Part 1 - The Discovery
Imagine my surprise when Paul returned in a couple of days and pulled a 16" acetate disc from his back pack and asked "is this one?" Well it certainly was one. It was filthy and it was covered in what looked like a white ants nest. The label was handwritten and looked like it had been treated as roughly as the rest of the disc. The Name on the Disc was "Burton Trent". Never heard of him. There was no sleeve, it was covered in muck, the disc was double sided with unbroken tracks, so it probably wasn't songs or advertising. It wasn't commercially duplicated, no matrix information on the disc. It was old, very old, but what was it?
(Twist 1. If I hadn't spoken to Paul about 16" discs 2 days earlier, I probably would never have encountered this series. Twist 2. Paul brought me one of only two discs that didn't have an episode title on at least one side of the disc. I would have known it was a series immediately I saw an episode title)
I checked the Encyclopaedia of Australian Radio Shows database (EARSdb) Nothing mentioned. I checked the National Film and Sound Archives online database, no listing. I emailed my contact there and asked her to check their internal database to see if anything was known about Burton Trent, the answer was no, within a very short time.
I asked Paul what the background was on the disc and he said there were more of them, about a dozen. He had been contacted by a fellow who had found them in the dirt under his Mother's house which he was clearing after she had passed away. He had contacted a friend of his in Brisbane to find out what they were and he in turn told him to ring Paul. Paul, thank goodness, recognised it from my description a couple of days before and told him he knew someone who could explain it. The fellow agreed to let Paul take it to me.
Paul gave me the telephone number of the fellow who found them and I made an appointment to stop in and see him at the house on my way home after work. I then hit Google. The only mention I found of a radio Show that included the name 'Burton Trent' was a small article of a play on 2SM by that name in January 1938. I felt that the year was correct from the style of the disc. It seemed Burton Trent was a detective, I love detective programs!
Philo Vance, Hercule Poirot, Ellery Queen, Sherlock Holmes and all the other great detectives of fiction now have a radio rival who is on the job at 8.30pm every Sunday from 2SM. He is Burton Trent, central figure of the thrilling new detective series "The Cases of Burton Trent" and next Saturday he will tackle the problem of "The Bank Murder". Craven, the bank manager, is found murdered; Alex Lloyd, a young farmer, was heard threatening his life on the day he was killed: the accountant of the bank has disappeared and there are a set of damning finger prints on a glass. These are the clues that are offering, but are they enough for Burton Trent, who sees that justice is done and brings the murderer to book in an exciting surprise denouncement. Burton Trent is John Dunne's newest radio character and listeners are sure to take his debonair charm, humor and incisiveness as he battles with clues and criminals. The 2SM players appear in the other roles and the production each week is by Reg Hawthorne.
I stopped in on the way home and had a long talk to the owner. He really had found them buried in the dirt under his Mother's house. He found them by walking on them...more than once and the ground felt different so he dug around to see what he was walking on. In all there were 14 of these discs. Some were missing labels and those that remained had been eaten by insects, as were the paper sleeves they were in. In fact the sleeves had been eaten into 16" circles. Normally the sleeves are square. I have included photos to show you the difference. I even found a corner of a typewritten continuity description that had been typed on the old typewriter paper (onion sheet). Not many words remained as you can see, but I have matched it to the right episode. The finder explained that his Mother would never have owned the discs and his parents had built the house so there were no previous owners who could have left the discs there. The only explanation is that his Father who passed away in the 1950's must have found/bought the discs and left them under the house. Apparently he did enjoy buying interesting items and bringing them home.
December will be filled with Christmas related audio that I am recording off discs at the moment.
January will be the story of my recent project recording 140+ Armed Forces Radio Discs in my collection. It will include some audio never in circulation before.