Author and broadcaster Tim
Bowden writes in Screen Hub:

To our sorrow, John Hinde is dead. A beloved pioneer of the ABC, known to
two generations of Australians only as a wonderfully human film reviewer, he was
far more than that. Perceptive radio and print based social historian – and an
identity in his own right.

John
Hinde was always coy about his age, “I can’t remember, I’m over 55”, he told me
in 1999, adding that he was 21 in 1937 when he started in journalism. I thought
it unwise to mention that was the year I was born…

Now it is official. He
was 92 when he became no longer available for an assignment. Not a bad run for a
self described “fat boy”, a loner, bullied at his Adelaide school, one-time
medical student and born journalist who learned his trade in the rough and
tumble of Sydney tabloid journalism in the 1930s, and became a war correspondent
for the ABC during the Pacific war from 1942.

John Hinde worked for the
ABC as a film reviewer well into his eighties – and cheerfully took on any gig
that came along, including guest appearances on Neighbours, Bullpitt,
hilarious cameos on Elle McFeast (he once donned a tutu, and
another sketch was actually filmed in a brothel – “I’d never been in one before,”
admitted the cheerful octogenarian) and he achieved the ultimate accolade of
being sent up on Fast Forward. This triggering a Channel Seven
switchboard meltdown as furious fans objected to the brutal treatment of their
favourite film reviewer.

Hinde was mildly amused, at the beginning of the
21st century, to find himself a cult figure for fans young enough to be his
grandchildren. They would not have known of his distinguished early career that
placed him at key moments of history – like General Douglas MacArthur’s much
vaunted “I will return” landing on a Philippines beach in 1944. According to
Hinde, he waded ashore three times to get it right for the cameras. Earlier that
year Hinde was on another beach at Hollandia, capital of Dutch New Guinea, while
the Americans were unloading ammunition and supplies for the push to free New
Guinea and the Solomon Islands from Japanese occupation. A lone Japanese bomber
attacked and set off the entire cache of ammunition, causing lasting damage to
Hinde’s eyes in a slit trench.

Earlier, in 1942, he was one of a team who
broadcast ABC radio news read from newspapers. The ABC then did not have its own
news service. After the war he had the pleasure of writing the first news
bulletin prepared by the ABC’s new News Department on 1 July 1947.

Seven
years ago I perhaps impertinently asked John Hinde if he feared death. He told
me that he was more concerned about going blind. His wartime injuries had left
him with deteriorating sight in his only one good eye. “Everything I do, like
most people really, depends on sight, including all my hobbies: films, building
electronic devices and watching television and reading.” He went on: “There is
some terrible force that keeps you interested in living.”

It was a force
that sustained him for a remarkable 70 years of active journalism.

Peter Fray

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