Film, Music and Theatres (1930s)

1934 saw RKO issue a film now still high on the TV repeat list. It was the Gay Divorcee with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The song “The Continental and the dance of the same name were great. Fox weighed in with George White’s Scandals in which one of my favourite actresses, the beautiful Alice Faye, made her debut. George White himself appeared in the film and the cast included Rudy Vallée, Jimmy Durante, and Gertrude Michael, a favourite of mine. Alice Faye also starred in the Fox film, 365 Nights in Hollywood.

The nearest theatre to our shop was the Grand Theatre which was just around the corner on the north side of Murray Street. It had its main sidewall on the lane running alongside the back wall of the “Queen of Hearts”. The lane was convenient for the Grand’s usherettes who used to come in the back way and buy their lunch. The Grand Theatre was opened in 1916 and like other theatres had to have alterations done when talking pictures arrived with the making of The Jazz Singer, with the songs sung by Al Jolson. The seating capacity of the theatre was about 1,000 overall with 250 going upstairs. The seats were comfortable in the Dress Circle but you could be distracted from the film when the occasional rat found its way into the theatre, and scurried across from one side to the other on the railing in front of “A” row. Just before the Second World War the theatre was extensively remodelled and just as well. The manager in my young days was the popular Jimmy Stiles.

Daily News, Perth, Thursday 29 April 1937, page 5 – Jimmy Stiles. Source: Trove

Films I saw at the Grand included Lives of a Bengal Lancer with Gary Cooper and Little Miss Marker with Shirley Temple. I know that I saw the horror film of our years, Frankenstein, at the Grand. The monster in the film was well played by Boris Karloff. The young student doctor was Frankenstein. For that quiz answer I can say that Boris was born Charles William Pratt (Correction: William Henry Pratt), in England. The film was well attended but many people were too scared to go to see it. The Mae West film Belle of the Nineties was one I saw.

 

I seldom missed a Bing Crosby picture or radio show and had many of his records. No singer gave me greater pleasure to listen to. His diction was clear and you soon learnt the words of his songs by heart. You could sing the words or whistle the tune of his songs and those of many other singers. Today our young people are being deafened by amplified music and few hear or know the words. As for whistling a tune, it seems beyond them. The thirties were difficult for most people and they tried to forget their troubles by escaping to the picture houses, singing the popular songs of the day or whistling their troubles away. Sometimes it helped.

One of the first films I saw at the Grand was The Big Broadcast with the singing stars Bing Crosby and Kate Smith supported by The Mills Brothers and The Boswell Sisters. George Burns (still on the job in 1989) and Gracie Allen provided the laughs. Bing’s success led to two new films, College Humour and Too Much Harmony. Two new songs were “Learn to Croon” and “Thanks”. 1936, 1937 and 1938 brought repeats of these revue-type shows with the all-star performers and their individual acts. Bing Crosby came up again for the 1936 film as did Burns and Allen who were also in the 1937 show. The Big Broadcast of 1938 had a different line-up headed by W.C. Fields, Dorothy Lamour, Shirley Ross and first-timer Bob Hope. Bob and Shirley’s rendition of “Thanks for the Memory” has been long-lasting. In 1940 Bing, Bob and Dorothy teamed up for their first Road film, Road to Singapore and then went on to make “trips” to Zanzibar, Morocco, Utopia, Rio, Bali, and Hong Kong. Bing sang the big hit “Love in Bloom” in the 1935 Paramount film She Loves Me Not with Kitty Carlisle and Miriam Hopkins. I saw Miriam in Vanity Fair (Correction: Becky Sharp) at the Grand as I remember but the story was a bit old for me at the time.

The Prince of Wales Theatre was on the north side of Murray Street just east of William Street. Gaynes’ clothing store was on the corner, then one or two other shops, and next the Prince. The site of the Prince of Wales Theatre was later taken over by Bairds who redeveloped to the corner, and much later Myers took over Bairds.

