An enormously popular and successful bilingual (Afrikaans and English) commercial station run by the South African Broadcasting Corporation between 1 May 1950 and 31 December 1985. Particularly famous for its serials, comedy programmes, radio dramas and popular music programmes. Broadcast advertisements also found their way into popular imagery and myth. Often referred to in South African plays and many actors made a livelihood working for Springbok and the other SABC stations.
It was the late Eric Egan, with his favourite introduction, “I Love You”, that was the first broadcaster to speak over the Springbok transmitters. In those very early days, many programmes were imported from Australia. Titles included, “Portia Faces Life”, “Dr Paul”, “Mary Lane”, “Mary Livingstone MD”, “Front Page Lady”, “Nurse White”, and “Sincerely, Rita Marsden” and “The Bob Hope Show” and “The Eddie Cantor Show” from the USA. The first all South African serial of note was “Brave Voyage”, produced by Cedric Messina. Many others followed, including “So Little Time”, “From Crystal With Love”, “Lux Radio Theatre”, and “Love is Tomorrow”.
Afrikaans language programmes, most of them musical at the start, played a big part in Springbok’s development. The first Afrikaans serial, “Liefdeslied”, was born in 1953. It was so successful that it ran until 1959 and starred two famous Afrikaans voices on Springbok, Esme Euvrard and Jan Cronje. They later became popular as the two voices behind “So Maak Mens”. Once the breakthrough was made, Afrikaans writers like Frieda Viljoen, Monica Breed, Louwtjie Fourie, Dricky Beukes, C F Beyers-Boshoff, Willie Van Rensburg, Lerina Erasmus, Leon Van Nierop, Mike Heine and many others left their impact on Springbok. Some of the many Afrikaans serials included “Die Volmaakte Uur”, “Die Wildtemmer”, “Uit die Skatkis van ons Skrywers”, “Wolwedans in die Skemer”, “Die Vrou van Shangetti”, “Die Mannheim Saga”, “Bruid vir ‘n Gestorwe Man”, "Oupa Jasper", "Die Geheim van Nantes" and many others.
Springbok Radio also kept its listeners smilling. Who will ever forget “Lood Landroster”, with the late Paul Fouche as “Duifie”, the English speaker who translated everything literally into Afrikaans. Others in the cast included Jan Pohl and Dana Niehaus. Cecil Wightman’s “Snoektown Calling” followed, and much later the very successful “Next Stop Makouvlei” followed, with Pip Freedman and Piet Pompies in the lead roles, and Cliff Jones supplying the music in his own honky-tonk style. Pip Freedman later hosted his very own successful show, “The Pip Freedman Show”. The Durban team of Tom Meehan, John Simpson, Roger Service, Tommy Reed, Frank Graham, Maureen Adair, and Brian Squires turned out many comedy shows. Shows like “The Men From The Ministry”, “Father, Dear Father”, “The Navy Lark”, and “Friends & Neighbours” made South Africa roar of laughter. The Johannesburg team were not left behind. The very famous show, “Taxi”, produced by David Gooden and written by the famous SA actor, Joe Stewardson, with George Korelin as Chuck, Tony Jay as Red, and Patricia Saunders as Mertyle, was so successful that a full feature film followed in the early 1970’s. The telephone candid camera style programme by Bill Prince, “Telefuntime”, started its run in the mid 1970’s, produced in the Cape Town studios. Other comedies like “The Atlantic Show”, “Dear Dr. Roy”, “For The Love of Mike”, and “Leave It to Van Der Merwe” all originated from Cape Town.
