Years and years and years ago I was on the radio.
This is before appearing on RNZ’s The Panel a mere six times in 2018-19.
Or even volunteering at Radio Kidnappers Access Radio while in high school.
In August 1984 I got to be the “Co-Pilot” on Bay City Radio’s Sunday morning kids’ show.
Bay City Radio 1278AM was THE local radio station for Hawke’s Bay for years and years. This is back when radio was broadcast locally, the announcers were locals (and some became minor local celebrities) and its constant focus was the local community.
There was a weekday breakfast show, talkback radio from about 9am until midday, with music in the afternoon and evenings.
On Saturday mornings all the upcoming local sporting fixtures for the weekend were promoted or dissected and commentary of big games, like the HB Magpies playing at McLean Park were often broadcast live in the afternoons.
On Sunday mornings there was a kids’ show, which had a local kid as co-host, or “Co-Pilot” (I don’t remember pressing any buttons, or taking charge of any controls, though.)
My friend Robert Stewart’s dad worked at Bay City Radio for a bit (they moved away not long after) and I though radio was pretty cool – I listened to the kids’ show every week, so must have written in, like so many others, asking to be part of it and I got selected.
I remember excitedly reading the letter we received confirming my selection in the driveway of our home one Saturday morning.
There was a few weeks’ notice of my appearance on the show, but I don’t remember much more than that, or the events of the big day itself.
Dad took me to the station early on Sunday morning (it was after dawn, but not by much), while Mum stayed at home and recorded the event on a cassette tape (kids, if you don’t know what one of these is, ask your parents…. Actually, you might be best asking your grandparents.)
I had found the tape when I was clearing out things at Mum and Dad’s place years ago but more recently looking through the mementos in my shed, I couldn’t find it and thought the tape was lost to the ages.
A couple weeks ago we gave away a large pinboard we had been given by a friend, but never got around to using. It had been leaning up against some garage cupboards that I had limited access to.
In one of these cupboards I found the metal cash box I wrote about originally finding amongst my folks’ possessions.
I looked inside the cash box AND FOUND THE CASSETTE TAPE!
However, I didn’t know if it would even still work – We no longer had any cassette players in the house, the tape itself was close to 40 years old, and I remember it got tangled up at least once or twice during replays years ago, so I wasn’t certain if any audio was recoverable.
I took the tape into Dean Mardon at Electric City Music in Napier, just down Dalton Street from Bay City Radio’s old studio, now “NZME House” (see top picture, ECM is down the road to the left in the picture) to see if he could digitize whatever was on there for me.
The condition of the tape wasn’t nearly as bad as I had feared and there was almost a full hour of recording!
I gave the file to a work colleague, who happens to be a former TVNZ audio man to clean up and, to avoid copyright infringements, remove any songs so I could upload it to YouTube.
For those playing at home the songs removed are: The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, “Flick the Little Fire Engine”, “You’re a Pink Toothbrush “, Rolf Harris’ “Two Little Boys” (hindsight is 20/20 etc…), “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” from Mary Poppins and the show closes out with, quite prophetically, Kermit the Frog singing “Rainbow Connection”.
You can listen to the edited version of it here:
I cried listening to it for the first time in over 35 years.
It’s a bit funny, a bit cringey, certainly nostalgic and, today, a bit sad, because I can hear my Mum’s voice, or rather her speech patterns in how I talked back then, and I can remember Dad sitting quietly in the corner of the studio, over my right shoulder, pleased as Punch.
For years I remembered it as my friend Robert’s dad as the host of the show, but it was a man named Colin Harris.
We talk about my school, Tamatea Primary, my apparent bus driving career aspirations (??), what I was doing in the school holidays (my studio stint was in the middle of the second and third term of the year – there were only three school terms back then), I say “Hi!” to my friends and <Gasp!> girlfriends (I was only six, OK?!)
I even got to do the weather!
Time has sadly robbed my memory of some of the finer details – I have no recollection whatsoever of a couple of my friends and one apparent “love interest” mentioned, and the fact I had to Google the movie “Sword of the Valiant“, which I say I wanted to see (most likely at the State Cinema diagonally across the Dickens / Dalton Streets intersection from the station) probably indicates I never got to see it.
My first foray in front of a microphone probably wouldn’t win many awards with several long, thought-filled pauses (dreaded “dead air” as it’s called in the industry), but there are still some moments of brilliance for an almost seven-year-old that make the likes of today’s simulcast announcers sound like a pack of un-funny men-children (#SpoilerAlert: That’s not hard to do, but sadly no one better is given the chance to!)
It was, however, the start of a lifelong dream for me to be on radio. A dream that has mostly only seen failure over the last three decades, as local radio in Hawke’s Bay has been cut back and cut back, undermined and undermined.
I have said that I don’t suffer from the “old pain” of nostalgia, but some recent events do poke at old wounds, gnawing “what-ifs” irritate and sometimes you just miss your Mum and Dad who did lots of little things like taking you to a radio station, and recording you on a cassette tape years ago.