It was a theatre I remember not going to. That may sound strange but it happened when I was at Perth Boy School. The sensational film of the day was no wild west saga or horror movie but a picture titled The Mystery of Life. It was about evolution and went into such detail as the birth of a baby. The boys from school who first saw it related their experience in some detail and in their own words. They put me off. The Prince also showed The Blue Angel at about that time. Marlene Dietrich starred with Emil Jannings in this story about a love affair between a professor and a nightclub singer which had the inevitable gloomy ending for such a relationship. Marlene’s hit song “Falling In Love Again” is still being heard today as is Marlene herself at 78 or more.

The Ambassadors Theatre was opened in 1928 and renovated in 1939. It was on the south side of Hay Street opposite Aherns. The site is now occupied by Martin’s Arcade, formerly Wanamba Arcade. The theatre was very comfortable and the management did their best to please you. Before the films were shown a variety of acts were performed on stage by dancers, singers and instrumentalists.

I recall Ted Ritter (tin whistle), Mr Glasson (singer), Reg Harle (yodeller) and Mick Jacobs, a top-class lightning sketch artist. One typical programme titled something like “Holiday Frolics” had Cliff O’Keefe and his Harmony Four, Roma Gibbons and the Ballet, Stanelli and Blanche (Specialty Dancers), and Anthony (Tony) North on the Wurlitzer organ, the largest in Australia. The Wurlitzer would rise up out of the basement with the organist for the night already playing a happy tune to set the right mood for the show. On the same night the Wedding March Grand Parade was held. It was a parade of frocks with bridal gowns and wardrobes by Georgette Fur Company. In addition to all that there were two films: Roy Rene in the Australian film Strike Me Lucky, and I’ll Fix It with another favourite of mine in Jack Holt who had a small moustache and a gravelly voice which helped him to success.

An actor I liked seeing was Richard Dix who I saw in Cimarron in my school days. I remember him as tall and well-built with an aquiline nose and a distinctive voice well-suited to his many outdoor roles. Since talkies began, the actors and actresses with voices that imprint on your memory tread one of the main paths to screen success. Good looks and good measurements are everywhere but no voice to go with them can bring disaster and this is why many stars of the silent era failed to survive the talkies. I saw Dix in West of the Pecos at the Ambassadors, Joe E Brown in the film Six Day Bike Rider with Frank McHugh, as his wisecracking trainer, and James Cagney in The St Louis Kid with other owners of unforgettable voices in Addison Richards and Allen Jenkins. In today’s TV repeats the buffs of the 1930s and 1940s are in their glory. A voice here and a face there and it all comes back. Maybe a night at the movies, and a friend you shared it with, lives on.

 

The Ambassadors could seat just over 2,000 people. For 1/- (10c) you could sit in the back stalls, for 1/6 (15c) in one of the 800 front stalls. For 2/- (20c) you could go upstairs and sit in the Circle, and if you had your best girl with you then it was the pick of the 400 seats in the Lounge at 2/6 (25c), all plus tax. Sunday night shows were popular. A newsreel, a cartoon and one film (not one recently shown) made up the Sunday show which could not start till after 9pm when the church services were over. A silver coin collection was taken at the door and when the notice “House Full” went up you then went to the “Royal” or any other Sunday night show, and saw whatever film was on offer.

Upstairs or down people dressed up for the movies. It was a night out. Most movie fans came into town to enjoy good films that did not serve up the vividly portrayed violence and sex scenes that are part and parcel of today’s “entertainment”. People left the theatre sad or happy depending on how the film story turned out. It was then time for a little window shopping or a chat with some friends over supper before heading for home on the No. 19 tram for Walcott Street, the No. 10 for Victoria Park, the No. 6 for Subiaco, or the No. 18 for Inglewood. No tram for you? Then a bus or train.

Some theatres had spruikers and no words describe them better than those of Alan Marshall in his good book This is the Grass

“Spruikers in braided uniforms strutted up and down before foyers extolling the virtues of the picture within.”

