Down Memory Lane
Memories Of The Rhodesian Broadcasting Corporation
Written By Phil Morris
"6:30 Get up up up up up..." This was the wake up call of a rotund fun loving clown by the name of Leslie Sullivan who was the morning man on Radio Rhodesia. Leslie, I am told was quite a night owl and would show up about 45 minutes before Radio Rhodesia went on the air and had a "Power Sleep" waking just in time to get the morning radio show kicked off.
At about 5 minutes to 6 in the morning, the day began on the air for Radio Rhodesia. It started with "A thought for the day", an inspirational message to help face the day. At 6AM the morning call would go out announcing what meter band and wave length the RBC could be picked up on.
When I think of this, somehow the aroma of toast and Jungle Oats come to mind. Between 6AM and 6:30 a short recap of the news and weather forecast for the day were given, some music played and then, 'voila! it was time for Leslie to perform his magic and get the children out of bed with his "Get up up up" routine. He usually followed with a kiddie song like "Teddy Bears' picnic or "Pink Toothbrush" but the greatest was when, once a year, he would play a short piece each morning from a story about a fat Chinese boy who fell down a well but because of his long name lost potential rescuers when he would call out for help. His name that being Nicky Nicky Tembo etc etc.
Leslie was always so much fun to wake up to in the morning, it almost took the sting out of having to get ready to go to work or school. His audience comprised of both parents and children.
Later in the morning it was time for another sorcerer to perform his Radio magic, in the form of a kindly chap by the name of Don Burdette. Don had a hospital request show with "Silver Lining" as his theme music. Don showed tremendous empathy for the ailing whether it was a "new mum" at the Lady Chancellor hospital or Lady Rodwell Hospital, or a malaria case in Salisbury Central hospital, maybe Umtali General, The Mater Dei in Bulawayo or Greenwood Park hospital or even someone recuperating at home.
Don always saved a special segment for his "Little Horrors", the sick children who were in hospital. Usually he would play Alvin and the Chipmunks. It always perked a person up listening to his kindly voice admonishing you to cheer up and get better soon.
Around noon, shortly after the "Daily Service", a wonderful woman by the name of Beryl Salt would exhort children to "Bring a cushion or a chair right up to the radio", at which time she would read a story with the most amazing professionalism, never mispronouncing a word, stuttering or losing a beat. I will never forget her for she made my childhood so much more enjoyable with her lovely voice.
Around 2PM there was usually a short news update, following which a "Serial" came on. It was usually a radio theatre presentation of a book and sooo very well done. These programs brought something to look forward to and were seldom missed.
Radio really had an impact on our lives as Television did not come on until 6PM and that was only in the larger cities, until later years as technology became better. It was the great spirit in a small box that penetrated our soul and mind and left that indelible image there. It forced your imagination to take you to places your eye could not see, truly wonderful!
Monday nights there was a great show entitled "The Missing Persons Bureau" about an agency that traced folks who had disappeared. Henry Simon, was the director of the bureau.
During the rest of the week several radio drama shows were done usually by some great entertainers like Ken Marshall and his beautiful wife Claire. These folk along with other celebrities not only did wonderful radio dramas but often performed in plays at the well known Reps theatre in Salisbury.
There were many fine voices on the air - one was Gerry Wilmot who left Radio Rhodesia to work for Lourenco Marques radio, I think that was about 1961 or 1962.
My favourite day was Saturday for all the great hit music generally got played. A chap by the name of Ian Warren had a show at 9AM playing new songs that were potential hits. Everyone's favourite was none other than Lyons Maid hits of the week. The show was done by Martin Locke a young Chap who not only had a great radio voice but held quite an appeal to the young ladies.
Each week there was a jackpot, and if the top ten hits of the week were predicted correctly the winner would win the amount, or if he or she got the top three correct free ice cream was in the works! How we lived for this show! Martin left the Rhodesian airwaves for a while and Keith Kennedy took over the show.
Both gentlemen were excellent at their craft and the show was tremendously successful.
Another great at Radio Rhodesia was a chap that I thought never got enough credit for his excellence and that was Malcolm Russell. Malcolm had a show called "New Tracks" and it was the last biggie for we young folk on a Saturday morning. The show's theme song was "I Will Follow Him" and was just super. Saturday afternoon at 2PM, a radio game show, "The Eyegene Jackpot", was presented and it was quite enjoyable.
A game show programme presented by Mervin Hamilton and Vic Matheson that featured housewives pushing a shopping cart around Meikles gathering groceries without duplicating items in an allotted time, brought excitement to the listeners. It was always quite a rush to listen to especially when a very dear friend of ours not only participated but won more than anyone ever had on the show.
My favourite was "Forces Requests" with Sally Donaldson on Saturday afternoon. Sally was a beautiful young woman with a voice to match. She played all the forces favourites and with the escalating terrorist bush war she became very popular as young men went off to defend their country. Dusk was usually falling as we would listen with the lights turned out in our living room, with only the lights of (my mother's pride and joy) our Philips Radiogram. It was so peaceful thanks to our security forces.
Sadly Sally passed away a few years ago but her wonderful personality, charm and looks will never be forgotten. There were several distinguished voices like that of John Bishop and Peter Tobin that graced our airwaves.
As the years passed small stations were set up in the provinces that covered local issues for about 2 or 3 hours on Friday nights. I am exhausted as I write this (3AM) but have a smile on my face thinking of all the fond memories of a wonderful Radio station. My times for the programming may be slightly off bearing in mind all of this happened so long ago and in a land far away!
Thanks to all of these dear people, some still with us, others not but everyone is fondly remembered and never forgotten.