015!
I never knew my father, Joe Nicholson. He and my mother separated when she was pregnant with me.
The first time I ever laid eyes on a photo of my father was seven years ago, in June 2008...but until April just gone, I'd never seen a photo of my mother and father together. I'm sure if you'd not understand how I felt when my eyes fell on that photo...and I realised what I was looking at....
Nana’s husband, our grandfather, passed away at the young age of 48 years. I never knew him; he died before I was born.
My Mum and Nana were the two most significant women in my life. I salute and thank them both – my memories are special – of two extraordinary ladies...who always fought through the difficult times believing there was a light at the end of each tunnel; their never gave into defeat during the hard times; they both taught Graham and me the true values of life. Two women who protected us as best they could - they did well.
If you’re fortunate to have either one or the other, or both in your life - cherish her; cherish them. Don’t hide your love and gratitude away; they shouldn't be kept as secrets.
Happy Mother’s Day to all Mums out there....
Stuffed Sirloin Roast: Cut a long pocket in 2kg boneless sirloin roast to each end and almost through to the side. Grease a rack; place in roast pan. Make stuffing; melt 2tbs butter in pan over med-heat; add 1 finely chopped onion; cook 5-6mins; add 3tbs chilli dip; stir until melted; remove from heat. Add 1c fresh breadcrumbs, 1/3rd cup toasted, chopped hazelnuts, 3tbs chopped parsley, 2tsp finely grated lemon zest, salt and pepper. Layer 1c firmly packed spinach leaves inside opening in beef. Sprinkle with chopped blue cheese or feta; spoon in stuffing. Secure opening with skewers or tie with string. Place meat on rack in pan; add 1c water to pan; roast in 180°C oven, uncovered, 1-1/4 to 1-1/2hrs, brushing with glaze for last 15-20mins. Glaze; combine 3tbs chilli dip/spread, 2tbs lemon juice and 2tbs Dijon mustard. Add more water to pan if pan gets dry. Cook roast as desired. Cover with foil; let stand 15mins before slicing.
Lemon Pork with Roasted Pears: Preheat oven, 200C. Cut 3 or 4 deep pockets about 1cm apart across a 1.5kg piece of scored pork loin. Spread 100g macadamia nuts over oven tray; roast 5mins or until golden; remove and set aside. Process nuts, 1 roughly chopped bunch of parsley, leaves from 4 sprigs fresh oregano, thick strips of rind from 2 lemons, flesh of 1 lemon, pith and pits removed (I’m not lisping) and 2tbs olive oil; process for 5 to 6 seconds. Spread about ¾ of stuffing down into the pockets, pushing it down firmly. Rub pork skin with half of a cut lemon; then using your finger tips, spread oil and rub in salt flakes over the pork skin. Increase oven temp to 220C. Place pork onto a rack inside a roasting pan; place a little water in the pan. Roast 20mins. Reduce temperature to 190C; cook 40mins per kg of pork. Increase oven temp to 220C; place 4 ripe, but firm pears into baking pan, basting with the juices; sprinkle with 2tbs brown sugar and 1tbs balsamic vinegar. Push remaining suffing into the pockets; cook pork for a further 10mins. Remove pork from oven; set aside 20mins while pears continue roasting; serve the pork with the balsamic pears.
Raspberry-Whisky Bread & Butter Pudding: Bring 400ml full cream milk, 400m double cream and pinch of salt to boil; remove from heat; add 1tsp vanilla. Beat 5 large eggs, plus 1 yolk and 150g caster sugar in bowl. Pour this onto eggs; stir constantly. Butter 250g soft white rolls, buns or brioche, sliced 1.5cm thick; spread with raspberry jam; layer, buttered/jam-side up in 2lt ovenproof dish; sprinkle over 300g raspberries and 100ml whisky as you go; pour on the custard through a sieve; let sit 30mins; ensure no berries are uncovered. Put dish in roasting pan; add boiling water to halfway up sides; bake in 180C oven, 40-45mins, or until puffy, golden and set on top. Cool slightly; dust with icing sugar.
Chocolate-Ginger Self-Saucing Pudding: Preheat oven, 180C. Lightly grease 2-litre oven-proof dish. Put 1-1/2c self-raising flower, 2tbs dark cocoa and 1/2c caster sugar into mixing bowl. Using flat beater, turn mixer to Speed 2; thoroughly combine ingredients. Add 125g room temperature butter, 2 eggs, 1tsp vanilla extract, 125ml warmed milk and 2tbs finely chopped glace ginger and a sprinkling or two of ginger powder. Turn mixer to Speed 2; beat until combined; increase speed to 4; beat 1min. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Mix ½ cup firmly-packed brown sugar and 2tbs dark cocoa powder together until smooth. Sprinkle over the batter; carefully pour over 1-1/2c boiling water. Bake on centre shelf in oven, 40mins; serve warm dusted with icing sugar.
And as promised – my Mother’s Day gift to all you Mum’s out there - Carrot-Pineapple Cake: Grate enough young, fresh carrots to give one full cup; strain juice from half a 15oz (400g) can of crushed pineapple. In bowl, mix 1c plain flour, 1tsp baking powder, ¾ tspn baking soda, 1/2tsp each salt and cinnamon and 3/4c raw sugar. Add 2 eggs and 5tbs vegetable oil. Mix very well. Stir in the grated carrot, crushed pineapple and ¼ cup of chopped walnuts. Bake in moderate oven, 175C (350F) for 35-40 minutes; cool before covering with topping. Cream Cheese Topping: Place 3tbs butter, 3tbs cream cheese, 1/2tsp vanilla (I always substitute the vanilla with fresh lemon juice…add whichever you prefer), 250g (1/2lb) icing sugar; beat very well. If too thick, ad a small amount of milk or a little more lemon juice.
This carrot-pineapple cake recipe comes from my “Greta Anna Recipes” book; a book I’ve had since the early Seventies. Over the years I prepared this cake many, many times; and as I wrote in my previous post, I used to make 12 times the quantities suggested when preparing it for sale in my Noosa shop and elsewhere throughout the years. It’s a very easy cake to make; and a very tasty one in which to partake! Enjoy!