A good spruiker had real value for he could sway the undecided picturegoers that his theatre was putting on the best show. Such PR men were necessary when two theatres stood almost side by side as did the Ambassadors and the Theatre Royal. The man in the uniform at the “Ambass” was an up-and-coming young man named Alwyvn‌ ‌Kurtz‌ (‌also known as Alwyn‌ ‌Kurts) who moved up to radio and then to T.V. and film. Outside the “Royal” it was another spruiker with plenty of dash in the person of Lionel Lewis. He was another success story that continued on for many years in radio and sports commentating.

Mirror, Perth, Saturday 16 November 1940, page 1 – Kurts Given the Air. Source: Trove

The Royal was owned by Tom Molloy who also had the Metropole Hotel next door where I first sold the Daily News. It was a popular theatre, particularly in the summer, because the roof slid back to allow fresh, cool air to circulate in the theatre. Air-conditioning for theatres was still three years away and did arrive with the opening at the Piccadilly Theatre in March 1938. The “Royal” varied their shows a bit for sometimes it was films and on other occasions live entertainment. I can remember George Wallace, one of Australia’s great comedians on stage and in film, performing with a variety show there. On one occasion I went to a picture at the Royal with my workmate, Bill (Wal) Francis, who was a policeman’s son and growing up into a big lad. He had plenty of vocal power and it proved our undoing at the theatre. The film was very funny and Bill set about laughing his head off at each little joke. Wal overdid it a bit and we were soon in trouble. A few shushes had no effect and soon the manager was at the end of the row with a torch showing us the way out. Touche?

The Majestic Theatre was in Hay Street on the site later (1937) to be occupied by the Plaza Theatre and Plaza Arcade. It was a smaller theatre but I saw a few of its good films over the years. The Capitol Theatre was probably the most comfortable theatre in the mid-30s. It was at the bottom end of William Street next to the Embassy Ballroom over the Temple Court Garage parking area. It seemed to be an opening night when you mingled with the happy crowds walking down the street towards the Capitol. They had come by tram and train, bus and car. Most people were dressed up.

The Capitol could seat 2,300 with 1,000 or so in the Dress Circle. The seats had loose cushions and were very comfortable. I recall going to the Capitol with a friend (Bill T perhaps) and the two sisters Irene and Thelma F. It was a musical hit but its name escapes me. It could have been Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire in The Gay Divorcee which made the dance tune “The Continental” famous forever, or One Night of Love with Grace Moore, the delightful and great soprano from the Metropolitan Grand Opera. She later died in an air crash, when still at the top of her singing career.

I saw Kid Millions with Eddie Cantor at the “Cap”. Eddie was good for he gave many a laugh to picturegoers in the dark days of the Great Depression and helped people turn off from the cares of the day. I am an optimist, but at the time of this writing about the theatres and films, we seem set for Great Depression Mark II. It is clear we need more than our present singing and dancing cheer-up squad to run the country. “She’ll be right, mate” is not good enough. Perhaps Max Gillies would have been the answer. He had a few trial runs as the PM and made us laugh. Now in 1989 we can only feel like crying. Why the people want charisma to run the country instead of brains is beyond me, but as a man of politics has said, “The people got the Government they deserve”.

The Regent Theatre, later The Metro, was on the western side of William Street, between Hay and Murray Streets. It was part of the Church property which included Queens Building on the corner. At the entrance to the foyer there was a shop on either side for the buying of sweets and drinks. For making a good impression on your night out there was nothing like a nice box of chocolate. If your spare cash was low then a packet of Columbines and a roll of Nestle’s chocolate croquettes filled the bill. Later on (1938) the two shops disappeared in the remodelling of the theatre when the name was changed to The Metro Theatre. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had an office in Murray Street (south side) about halfway between King and Milligan Streets, where still photographs and coloured posters were displayed in the windows or showcases. 

The colourful posters were rented out with the film to the various distributors. There were a variety of posters and still photos to guarantee that displays could be changed every week for the longer-running shows. The blonde bombshell of the 1930s, Jean Harlow, would have had top-billing on the 1935 posters for such films as MGM’s Riffraff in which she starred with Spencer Tracy. He then would have shared some posters with the support players, Una Merkel, and Joseph Calleia, the real gangster-role specialist.

