Australian Forces Radio Programme - Avis Wilkes

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Extract from interview with Helen Frizzell, 14 May 2010

Reproduced with permission of Avis Wilkes

So, there was a radio station. And it was – no doubt it was used for all sorts of other communications and things as well, but they had it all set up. It, it was really pretty sophisticated for those days, and they had huge, really good collection of records – because it was all records then. I think cassette tapes were just sort of becoming, yeah, cassettes were just, had just become available because quite often soldiers used to go down there and they would use the facilities for taping, and they'd make their own tapes.

So, they had this, I ‘spose you call it a studio don't you, a broadcasting studio. So they had all the gear and the knobs and the whistles – talking about these things [points to digital recorder]. Somehow it was quite simple because I learnt to use it without too much difficulty.

And so, I used to go there every week. And did – I was driven there about, and I think it was from about 6 o'clock until about 9 o'clock at night, because they used to bring me a meal. And they had quite nice food there, I used to quite enjoy their food. And, I would do this, this disc jockey thing. And it would be – it was basically a request programme. And I would go – and again this was something that I used to do in the hospital the day, or whenever it was beforehand, can't remember, it might have been the day before. And I would go round. I used to have little slips of paper and they would put their requests on. I'd gather all those up and I'd play them. And it then, that was mainly for the patients, but it grew a bit and I used to get other people who would put in requests, and if I had time and if I could, I'd play them

Do you, do you recall what was popular?

Oh yes. I mean I've got a tape here of it, which I've played. I've still got it. And my theme music when it opened [chuckle] – how this came about I have no idea – but my theme music was The Stripper. Dah dah de dah dah, sort of, this sort of stuff, and I'd have my patter. And, then the music that was – the really popular ones. Of course it was Peter, Paul and Mary time, Leaving on a Jet Plane, We gotta get out of this Place, that was the Three Dog Night or something. And Johnny Cash – I never want to hear Johnny Cash again. But there was good music.

Was there any Maori music requested?

Yes, yes. In fact, yes, I can remember somebody requesting Inia Te Wiata. So, but there was also good light Classical music as well and occasionally we got requests for that, not very often, but occasionally. But particularly Leaving on a Jet Plane, that was, every week that was there.

[At the beginning] I would say things like, ‘this is Avis back from Vung Tau talking to you tonight'. You know, and then all the things that came in. Because I'd know many of them, there were little in jokes. And you'd say, ‘and this one is for Froggie up in the hospital whose' – and you'd do, you'd say something which sounds absolute rubbish, but it would mean something to them at that time with what they were up to. And, there was one chap Irish, and Irish used to get up to mischief, so he always had requests and yeah – it was quite, quite funny really.

Did you enjoy it?

Yes, I did. I was very nervous to start with because I had no idea what to do. I'd never done anything like this. This is what I mean, everything was totally new and, and, I was asked to do it. And my first reaction was I can't possibly do that. And then I thought, well if they want somebody to do it, why not?


Vietnam War Oral History Project, Manatu Taonga Ministry for Culture & Heritage

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