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Harry Montague (Happy) Hammond (1916–1998)

by Derham Groves

This article was published online in 2022

Harry 'Happy' Hammond, by J. Rogers, 1960s

Harry 'Happy' Hammond, by J. Rogers, 1960s

Museums Victoria

Harry Montague Hammond (1916–1998), comedian, radio announcer, and children’s television presenter, was born on 7 May 1916 at Summer Hill, Sydney, youngest of three children of Sydney-born parents Alfred Hammond, musical instrument mechanic, and his wife Ida Isabel, née Scott. Both of his parents were deaf and mute. After secondary education at Ashfield Junior Technical School, he worked variously as a grocer’s boy, sweets salesman, clerk, truck driver, and electrician’s assistant.

In August 1940 Hammond volunteered for service in World War II, commencing full-time duty in the Citizen Military Forces on 15 December 1941 and transferring to the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) twelve months later. During preliminary training with the 4th Battalion, he earned the nickname ‘Happy,’ but despite his cheerful disposition he was also a great worrier. In August 1942 he was posted to the 1st Division Concert Party (later No. 3 Detachment, 1st Australian Entertainment Unit), known as ‘The Boomerangs.’ He was an acting staff sergeant from October (substantive 1943). The Boomerangs toured Australia and, between June 1945 and March 1946, New Britain and Bougainville, presenting a musical variety show called ‘Crazy Daze.’ Hammond performed as a comedian and his straight man was the show’s compere, Keith Glover, who was later a radio announcer for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. On 8 July 1944 Hammond had married Rita Joyce Hedger, a bookkeeper, at the Church of Holy Name of Mary (Villa Maria), Hunters Hill.

After his discharge from the AIF on 11 July 1946, Hammond performed with Glover at the Tivoli theatres in Melbourne and Sydney. In 1948 he was hired as a radio announcer for 3GL in Geelong. He left in 1950 to become breakfast announcer at 5KA in Adelaide, then joined Melbourne’s 3AW in 1953 to compere ‘the newest, brightest, breeziest, breakfast session’ (Argus 1955, 6). For the station he also compered The P.B. Show (1954) and The Golden Crust Show (1955), which both featured community singing. His fame and popularity were such he even had a racehorse named after him.

Following the sudden death of the popular 3UZ announcer Clifford Nicholls Whitta in September 1956, Hammond was hired as a replacement, teaming with Whitta’s on air partner, Graham Kennedy. Their show was divided into short chatty segments, such as ‘The Wog Club,’ ‘The Luncheon Club,’ and ‘Search for a Perfect Husband.’ Hammond was also chosen by the new television station GTV-9 to replace Whitta as host of its planned live-to-air, weekday children’s program. The Happy Show debuted on 21 January 1957, with cast members including Susan-Gaye Anderson, Alf Gertler (‘Bernard the Magician’), the ventriloquist Ron Blaskett and his cheeky doll Gerry Gee, Ernie Carroll, and Denzil Howson, who also produced the show. Initially telecast from a window of Myer’s Lonsdale Street department store, the show moved to GTV-9’s studios in Richmond in April and was renamed for a sponsor The Tarax Happy Show. In June Hammond resigned from 3UZ to concentrate on his television career.

Happy Hammond famously wore a loud check hat and a brightly coloured coat, and he was known for his catchphrase ‘Is Everybody Happy?’ He was no great singer or dancer, but he could click his fingers at high speed, and when he looked into the camera and told the children watching to clean their teeth, or do their homework, or say their prayers, his sincerity was convincing. He said in 1960 that ‘most of the kiddies really do believe that I can see them when they’re watching me on television’ (Prysuka 1960, 14). A teetotaller and non-smoker, ‘even in moments of utter exasperation he never [used] an adjective stronger than “blooming”’ (TV-Radio Week 1958, 25). The GTV-9 producer Norman Spencer observed in 1960 that ‘Happy is well known for his taste and his sense of decency’ (Place and Roberts 2006, 42).

The Happy Show won the inaugural Logie award (1959) for most popular children’s show and its viewers could join The Happy Club, which had 75,000 members by 1960. For the most part Hammond enjoyed hosting the program, but he was occasionally frustrated by the constant public attention and by being upstaged by Gerry Gee, whom he described as ‘a lump of wood’ (Groves 2016, 7). From October 1957 he also hosted a morning show for housewives called The Happy Go Lucky Show and in 1958 he filled in for Graham Kennedy on In Melbourne Tonight for two months, an indication of GTV-9’s faith in him.