Many posters of the early days are now worth big money. Some MGM posters of the mid-1930s worth a mention are those from the musical Naughty Marietta featuring the singing stars, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, for which collectors would now have to pay $2,000 or more. Drawn and printed for the MGM film Camille, the best of the Garbo posters is the one that portrays the tender moment when Garbo and Robert Taylor are gazing into each other’s eyes. It was beautifully done. Going price today is $10,000 plus.

The movies we saw in the city theatres could also be seen at the suburban theatres, if people waited a little longer and did not rush into town for the first showings of the new films. The Amusu Theatre was on the corner of Mint Street and Albany Highway and a No. 11 to East Victoria Park could get you there. The Broadway was on the corner of Harper Street and Albany Highway, opposite the Broken Hill Hotel. We used to like going out to these theatres to catch up with a missed film, or just for a change. It sometimes depended on who you were taking as to which suburban theatre you decided to patronise. The State Theatre (later The Astor) was on the NW corner of Beaufort and Walcott Streets, the Premier in Bulwer Street (later a skating rink), the Rosemount in Fitzgerald Street (now a bowling alley), Wests in Hay Street, Subiaco, the New Oxford (now Luna Leederville) in Leederville, and the Princess in Fremantle.

 

Here I am writing about the theatres of fifty years ago and I let myself get side-tracked a little but it is so easy to do. Movie­going was a big part of our life in those days. The stars and the supporting players are well remembered for their specialist roles and our favourites even more so. Writing to stars was popular in my young days. I still have personally-signed photos of Betty Furness, who many years later headed a US Government Consumer Affairs Bureau, and Arline Judge. Alice Faye, who is still living at the time of this writing (died in 1998, aged 83), sent a nice personal message to me over her signature on a top-class photograph. She starred in many 20th Century Fox musicals. Arline played support roles in musicals for 20th Century and Betty did the same with Columbia and RKO.

If I mention one star who caught remarkable public acclaim she is Deanna Durbin, the young (14) singing sensation of the day. I saw her first in a short MGM film (1935) titled The Band in the Park (Correction: no records for this film, likely referring to Every Sunday) in which she sang with another newcomer, Judy Garland. After that film, MGM signed up Judy and let Deanna go. Universal snapped Deanna up and she became an instant worldwide success. Deanna’s first full-length film was Three Smart Girls when her songs included “My Heart Is Singing”, “Someone To Care For Me”, and “Il Bacio”. Later in Mad About You (Correction: Mad About Music) she sang, “I Love To Whistle”, and Gounod’sAve Maria” which she sang with the Vienna Boys’ Choir.

 

Audiences loved Deanna for her wonderful voice (praised by the conductor and composer Walter Damrosch as “unusual and exciting”) and her happy, refreshing personality which helped people escape from day-to-day problems. For her contribution to the spirit of youth she was later to receive a Special Award at the Academy Awards Ceremony of 1938. Deanna Durbin retired at her top to the countryside in the South of France where she still lives today.

The movies and sports participation filled in a lot of our spare time but there were nights when we went to the popular community concerts held at the Town Hall. The public gave good support. Billy Edwards was usually the compère for the regular concerts but this jolly job was shared about a bit. Dave Howard, the master of the saxophone, was one of the best-loved artists performing at the time and he was ably assisted by many well-known locals. Audience participation was strong with everybody joining in the singing of popular melodies and old-time songs, with screen slides providing the words. We preferred to go to St. Albans Hall in Beaufort Street, Highgate, just north of Bulwer Street. A versatile lady in the person of Nell Shortland-Jones led us along in music and song and while we were very happy to be singing the latest hits, we liked to let our clear, still-boyish voices ring out on such songs as “Sail Along, Silv’ry Moon”. A lot of fun with friends both boys and girls, free of most of the problems teenagers worry about today.

