Pick a Box

Pick-a-Box was an Australian  quiz show, that ran first for 10 years on the radio before expanding to TV in 1957. The two shows were aired simultaneously until 1962 and continued on TV alone until host Bob Dyer’s retirement in 1971. Pick-a-Box was the first big quiz show on National television in Australia and it became compulsory viewing for hoards of TV audiences, many of whom had only recently acquired their flickering boxes. TV didn't come to mainstream Australia until 1956 and then only in Sydney and Melbourne - the rest of the states had to wait until 1959 and in regional areas, until the early 60s.

Howdy Customers!!
The premise of the show was simple - two contestants vied with each other through a series of questions to win a chance to 'pick a box'. As one was asked a question, the other had to wait inside a soundproof box. Once a box was chosen, the host would offer the contestant ever increasing sums of money for the contents of the box, which could be a stick of gum or a car. The contestant then had to choose whether to opt for the security of the money or a chance at something of greater value.

Bob and Dolly Dyer, hosts of Pick a Box
Bob and Dolly Dyer
In the late 1950s/1960s, Bob and Dolly Dyer were probably the hottest celebrity couple in Australia. The affable Dyer, with his trademark pencil thin moustache, was one of the very few people to make a successful transition from radio to television and prior to Pick a Box, which he launched on radio, had already hosted such shows as Can You Take It? Winner Take all and Cop the Lot.

Born Bob Dies, in Nashville, Tennessee, Dyer arrived in Sydney in 1937 as part of  something called The Marcus Show, where he had a gig playing the ukulele and acting the quintessential hillbilly.

Dolly was brought up in Bondi and was a former, leggy showgirl from Sydney's Tivoli Theatre. Legend has it the pair literally collided one night at the theatre as Bob was walking in and Dolly was rushing out to buy ice-creams for the girls. Bob and Dolly were hit hard and the rest, as they say, is television history.

Barry Jones (right) and a fellow contestant battle it out inside their soundproof boxes. 
Barry Jones
When Caulfield school teacher Barry Jones was introduced as a contestant by Dolly Dyer  in 1960, no-one could foresee that Jones would stick around on the show as a fixture for the next eight years,  becoming a legend in quiz show history and earning the princely sum of $58,000 in total...a significant amount for the times. Jones's encyclopedic knowledge wowed host and audiences alike - week after week, for 208 episodes Jones managed to answer correctly and pip the competition to the boxes.

The young teacher's seeming impregnability, his easy rapport with Bob Dyer and his commanding and intelligent stage presence made for compelling television. Pick-a-Box also gave Jones a leg up in his personal destiny and he later went on to become a a federal minister in the Hawke government, President of the Australian Labour Party. and in 1997, was chosen by the National Trust as an Australian  Living Treasure.