Drama was important in Springbok Radio’s history. The one-hour play, “Lux Radio Theatre” started its run on the first night of Springbok’s first broadcast. The show ran from 1950-1985. The show’s name was changed in 1978 to “Radio Theatre”. “Radio Playhouse” started its run on 3 May 1950 and also ran up until 1985. The programme changed its name twice. In 1966 it was changed to “Playhouse 90”, and in 1974 it became “Playhouse 74“, and was changed yearly thereafter to reflect the year. Other successful dramas included David Gooden’s production of “Squad Cars”, and Michael Silver’s “Epic Case Book”, also known as “Inspector Carr Investigates”. He also wrote and produced “Consider Your Verdict”, which started in 1952-1985, “Medical File”, “The Finger of Fate”, “The Destant Hour”, Henry Diffenthal’s very successful series, “High Adventure” (1969-85), and “The World of Hammond Innes”. In 1959 a new daily serial started its long run...12 years of “No Place To Hide”, in which the famous investigator, “Mark Saxon”, did his own style of investigating. In the long run of this show, the main actor changed 5 times. The first “Mark Saxon” was played by Dewar McCormack. He later became known on Springbok as the quizmaster to the three wise men in the quiz series, “Test The Team”. Others who played the role of “Mark Saxon” were Paddy O’Byrne, Brian O’Shaughnessy, Peter Tobin, and Adrian Steed. The only actor who remained throughout this long running serial was Stuart Brown, who portrayed the role of “Sergei”, and his infamous pistol, aptly named “Petrushka”. “No Place To Hide” was replaced in 1971 by the recreation of the famous British TV Series, “The Avengers”. Thereafter, the highly acclaimed series, “The Mind Of Tracy Dark”, with Erica Rodgers in the lead role, started its 10 year run. Other dramas included: “General Motors On Safari”, “Tuesday Theatre”, “Death Touched My Shoulder”, “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”, (with Graham Armitage as Holmes and Kerry Jordan as Dr Watson), “Address Unknown”, “My Name Is Adam Kane”, “The Sounds of Darkness”, and “Crisis Call”.
Children’s serials started with the Australian version of “Superman”, the American “The Lone Ranger” and “Hopalong Cassidy”, the locally produced “The Casey Kids”, “My Pal Shep”, “The Chappies Chipmunk Club”, and probably the most successful series, “The Adventures of Jet Jungle”, which starred Brian O’Shaughnessy as Jet and Victor Mellany as "Spagetti".
Science Fiction and Horror shows also had their place on Springbok. The memorable “The Creaking Door” started in 1963. Michael McCabe’s “Beyond Midnight” and “SF’68” had their loyal followers. Other shows included “Suspense” and “Tales of Antiquity”.
Springbok Radio also introduced the big give-away quiz format in South Africa. Popular shows were “Give It A Go”, “The OK Pot O’ Gold Show”, “21”, and “Venture”. Probably the most successful show was “Pick-A-Box”. It originated from Australia, but became very popular in SA. The first quizmaster was Jack Bryant, who was later replaced by Bob Courtney. The fun show, “Check Your Mate”, hosted by Percy Sieff and Judy Henderson, started in the mid 1970’s. Percy Sieff also hosted with Christine Basson the forces quiz show, “Fun With The Forces”. Saturday mornings would not have been the same without the live show, “The Super Dooper Shopper Show”, in which SA shoppers set the pace.
Speciality shows captured listeners imagination. “Bingo”, hosted by John Walker and John Stanley, attracted massive audiences. Other famous shows were “Top Level”, “Deadline Thursday Night”, (which became “Deadline Monday Night” in 1979), and “Woman’s Forum”, presented originally by Nan Fletcher and later by Annemarie Muller, “Broken Link”, “In Town Tonight”, and “Springbok Spotlight”, hosted by Neville Dawson, “The Lopis Pet’s Parade”, originally hosted by Leslie Green, who also hosted the famous programme, “Tea with Mr. Green”.
Music programmes also played an important part...shows like “The Popway Show”, “The Ford Carnival Show”, “Radio Jukebox”, “Musical Moneybox”, and the forces programme, “Springbok Rendezvous”, hosted by Esme Euvrard and Paul Desmond, "The Springbok Express", (which was later called "The Springbok 430 Special", and later still called "The Springbok 530 Special"), “The Official SA Top 20”, hosted by David Gresham. Many request programmes were also introduced, such as “Hospital Time”, “Hospitaaltyd”, hosted by the late Dulcie van den Bergh, “Memories Are Made Of This”, hosted by Isador Davis and Evelyn Martin, Andre Brink’s “Listener’s Choice”, aired on Sunday mornings, and Lance James’ all country show, “Keep it Country”, aired on Sunday evenings, and Simon Swindell’s religious music programme, “From The Bell Tower”. The very first request programme on Springbok was “Sunbeam Time”, hosted by Sheila Raymond Jones, which started on 1 May 1950. In 1967 Springbok established the Sarie Awards, an annual awards show in which recognition was given to the many singing talents in the South African Music industry.