The Criterion Talkies (in Norseman) run by Jack Scholey and Ray Dean were next to our little cabin so we attended a picture or two now and then. The 1930s were the years of the musicals whether you lived in Perth or in Norseman, and local showings ran about a year behind the first release date in America. I saw Rose Marie for the second time in Norseman. The film starred Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy who together sang two songs, “Indian Love Call” and “Rose Marie”, that were to live on almost forever. The main film was usually accompanied by selected shorts, or travel talks given by such narrators as James Fitzpatrick who is enshrined in the history of moving pictures for his closing line, “And now as the sun sinks slowly in the west, we say farewell to Java and Ceylon”.

I saw Bing Crosby and Shirley Ross in Waikiki Wedding, which had two great songs, “Sweet Leilani” and “Blue Hawaii”, and set our minds to thinking of warmer places than Norseman. Shirley Ross sang with Bob Hope (his film debut) in The Big Broadcast of 1938 and they gave a beautiful rendition of the hit song, “Thanks For The Memory”, which has lived on to the present day. The Piccadilly Theatre in Perth had only been opened a month earlier and the film used for the first night, I Met Him in Paris, was shown in Norseman a month later. So we saw the latest films in the bush.

Sunday Times, Perth, Sunday 6 March 1938, page 10 – Piccadilly Theatre. Source: Trove

Life (in Norseman) was not all work, and hobbies like stamp collecting, typing, and sports. Some cold nights were spent at the pictures where now and then you could help someone keep warm. One of the great films of our time, Lost Horizon, had already attracted big audiences in Perth and it was the same in Norseman. Starring Ronald Colman it took us to a make-believe world where the people lived a Utopian life in “Shangri-la”, the novelist James Hilton’s name for an imaginary Himalayan pass, the site of an earthly paradise. One critic of thirty years later was moved to say, “One of the most impressive of all thirties films, a splendid fantasy, which physically and emotionally, lets out all the stops”. Good indeed.

I have seen it several times by way of television repeats and still can be moved by it, for it had perfect casting, magnificent directing and music that added a beautiful touch to a wonderful film. A remake in 1972 with Peter Finch as Conway was a disaster.

Lost Horizon 1937. Source: Wiki

Musicals were tops for filmgoers and the Criterion Theatre met the demand by screening such shows as 100 Men and A Girl with golden-voiced Deanna Durbin, and Maytime starring Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald. Zippy songs and humorous films kept people happy in the troublesome years of the 1930s so we were able to laugh and joke with comedians Laurel and Hardy in Way Out West, and Joe E Brown in Top Speed. If that was not enough to cheer anyone up there was Eddie Cantor to see in Ali Baba Goes to Town. If you were a racing fan or just wanted to shed a tear at some human drama your tastes were met by films like Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry in which our emotions were touched by Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney (making his film debut) (Correction: his first film with Judy Garland, he had appeared in over twenty films by this time) and a racehorse.

The newsreels and documentaries were not to be missed for they really told us what was going on in Australia and the rest of the world. I remember we had Fox Movietone News, Paramount News, and Metro News, but there were others. The outstanding documentaries of my movie news viewing days were in the March of Time series which was blessed with a narrator whose voice and presentation were outstanding. Its 1938 edition Inside Nazi Germany was timely in view of subsequent events and it was a pity that British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, did not heed its message before he saw Hitler. Was his piece of paper a case of “Che sarà, sarà”?

 

I could also enjoy the music and songs of my gramophone records and share that with Marie and her sister, Phyl, who both liked hearing the latest hits. A record ran for about two minutes and each time you put on a new record you had to wind up the machine again. There was one record that the girls kept getting me to play so many times that it encouraged another boarder to offer me ten shillings to break it. Well I did not want to do that but I eventually compromised. I took the 10/- ($1) and turned the record into a fruit bowl. The record was placed in the stove oven on top of a bowl, and a brick was then placed on the centre of the disc. As the oven got hotter and the record pliable, the centre sank making it easy to shape out a bowl that passed the sideboard test, and now had a title in the bottom. I forget the song title but the boarder’s name maybe was Collis.

