Love, laughs, and loss: The lives of Bob & Dolly Dyer

If you know the story of how Bob Dyer and Dolly Mack met you would be forgiven to think that it was the script of a classic romantic comedy. Not only did it happen but it is one of the most endearing Australian entertainment stories of all time.

Bob was a comedian and performer from Tennessee. He left school when he was 12-years-old in order to help to make a living for his family. As Bob told everyone before he settled on the stage, he worked as “a dish-washer, cab driver, ice man, carpenter, milk-bar attendant and railway freight hand”. Bob found the stage and minor success on the Vaudeville stage before a deal to tour Australia’s Tivoli circuit doing a hillbilly routine where he would regularly steal the show.

After winning success in Australia, Bob did a tour of the UK where he appeared on television for the first time. His hillbilly character gained popularity, so much so that when he returned to Australia, he was given a radio show on 3DB called The Last of the Hill Billies. While touring around the Tivoli scene in 1940 doing the stage version of the radio show, he literally ran into a Tivoli chorus girl named Dolly Mack.   To say that it was “love at first sight” might be an understatement.  The pair were engaged after six days to knowing each other and the married six days after that!  Unlike other celebrity couples who met under similar circumstances are short lived loves, Dolly and Bob were married until his death in 1984.

Bob was also making a name for himself in radio with popular “stunt” shows that left audiences in stitches.  However, a genre change to quiz show proved to be the ultimate success. Pick a Box, saw Bob bring Dolly into the show as his co-host and sidekick, and was hugely popular.  So much so that when television was looking for stars there were among the first people chose.  Pick a Box was a simple format that showcased Bob’s comedic sensibilities and Dolly’s classy lady as the soothing voice of the show. From 1948 to 1950, Pick a Box dominated radio listeners. In 1951, it debuted on television where it broadcasted until Bob and Dolly’s retirement in 1971. 

Bob and Dolly were honoured with two Gold Logies for their broadcasting but were especially honoured in their retirement with a Gold Logie to thank them for their contributions to the start of Australian television. 

After retirement from television, Bob and Dolly focused on their other love of fishing. They broke a number of records for fishing and made a much-loved documentary about fishing around the Great Barrier Reef.

Sadly, Bob developed Alzheimer’s disease in the late 1970s and withdrew from any public life. He passed 1984 at the age of 75. Dolly took up dancing, winning a number of competitions and medals after Bob’s death. Dolly passed away after a stroke on Christmas Day 2004 at the age of 83.

They will always remain one of Australia’s first celebrity couples and cemented themselves in the history of Australian entertainment.

Do you remember Bob and Dolly Dyer? Did you watch Pick a Box?

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