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It might seem strange, but sometimes historical items are literally picked up off the ground. This collection of children’s radio club badges and pins was found by someone walking near a suburban bus depot behind which people dump rubbish. The person handed them to the Unley Museum who offered them to the Children’s Literature Research Collection at the State Library. The Library already holds an Argonauts Club badge and pledge from the nationally famous and hugely successful ABC radio program, and many other advertising badges, but these items were new to the Library’s collection.

As the badges were all pinned together on one piece of cardboard when found, it is possible that they had all belonged to one person. But when we look at the date span of the badges, which is over 20 years, it’s too long for one child’s interest, so it may have been a family collection. Or perhaps they were ‘curated’, and a collector had bought them from a vintage shop out of curiosity. Without any more context, we can only surmise the provenance of these items.

A set of badges pinned to a piece of cardboard.
This is how the badges and pins appeared when they were first found in late 2019. Photograph, Denise Chapman, State Library of SA.

Whilst examining the history of these objects, we discovered that radio and other children’s clubs were extremely popular amongst Australian children, who competed to join as many clubs as possible. The usual way to do this was to write to the radio station asking to join, for the humble price of a return postage stamp. Coupons and advertisements also appeared in newspapers, encouraging children to send away for club membership. In reply, children received badges, pins, certificates, and other small free gifts which they collected as they did stamps or marbles.

How did these clubs first develop?

From the late 1920s radio programs for Australian children were broadcast after school and on Saturday mornings. The ABC broadcast Kindergarten of the Air, school lessons, and music programs, while sponsored stations programmed more commercial content involving radio personalities with ‘on air’ titles like Uncle or Aunty so-and-so. This fostered a sense of warmth and engagement with young listeners. Some stations read out bedtime stories and bible study on Sundays. Parents regarded the family-oriented shows as free, wholesome entertainment for their children and a ‘baby-sitter’ to amuse the brood whilst the adults attended to other things, like cooking dinner. Some people even glued or used wood to secure the tuning dial to their preferred station and to prevent unsanctioned listening.

Child listening to a Little Nipper radio, 1950s. ABC Reference ID:
Child listening to a Little Nipper radio, 1950s. ABC Reference ID: Re-used under creative commons. 

Commercial stations relied entirely upon advertising dollars to fund their work and advertising companies had realised the power of radio to market to children. Sponsors, which were mainly food manufacturers during this era, recognised programs targeted towards children could source a large audience of urban, regional, remote, and even pre-literate child listeners.[1] As breakfast cereal was eaten regularly, promoting this product was an easy way to create ‘brand-socialisation’ when the brand character was the only difference between the products, in the days before they were distinguished by fancy shapes, colours, or flavourings. Children hell-bent on a free trinket could easily influence this buying decision as it was a purchase the family needed to make anyway. This all seems so much more innocuous than the ‘fast-food’ kind of advertising now pitched to children, but a similar outcome was sought all the same.

Baby leaning into a radio, 1938-1960, Raymond Heir Gordon. [SLSA: PRG1605/6/95]
Baby looking at a radio, as you do. Photographer, Raymond Heir Gordon, c. 1938, at Ungarra, SA. [SLSA: PRG1605/6/95]

The radio shows gave children access to serial stories (which kept them coming back to listen), jokes and comics, other children's messages, letters, and competitions. They also fulfilled important social functions, especially in regional areas, and provided a sense of inclusion and camaraderie, particularly during the years of World War II. In addition to club membership, children also received badges and pins for donating money to charities promoted by the station.

Today there is much online chatter reminiscing about radio clubs amongst the cohorts that joined them. Some people who were children at that time still find themselves eating the same brand of cereal now. If that’s you, consider yourself ‘brand-socialised!’

The ubiquitous naughty boy

Of all the characters on these badges and pins, perhaps the most well-known to South Australians is ‘Charlie Cheesecake’, a naughty little boy who was always doing dangerous things without a thought for the consequences. We all know one. ‘Charlie Cheesecake’ was created in 1947 by Adelaide 5AD radio personality “Uncle Bob” Fricker, who featured Charlie on his breakfast program.

