You Have Been Listening

3YA Christchurch On Air
The official opening of Radio Station 3YA
© Winstone Harris Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation.

“You Have Been Listening..” is a station 3YA anniversary programme marking 25 years of broadcasting in Christchurch. Consists of music, narration and brief interviews with many broadcasters and performers who appeared on air between 1926 and 1951. (Some early broadcasts are re-created.)

Listen to the programme in the Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision archives:

The first station in Christchurch was 3AC operated by the Radio Society of Christchurch in the Farmers’ Building (1922). The President was Mr H.P.V. Brown. 3YA began in 1924 (sic. actually September 1926) housed in Robert Francis Buildings.

In August 1925 the Radio Broadcasting Company was formed with a network of four stations in the main centres. Stations used to relay performances by picture theatre orchestras.

A recreation of an early 3YA broadcast with broadcaster Arch Curry making an announcement as he would have done in 1926.

In 1927 3YA carried the first re-broadcast of the BBC. The Radio Broadcasting Company was headquartered in Christchurch, headed by A.R. Harris. Mentions Alan Allardice as an outstanding personality and early sports commentator.

The charter of the company limited the use of recorded music, so a large percentage had to be performed live. A list of local radio performers are named.

Ernest J. Bell recalls attending Radio Society meetings in St Asaph Street in 1924, when 3AC began. He broadcast book reviews and childrens’ sessions on several stations as “Uncle Jack.” He continued book reviews on 3YA until 1948.

In 1927 dinner and breakfast sessions began. Also the first broadcast of a Ranfurly Shield game, between Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa. Musical performers The Gower-Burns Quartet and The Christchurch Broadcasting Trio are mentioned. The first broadcast by the Woolston Brass Band was in 1928.

In 1928 there were special broadcasts marking the Diamond Jubilee of the Christchurch City Council and in September, relays of the “Southern Cross” landing (at Wigram.) An Invercargill wedding took place, with “The Wedding March” being specially broadcast from 3YA.

Church service broadcasts began. Static interference in broadcasts was sometimes caused by barber’s electric clippers and Dr Thacker’s violet-ray equipment.

1931 saw celebrity artists being engaged – several are listed. One of them, vocalist Anita Ledsham sings one of the songs she first broadcast. “Little Mary Fawcett.”

Millicent Jennings who lead the Avon Glee Singers, remembers some of her broadcasting sessions from 1929. She recalls some recipes she gave which are still popular and some guests she had in the studio.

3YA Christchurch, detailed card signed by AR Harris of the Radio Broadcasting Company in 1928. © Noel Brown Collection in September 2006 issue of “Tune In” Radio Bulletin of the NZ DX Radio Association.

Other highlights of 1931 were the first relay from Vatican Radio, when listeners heard the Pope and Marconi, 3YA Band concerts from St Albans Park, a speech made by the Prince of Wales in Buenos Aires and broadcasts of commemorations of the sacking of Kaiapoihia Pā by Te Rauparaha.

Rex Harrison sings a song he first broadcast in 1925. Other studio artists of the early 1930s are mentioned. The New Zealand Broadcasting Board was set up in 1933 and stations were transferred to it.

“Aunt Pat” (Maynard Hall) recalls her childrens’ sessions which began in 1925. She recalls a mishap involving a sinking microphone and letters she received from children.

Arthur Harrison -“The Major” also talks on childrens’ sessions which he took over from Aunt Pat in 1938.

John Stannage talks about broadcasting the second “Southern Cross” landing in January 1933.

Radio dramas were re-broadcast from 1YA. Further studio performers are named. 3YA was the first station to rebroadcast a film soundtrack, “Radio Parade”.

Ernest Jenner recalls his school broadcasts which began in 1933. He did 1000 sessions. He recalls that in England, where he started his career when radio was new, certain concert halls banned artists who broadcast. He lists students who assisted in his school broadcasts and pays tribute to “Aunt Daisy” from whom he learnt a lot about broadcasting. Also in 1933 the new transmitter at Gebbie’s Pass was opened with a broadcast of the “3YA March.” This made the station the second most powerful station in the country, although there were some early technical problems, which are listed.

Christchurch had three stations: 3YA, 3YL and 3ZM “The Sunshine Station” featuring announcer Grace Green, which produced a play by George Bernard Shaw, who did not charge them. Other radio drama productions are recalled.

Talks to motorists and university debates are recalled from 1934. Newspaper articles critical of radio announcers’ voices are read. The first performance of the Christchurch Liedertafel is re-enacted. Demands from listeners are read.

Mona Tracey and Vernon Griffiths speak about their careers on radio. Mona recalls feeling ‘like a goldfish’, reading in front of public spectators in a glass-fronted studio. Vernon recalls the impact when Sir James Shelley organised the first professional National Broadcasting Service Orchestra under Mr Tyrer and then Michael Bowles as conductors.

Thomas E. West performs a song he broadcast in 1933. Other touring broadcasting artists are listed. T. D. Lennie speaks about his gardening programmes and lists some of the topics and questions listeners would send him.

Other radio firsts are listed: the New Zealand Golf Championships were commentated from a Christchurch course, via portable shortwave set. 1935 broadcast highlights are listed, including week-long tributes to the dead King George V. The opening of Parliament was another first and the new government nationalised the stations under Professor James Shelley.

Radio 3ZB took to the air in 1937. On June 1st 1938, the time signal ‘pips’ were broadcast for the first time.

After the war, new stations like 3XC Timaru began broadcasting in 1949.

– from the Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision wesbite
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