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When TV Arrived in Adelaide

REMEMBER the tremendous excitement when television first arrived in Adelaide?

It came in 1959, three years after it commenced in Melbourne and Sydney in time for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games.

The wait and build-up seemed to go on forever before TV finally arrived. Electrical retailers like H G Palmers, Ernsmiths and Saverys, attracted large crowds of people, eager to see television for the first time. It was not unusual for crowds to stand for hours just watching a test pattern and a few black and white flickering frames as both Channel 9 and Channel 7 prepared to launch later in the year.

On 5th of September 1959 NWS-9 was officially launched. Sitting in the audience on that first night was a young Rupert Murdoch, eager to see how his newest entrepreneurial project would unfold. The opening had not been without its problems, including a fire which destroyed most of the new studios even before the first pictures could be transmitted. So on that first night the Premier of South Australia, Sir Thomas Playford, proudly announced the arrival of the new medium from a temporary studio in the Tynte Street building, and the journey began.

Channel 9 personalities including; Top row (l to r) Reg Lindsay, Pam Weston, Ernie Sigley, Humphrey Bear. Bottom row; Anne Wills, Ian Fairweather, Lionel Williams and Ann North. Source: Miracle on Tynte Street; The Channel 9 Story by Rex Heading and Trevor Jones.

Channel 9 personalities including; Top row (l to r) Reg Lindsay, Pam Weston, Ernie Sigley, Humphrey Bear. Bottom row; Anne Wills, Ian Fairweather, Lionel Williams and Ann North. Source: Miracle on Tynte Street; The Channel 9 Story by Rex Heading and Trevor Jones.

In the book Miracle on Tynte Street, authors Rex Heading and Trevor Jones recall the Channel 9 early days and shows … Adelaide Tonight, Woodies Teen Time, The Channel Niners, the Christmas pantos, along with stories about the people and personalities who made it all happen, Ernie Sigley, Lionel Williams, Kevin Crease, Anne Wills, Ian Fairweather, Glenys O’Brien, even Humphrey B. Bear!

ADS 7 commenced on air just over a month later, on 24th October 1959. The ‘Opening Night Variety Show’ was hosted by Sydney TV identity Bobby Limb, his wife Dawn Lake and comedian Buster Fiddes and during the programme, the station’s lineup of personalities was introduced. It included Marie Tomasetti, Ian Cochius, Blair Schwartz, Angela Stacey, Bob Moore, Peter Cellier, Ian Boyce and Mary McMahon.

TV was a rare novelty in 1959 and usually the first house in the street to get a set would share their lounge room (didn’t have ‘family’ rooms back then) with all the neighbours who were invited in to watch such riveting programmes as Singalong with Mitch Miller, Perry Mason and I Love Lucy.

It was a further six months – March 11 1960 – before the ABC came on line with the opening of ABS-2 Adelaide. Bob Caldicott read the news and had the honour of being the first face to appear on local ABC TV.

Photo Channel 7 (formerly Channel 10) Deadly Earnest was actor Hedley Cullen who introduced his horror films on Friday night with his skull Yorrick

Photo Channel 7 (formerly Channel 10) Deadly Earnest was actor Hedley Cullen who introduced his horror films on Friday night with his skull Yorrick

Adelaide got its fourth TV channel when SAS 10 began broadcasting in July 1965. It started transmission at 4pm in the afternoon and Bobo the clown was such a huge star in Adelaide at the time that the new Bobo Show was the very first programme that went to air. Over the years Channel 10 also created Fat Cat and Friends and Romper Room. Music shows included In Time and Trax. Variety talent shows included Adelaide’s New Faces and Pot Luck. There was also the long running daytime show Touch of Elegance, horror host Deadly Earnest and from 1973 to 1989 the Christmas Appeal telethon was held each year.

In 1973 SAS10 Adelaide created the Children’s Medical Research Foundation and the Channel 10 Christmas Appeal, with stars from the network flying into Adelaide for the weekend live broadcast from SAS10 studios in Gilberton. Stars included actors from popular Channel 10 TV show Number 96 and The Box. Game show host Gary Meadows was the anchor for most years.


