Neville Ellison

Interviewer: Ian Hansen

PROLOGUE: Radio Station 5DN in Adelaide began operating as an experimental station in August 1924 on a wavelength of "about 200 metres" (1500 kHz). With official services beginning on 24 February 1925. It began as the hobby of businessman and industrialist Ernest James Hume, but soon grew to absorb the time and energy of the entire Hume family.
Ernest Hume bought his transmitter, and some other equipment from radio pioneer Lance C. Jones, who ran station 5BQ in Westbourne Park.The purchase included the original call sign: "5Don N", which had been allocated to Jones in 1923.

NEVILLE'S STORY: Neville Ellison was born in Adelaide in October 1923, not quite a year before the Humes started radio station 5 DON N in August 1924. Neville's mother knew Mrs Hume, and used to wheel young Neville, in his pram, down to the studio on Park Terrace (now Greenhill Rd) in the afternoons when Mrs Hume was "on air" doing the children's program. She would sit in on the recording but to his frustration Neville cannot remember any of this. Sadly, he was taken away from it all when, at the age of 18 months in 1925 the family moved to the Murray-Mallee town of Lameroo.

Neville’s interest in electronics emerged in about 1931, when a Mr Angas of Henley Beach took to Lameroo a 4-valve radio that he had made himself. Mr Angas also installed an aerial 33 meters high and 30 meters long but at 204km from the transmitter, reception was poor until after dark, and then only marginally better. In 1933, ten-year-old Neville's father bought a Knight Hawk radio from the local electrician, for very little improvement. A couple of years later it was traded-in for a 7-valve dual-wave Radiola battery-operated radio which, according to Neville, was terrific. When he left school, Neville worked for the local electrician/radio man, who taught him battery charging and house wiring. He built his first crystal set when Mr Oldfield, a local traveller (who also used to write for the "SA Wireless and Radio Weekly" in the 1920's,) taught him how, and in 1939 he made the Duplex Single (from "Radio and Hobbies magazine"). He returned to Adelaide in 1940, aged 17, which marked the start of his learning about radio In Adelaide.

During the war, Neville was a projectionist with Army Education at Adelaide's Keswick Barracks. Radios were not allowed to be made commercially at that time, and he used to make the (Radio and Hobbies) Little Generals for Army personnel. He used to go over to the Kelvinator factory, on the opposite side of Anzac Highway, where the chaps in the sheet metal shop would fold the chassis for him. His grandfather made the cabinets. Neville made between 20 and 30 of these sets in 1943 and early 1944. He spent 12 months in Darwin after peace was declared but returned late as far as getting jobs in Adelaide were concerned. However, he found work at Harris Scarfe Ltd. where he sold radios from 1948 to 1953. From 1953 till 1966, he worked at Clapham for Jack Ferry, creator of Ferry Tape Recorders, and eventually became a Visual Aids Officer at the then SA Department of Agriculture until his retirement.

Neville was a long-standing member of the "Historical Radio Society of Australia" in SA. While writing his book "Adelaide’s Early Radios and Recorders" (ISBN 064627547X) in the late 1980’s he searched hundreds of back-issues of "South Australian Wireless and Radio Weekly", dating from 1925 to early 1927. This patient, diligent work enabled him to compile a list of manufacturers of that era, many of them only back yarders. Further research included looking through the pink pages of the Adelaide telephone directory from 1927 to 1935, uncovered a lot of old South Australian directories, and several Radio Trade Annuals. He also located and talked to many old-timers who worked in the industry in the early days. Neville's work shows that whereas in the mid 20's there were 44 or 45 manufacturers in the metropolitan area, only 8 were left by the mid 30's the post-Depression period. It is hoped this history will give the collector of radios an insight into the manufacturers in South Australia, and generally be of interest to those with an appreciation of the past.

(Interview Duration: 36 minutes)

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