(In Kalgoorlie) We saw the latest films after they were shown in Perth. Over the weeks of March/April we had the chance to see Joy of Living with Irene Dunne and Douglas Fairbanks Junior on the same programme as Hopalong Rides Again in which William Boyd played his role as Clarence E Mulford’s hero, Hopalong Cassidy. Gabby Hayes was the garrulous sidekick of “Hoppy”. In some films it was Andy Clyde. In the films the support players were vital to a film’s success. It is worth noting that 66 Hopalong films were made with Boyd as the star. All three films had a worthy moral for children, unlike today’s TV and videotapes which seem to have the effect of leading children down the wrong path rather than along the road to a sensible and better way of life.

 

Other films were Double Wedding with that great team William Powell and Myrna Loy; Carefree with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers; Romance in the Dark with Gladys Swarthout and John Boles supported by that great actor, John Barrymore. My favourite axiom in this story was also the title of a film with Claude Rains and Olivia De Havilland and George Brent. It was Gold Is Where You Find It, in which former gold rush miners settle down as farmers in California and prosper. Smilin’g Through was one popular film seen by most movie fans for it was a sentimental romantic drama in which the lead players, Norma Shearer, Leslie Howard, and Frederic March gave outstanding performances. I am sure that it was a repeat showing and many fans would have been seeing it for the second time.

The war years saw some great songs and music written. Servicemen and civilians all whistled the hits of the day and most women and men could sing along with all the hit numbers. There were hundreds of songs turned out in the “Tin Pan Alleys” of the day and what now puzzles me is why some of them at least are not played today. A lot of the people who sang the songs in the late 1930s and the 1940s are still alive and watching television and listening, not too often now when it’s rock and pop, to the radio. Advertisers should wake up to that fact. The ABC’s “Sentimental Journey” is a sound in the right direction but the early morning programs have plenty of room for these easy-to-listen-to songs to be slotted in. Why not cut back the crash bang music that is a fixation with the ABC, and seemingly a rock-hard program fixture.

Many songs were geared to the War and so the words and the song titles were appropriate. One song was appropriate for many a pilot returning from raids over Europe and elsewhere. I “Comin’ In On a Wing and a Prayer” were the right words for many a pilot and crew as the pilot nursed sick motors or struggled to stay up on one engine. When they were safe and sound on the ground there was always “A Pair Of Silver Wings”. It had a line that said, 

“He’s the one who taught this happy heart of mine to fly, he wears a pair of silver wings”

Other popular songs of the war years were “For the First Time” (I’ve Fallen In Love), “I’ll Be Seeing You” from the film of the same name with Ginger Rogers, Joseph Cotten, and Shirley Temple, and “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To“, (“You’d be so nice by the fire …….. You’d be so nice to come home to and love”). There were many others I may list later in the text or the index.

I’ll Be Seeing You, 1944. Source: Wiki

 

Film, Music and Theatres (1940s)

I remember (in 1944) we had a RAAF Pearce Concert not long after our new 14 Squadron Commanding Officer, Wing Commander Ian Campbell, arrived at the base. The organisers had me on their list of performers to approach and when they asked me to sing a song or two I was not too keen, but agreed to go on. I then had to find an accompanist and settled for my Scottish friend, George Gray, the Sergeant in charge of the Parachute Section. George supervised the packing of all ‘chutes by his staff, and always volunteered a guarantee to the borrowers, “If it doesn’t work, bring it back”. It was just like sending a fellow up to the main store to borrow a “sky hook” or to get a can of striped paint. They were often sent elsewhere. 

George and I had a couple of rehearsals before the big night and they were reasonable. George could play pretty well but a public performance before a large crowd was not quite his normal thing. Everybody was there, airmen and WAAAFs, NCOs and Officers, and some relatives from the married quarters. The compère was my old friend Reg Harle, the popular yodeller and humourist from newsboy days in the 1930s. “And now Doug Cash, with George Gray at the piano, to sing “Long Ago And Far Away and “Beer Barrel Polka”.

