Were you an Argonaut?

Before the sun and the night and the blue sea, I vow to stand faithfully by all that is brave and beautiful; to seek adventure, and having discovered aught of wonder, or delight; of merriment or loveliness, to share it freely with my comrades, the Band of Happy Rowers. (from The ABC Weekly, 28 Dec 1940)

Once an Argonaut always an argonaut!  Erato 30 (aka Cat Politics) has blogged a couple of times about the Argonauts Club , which was a hugely-popular-in-its-day children’s club broadcast on Australia’s ABC radio from 1941 to 1972. You had to be between 7 and 17 to join, and you were given a Ship Name and Number – that is you became one of the 50 rowers on one of Jason’s ships. (Jason and the Argonauts – get it!) Hence Cat Politics was Erato 30 and I, Whisperinggums, was Athos 26. As Cat Politics (or is it Erato 30?) says, avatars existed a long time before the Internet!

The Argonauts Club had a long history, which I won’t go into here. For a good rundown, check my link above to the Wikipedia article. Suffice it to say that members were encouraged to submit contributions – poems, stories, art works, musical compositions – as well as questions to experts such as Mr Melody Man (Lindley Evans). In addition stories were heard, and information imparted on everything from writing to sports, music to nature, all in the spirit of fun, adventure and creativity.

Now, the thing is that we Argonauts are starting to grow old and, while some histories have been written, such as Rob Johnson’s The age of the Argonauts, the ABC apparently does not have a complete list of ship names, let alone of the 100,000 or so members. The Friends of the National Film and Sound Archive would like to rectify this and so have set up an Argonauts Register. If you were an Argonaut and would like to register, here is the form. Please do – our cultural history needs you!

That was one reason for writing this post. My other reason was to comment on the number of significant Australian writers, artists and musicians who passed through the Argonauts Club, either as presenters or writers for the show, or as members. Presenters included poets A.D. Hope and Dame Mary Gilmore, artist Jeffrey Smart, actors John Ewart and Peter Finch, the photographer Frank Hurley, to name a very few. One of the most well-known writers for the the Children’s Session was Ruth Park whose serial, The muddle-headed wombat, is one of the first things mentioned whenever two or more Argonauts get together.

Famous Australians who were Argonauts include comedian Barry Humphries, novelist Christopher Koch, composer Peter Sculthorpe, writer Robert Dessaix, musician Rolf Harris and television writer Tony Morphett, again to name a very few. Morphett is reported as saying that the Argonauts inspired him to see writing as a career: “This is a valid thing to be doing – it’s okay to be a writer.”

As for me, I was not one of those keenly contributing Argonauts who aimed for the Dragon’s Tooth award let alone the ultimate Golden Fleece and Bar, but I loved the show. It was an important part of my childhood. There has, I think, been nothing quite like it since, on radio or TV, that has inspired such a wide age-group for so long. What a shame that is.

Rob Johnson
The golden age of the Argonauts
Rydalmere: Hodder & Stoughton, 1997
270pp
ISBN: 0733605281

36 thoughts on “Were you an Argonaut?

  1. Not me, Sue, but children’s radio is responsible for my name. My older sister, as well used to getting her own way aged four as she is now, decided on the strength of the BBC radio show “Listen with Mother’ that I should be called Lisa, just like the new baby born on the radio show. I don’t mind really, since my first name was bestowed in memory of a dead friend *scowl*. Why would anybody want to be reminded of a dead friend every time they looked at their own child, eh?
    Names, what a trial they can be…

    • Oh dear Lisa…that does sound odd. My funny name story is that I was going to be called Jennifer but there were so many Jennifers born that year that my parents changed to Susan ! the joke on them is that I was always surrounded by Sue/Susans at school but only the odd Jennifer. They called my sister Diana. Apparently Mum’s aunt didn’t like either of our names – they were both “black” names according to her!! Names, as you say! BTW What is your sister’s name?

  2. Yes I was an Argonaut and very proud as well. My younger sister was a member also.

    Lovely memories of sitting beside the radio in the northwest town of Carnarvon W.A.

  3. I loved the Argonauts and yes I was one and the whole Children’s Hour- but how can I find out my forgotten ship name and number? Is the card index they used still extant? I would love to know – time has caused it to slip my memory. 😦

    I have registered on the Argonauts site – but only as Argonaut 0

    • Hi Bea, thanks so much for registering on the Argonauts site. You aren’t the only Argonaut 0, as you’ve probably realised! Unfortunately, to the best of our knowledge, the index used to record all members and their ship numbers no longer exists. It’s a huge shame and is partly why we set up the Argonauts register.

