Graphic: alf traeger and young dughter approx 1940s
As I look around my house, and more particularly my children's houses, I am amazed at the number of electronic communication devices we have today. My father would be overwhelmed by it all, and a little pleased, I suspect, in the small part he has played in the development of this technology.
It all started when he was a child. Dad told me that his parents decided to move the family to Adelaide from country South Australia because of the better educational opportunities there. I suggest it was more likely that the neighbours begged them to move after Dad's experiments resulted in, for example, mountains of dust blowing from his yard to the neighbour's verandah and the frequent production of rotten egg gas.
The trouble continued in Adelaide. Dad managed to blow the entire electrical system at the School of Mines, where he was a student. But he did put together a radio transmitter, completed an Engineering Diploma and set up his own small electrical business.
Then one day the Rev. John Flynn walked in. He needed a portable and reliable generator to provide sufficient power for transmitting messages to and from the isolated people of the outback. And so the pedal radio was invented. A long lasting and successful working relationship began between the two men.And it was the beginning of the RFDS.
The two travelled the Outback, sometimes together, sometimes not. It was the trips of my Dad that were the source of my bed-time stories when I was a child. He told me of the times when he confronted snakes, frequently got bogged and endured sandstorms.
My favourite story though was about the one and only time he had a little too much to drink! He had just finished dinner at an Outback Station. The Station house was on one side of a fence and his swag was in a building on the other side. With a puzzled look on his face he would tell me that no matter what he did, he always ended up on the wrong side of the fence!I also loved the story about the first Morse code message that ever got through. Dad said that he wouldn't admit it to too many people, but he was as surprised as anyone else that it actually worked.
There are many stories that he could have told me. Like many people whose parents have died, I wish I had listened more carefully, encouraged the reminiscences and appreciated more the wonderful stories that were told.