Last Monday evening on ABC TV, Peter Thompson’s guest on his Talking Heads segment at 6.30pm (an excellent interview program) was the Australian artist Jeffrey Smart.
As with the greater number of Peter Thompson’s talking heads, Jeffrey Smart had an interesting early life and has achieved fame in his chosen profession. Now he is regarded as one of Australia’s best artists and I must admit I really like his surreal urban landscape paintings. You can see some them on this site.
One of his claims to fame is that he spoke the first words on Australian Television back in 1956 on The Children’s Hour show.
Now, the Children’s Hour was originally a radio show broadcast across the width & breadth of Australia and it was also known as The Argonauts Club. It was immensely popular and encouraged creative participation from the audience in the form of artistic or written compositions. It ran from 1941 to 1972. I was a member of the club in the 1950s when I was living in the bush, far from any major town. The children’s hour broadcasts became the highlight of our lives. We also were addicted to other radio serials like Superman, Biggles and Hop Harrigan in pre television days.
The Argonauts Club was based on the legend of Jason & the Argonauts and each member of the “crew” was given a ship name (from Greek mythology) and number. My Argonaut name was Erato30. It was an early version of the anonymous user names and avatars of the internet. Later, on television, the aliases were dropped and the child’s real name was read out .There were various hierarchies to aspire to. The more you contributed the more points you scored. The ultimate level was Golden Fleece and Bar. I got nowhere near that, not even to Dragons Tooth level, but I remember what a thrill it was to have one’s own composition read out over the airwaves.
For each broadcasted contribution you received a blue certificate. If you managed to collect five or six blue certificates you won a book.
One of my paintings made it onto the television show hosted by Jeffrey Smart who was also an early presenter on the radio version and was called Phidias in the Argonauts Club. I did not witness my painting on screen but was told about it by relatives, who had. If I recall, it was a painting of a fire blasted forest. Long lost, unless it is sitting in an ABC archive somewhere.
The above picture is the logo of the Argonauts Club. I remember, when you first joined up, you were sent a membership certificate with your ship name and a badge. It was a stylish green and silver enamel badge of the ship in the logo above. It went missing long ago, but I do recollect once, when I was working in a bookshop, a customer came in wearing one on his lapel. I recognised it instantly.
Anyway, it was interesting seeing old Phidias on TV the other night – it certainly took me back…