Veteran Goulburn radio news editor Michael Prevedello has retired with some remarkable memories.
One of his biggest stories began at 11:45 pm one night when the phone rang at home. A family friend said a plane had crashed into homes on Addison Street.
Carrying the pilot and two passengers, the twin-engine Cessna left Sydney at 11:04 pm on 15 May 1984 for the 35-minute flight to Goulburn. Flying into fog over Goulburn aerodrome, the pilot probably chose the lights over the nearby sleeping city to put his plane into a holding pattern until it cleared, unaware the camshaft in the left-side engine had broken.
Suddenly the plane rolled to one side and dropped like a stone, striking two homes before bursting into flames. All three people on board were killed. Two firemen later found another man who had lived in the home dead beneath all the rubble and twisted metal.
“I had to belt down there. I had my hand-held recorder and found [policeman] Seg Bramble. I asked him for a brief statement,” Michael said.
Armed with about 30 seconds of audio, he raced back to the station to tell the on-air announcer what had just happened. He tore into the newsroom, typed out an introduction which he transferred to a reel-to-reel magnetic tape and the story went to air.
He could have gone home to bed but instead returned to the chilly, gruesome scene working through the night updating his story.
A month after he retired as news editor, Michael is kicking back a little to enjoy retirement with his wife, Jill. But he’ll be busy enough. He is a councillor on Goulburn Mulwaree Council and is continuing his theology studies.
Superfit in his early reporting career, he ran along the Hume Highway with a heavy, reel-to-reel recorder talking to shuffling potato farmer Cliff Young from Colac, Victoria, while the veteran runner was creating history in ultramarathons between Sydney and Melbourne.
From the recording he captured along the way, he realised he had been jogging in his heavy, warm clothing, carrying the equipment for about 30 minutes – an exceptional effort.
“We were taking national news in those days from 2SM Sydney and I sent the whole lot down to their newsroom. The announcer played the whole thing to air,” he said.
The son of Italian immigrants Giuseppe and Corinna Prevedello, Michael was born in North Queensland where his father was a cane cutter. He started school unable to speak English. “It was the era of the ‘wog’, ‘wop’, the ‘dago’ and the ‘greaser’. I tended to take those terms aimed at me on the chin,” he said.
He learned the language, taught his mother English and earned acclaim and admiration for his clear speaking voice throughout his broadcasting career.
His radio voice was discovered in Goulburn. After he completed high school, he found work as a railway fettler. On a truck heading out of town to work in 1973, he was looking out the rear window along the Breadalbane Plains-section of the highway when suddenly his car came into view. His mate visiting from Italy was behind the wheel with his anxious mother sitting next to him.
Michael asked the driver to pull over. “Mum burst out of the car and said, ‘the manager of the radio station wants to see you’. I thought, wow!” He left his workmate and truck and returned home with his mother while remembering his earlier application for a cadetship with the radio station. He popped in the shower and went for the interview with the station manager, John Powell.
“I said to Mr Powell, look, English was never my strong suit at school, and he said, ‘We want to know how you sound'”.
The manager and news editor, Ray Williams, recognised the quality of his voice immediately and he was taken on as a cadet.
Learning to touch-type, shorthand and sitting opposite the newsroom console taking in Ray Williams’ instructions, he delivered his first bulletin six months later. “It was so word-perfect, it sounded unnatural,” he said.
Retirement is becoming relaxing.
“These days, you wake up early, you might have to do reading for council or for uni and then think, ‘I’ll go back to bed for a couple of hours’. Do you know how good that feels? That is absolutely fantastic to know you have the freedom to do that. It’s mind-releasing,” Michael said.