In 1934, Wireless House was built in Foley Park, Sydney’s inner suburb of Glebe. The structure was built by the council of the day to house a radio donated by Grace Brothers. Wireless House was built as a public listening space. People came to listen to radio serials, historic events, music, quiz shows, the races and news from abroad. Under pressure from the churches and sporting organisations who were experiencing loss of patronage, the council decommissioned Wireless House in the early 1970s.
The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, City of Sydney, and sonic artist, Nigel Helyer have partnered to sonically activate Wireless House once again. Over 200 audio titles sourced from the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia’s collections, can be heard at the site itself. In Foley Park, visitors have access to the City of Sydney’s first free wireless hotspot in an outdoor public place.
The titles include famous radio personality, Jack Davey, who by the mid ’50s, had become a household name. Davey can be heard hosting popular quiz shows; The Ampol Show, The Dulux Show and Give it A Go. Contestants of these shows would play games, answer questions and sometimes sing popular songs for prizes. Australia’s other funny man, Bob Dyer, appears in the quiz show, Pick-A- Box.
Some of Australia’s best known serials from Grace Gibson’s long running shows; Portia Faces Life, Dr Paul and Martin’s Corner, can also be heard. Dr Paul ran for twenty one years and was one of Australia’s longest running serials.
The first episode of radio actor and producer George Edwards’ most successful show; Dad and Dave from Snake Gully, broadcast on 31 May 1937, is included in the selection. Edwards himself, played Dad in the serial. Radio, stage and film comedian Dan Agar, performs as the hilarious Mrs Obbs, first broadcast on 2GB in 1941. Also selected is Australia’s Amateur Hour, produced and compered by Harry Dearth, whose name remains synonymous with the Lux Radio Theatre.
There are race calls from the Melbourne and Caulfield Cups, Harold Park Raceway and early advertisements for Mobil Oil, Andrews Liver Salts and Vegemite, some typical examples of radio advertisements which were heard at the site daily and have been repurposed for the project.
There are also broadcasts of historic events such as; Prime Minister John Curtin’s announcement of war with Japan in 1941 and Queen Elizabeth’s speech at Farm Cove, on her first visit to Australia in 1954.
These radio excerpts are representative of the radio broadcasts people heard at Wireless House in Foley Park from the ’30s through to the ’70s. Stories and memories from Glebe’s older inhabitants can be heard on ABC’s user generated site, Pool. The City of Sydney Wireless House site, offers more information on the history of Wireless House and its restoration.