8 Responses to When TV Arrived in Adelaide

  1. Maud Crossing September 19, 2014 at 10:40 am #

    About a year before TV started in Adelaide we would sometimes be invited to a
    neighbour’s house on Saturday nights to “watch television”. The
    neighbour was one of a handful of people in various locations around Adelaide to test
    reception of experimental broadcasts. Some nights we were able to watch old
    westerns or cartoons uninterrupted and with good audio sound. Other
    nights there would be plenty of fuzzy images on the screen and unbearable
    moments of loud white noise, followed by a reversion to a test pattern. Our
    host would be fiddling with the controls behind the big floor model TV set and
    running to and from the phone to report what was happening. The most impressive
    thing about those experimental transmissions was the high quality sound
    reproduction via the FM broadcast bands – something that, to us, sounded
    superior to our Philips 9 valve “Beethoven” model radiogram.

  2. Vivienne O'Neill September 19, 2014 at 11:48 pm #

    We spent most of 1959 (and perhaps part of 1958, not quite sure) living with the preliminaries of setting up Channel 9. Dad had been appointed head of the Mt Lofty transmitter station and was overseeing the installation of the transmitter as the mast gradually began to tower over its building. His prior experience in broadcasting at the ABC’s Brooklyn Park transmitters had helped him win the position. Channel 9’s sister radio station, 5DN, used the slogan ‘the first station in the state’, and now the race was on for NWS9 to make the same claim. Dad, like many others, was working a 90 hour week to make that happen. At this point Mum insisted we get a TV set to compensate for seeing so little of him. (We’d been going to a neighbour’s place to see some of the test broadcasts.) Throughout the year, Dad watched droves of people come to Mt Lofty to stare at the new tower and wondered how many of them seemed to be able to take time off work to do so during the week. The most memorable visitor was the mountaineer, Sir Edmund Hillary, who obligingly climbed a short way up the as yet incomplete tower to be photographed for the now disappeared evening paper, The News (also owned by Rupert Murdoch). The photo was carefully taken at an angle that suggested he had climbed much higher up the tower than he really had. Dad appeared in two of the slides that were interspersed with the test pattern that was shown out of normal programme hours. One showed him at the transmitter control desk, and the other was a view of him standing by the transmitter.

  3. Chris Adams October 2, 2014 at 10:15 am #

    I remember going around the neighbors and standing in front of a window in Ways road Manningham to see “on the waterfront ” or maybe Tugboat Annie not sure . When we eventually got a telly we used to come home from school to see ‘The Cisco Kid ” ancient cartoons from the thirties .

  4. Stewart Lowe November 3, 2018 at 11:08 pm #

    I remember that TV was so new in Adelaide than nobody had ever seen a television commercial. So, on the Adelaide Tonight variety show Kevin Crease showed the animated commercial for Solomons Carpets. This arab in a turban flys in on a magic carpet to three dancing harem girls. Crease showed it over and over and over again…until Solomon’s phoned in and ordered him to stop….

  5. Jill August 29, 2019 at 4:36 pm #

    Stairway to the Stars Ch 7 hosted by Ian Cochious 1st programme – a female singer, a dancer, a female xylophonist, a group of male singers. Where are they now?
    Rumour went around that a nylon dress worn by the singer would be “see tthrougj” on television.
    Live commercials by Leona Gaye. Chrome handles on refrigerators covered with a white paste. Musical director John Drake.

    • Leona Harrison May 8, 2021 at 3:10 pm #

      I was named after Leona Gaye.

    • Jen Scheer February 23, 2024 at 7:57 am #

      My Mum (then, Shirley Day) performed as a singer on Stairway to the Stars but unfortunately I don’t know when. She passed away almost 8 years ago at the age of 80.

  6. Geoff White March 9, 2021 at 11:31 am #

    I remember Angela Stacy dangling her feet in water of Silver Lake in Mylor South Aust I was the owners son standing by gate entrance collecting fees for entrance 3 and 6 pence a car load I think then
    Chanel seven and other groups came by bus for there getaway or xmas gatherings I was about 12
    at the time and impressed by the TV stars of the early times
    I actually met Kevin Crease (News reader Show host etc ) through a girl friend in Walkerville Adelaide many years later and very nice down to earth person
    We had a TV set from the start and us and neighbors would sit and be mesmerized by the snowy pictures
    What a wonderful time we had in those days
    Lots of good memories
    My Sister wants me to write my memoirs (work in progress)

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