Fifty mighty Argonauts, bending to the oars
Today will go adventuring to yet uncharted shores
Fifty young adventurers today set forth and so we cry with Jason “Man the boats, and Row! Row! Row!”
Row! Row! Merry oarsmen, Row!
That dangers lie ahead we know, we know
But bend with all your might as you sail into the night
And wrong will bow to right, “Jason” cry, Adventure know
Argonauts Row! Row! Row!
Drawing its inspiration from Greek mythology, the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) introduced this national daily radio show for children in January 1941 (it had been broadcast in 1933 in the Melbourne area only).
The show – aired as part of The Children’s Session (renamed The Children’s Hour in 1954) – invited listening children aged between seven and seventeen to become members of the Argonauts Club, where they were assigned as rowers to fictional ships with names such as Hesperides, Polymestor, Bucephalus and Prosimna.
The on-air presenters included “Mac” (London-born Scotsman Atholl Fleming), “Joe” (painter Albert Collins), and “Jimmy” (actor John Ewart). They were often joined by the “Stewed Soup” (Studio Supervisor).
The shows included songs, stories, and encouraged contributions of writing, music, poetry and art from young listeners. Certificates were gained for these, which could be traded for book prizes.
Blue Certificates were worth one point, while Purple Certificates (for particularly impressive work) were worth three points. The ultimate certificate was the ‘Golden Fleece and Bar’ (600 points).
Beginning as a half-hour session, the show was gradually expanded to fill a full hour, with different age groups of children encouraged to tune in and out at various times.
Segments for younger children included Ruth Park’s “Muddleheaded Wombat” and “Pegmen’s Tales”, while for older listeners there were more serious dramas.
There were also regular spots from expert specialists such as Alan Colefax (as “Tom the Naturalist”) speaking about nature, and noted pianist Lindley Evans (as “Mr Melody Man”) talking about music.
At its height, The Argonauts Club had over 50,000 children registered as members of the club and the show survived into the 1960s. As television took more and more of the audience, though, it ended quietly in 1972.
Unfortunately, almost no audio survives of the thousands of one-hour shows.
“Good rowing, Argonauts!”