When voice over artist Pete Smith was growing up, he wasn’t interested in being a firefighter or a police officer — his big dream was to be a radio announcer.
‘I just idolised the radio people. A typical night after tea I’d sit on the couch with mum doing the knitting and dad reading the evening paper and me looking up at the radio on the mantelpiece, listening, rivetted. It was theatre of the imagination.’
He started work on making his dream come true with a job as a messenger boy at ABC Radio in the 50s, pestering management for several years until they relented and gave him a presenting role.
‘Then when TV came in, we were just expected to do what we were doing on radio. In my case, it was pop programmes like The hit parade, and I said, “Oh, what? So, I sit on a chair and look at the camera? What will we do while the record's playing?” And they said, “We'll run the sporting results”.
‘So that's what we did. While Elvis Presley sang or Chubby Checker did The Twist, they'd run the race results. By today's standards, you wouldn't get anybody watching, but it was such a novelty people were staring at the test patterns in those days.’
Whilst Pete loved the ABC, the lure of Channel Nine’s live variety programming convinced him to make the move to the commercial station where he continues to work on occasion almost 60 years later.
‘You’d do a live commercial then, 10 minutes later, you'd be dressed as a Roman Centurion for a comedy sketch, then back out and into a suit, then up to the booth to do prize reads for a lucky wheel. I couldn’t do it now!
‘It was such a buzz to be involved in that live variety era,’ he says. ‘I've been very blessed to be able to do something I've enjoyed over the years and still have my foot in the door.’
Watch Pete's 2020 Victorian Seniors Festival reimagined interview.