We only had one hiccup, maybe more, for George had fortified him­self for the occasion, and was not quite with it. We were not too bad with the first song, I’m down in the key of G and George was somewhere else, but it went over fairly well. The rousing song about rolling out the barrel found George dropping behind a bit and we were saved by Reg Harle bringing everybody in to sing with us. Everybody knew it so it worked out all right. I recall seeing our CO W/C Campbell sitting dead-centre in the front row when we first came on and still there when we finished. They had an audiometer to check the crowd response when the ten artists were presented and we were fourth or fifth in that. I am not sure whether Dave Shaw, one of the aircrew, sang at that concert or not, but I can say that he was top class. In the 1950s he took the lead role in The Desert Song at His Majesty’s Theatre. He was of course “The Red Shadow” and would have sung those strong Oscar Hammerstein opening lines to the Sigmund Romberg music: 

My desert is waiting: Dear, come there with me, 

I’m longing to teach you Love’s sweet melody.

His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth, 1926. Source: Wiki

 

 

 

One the foremost composers of light opera, Sigmund Romberg also wrote Blossom Time, The Student Prince (in which the action is set in the German city of Heidelberg where there is an old famous University that I was to visit post-war), and The New Moon, later filmed with Nelson Eddy and Jeannette MacDonald. From the last, the best Romberg and Hammerstein musical numbers were “One Kiss”, “Lover Come Back to Me”, and “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise”. I would have heard much of that music in recent years.

It is a pity that with so many delightful musical compositions and pleasing lyrics having been written by the great composers and lyricists of earlier years that radio programs seldom include many of them. They could well replace some of those wishy-washy talk-back sessions that take up, unnecessarily, too much time. They mainly reflect the politics of one side of that area of our daily lives. Better the listeners have some pleasant relaxation time than waste their ears on some of those repetitive and often argumentative radio segments. Are you listening, “Grannie”? If so, then not just operetta numbers but happy songs, nice songs, and music that does not sound like heavy metal being processed at BHP. It might be nice if regular listeners rather than celebri­ties be given a chance to send in three or four numbers for a day free of personal messages and with just a listener’s name credit. Now we just get what the ABC staff likes.

One thing I did buy at Gregsons (auctioneers in 1948) was a cabinet radiogram. It was made of solid wood and had plenty of record space on the shelves. It was a nice piece of furniture. The player was dual-speed and had good speakers. With it came five sets of classical records. In the early post-war years people filled some of their needs from the auction rooms till the supply position improved and we were no exception. We were well set up for entertainment with a radiogram, a wireless set (now a radio), and the family piano. I still had my collection of popular 78 records, the current speed at the time till LPs came in. We were still hearing, and singing and whistling, the popular pre-war songs and the wartime “hits” along with the new releases from Tin Pan Alley and the UK. Some of the popular songs were “Ballerina” (Vaughn Monroe), “Chi-Baba Chi-Baba” (Perry Como), “Toolie, Oolie, Doolie” (The Andrews Sisters), “Riders in the Sky” (Vaughan Monroe), “Some Enchanted Evening” (Perry Como), “I’ve Got A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts” (Danny Kaye) “Cruising Down The River”(On A Sunday Afternoon) (Blue Baron Orch), “Now is The Hour” (Maori Farewell Song),”Sunflower” (Russ Morgan).​​

Western Mail, Perth, Thursday 8 April 1948, page 20 – Sample Radiogram Ad. Source: Trove

 

(1949 in Wembley) For day and evening leisure everybody was able to relax with the wireless (radio) set tuned in to the popular programmes such as “The Lawsons”, “Music while you work”, or for young children, Margaret Graham with “Kindergarten of the Air”. There were many choices of serials from humorous “Dad and Dave” to more romantic stories, detective story episodes, and a great variety of musical sessions. Popular programmes like “Crooners and Croonettes” and segments for the singing stars like Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Kate Smith, competed with the light classical recordings.

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