Meandering down memory lane with Peter Waltham

Peter in Zimbabwe’s elephant camp

For 58 eventful years, 82-year-old media stalwart, Peter Waltham, has informed and soothed television and radio listeners with his distinctive, authoritative and laidback voice.

Back in 1966, with the world music revolution including Beatlemania, Peter was a pioneering newsreader at Channel 7.

More than half-a-century later, Peter plays those same hit songs as “golden oldies” at Curtin Radio. Down Memory Lane with Peter Waltham is a welded-on weekday staple.

It’s 9am in the studios of Curtin Radio, on the Bentley campus of Curtin University. Peter switches on his microphone and opens the program.

“It’s going to be a beautiful day in Perth. Our producer, Cheryl, is ready on t’other side of the window. We’re good to go,” he declares in his familiar format.

Three hours of music, commentary, listeners’ birthdays and a daily serial run like a Swiss watch. Retirement is not in Peter’s vocabulary.  

“Definitely not! I think it’s sad so many talented people in all walks of life are literally forced into retirement when they still have so much to offer,” he said.

Peter has all the runs on the broadcasting board: In 1959 he worked at The West Australian, 6IX and Channel 7. In 1966 he went fulltime with Seven (news and sport including two Olympic Games). In 1987, he switched to Channel 9 and in 1999 joined Curtin Radio.

The budding broadcaster’s first interview was with Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, at Perth’s old airport. Peter recalls magic memories.

“The 1969 moon landing, broadcasting the opening ceremony of the 1980 Olympic Games and again in LA in 1984 plus golf, tennis, Test and Shield cricket. 

“My favourite was when Sammy Davis Jnr sang Ol’ Man River for me on Telethon and sharing time with this amazing man over years.”

In 1977, when Peter was working overseas, Kerry Packer asked him to team with Richie Benaud to broadcast World Series Cricket. 

“Richie and I had broadcast Test and Shield cricket for years, but I turned Packer down. It meant never-ending travel, unsuitable with a young family”. 

In 1980 came a BBC offer, requiring Peter to move his family to the UK. He turned that down as well. 

With music’s big role in his long-time radio show, Peter names favourite singers as Roy Orbison, Demis Roussos, Shirley Bassey, Barbra Streisand and the Righteous Brothers.

“A great song is a great song whether it’s from Glenn Miller, Elvis, Ed Sheeran or Shania Twain. My favourite songs include Born to Lose by Shirley Bassey, Papa Can You Hear Me by Michael Crawford, Harvest Moon by Neil Young and Unchained Melody by the Righteous Brothers.

“I play songs I hope the audience can relate to and will bring back memories”, he said.

In 1977, Peter put down his microphone with Channel Seven’s blessing and went off to drive around the world by road, – 46,000kms through incredible places.

“We still have the taste for travel, so leisure time is jumping on a plane and heading-off to visit our youngest son, his wife and our grandchildren in Boston or Martha’s Vineyard and then to Africa and India. 

“India is our absolute favourite country in the world. The people are generous, the scenery is amazing. We never get tired of going there.” 

Peter also has a passion for Africa, particularly Kenya.

“Our favourite place is the Masai Mara in Kenya where millions of animals roam freely or in two wonderful camps, Sausage Tree and Senalala. To be up close with lions, leopards and cheetahs is one of the world’s most amazing experiences. We never tire of it.”

The Walthams love having their eldest son and his wonderful family here in Perth after his years in Port Hedland.

The former sportscaster is ‘a red-and-white man’ in football, following South Fremantle, Sydney Swans and the San Francisco 49ers.

Peter has an army of loyal listeners of sponsor-supported Curtin Radio, with an underlying strength in its many volunteers.

“I’ve had producers who have been with me for more than 20 years,” he said.

Maintaining a low-profile, this is Peter’s first interview in 32 years.

“I have always been an introvert in an extroverts’ industry. I’m not interested and never have been, in all the publicity which some adore,” he said. 

Now, 25 years with Curtin Radio, Peter would like to get to 30 years, hang-up his headphones to spend more time with family and continue to hear the call to Africa and India.

“I’ve always been a ‘glass half-full’, as opposed to a ‘glass half empty’ advocate and that will never change,” said the veteran voice.

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Journalist, commentator, broadcaster and author. Lee, columnist for Have a Go News has reported for The Australian Financial Review, The Australian, The West Australian, Sunday Times, Albany Advertiser, Melbourne Herald, Launceston Examiner, Business News and national magazines. Lee has covered federal politics, industrial relations and national affairs. A public speaker, newspaper columnist and author of two books, Lee co-hosted 6PR’s current affairs radio. He also co-founded a stable of national business newsletters. Lee is former communications manager for a non-profit, mental health carers’ organisation.