The first time I came across Pete Graham was over the phone about 16 years ago.
I was after details of the annual Castlewood Estate billycart derby that he and his wife Zoe ran in Castle Hill.
Pete picked up my call and immediately announced, “Congratulations, you are the fifth caller today … you have won a new car”. When I finally stopped laughing I got the information I needed, but sadly not the car.
That initial phone call was just a taste of things to come. Any conversation with Pete Graham is full of laughs and the unexpected, which is why listeners have loved his radio shows for over 40 years and why he has hundreds of Facebook followers who enjoy his daily dose of humour about his imaginary world, “Dadsville”.
Hills living is a community
The Grahams moved to their Castle Hill home 31 years ago from the Central Coast (and 2GO) after Pete came to Sydney to broadcast the breakfast show with 2WS.
When they established themselves on the newly built Castlewood Estate they were determined to create a family friendly community so they joined the management committee of the nearby park.
As members of the Castlewood 355 management committee they organised the Castlewood Community Fair and the billycart derby, as well as numerous community events including car boot sales, Christmas carols and neighbourhood barbecues.
Their home, nestled at the end of Grandoaks Place, has also been a Christmas landmark for more than 15 years, with thousands of lights attracting hordes of visitors from near and far.
Pete loves family, community, music and making a difference. His ideal world includes all four. He has been the proud recipient of the Variety Club Heart Award for charity and has held the title of Hills Shire Citizen of the Year for community work.
The family is a huge supporter of Parramatta Mission, raising more than $25,000 over the years.
“I first came across Parramatta Mission when I was ground announcer for the Parramatta Eels,” said Pete. “They do such incredible work in the community for the less fortunate and the demands are just increasing,” he said.
Grandoaks Place won the Hills Shire Council and Aveo Christmas Light Competition for best street display last year. When they heard the news the Grahams talked to their neighbours and they all decided to donate the $1,500 prize money to the Parramatta Mission.
Pete says Castle Hill has always been a great community and the annual fair used to bring everyone together.
“When we had the billycart derby we had Alan Lancaster (former Status Quo member), who used to live here, in one cart and (actor) Rebel Wilson in another. John Brewster from The Angels lived around here too and his sons would be in a cart.”
The star power has continued with Delta Goodrem singing karaoke during a visit to the Grahams’ Christmas lights one year.
But it’s not just at Christmas that the community gathers. When the Grahams moved to Castle Hill they established a Friday night open house so that anyone needing company could just drop in.
“This community is how Australia should be. It’s about looking after each other for the whole year,” said Pete.
It’s all about family
Pete and Zoe have been married for 44 years. Their first child, Daniel, was followed by Michael, then Andrew, their daughter Cassie and Jackson, who sadly passed away.
The dad jokes started well before children though, and as Zoe observes, “they have just increased over the years”.
His family audience has also increased. He now has two grandsons — Hugh, 18 months old, and Jay, born in December — to tell his jokes to. Being a grandad, or “Poppy Pete”, is the best job in the world, he said.
“When our little ones were growing up I was doing the breakfast show and I wasn’t there. They were long days. I would leave home at 2:30am and come home at 2pm. I was too tired to do things with them after school and I would be in bed by 7:15pm.”
Tell all the world
His broadcast career has seen him work at 13 radio stations. Pete is currently on air with his Saturday Night Live show on Talking Lifestyle (the radio station formally known as 2UE) from 6pm to midnight. The show is heard in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and regional stations across New South Wales and Queensland.
“I just like communication,” he told Sydney Hills & Hawkesbury Living. “I love getting out and doing things in the community.”
He loves music and the people behind the songs and their stories.
“It’s not about being angry with the world,” he said. “Words are very powerful. It’s not what you say but how you say it.”
He was a teenager when he started his radio career. It became his dream after watching a live broadcast on the beach at Manly. For a boy from Granville it seemed the perfect life, playing music, chatting and meeting people.
He started a TV station at St Joseph’s Hunters Hill while a student, and after finishing school at 18 he headed straight to Mudgee for a job on the local radio station and a lodging above the pub.
Then it was on to 2BS at Bathurst. It was there that he met his wife Zoe. He was 19 and broadcasting on local radio and she was 19 and running two record shops.
It seemed a perfect match. The move to Castle Hill followed.
Pete’s very successful breakfast show on 2WS-FM was followed by his morning show, which held the number one spot in the ratings numerous times.
“At 2WS I was the only one to rate number one overall on both AM and FM, and I did that quite a number of times,” he said.
Jukebox Saturdays followed and was a hugely popular radio fixture between 1988 and 2002.
Put it in a book
In his early days of regional radio, Pete played a character he called Captain Corn.
“They were really corny jokes,” he admitted. “I have a lot of material,” he added, rather understating his vast collection of wisecracks over four decades.
His best jokes are now showcased in his 112-page hardback book Welcome to Dadsville — Dad Jokes for Big Kids. The bulk of the collection is from his Pete Graham Facebook page.
“The world is full of bad news all the time so I wanted to put out something funny and positive every day,” he said. The jokes started about eight years ago and haven’t stopped.
One of his Facebook fans who has loved his jokes over the years just happens to be Fiona Schultz, managing director at New Holland Publishers, who has been sending them to her staff. It eventually prompted a private message on Facebook to Pete from the New Holland publisher Alan Whiticker asking for a meeting.
“I thought it was a joke at first,” said Pete. It wasn’t.
Pete doesn’t have a favourite joke — he just hopes they will brighten up someone’s day. “I reckon if people just went into the shop and picked it up and read it and got a smile, that’s wonderful.”