THE DATE WAS THURSDAY JULY 7 1964, THE TIME 7.30pm
Patients at Banbury’s Horton Hospital plugged in their earphones to hear for the first time the strains of the Westminster Waltz followed by the magic words “Radio Horton Calling”. Cleverly selected with a view to the maximum audience or as a compensation for the fact that there was at that time no Thursday evening visiting.
The stars were local journalists Ted Hanson and Graham Wilton, who with Graham’s wife Christine, not only presented the early shows but were the originators of the entire project.
Radio Horton was Ted’s brainchild, and for him and Graham that first programme was the culmination of almost a year of planning, obtaining various permissions, approvals and equipment, cataloguing records and finally preparing and arranging the programme format.
The first people to benefit from Radio Horton were tea planters in India, and distillery owners in Scotland. Not that they were avid listeners to Banbury’s best known and only radio station, it was just that Ted and Graham consumed so much Tea and Scotch in the six hours that it took to complete the first sixty minute programme for Radio Horton that the shares must have rocketed!!
This first programme consisted of two half-hours of patient requests linked by a short review of local news and was recorded on tape in the sitting room of Graham’s Banbury home. During the six hours they competed with dogs barking, cats sneezing (or was it laughing?) and a baby crying.
Once launched, the drawbacks of a pre-recorded programme became almost immediately apparent, and
the team decided after only three or four programmes that they must “Go Live”.
To call the studio a “studio” was the same as calling a whelk stall the Cafe Royal.
The first studio was in the corner of a hospital committee room, the studio was a record player, one selector switch and a microphone! However another move took place to the Red Cross Library with the result that the books absorbed the “echo” that was common place with the committee room.
The main advantage of the library was the red “on air” light and a smart pair of Government Surplus headphones that were acquired from an Ealing Studios war film made in the 1940’s. Not the sort of headphones that you see today but black bakerlite no-nonsense earpieces with plaited electric flex running to a single jack plug. A microphone with massive silver mesh ice cream cone top and the aforementioned record deck that would run 78, 45 or 33 rpm (used the 78 setting the most!), a switch that required not only swift reactions but a certain amount of physical force to operate correctly and hopefully, a Thursday night audience eager to hear their requests.
Programme moved to 8.00pm and finished at -who knows?- it all depended on how the technical side had gone!
But things did improve, they just had to, and by the third birthday Radio Horton was regularly interviewing visitors – just one at a time because if we had any more we had to move by numbers!
The Mayor, Cllr Mrs Mary Wilson joined us and we were getting people like Bruce Forsyth, cricketer Everton Weeks and actress Kay Dotrice to record for us.
Those early days still stand firmly in the minds of Ted, Graham and the team and get a horse laugh now as an example on how NOT to produce a show on Radio Horton.
Even so there is nothing that could ever beat the sheer excitement of that flashing red light that meant Radio Horton was on air or that the record player had caught fire-again!
More of Radio Horton’s history can be found on the HospitalRadio4u website.