Son of 2EU passes on | radioinfo

Son of 2EU passes on

Sunday 16 March, 2008

Last week the passing of a great radio man largely went unnoticed from the day to day hustle and bustle of the radio industry. Not surprising really, because this 94 year old mild mannered, gentle man had not been a part of the radio scene for some time. David Rogerson writes this tribute to Norm Stevenson.

Norm Stevenson's father pioneered what we now know today as 2UE, in Sydney. He was the son of C.V. or 'Pa' Stevenson as he was known, owner of Electrical Services. It was from the living room of Norman's father's home in Everett Street, Maroubra on January 26th, 1925 that Radio 2EU ( or 2UE as it was later to be know) became the first commercial radio station in Australia.

The station changed its call sign as some felt 2EU sounded more like a bird call than a radio station!

Norman's dad owned an electrical business in George Street, Sydney known as Electrical Utilities ( the EU in 2UE). In order to relieve the silences and long pauses in the recital of pianola music and other recorded programs, from 8pm to 10pm, a local butcher Harry Woods from George Street Sydney, paid "Pa" Stevenson one shilling for each advertisement Pa featured.

Norman was a share holder in Radio 2UE from the beginning, and a young one at that.

In the early 1960's, I had the fortune of meeting him and spending time with Norman's family at their home on the water in Sylvania, Sydney. The relationship was through my father, Bruce Rogerson, who spent 17 years at 2UE in various roles from Sales Manager to Promotions and Marketing manager covering the 1950's and 1960's. To Norman's friends he was Norm. To me he was Mr Stevenson, but later as we got to know each other he told me I could call him Uncle Norm. His wife Maizie also was endowed with a similar soft, personality to Norm.

Norm was very gentle and a cheery, quietly spoken man. He loved radio, but never had a great desire to be involved in the trenches of day to day operations. Tennis was a love of his, as was generally making the lives of those family, friends and employees around him a whole lot better.

For several years, my family spent holidays at Norm's holiday home at Mossy Point. It was on the water, - a very modest but extremely comfortable city get away before sea changes were ever thought of. While my Dad offered to pay rent and cover costs for using electricity and so on, Norm would not hear of it. He just wanted us to share and enjoy what he was able to offer.

One person who worked closely with Norm Stevenson is former 2UE executive Tom Crozier. I asked Tom for his memories of Norm and Tom's times with him at 2UE.

David: When did you first meet Norm ?

Tom: I first met him ..you won't believe this, in 1949, while I was working for three years at 2UE as announcer/newsreader.

David: And your recollections of him?

Tom: Norman Stevenson was that rare sort of person - a gentleman in every way. Norm never acted like the shareholder he was, he had no fancy airs and graces. He liked a drink in working hours, but never more than a couple. He never aspired to an executive role in the company like his brother Murray Stephenson, who was Chief Engineer and a brilliant one at that.

Norm was happy to be "one of the boys" in the sales room. He loved to talk about the home he was building at Sylvania on the Georges River and his tennis court there. Norm liked to do things quietly, without fuss or drama of any kind.

David: There are many stories of Norm wanting to make sure the staff were happy at 2UE

Tom: When I rejoined the station in 1961, he was one of the first to welcome me back. And when, a couple of years later, I transferred to the sales department, I was wondering about my upcoming holiday. Norm called me aside and asked if I'd like to take my family to his holiday place way down the South Coast. The one you mention earlier. He didn't want me to pay anything. We accepted after a brief argument about not paying. He won. The house was spotless and so well cared for, we were scared we'd mess it up.

When I succeeded your Dad as Sales Manager, Norm became my mentor.

David: I’ve heard also he loved to mingle with the staff and chat about radio and the people who worked with him.

Tom: Well, to liven things up, I remember he loved to tell stories about the charismatic former 2UE GM, the late "Paddy" Campbell Jones (CJ to everyone) who died on the job in about 1951.

As I took over, he told me this story about a sales meeting with CJ in the chair. Perhaps it was a suggestion as to how I should operate.

After a fairly dismal discussion about how tough the radio world was at the time, CJ concluded the meeting by saying "I hear one of you has been offered a job by 2UW. Who was it?" Then he went around the table - "was it you, Norm?" No, CJ. "Was it you, Harry?" No CJ. "What about you Arthur?" No, CJ. And so it went on. It appeared not one of them had received the offer. CJ rose to go, saying: "And no F......Wonder!"

Then there was a quiet chuckle as Norm returned to the task in hand.

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