Lured to HSV-7 by an offer ‘so good I just couldn’t refuse it’ (Age 1960, 1), Hammond compered the first episode of The Happy Show on the rival station on 29 August 1960. His new performing colleagues included ‘Big John’ (John D’Arcy), ‘Funny Face’ (Vic Gordon), ‘Robbie Rob’ (Bob Horsfall), ‘Cousin Roy’ (Roy Lyons), Parer the Magician (Tommy Parer) and his rabbit Frosty, ‘Lovely Anne’ (Anne Watt), the ventriloquist Ian Williams with his dolls Ricky and Silvester the Talking Sock, and ‘Princess Panda’ (Panda Lisner). He also compered adult variety shows for HSV-7, including The Happy Night (1960) and Variety 7 (1963). His popularity was such that in 1962 a journalist observed that ‘taking the children to see Happy has become one of those things that have to be done, like going to the circus’ (Soso 1962, 13). The Happy Show debuted in Sydney in May 1962 on ATN-7 and in 1963 Hammond won a Logie for his outstanding contribution to children’s entertainment. After falling in the ratings, the show was cancelled in the late 1960s. Hammond moved behind-the-scenes at HSV-7, producing live morning shows, editing overseas programs such as The Muppet Show (1976–81), and hosting guided tours of the studios in Dorcas Street, South Melbourne.

Widowed in 1979, Hammond retired from HSV-7 in 1983. He had been made a life governor of the Spastic Children’s Society of Victoria in 1959 and of the Association for the Blind of Victoria in 1962, and until the 1990s he appeared annually in his check hat and coat for the Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal. In retirement, he divided his time between his home at Bentleigh East and his holiday house at Rosebud. Survived by his two adopted daughters and by Norma Burnside, his close companion since 1987, he died on 1 April 1998 at Rosebud and was cremated. A public memorial service was later held at St Finbar’s Catholic Church, Brighton East. In a death notice he was fondly remembered as ‘a cherished and valued member of the Channel Seven family’ (Age 1998, 36).

Research edited by Samuel Furphy

Select Bibliography

  • Age (Melbourne). ‘Gerry Gee, Carroll Replace Hammond.’ 28 July 1960, Radio and Television 1
  • Age (Melbourne). ‘Hammond, Happy.’ 2 April 1998, 36
  • Age (Melbourne). ‘Happy Hammond Leaves UZ: Graham to Team with Nancy, Tuppy.’ 13 June 1957, 19
  • Argus (Melbourne). ‘Every Morning 5–9!’ 2 March 1955, 6
  • Attwood, Alan. ‘The Same Old Happy.’ Age (Melbourne), 8 May 1980, 11
  • Dow, Steve. ‘Farewell Happy, Icon of TV’s Innocent Era.’ Age (Melbourne), 2 April 1998, 7
  • Groves, Derham. Tee Vee at Sixty: Celebrating 60 Years of Melbourne Television, 1956–2016. Melbourne: University of Melbourne Library, 2016
  • Hammond, Julie. Personal communication
  • Hutchinson, Garrie. ‘Everybody’s Happy!’ Age (Melbourne), 13 December 1983, 19
  • Juddery, Mark. ‘Kids TV Host with the Most.’ Australian, 13 April 1998, 13
  • National Archives of Australia. B883, NX142474
  • Place, Nick, and Michael Roberts, eds. 50 Years of Television in Australia. Melbourne: Hardie Grant Books, 2006
  • Prysuka, Marsha. ‘Happy is Hammond, King of the Kiddies: 75,000 Youngsters Can’t Be Wrong!’ TV Times (Melbourne), 23 June 1960, 14
  • Soso, James. ‘TV for Youth (1): Comperes Who Bring Joy to Viewers.’ Age (Melbourne), 23 October 1962, 13
  • Titelius, Regina. ‘Happy to the End.’ Herald Sun (Melbourne), 2 April 1998, 14
  • TV-Radio Week. ‘Children Adore Him, Parents Too: He’s a Happy, Happy, Happy Man.’ 3–9 April 1958, 25

Additional Resources

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Derham Groves, 'Hammond, Harry Montague (Happy) (1916–1998)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hammond-harry-montague-happy-32342/text40085, published online 2022, accessed online 14 July 2024.

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