  4. Hi. What a delight to come across your blog as I was searching for some information while writing a story for my writing class. I was Messene 9 and in 2013 via some serendipitous events managed to get to Ancient Messene. What a delight that was to walk amongst the partially reconstructed city of my Argonauts boat. Cheers and thanks for the memories, I will fill in the form, I’m not sure if I managed to do that when the Film and Sound Archiveshad a reunion some years ago. Helene Jermolajew aka The Golden Oldie Traveller.

  5. I was an Argonaut and my club name was Alonta 29! I used to send in stories. Always
    listened to the broadcast.

  6. Geez…. mid 1940s….. I was Perdix 6 ….. a little boy sitting gazing into glowing radio valves and being transported in our search for the Golden Fleece …. and the contributions from fellow Argonauts …. we were connected in so many ways, and infinitely stimulated…. a codger closing on 80 , now…… remembering when becomes a common diversion.
    raybreakers@yahoo.com

      • ….. “old codger or not…”….. Ohhh, you know how to hurt an old bloke !! Hehhehheh. ( I still cycle around 15-20 kms a day around the waterway tracks…. so I’m hanging in there !! :)) )…..

        As for the Argonauts— I was recently thinking around the loss of such presentations to current kids, most especially my Grandkids who seem to think “connection” is defined by smart phone usage and pre-digested transient thoughts and ubiquitous ‘selfies’, and thought I’d ‘Google’ up Argonauts to see if there was still any record of them —– and your mob turned up !!
        I had to leave a small mark on your slate !!

        I’m unaware of the ‘ NFSA’s Argonaut register. Any info you’d like to give me, please do so ??

        Ray

        ~~ aka ‘Perdix 6’ :)))) … ( and somewhere amongst my ‘stuff’ I must have the bronze galleon badge that I was sent almost a lifetime ago.)

  7. I loved listening to and contributing to Jason and the Argonauts. My call sign was Golden Fleece Euphrates 32. I lived in regional Queensland and when I was 12, my parents took me to Sydney and we visited the ABC Studios and watched an episode of the Argonauts being broadcast. It was the highlight of my life! I still have the books I was awarded for entering competitions.

    • Lovely hearing from you Euphrates32! I was in Queensland when I was 12, too, and listening to the Argonauts. We had a family holiday to Brisbane and Sydney that year but noone took me to the ABC! Have you entered your name on the Argonauts page I’ve linked to in the post.

  8. Great to find your blog! – I was Dragon’s Tooth Zenodorus 32, listening faithfully on our farm in the SW of WA in the 1950’s! I still have my pledge, membership certificate, blue certificates and book prizes for contributions, for such as “Topic of the Week.” I even have my exercise books of drafts for my contributions, dare I admit! Loved the Argonauts, and am still an ABC addict. Thanks a million!

  9. Lovely to read your post. I was an Argonaut – Golden Fleece Euphrates 32. I still have the books I won for contributions. I loved listening to the Argonauts.

  10. I cannot send my details to the Nat. Sound Archives because the link ion this page is not working. However, here is my name for your list of Argonauts.

    I was Susan Clements-Sirius 45 a very keen argonaut and very proud of my one blue certificate.
    My father was an ABC announcer 1936-45 (Perth, Melbourne and Sydney) and my mother a regular on the Women’s Session presented by Catharine King -ABC Perth. as small children We were taken into the studio to be part of the studio audience of six for the Kindergarten of the Air with Miss Margaret Graham.
    We lived the ABC. and still love it.
    Susan Clarke

    • I’m sorry Susan about my delay in replying to you. thanks so much for sharing this information. I am sorry the link didn’t work. The website was updated a couple of years ago, and I didn’t pick it up here. I have fixed the link and would love you to add your information there if you were willing to try again.

    • G’day Susan…..

      Well, you made it, as did I some time back. Been a long row to this point, eh, but we’re still about.
      I, too, soaked in ‘the Argonauts Club’ back in the mid forties….. I guess that many fellow rowers of then are now much less.

      Anyway, saw your note and thought I’d just drop in a small splash.

      Best wishes….. Perdix 6

  11. Mary I was Xanthus 29 My friend Bina was Thyestes 33. Bina contributed quite a lot and achieved dragons tooth. Hello to all my fellow rowers.

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