Uncle Bob Fricker, inside front cover of book The Adventures of Charlie Cheesecake
‘Uncle Bob’ Fricker, promoting his radio show on the inside front cover of the book, The Adventures of Charlie Cheesecake, Adelaide, 195-?

‘Charlie Cheesecake’s’ call-sign was ‘Cheerio pal – safety first!’, as he taught children about road and general safety with cautionary tales along the lines of ‘don’t play in the streets' and ‘leave hot vessels alone’.

Charlie Cheesecake Cycling Club Badge. SLSA: clrcri22706379/7
Charlie’s chequered history: Charlie Cheesecake’s character on a Cycling Club badge, tin and celluloid, ca. 1955, 2 cm.  SLSA: clrcri22706379/7  It’s not certain that this badge was issued by 5AD, but the association seems obvious.  The Cycling Manufacturer’s Association of Adelaide commissioned this badge in 1955, when they published a book called Charlie Cheesecake Rides a Bike. The National Library of Australia holds the only known copy of this book in a Library.

The popularity and messaging of the radio character led the Child Safety Council to commission a children's picture storybook, 'The Adventures of Charlie Cheesecake'. Charlie was drawn by South Australian artist Marjorie Hann. When interviewed by artist Robert Hannaford, Marjorie said of her work,

Well, at that time I was not married… and I didn’t know what trouble children got into. But the Child Safety Council gave me about fifteen different examples of ghastly things that children did, and I had this little book with Charlie doing something that he shouldn’t have done and the page folded over like a flap, and when you pushed the flap back you saw the frightful thing that happened to Charlie. One thing…was running along with a pencil in your mouth, running into a door and the pencil goes right out through his cheek, you know – terrible things. But anyway, the Education Department apparently liked it and they took it up and issued it to their schools.

Interview with Marjorie Hann (1916-2011), State Library of South Australia, OH 810, 2007

The adventures of Charlie Cheesecake - front cover

Front cover of The Adventures of Charlie Cheesecake, this copy 1950s.

charlie cheesecake running with a pencil in his mouth i1083638x.jpg

Will he ever learn? The hapless Charlie Cheesecake running with a pencil in his mouth. Notice the flap on the right-hand side, as described by Uncle Bob, which opens out to reveal the safety message. 

Charlie Cheese Cake - don't play with sharp instruments

Another safety message warns Charlie Cheesecake - don't play with sharp intruments.

Charlie Cheese Cake - it's dangerous to lean out of trains

It's dangerous to lean out of trains Charlie Cheescake!

The adventures of Charlie Cheesecake - front cover
charlie cheesecake running with a pencil in his mouth i1083638x.jpg
Charlie Cheese Cake - don't play with sharp instruments
Charlie Cheese Cake - it's dangerous to lean out of trains

Marjorie lamented ever after that she was identified with ‘Charlie Cheesecake’, rather than the fine arts she practiced at the South Australian School of Arts and Crafts.

Who else was on this journey with ‘Charlie Cheesecake’?

Charlie was graced by the majestic presence of ‘King Willie’, a regal wheat kernel promoting the ‘Willie Weeties’ cereal club. Children who ate this cereal could write away asking to join the cereal club and receive a badge by return post. According to the return address on His Majesty’s correspondence[2], the ‘King of Cereals’ resided in Fremantle, Western Australia. This was probably somewhere near the North Fremantle factory where Weeties were manufactured until the mid-1990s and from whence in 1937 a children’s sing-along radio show was broadcast. On Saturday mornings huge crowds attended Willie Weeties Community Concerts at Boans Department store in Perth city, and children sang along with the Weeties song lyrics which were screened at the front of the hall. Our research has also uncovered other Weeties marketing formats such as a Weeties recipe book held by the National Library and advertising on a board game called Football Game also held by the State Library of South Australia.

