Harold Minear was an acclaimed journalist, advertising executive and writer but his passion and first love was always the theatre. He was a former president of the Therry Society, the heart and soul of St Jude’s Players at Brighton and an institution in the South Australian arts scene for more than 70 years.
Born at Warrawina Hospital in Mile End to Eva and Harold Minear, young Harold and his eight-year-older brother Tom grew up in Kintore St, Thebarton, roaming free with their cousins and other neighbourhood children.
Harold senior was at Gallipoli and the Western Front in World War I, returning to Adelaide in callipers after being shot, while Tom was in World War II.
It was his mum Eva May Richards who gave Harold his love of theatre and music and he first appeared on stage to sing with her at the age of three. Once there she couldn’t get him off! He became a champion Irish dancer impressing the ladies with his jigs.
Harold would often talk about how tough it was growing up during the Depression and World War II but said his parents made sure he and Tom were happy and knew they were loved.
Tom had a job as a projectionist at the local Thebarton picture theatre and would sneak Harold in the back door to watch the movies every Saturday afternoon. It was here Harold’s life-long love affair with movies and the stars began. He knew every actor, producer and writer, his favourites being the musicals – a mere mention of Gene Kelly or Deanna Durbin would prompt him to rattle off details of their careers or an anecdote from their lives.
Harold met Deirdre Mary Condon on a tram in 1931 when they were both three, Harold snatching her doll as he got off. Their parents knew each other through the local church where they would later marry.
At the age of 14 Harold was at Christian Brothers College and Deirdre at nearby St Aloysius College so they would often cross paths and gradually got to know one another. When Harold was 17, Deirdre went to watch him perform in a Therry Society play and he was in the audience when she sang in her school choir.
One day, at her mum’s encouragement, Deirdre took the lead asking Harold to tea and that was the beginning of their lifelong relationship and friendship.
During their courting years the Therry Society was a major part of their lives. Harold joined the Society in 1945, performing in and directing many plays. The first Minear production was in 1947 and Harold became president the next year. He and Deirdre established lifelong friendships during this time with people such as Ian and Norma Beatty, Ray Wheeler, Leo and Gwenie Heffernan, Paul and Eileen Linkson and Robert Stigwood.
Harold and Deirdre married on September 8 1951 in Queen of Angels Church at Thebarton. They honeymooned in Port Lincoln and 10 months later their first born David James arrived, quickly followed by Anne, Catherine, Stephen and Mary-Jane, all born at Calvary Hospital in North Adelaide. While in Gosford in 1960 Helen joined the family, then back in Adelaide they added two more, Johanna who was born at Burnside and Martin at Glenelg.
Harold and Deirdre had their struggles, often running out of money to feed their ever increasing family, but they survived on pea and ham soup, their incredible capacity for positive thinking and a ‘never say die’ attitude.
When he left school Harold became a copy boy for News Limited and was later given an apprenticeship as a cadet journalist.
After leaving The News, with two children in tow and a third on the way, he moved the family to Walkerville and took on a general store, delivering groceries to the locals every Friday. He loved chatting to the customers more than the work so he soon decided that this life was not for him.
In 1955, Harold became manager of the Sheridan Drive-In at Seaton, reconnecting with his love of movies. The family home was alongside the drive-in so he would step through the back gate and be at work. There was a speaker on the back porch enabling the children to watch movies from their back yard.
In 1958, Harold was appointed manager of the Erina Drive-in at Gosford, NSW. He went over first, leaving Deirdre to manage five children on the plane, all with chicken pox.
After five years, the family returned to Adelaide on the Overland just before Christmas in 1962. Harold took up a new career in advertising at the age of 34. He worked for NAS McNamara Advertising agency until he officially retired at the age of 60. The next day he opened his own agency, finally retiring at 75.
Harold had many memorable achievements during his advertising career including the ‘Merry Dan the Muffin Man’ jingle for the Ernie Sigley Tonight Show, the Channel 9 Christmas pantomimes, the ‘Put it in a bin’ campaign for the Northern Territory and writing for the Mavis Bramston Show.
One of Harold’s greatest joys was that his son David, and David’s son Matthew, have both forged successful careers in advertising.
While working in advertising during the day, Harold had a night time career in the theatre.
His achievements are too many to list but he was particularly proud of his work with the Adelaide Reparatory Theatre Company, the late Betty Quinn’s Q Theatre, the Adelaide University Revues and his long standing involvement and love affair with St Jude’s Players.
In 2009, at 81, Harold was awarded the Adelaide Critics Circle Lifetime Achievement Award for his service to amateur theatre in SA.
Harold’s daughter Mary-Jane followed him into theatre and now has her own love affair with St Jude’s. One of Harold’s last outings was to see his great granddaughter, Maiya, perform in the Wizard of Oz at the Entertainment Theatre last October.
Harold was a larger-than-life character, an impressive man who embraced life and everyone who crossed his path. He would buy anyone a drink, at his beloved Brecknock and Esplanade hotels, and he would bring strangers home for tea.
Harold taught his children to accept and embrace diversity, to live life to the full and to love deeply. He leaves behind a legacy that will live on for generations – tales of a jolly man who lived in Brighton, a family man, a song and dance man, a theatre man, a friend and a mate.
Harold is survived by his wife of 68 years Deirdre, who kept him smiling and laughing right till the end, children David, Anne, Cate, Stephen, Mary-Jane, Helen and Johanna, 15 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. He has been reunited with his great mate and son Martin.Jump to next article