Ref: James D Richardson, Jean Richardson sitting on cushion on chair, playing the piano, 1915?, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-8902.
Prior to gramophones, radio, televisions and computers, pianos were, for many homes, the home entertainment centre. From the 1860s to 1916 they were New Zealand’s biggest luxury import. Sheet music was collected as avidly as records and CDs were later.
“We used to have all the aunties playing together. Sing-songs around the piano. I remember my uncle – he was killed in the First World War – he had a beautiful tenor voice. I can remember him and Aunty Grace, the youngest aunty, sitting at the piano, me between his legs, singing. And I knew Scottish, Irish, English and everything else. I knew all the ballads (Piano in the parlour, John MacGibbon, 2007).”
Ref: Blue smoke = Kohu-auwahi / composed by Ruru Karaitiana ; piano arrangement by George Winchester, c1947, C. Begg, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 784.062 KAR.
The first radio broadcast in New Zealand was made in 1921. By 1922 there were 572 listening licences issued, increasing to 71,000 by 1931. In 1932 the government decided to establish the New Zealand Broadcasting Board and as a result radio broadcasting became a state enterprise.
Crystal radio sets were the first widely used type of radio receiver. With very few parts, they needed no batteries or other power source, and could be built out of things found around the house. In early receivers, the detector was a ‘cat’s whisker’ that comprised a fine metal wire on an adjustable arm that touched a semi-conducting mineral (the crystal). The operator dragged the wire across the crystal surface until a radio station or static sounds were heard in the earphones. Sold and homemade by the millions, these inexpensive and reliable sets were a prior driving force in the introduction of radio to the public.
Ref: Samuel G Firth, Robert Emirali and his teddy listening to a crystal set, 1928, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1043-9712.
Ref: The radio record, 27 June 1930, Central Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraries, A+H SERIAL 791.44 R12.
Radio serials were at first described as ‘undesirable’ but they soon became some of the most popular radio content. In a 1947 educational research paper W. J. Scott listed the results of a survey of high school pupils’ favourite radio serials. The top ten included Dad and Dave, On His Majesty’s Service, The Phantom Drummer, The House of Peter MacGregor, Strange Experiences, Jimmy Allen, Piccadilly, Easy Aces, Jezebel’s Daughter, and Tradesman’s Entrance.
Ref: Ron Clark, Christmas at Taipakupaku?, 25 December 1966, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1207-1850.
Author: Annette, Sir George Grey Special Collections