Willie Weeties Club badge, SLSA: clrcri22706379/5
The ‘King of Cereals’ holding aloft a box of cereal. Willie Weeties Club badge dated from the 1930s. 2.5 cm. SLSA: clrcri22706379/5

An oddly assorted companion

On the more demure side, we have ‘Maisie’ the Maxam cheese cow. The person who found these badges believed this to be a talking cow from the 1950s 5KA children’s program, though we could not confirm this. Perhaps there is an enthusiast out there who can help us with more information?

What we do have is another appealing character used to influence household purchasing decisions, through children. The Maxam company manufactured processed cheese out of Queensland, in an era when ‘ration pack' food with an unlimited shelf life was considered quite acceptable to eat. Needing no refrigeration, this immortal cheese was transported across Australia hence almost anyone who was a child in the 1940s and 1950s would have eaten it. Children received a coloured badge when entering a newspaper caption competition or jingle competitions using the inside of a Maxam cheese pack to write their entry. Newspaper advertisements of the time boasted that the flavour of this cheese ‘never varied’.[3] What a relief.

Maxam Cheese Club ‘Maisie’ badge, ca. 1950s, 2.5 cm. SLSA: clrcri22706379/6
Maxam Cheese Club ‘Maisie’ badge, ca. 1950s, 2.5 cm. SLSA: clrcri22706379/6

The rank outsider

This pin is the odd one out in the set, displaying a futuristic zig-zag radio signal flashing across the 5KA logo rather than a character. From 1939, this radio club was a huge social phenomenon for South Australian children.

'5KA Smilers' Club', green and blue enamel lapel or hat pin ca. 1939, 2cm. SLSA: clrcri22706379/4
'5KA Smilers' Club', green and blue enamel lapel or hat pin ca. 1939, 2cm. SLSA: clrcri22706379/4

During the 1950s, the Adelaide 5KA Smilers’ Club was broadcast each weekday afternoon at 5pm with presenters Uncle Jack Fox and Aunty Margaret Baker (Doreen Govett).[4] This listener’s club was very social and provided access to cultural events, poetry writing competitions, boat rides, and children’s parties at venues like the Adelaide Zoo[5], where fans could meet the presenters and try for an autograph amongst the throng of other club members. The hosts even broadcast visits to children in hospital.
The announcers obviously had other roles at the stations, broadcasting shows especially for ladies, or revolving around sport, but the kids revered these radio identities for their friendly, charming personas and wore their ‘radio wave’ club pin with pride. Some would say this sort of innocence and social cohesion no longer exists. Whether this is true or not, the Smilers’ Club was mandatory listening for thousands of kids.

A most charitable character

This 1954 hound-like character pin was issued to members of the Radio 5AD Dog House Club and is the only pin in this set with the actual issue date forged on it.

From 1951, the Dog House Club’s ‘kennel master’ announcers were crucial in raising money, with the sale of the pins, for the current Women’s and Children Hospital, as the existing Adelaide Children’s Hospital (built-in 1876), was too small, worn out, and in financial trouble.

‘The Dog House Club’ lapel or hatpin, red and black enamel, in the shape of a hound, 1954, 1.5cm.  SLSA: clrcri22706379/3
‘The Dog House Club’ lapel or hatpin, red and black enamel, in the shape of a hound, 1954, 1.5cm.  SLSA: clrcri22706379/3

The charitable appeal began early in the year, and children were promised that radio personalities would read out the name of every child’s pledge on Good Friday, so there was always that chance to hear your own name. Club membership entitled you to a certificate endorsing you as a ‘doggie’ and entry to other club activities staged to raise money. At these social events, members could buy another badge, the design of which changed over time to maintain interest. Many children had more than one pin and anecdotally people still find them in back yards, on outback roads, and in boxes of family papers. Or on suburban streets, such as this example.

The charity campaign was hugely successful, and the money was matched by government funding. On 19 April 1954, The Advertiser[6] reported a record £27,520 had been pledged and asked people to bring the money to the front desk of the newspaper.

Children wore their Dog House Club badges with honour as then people would see that they had supported the Hospital appeal. Parents approved the donations as they knew the hospital would benefit the entire community. The appeal continues today using television and other social media as the marketing method.

