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Old Time Radio Memory: John Hayes: New Zealand Flood Radio!


Radio is far from old time in many rural areas - it is still a vital part of the communications and support network, and none more so than in times of emergency. I was working for a radio station in southern rural New Zealand when a flood threatened the eastern region of the province in the late 1960s.

I was about to visit relatives in that area, and asked if I could take one of the portable outside broadcast amplifiers with me, "just in case it came in handy". The boss was a little bit reluctant as I was asking for one of the new-fangled transistorized models that ran on ordinary dry-cell batteries. However he relented and I was soon picking my way through the floodwaters to reach my relatives. Assuring myself of their safety, I then went looking for my story.

It did not take long to find - soon in the gathering gloom found a farmhouse with waters half-way up the walls, and the family huddled onthe top floor of the building. As I was known to the people, I waded through the waters, and made my way up the stairs. Miraculously, while the electric power to the house had failed, they still had a working phone line. So in the light of a candle I connected up the outside broadcast equipment to the phone line, got through to the station, and conducted what I thought was a fine human-interest interview. However as the interview proceeded it seemed that the mother of the family was getting increasingly agitated, so I called the interview to a close. As soon as it was over, she said to me "Does that thing run on batteries?" On hearing it did, she grabbed her transistorised radio, and asked if I would try my batteries in her radio as hers had run flat. Of course I agreed, and fitted her radio with a new set of batteries. She immediately switched it on, and instead of tuning to the local station that was carrying all the great coverage of the flood, she tuned to the station in the next province just in time for the words she really wanted hear "Good Evening - This is Orson Welles."

- John Hayes, New Zealand

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