Kids' TV...local talent...and a marauding elephant.

Friday 13 April 2012

Just look at that date!  Now I’m not at all superstitious but I DO think that this is the perfect time in which to relate my first week with children in television.

GMV-6 Shepparton in regional Victoria, opened in 1961 and apart from being the Station Hostess I did a number of other things…like the Children’s Show.

It’s not that anything exceptionally bad happened in that week; but the week decided – all by itself – that this was the perfect time to have Incurable-Hiccups!  And thus followed a series of events made entirely from the following: excruciatingly bad timing, poor choices, Child Humour & Innocent Wickedness (straight out of Coles Funny Picture Book) and a totally inexperienced television-crew (to say nothing of me!)

Now because the budget for children’s entertainment was the smallest of any other offering (what’s new pussycat!) I had only a small fistful of pounds sterling (no decimal currency yet) for each week’s GMVJuniors Show. It was therefore imperative that I relied on local talent and any visiting celebrity that needed publicity who would cavort around for ten minutes at no cost!  So apart from my sitting on the hay-bales and chatting to the kids that surrounded me, each show consisted mainly of a weekly topic such as Hobbies or Magic or Pets. 

For the first week, as luck would have it, a Circus was in town and it was arranged that we would do an ‘Outside Broadcast’ of me doing the show whilst sitting on an elephant in the outside courtyard.


That meant Friday’s show was fixed and Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were all settled: a Hobby Man, a Lady Magician, A Snake Man and a series I’d written about a little girl called Kim.   

Writing about disasters is not all that much fun so I shall be brief.

Here is my list:

·      Monday:  The Hobby Man’s DIY Make-A-Model-Ship didn’t WANT to do it itself and didn’t want to do it for poor Mr S either. It fell to pieces…right on close-up 
·      Tuesday:  The Lady Magician forgot her sparkly costume and had to do her routine in her farm jeans and flannel shirt that sort of took a bit of fun out of the party because the main attraction of her act was utterly dependent on the sparkly costume. That her assistant set fire to his false whiskers whilst trying to atone for the lack of sparkle should be also be noted 
·      Wednesday: The Snake Man was great fun…until he opened his bag of snakes on the table causing the cameraman to jump violently and knock the table, which in turn caused the bag of snakes to fall onto the floor. We had to cut to a commercial rather quickly because some snakes were slithering up cameras, others heading towards the hay-bales
·      Thursday: The ‘Kim’ series was about things that kids could do at home along with Kim. It was Fire Prevention Day so the script called for Kim to be seen striking matches and me coming into shot to tell her about NOT doing that with such abandon. Two brothers did not wait for my advice; on seeing Kim lighting matches willy-nilly, they ran outside and did the same! Fortunately the kids weren’t hurt and I’m not sure if the Station had to pay for the burnt out garden shed or not but it was a HUGE lesson about the power of television

By Friday I had assured the Manager of GMV-6 FOUR times that nothing would go wrong in the next show.

And I was absolutely confident that nothing COULD happen to an OB of me sitting on an elephant with the Trainer at my side.

In the early 60s we did not have the luxury of a sophisticated Outside Broadcast Van in which one could sit and direct a show. Oh no! Our OB consisted of opening the studio doors wide, pulling the cameras as far as their cables would allow and pointing them to the outside!

After the previous days’ less than spectacular starts,  I was a tad nervous on Friday morning but by the time it came to rehearse, I was bouncing with my usual confidence.

 GMVJuniors went to air LIVE in the afternoons after school so we’d arranged for a rehearsal to commence at 3pm. The elephant had arrived, the Trainer gave me strict instructions, I was hoisted up onto the elephant’s back -  complete with head-mic and we rehearsed. One nudge behind the RIGHT ear and Mr Elephant would move forward a step, a similar nudge behind the LEFT ear and he would stop…that is, unless he received MORE than one nudge behind the left ear.

We did it perfectly…and waited for the show to go to air, the courtyard-air being filled with the excitement of the chattering Classes 2 & 3.

The signal came…I was hoisted up onto the elephant once again…and our first Outside Broadcast was set to begin.

Now I’m quite excitable AND left-handed AND prone to confusion. This was going to be great fun but I had to get it right…our first Outside Broadcast - coming direct to our viewing audience from the back of an elephant; I could feel the adrenalin rush to my head.

The Floor Manager gave me the signal as the little red light lit up on the camera just as the naughtiest child in the audience called out LEFT, LEFT and my nudge-behind-the-right-ear was forgotten; TWO-reflex-nudges-behind-the-left-ear came alive….and so did the elephant! With a surprised rearing up of his massive trunk he took off - scattering the crew, knocking over equipment and ignoring his Trainer’s shouts as he lumbered faster and faster down the road to the main street of Shepparton…me bobbing up and down helplessly as I clung onto one ear for dear life!

In spite of the GMVJuniors being cancelled that day and the entire station having to explain me away, I was not sacked. In actual fact, everyone thought the whole thing hysterically funny.

 Everyone else, that is!


  1. You are hilarious Nancy. I could imagine this in all it's chaos & fun - YES FUN- I was almost wishing it was still available on film but my imagination is pretty good. I'm imagining Jean dujardin as the elephant trainer & director btw
    Affectionately Debbie

  2. Had Jean Dujardin been the Elephant trainer, Debbie I would have run away with HIM instead of the elephant! Haha!

  3. I am not sure which emotion came first, Nancy. Apprehension or nervous guffawing! I am awfully glad you survived and I hope the elephant was OK too.

  4. The elephant was given all sorts of rub-downs and treats I can assure you Brigid. I received hysterical laughter - none louder than mine!

  5. Hello Nancy, I just found out about your blog and Twitter from the article in The Age and I of course went to read your TV posts! As someone who's followed the history of Australian TV it's great to read from your perspective.

    I do love though how you were asked to provide your own publicity photograph to GMV6!

    I've also done a blog of your unfortunate incident with the local Woolies but also included some archival snippets from Magic Circle Club you may be interested in.


    1. Hello Andrew, I must apologise for this late reply to your lovely post. I think as one gets older the hours decide to go into acceleration so that you are virtually saying Goodnight as you eat breakfast! ;0D And thank you for alerting me to your's lovely! I'm so glad a few bits and pieces were saved for the archives, as the hours of footage that were trashed don't bear thinking about. Cheers to you too!

  6. Hi Nancy. That is a great read. You may be interested that there is a Lost Shepparton Facebook Page that celebrates and remembers our history. and a companion website:
    GMV 6 often comes up. Love for you to drop by and say hello. ~Geoff Allemand