Lastly, a less troublesome Charlie?

How ‘Charlie Chuckles’ got mixed up with ‘Charlie Cheesecake’ on a piece of cardboard is anyone’s guess. It could be explained by border proximity. Or perhaps their reputations had something in common?

In a partnership between different media, ‘Charlie Chuckles’ the kookaburra characterised both a children’s newspaper club in the Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) and a Sunday radio show broadcast in New South Wales between 1941 and 1954. The shows were pre-recorded in Sydney then sent to stations all over the state including an audience of child listeners in Broken Hill,[7] close to the South Australian border.

Children aged under 16 were eligible to join the Charlie Chuckles club and receive a kookaburra pin. During the radio show, the newspaper club comics like Superman and Popeye were 'read out' in the fashion of traditional radio dramatisations, in a very hammed-up manner. Club membership offered children the chance of a call-out on their birthday and sometimes even clues as to where their present was hidden. Only club members were entitled to enter the lucrative club contests over poetry and colouring-in, which offered cash prizes.

Originally the character, ‘Charlie Chuckle’ with no ‘s’, was voiced by the ‘King of the Cads’, stage and radio actor Arundel Nixon, a notorious fellow by most accounts on TROVE. His early death at age 42 (theatrically predicted by a fortune-teller)[8], necessitated the sudden change in ‘Charlie Chuckles’ voice to the more reputable Howard Craven. This development went unannounced by broadcasters but certainly not unnoticed by dedicated young listeners.

‘Charlie Chuckles’ lapel or hat pin, red enamel, in the shape of a kookaburra, ca. 1940s, 1.5 cm SLSA: clrcri22706379/2
‘Charlie Chuckles’ lapel or hat pin, red enamel, in the shape of a kookaburra, ca. 1940s, 1.5 cm.​​​ SLSA: clrcri22706379/2

From the mid-late 1950s, television began to take over Australian children’s interest in radio shows, and they switched their loyalty to television shows and clubs. The imported Mickey Mouse Club had instant appeal, and Adelaide’s own Romper Room and The Channel Niners offered local children the chance of an appearance on television, placing them in the story of the show.

‘Keep clear of refuse’ they told ‘Charlie Cheesecake’. Nonetheless, he found himself in a pile of roadside rubbish, clearly engaging in his usual risk-taking behaviours. And he even took several friends with him! Thankfully, an alert passer-by realised the badges and pins were a part of South Australia’s history, and although you shouldn’t really pick rubbish up off the ground (because it’s dirty) we are fortunate that in this case, he did.

Last page of The Adventures of Charlie Cheesecake, this copy 1950s.
Last page of The Adventures of Charlie Cheesecake, this copy 1950s.



[1] Kyle Asquith (2014) Join the Club: Food Advertising, 1930s Children's Popular Culture, and Brand Socialization, Popular Communication, 12:1, 17-31, DOI: 10.1080/15405702.2013.869334 To link to this article:

[2] Carnamah Historical Society and Museum, accessed 21 April 2021.

[3] The West Australian, Tue 9 Feb 1954, page 8 , accessed March 2021.

[4] Interview with Doreen Govett and Lionel Williams, State Library of South Australia, 1996, OH 309/13.

[5] Children at party, The Mail, Adelaide, 13 March 1954, page 12.

[6] Good Friday Appeal, The Advertiser, Adelaide, Monday 19 April 1954, page 2.

[7] Ravlich, Robyn, Skywriting: making radio waves, [Blackheath, New South Wales] : Brandle and Schlesinger, 2019, Chapter 2.

[8] Death was predicted, Brisbane Telegraph, Tuesday 5 April, 1949, page 7.

Griffen-Foley, Bridget, Prof., Australian radio listeners and television viewers : historical perspectives, Cham, Switzerland : Palgrave Macmillan, 2020.

Ross, John F., A history of radio in South Australia, 1897-1977, Plympton Park, J Ross, 1978.

TROVE, the National Library of Australia’s digitised Australian newspaper database.


Written by Denise Chapman, Curator - Engagement