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SPRINGBOK RADIO WEBSITE (article first published : 2001-08-19)

Rick Sutherland, a former South African now living in the United States, plans to create a website on the Internet calling back the past – in this case, the good old days of Springbok Radio.

"As part of one of the generations of South Africans that grew up without the luxury of television, back in the dark days before 1975, I remember with fondness the programs of the, now long defunct, Springbok radio, and, to a lesser degree, the English service,” he says. “Back then, I would occasionally tape record a cherished program but those recordings were few and far between and the tape would invariably be overtaped or lost. I didn't worry about that as I believed, as many others did, that the SABC was diligently preserving our radio heritage in the archives, and that these programs could be rebroadcast as the drop of the proverbial hat.

“How wrong I was! Many programs had their master copies reused almost immediately after transmission. Others ended up in the garages of employees and were unceremoniously dumped when space was needed, and still others were lost in accidents or any other of a myriad of disasters.

“When television was first introduced to South Africa, it had an almost immediate effect on the number of people listening to radio. Unfortunately, that sounded a death knell to commercial stations like Springbok. However, even though the number of people listening to radio had dwindled, there were still approximately 1,3 million listeners a day when Springbok signed off for the last time at 12 midnight on December 31 1985. I was celebrating the end of my 25th birthday and watching the New Year come in on television along with a bunch of my similarly-inebriated friends. I didn't even realize that Springbok died that night.

“For years I sat around, gaining weight and mentally stagnating, watching a host of exceptionally boring programs on TV and trying in vain to find something worthwhile to watch and pass the time. When I left for the US in 1991, I relished having 135 channels of 24 hour-a-day TV to watch but quickly found that 134 channels and 23 hours of it was utter rubbish.

“I started to yearn for the old radio programs of my youth, when I could be doing something and listening at the same time. I tried writing to the SABC to enquire about whether any of the old programs were up for sale, as per the BBC, but received only stony silence in return. To this day, I have never received a reply from the SABC. I started writing letters to newspapers recently and posting on bulletin boards around the web and found there were a lot of people who thought similarly to me, but, didn't have any recordings either.

Now, however, I have found some signs of life! One gentleman I have made contact with, has 19 episodes of Squad Cars, two of On Safari and the only known episode of No Place to Hide in existence. Unfortunately, the later has Paddy O'Brien as Mark Saxon and not my favourite Dewar McCormack. I remember how devastated I was when that change took place. It's funny how vivid some of my memories are about programs and characters I heard so long ago on radio but I can remember almost nothing of the program I have watched on television.

Here then, is my appeal: I wish to start a website for Springbok-Radio-Files and the spouses/children of South Africans, so that we can once again enjoy those old programs and our loved ones can hear what we grew up with. Many people with tapes are reluctant to part with them but, I assure you, all tapes sent to me will be digitally preserved and returned to their owners at my expense. So, please, send me any old recordings/pictures/articles you have from Springbok radio/The English service and I'll once again make them available for your listening pleasure.

These can be sent to: Richard Sutherland, 7169 E. Gray Fox Lane, Highlands Ranch, CO 80130-5900, USA. Phone 303-791-4137 or e-mail rlsuth@home.com

Richard also has a South African contact in Frans Erasmus who has already built up a fairly substantial collection of radio programs, including about 20 of the original 10" tapes from Springbok which he is having transferred to digital format right now.

“I think it will be much easier to send tapes, recordings and any other Springbok (English/Afrikaans service) memorabilia to Frans, rather than having to send it long distance to the US. Frans and I both share the same enthusiasm for preserving our radio heritage, and he would welcome (as I would) anything that we can collectively track down, before it is lost forever.”

Contact Frans Erasmus, PO Box 2987, Pinegowrie, 2123, South Africa or phone (011) 886-0420. Or e-mail: FransErasmus@worldonline.co.za




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