Vale Don Bethel

Don Bethel was one of the true ‘Pioneers’ of television who started in radio – at 2GN Goulburn NSW.  

He got his start in TV at ABN2, Gore Hill in Sydney in 1956 as floor manager, props and various other roles.

After a 29 year career at ABN he went on to teach at the Australian Film and Television School.

He passed away yesterday morning aged 84

His daughter Kim Mobbs has advised that funeral arrangements will be published in the Sydney Morning Herald in the coming days so please look for this announcement

Below is an extract from Don’s memoirs written in 2009.

I was working at 2GN Goulburn as an announcer when I got a call from June Salter saying “get back to Sydney soon – the buzz is television”. So late in 1954 I was back in Sydney working at the Sydney Trocadero Dance and Concert Venue as a maintenance carpenter also doing relief work in the evening backstage at The Philip St Theatre.

Locating TV training outlets was hard, books were available and gave clues to ‘systems’, – but! I was fortunate to have a discussion with Rudy Bretz an American Author and TV consultant visiting Australia and a guest speaker at the Trocadero. I asked for advice and also his autograph on my copy of his book – ahh – networking.

I did the rounds checking on job possibilities – no one was interested in production persons – but technicians -! a different matter. TV was “radio with pictures” and techs allowed the pictures to happen. Most of us who eventually became ‘crew’ were impressed by the skill of technicians and the Technical producer was akin to God!

The ABC Head Office was located at 250 Pitt St, within easy reach from “The Troc” and I routinely visited there. The Personnel Department always advised “watch the press”. I understood their problem. All effort to meet the deadline of the Olympics in November 1956 had to be met: building studios in time – (no Channel achieved that challenge) transmitters – OB vans- links – all the hardware – and training the techs!
Midway through 1956 an ad for Floor Managers (ABC) appeared. I applied, citing my association with Stage Managers at the Tivoli and Philip St Theatres. Not even an interview.
Then weeks before the proposed opening night, four ‘Staging’ personnel ads. appeared. I applied for each ‘skill’ area (I’d held all positions in theatre work).

Within days I got the dreaded “We regret to inform you” response to all of them. I arranged another meeting with T.S. Duckmanton (Coordinator TV). He told me that “no interviews had been arranged, so how come I had four rejection letters”? He told me to bring in the letters. Next day all was sorted. A temp in personnel had sent rejection’ slips to all applicants, instead of the “Thank you for your application” etc. This created some panic in the ABC office. (I understand heaps of telegrams and phone calls.) Anyhow, I was appointed to Propsman.

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