During April 1985 the powers that be, namely the SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation), decided to cut Springbok’s transmission time to 13 ½ hours per day. At that stage, Springbok was broadcasting 19 hours a day. The reason for this decision was that Springbok’s popularity showed a downward trend in the evenings. People were turning off their radios at night to watch television. Television in SA started officially in 1976. Several advertisers decided not to advertise on Springbok in the evenings. They took their money to television, causing Springbok’s revenue to take a tumble. On 1 July 1985, the hours were changed. The new broadcast times would be from 05H00 to 18H30. The time changes caused for several popular evening programmes to be cancelled. “Squad Cars” ended a 18 year run, “Inspector Carr Investigates” a 28 year run, “Radio Theatre” and “Playhouse” a 35 year run. Other evening programmes were rescheduled for earlier broadcasting during the day.
To the many Springbok listeners the cutting of transmission times came as a shock. There was an even bigger shock in store for them. During September 1985, the SABC decided that Springbok Radio would close at the end of December 1985. The two other national stations, namely, the English and Afrikaans Services, would also close down. It was decided that 3 new regional stations and 2 new national stations would start broadcasting on 1 January 1986. The English and Afrikaans Services together with Springbok would form “Radio South Africa” for the English listeners and “Radio Suid-Afrika” for the Afrikaans speakers.
Many reasons decided Springbok Radio's fate. Declining advertising, listeners etc. However the launch of television in South Africa in 1976 seems to be the greatest decider in Springbok Radio's death. The introduction of television commercials in 1978 took many of Springbok Radio's advertisers away to a new medium. Not even station & programme changes during the 1980's could save Springbok & the era of "The Theatre of the Mind" came to an end in South Africa. The closing of Springbok Radio, closed a chapter of the golden age of radio in South Africa, an era that today is sadly missed by so many.
The Springbok Radio Preservation Society of South Africa
The Springbok Radio Preservation Society of South Africa was formed during 2002, a non-profit organisation that preserves the archives of Springbok Radio, the first commercial radio service in South Africa, that operated between 1950 & 1985. The Society is based in Johannesburg, South Africa & has managed to archive close on 17,000 complete Springbok Radio programmes, 3,000 commercials & numerous miscellaneous recordings including signature tunes, station identifications, literature, scripts, photographs & promotional material.
In 2005 the official website of the Springbok Radio Preservation Society of South Africa was launched to highlight the work being done in the preservation & archiving of the material. It also gave the Society an opportunity to share some of the archived material & very quickly the website became a haven for South Africans looking for nostalgia from the golden age of South African radio.
Since the creation of the Society, we have had a very close relationship with the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) Sound Archive & on a regular basis restored material is donated for archiving within that archive. Material has also been donated to other countries national archives, these include donations to Canada, Australia, Namibia & the United Kingdom.
On 1 July 2008, the Society launched "The Internet Radio Service of Springbok Radio", an internet audio streaming service that streamed restored material of Springbok Radio programming & also included newly produced programmes. On 1 February 2010, the Service was relaunched as "Springbok Radio Digital" in conjuction with the SABC. Due to the high costs involved in operating this service the future of this service is in the balance. That together with the amount of time spent in providing this service has sadly impacted on the restoration of other Springbok Radio material & projects. The operation of "Springbok Radio Digital" will be decided upon during April 2010.
The Society does not sell programming, enquiries regarding programme purchases & broadcast rights can be addressed to the SABC. The contact person for enquiries at the SABC is Retha Buys, who can be contacted via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
As most of the material is between 60 to 25 years old, great care is taken in the handling of all source materials and all sound archive protocols are followed & maintained with audio restorations. The latest restoration software was acquired to ensure the best possible restoration results. In addition to the restoration process, research is done & programmes labled with correct titles, episode numbers & broadcast dates. In some instances the programme scripts are also held.
Eric Rosenthal, 1974
Jan Schutte, 1978
Eben Cruywagen, 2000
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