Reading the memories of dear old Joe Latham brought back so many of mine. I was an "H" group engineer like Joe. Then I transferred to studio managing at 200 Oxford street.
Joe gives the impression of a studious bunch of youngsters beavering away
in those post-war days. Don't you believe it dearies! It was a complete madhouse!
I was trained by Laddie Ladbroke with Sylvia Curran, Mickey Will and others
landing at 200 Oxford Street. We were a mad bunch and things happened there
never to be told!
Once we lost the King's speech to the Commonwealth. This terribly important
speech, pre-recorded on slow speed discs, was coming from Green continuity.
Unfortunately "Hobby" who for some reason was marking the schedule missed
this and failed to cover it with a Studio Manager. Came the time when continuity
checked with the announcer "have you got his nibs". Continuity announcer "no,
BH". No dear you. From what I heard all hell broke loose ten minutes to go
- no speech or SM. People scattered in all directions. I think the announcer
froze. Fortunately Harry Cotterill was in the recorded programmes room and
saw, to his amazement, on a pile of slow speeds marked for destruction was
His Majesty. He galloped to Green continuity, set up the disc and, as those
who know slow speeds will be aware, they take an eternity to set up.
The announcer managed to gasp "His Majesty King George the Sixth speaks to the Commonwealth".
There followed an agonizing wait before the King held forth. BH phoned furiously
to ask "why the two minute gap?" to be told it was a solemn pause!
Next day there was mayhem. Poor Hobby was on the carpet and so were the others
who had missed this most important booking.
Some other little happenings. I once found, during a night shift, on going
to do the news that someone had nicked the microphone. Another time I found
a rat swinging from the mic leads. I asked control room to remove it and it
was chased round the studio and eventually dispatched just before we went
on the air.
Another time when we had pre-recorded the newsreel and retired for a bit if
shut eye Goering decided to kill himself. The reel had to be re-written in
a devil of a hurry. Unfortunately the narrator and a couple of speakers had
gone home. Julian Holland raced through a couple of apartments ringing on
door bells but after being told what to do gave it up. Bill Northwood and
the announcers managed to get everything on the air quite well.
Like Joe I met many interesting people. Anthony Eden came in to give a short
talk as did Field Marshal Montgomery. I recorded the parliamentary debates for North
American service with all three Feet: Michael Foot, Hugh Foot and Dingle Foot! Lord Boothby drank all the scotch and
Miss Burgess who had charge of hospitality carried on alarmingly. We only had one bottle
to last weeks. A programme called "Curtain Up" saw featured celebrities who
were amused at their huge fee of £25.
I remember an important programme which involved recording Churchill from
America. Terry Gompertz produced and John Hill did the grams, he used to cook
for NoŽl Coward in his spare time.
Funny things happened. Les Thompson and I with Aiden Macdermot used to have
a crafty gin and tonic as he signed us in as Maharaja and Maharani of Karpootaler!
We were a lovely bunch. We used to make up a party to have trips to the theatres
and have parties at home. Once it was decided to put the host's furniture on the
pavement and go home. We had a great party at the very posh home of Tim Briton's
parents and someone flooded the cellar with beer. Mickey Will and another
had to go and tip the butler to keep silent.
The canteen was a meeting place. Two tables pushed together and we all sat
round and laughed so much.
Those were the days.