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Old Days, Old Ways Stories from my radio days in the bush

The front cover photos for Old Days, Old Ways show us the period in Australian history that it encapsulates. Alex Nicol began his career as a trainee rural reporter in 1967, at 2CR which was one of five huge transmitters. They were designed to cover an enormous area of Australia. He eventually became manager, after working and presenting for many years. His story is told in a typical Australian layback style, with local characters featuring strongly in his retelling. A tragedy struck his family soon after he began working and he was given time and money to attend to personal issues. From then on, he settled happily to work.

To begin the book, the author outlines some of the people he worked under. This was a time when journalism was a respected art, and on a slow day, Alex would announce, “Following last week’s rain, green shoots of new life spike the rich earth of the wheat country.” This came from his journalist boss Laurie Mulhall, who listened to correspondents far away and crafted his own story from their news.

One of the earlier interviews the author taped, to write up later, was with a wine maker. Alex checked his tape and was set to record how this particular wine maker made rummy port. Mr Roth, the wine maker, was anxious to explain his technique, and was careful to give the journalist a glass from each barrel they tested. An hour- long interview had to be condensed into a five- minute broadcast, and slowly as Alex arrived home and listened to the tape, he realised that the voices on the tape had become blurred and indistinguishable. What a disaster!

Much later, when the author was working in Albury presenting the program from the ABC, he found out that the last Cobb &Co coach driver was in hospital, but happy to tell his story. Arthur Robinson began work with horses at age 13. To move the passengers at the fastest pace, changing horses frequently was a must. Each horse had its own harness and had to be fed and groomed before the next trip. The coaches would often travel at night with a large lamp for light. Arthur painted a detailed picture of a slice of history.

As Alex’s career progresses, he discovers more stories from the many characters he has met. He is invited to play a dead villain in a cowboy film, and he learns so much about Australian indomitable spirit, with each chapter a mini slice of history: the history of farmers, gold panners and outback adventurers. A wonderful collection of past times.

AuthorAlex Nicol
PublisherAllen and Unwin
DistributorAllen and Unwin
ReleasedMarch 2019