Life as an ABC secretary in the 1950s involved everything from typing to handing out cricket scores

Noelle Beasley went to work for the ABC in Perth in 1950. She was employed as a secretary but soon found herself tasked with everything from running the gig department to covering the broadcaster’s magazine.

Ms Beasley was working in advertising at radio station 6PR when she and a friend were offered jobs at the ABC in Perth, almost by chance.

Noelle and her friend both said yes, because it was “a bit more prestigious” and they also had a higher salary, she said.

Woman with white hair, dark glasses smiling headshot
Noelle Beasley worked for the ABC from 1950 to 1954.(ABC Radio Perth: Emma Wynne)

Ms. Beasley (then Noelle Willcock) was assigned to the gig department under Grieg Frieze and quickly found the job to her liking.

“I just enjoyed the general atmosphere. It was so relaxed. Everyone mixed together, the people who were in the studios, the managers, we were called the secretaries, we were all together”, a- she declared.

The Concert Department ran the West Australian Symphony Orchestra (WASO) and staged shows across the state.

“We organized their schedules, and we organized the guest artists,” she said.

“They played in different country towns – Geraldton, Bunbury, Albany. They also went north.

Musicians and conductor of the ABC Orchestra in 1950.
Musicians and their conductor at the ABC in 1950.(Provided: State Library of Western Australia)

And Mrs. Beasley said they all helped.

“I always had tickets to concerts, but sometimes if there was a shortage of people working in the theater, we filled in there as well,” she said.

Australian Broadcasting Commission National Studios, Perth, 1937
Australian Broadcasting Commission National Studios, Perth, 1937.(Provided: State Library of Western Australia)

Cricket Scores and Modeling

Multitasking extended to help cricket fans.

“When cricket was in England they had two of us do the night switchboard. It was a bit different,” Ms Beasley said.

The ABC did not broadcast matches overseas, but still aimed to provide a service to the cricket-mad public.

“We would say, ‘Good evening, ABC. How can I help? “

“And they were like, ‘Do you want to give us the latest cricket scores’ because even if they [the ABC] didn’t broadcast cricket, people could phone in and get the scores,” she said.

Noelle Beasley on the cover of The Broadcaster magazine
Noelle Beasley on the cover of The Broadcaster magazine.(Provided: Noelle Beasley)

She and her colleagues were also often invited to model for The Broadcaster magazine, which was published by West Australian Newspapers and gave all radio station schedules. She has appeared on the cover several times.

At one point, Mr. Frieze, her manager, fell ill and was away for six months, when she simply took over running the gig department.

“It was good, I knew him so well, and it wasn’t a very tense job, we kind of paddled out,” she said.

“The man who employed us was called Mr Griffiths and he was also a very nice man.

“He really cared about the people he employed; he was always interested in what was going on with you.”

The ABC women's basketball team (now called netball).
The ABC women’s basketball team (now called netball). Noelle is top left.(Provided: Noelle Beasley)

Log in on time

Although the extra duties do not attract any additional pay, Ms Beasley said there are other ways to advance.

“You could increase your salary by taking exams or different tests to see if your typing speed was up and then you would get a little raise and by the time I left I was earning pretty well for a typist,” he said. she declared.

“In fact, my future husband was working for International Harvester at the time, and I was earning more than him.”

Tram on Perth Street, 1955
Perth in 1955 still had trams.(Provided: State Library of Western Australia)

Although she remembers the ABC as a relaxed and friendly place to work, there were rules regarding timing.

Every staff member was required to log in at the start of the day, and a line was drawn in the book at 9 a.m. indicating latecomers.

“I was pretty well known for being late for work,” Ms Beasley said.

“And once, I had my salary blocked.

“My signature was only a minute or two after nine o’clock, or maybe five o’clock.

A place for hiking

Until 1961, when the ABC moved to a new purpose-built house on Adelaide Terrace, the ABC occupied a former RSL building on St George’s Terrace, next to Government House and opposite the Supreme Court.

The ABC Perth building seen from above
The ABC Perth building seen from above, on the site now occupied by Council House.(Provided: State Library of Western Australia)

“It was a hiking place, it went everywhere. There was a green space in the middle and I used to go out the back and walk through the Supreme Court Gardens to catch my tram home me,” Ms Beasley said.

“Our dining room was where we left all our gear and it was right next to Government House.

When Queen Elizabeth II came on tour to Australia in 1954, ABC staff were in the perfect position to catch a glimpse of her.

Crowds, including ABC staff, cheered on the royal car on St George's Terrace during the Queen's tour in 1954.
Crowds, including ABC staff, cheered the royal carriage along St George’s Terrace during the Queen’s tour in 1954.(Provided: State Library of Western Australia)

“She came along St George’s Terrace, and it was at the time of the polio outbreak, so she was a little out of the way when she came with the cavalcade,” Ms Beasley said.

“We all rushed down the aisle. Someone had a stepladder, and so we were all up there.

“There was no one left at the ABC even though the studio would have broadcast the events anyway.

Ms Beasley left the ABC in 1954 when she married.

“Of course, if you got married, you had to leave. You couldn’t work there, or anywhere in a government job,” she said.

Noelle in a band cover of The Broadcaster
Noelle (top left) on a band cover of The Broadcaster.(Provided)

Ms Beasley turned 90 last year, making her almost the same age at the ABC itself.

She has many fond memories and to this day has retained the friends she made while working at the ABC, as well as a love of music.

“I’m a WASO subscriber and go to quite a few of their concerts throughout the year,” she said.

“I was introduced to WASO really because of what I was doing at ABC, so it really gave me lasting enjoyment.

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