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 ARCHIVES FOR ALAN WALKER'S OLD TIME CBC TV

10.  ALAN WALKER'S OLD TIME CBC TV APRIL 26, 2020

Hi Everyone:


This month Ray Waines gets us off to an amusing start with an incident from a 1974 Hockey game:


NAKED ON THE ICE by Ray Waines
In the early 1970s, streaking had become a custom that would either surprise or shock the fans and the athletes. I had been covering the Canucks for the 4 seasons since their first game in 1970 and all of the crew thought that one day soon we would be streaked at the Vancouver Coliseum. I was working the play camera on a HNIC game and right below my position, was the location for our Television Mobile and Cruiser parking.
I heard this loud noise below from some of our crew going down the metal steps to rush over to the visiting players’ entrance to the ice, to watch 3 women in long fur coats disrobe, leaving them totally naked! The women waited for a cue from a chap to open the gate before they ran down the entrance to carefully step onto the ice. No one slipped so their special shoes did work to keep them from being embarrassed by falling on the ice.


Meanwhile on my camera, the players stopped playing Hockey when the gate was opened. I panned over to see the 3 naked women coming out of the gate on to the ice. I could hear the reaction from the fans and it got louder! I zoomed in to a full length 3 shot of them running past the shocked players at their benches! When they got to the exit for the Canucks, a photographer had opened the gate and that’s when they cut to Jack Bell’s camera on a tighter shot as they left the ice using the exit through the bleachers.


I panned back to the ice to see some of the players like Andre Boudrias laughing while sitting on the ice and hitting their hockey sticks on the ice to applaud these 3 very gutsy women, who were from the Penthouse night club.
Now, for those of you who watched the streaking live, maybe at a pub or at home, it would be interesting to hear how you felt about this fad being televised to your homes. Were any of you as teenagers watching the Canucks Hockey? Did any of you men call to your wives, “I don’t believe it, you got to see this!” or maybe did you phone your buddies, hoping for a replay in the intermission.

Well, it just so happens that Babe Pratt did not disappoint anyone, not just for viewers watching on HNIC across the CBC network, but also for all those in New York who watched a feed of their New York Islanders team playing the Canucks that night.
Babe was playing back the highlights from that period of hockey and could not resist showing the streaking, (in colour). His VTR operator had kept his machine recording a high iso camera, when he left the Cruiser to see the 3 streakers. Unfortunately on Monday morning Babe Pratt was called up on the carpet by the brass, who were upset with the streaking being shown again as a replay. Knowing Babe Pratt, this would not have bothered him at all.
I was so glad that our Director was Ron Harrison, who just let it all happen. Our crew would have been very frustrated if another Director had told us cameramen to show the fans, not the streakers! This has happened on other live telecasts like on the Grey Cups where the streaking was not controlled, but here it was like a perfect short strip tease.
Here is the short video and I just know that Babe Pratt would like to share this with you one more time.
CLICK HERE
Now, you are wondering why it’s black & white? Well we have to go back to when our CBC studios were on Georgia street and the Telecine and Kinescope machines had a chap who operated them for many years. After seeing the streaking live, he wanted to make a copy for himself. He had VTR send a feed of Babe Pratt’s highlight to his Kine recorder which recorded it on 16 mm black & white Film. Now he had a copy of the streaking for his telecine machine.
When this chap was going to retire from CBC, he gave me a 5 inch roll of film and said to me, “Ray, see what you can do with this.” I gave it to Chuck Lere to transfer the film to VHS. When Chuck showed me the VHS, it was black and white and I was surprised to see once again those 3 women streaking past the Hockey players, just like they had planned it!
This is the only copy that I know of and for those of you who missed this streaking 46 years ago, I hope that this story has given you a glimpse of that crazy fad back in the 1970s.
I would like to thank Glenn Weston for suggesting that Ron Greenwood, (Sam Greenwood’s son), with his background and expertise in editing videos, could make this streaking video more respectable for all the viewers on Stationbreak. So thanks Ron, without this decent video, I could never have written this story.
Ray Waines

Ray's Bio:
My career as a television cameraman started in 1960 with CBC Vancouver. I enjoyed covering the BC Lions, and in the studios, musicals such as Some of Those Days and Let's Go. Dramas were even a greater challenge and by 1968 I became a Supervising Technician. In 1970 I started working the play camera on the Canucks games and for the 1972 Canada/Russia game. The Irish Rovers were great to work with, first in the studios and then taping shows over in England, Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland. I was fortunate to cover the Olympics at Montreal 1976, Los Angeles 1984 and then the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. I retired from CBC in 1991 and continued working as a freelance cameraman until 2010. In 2007 I became President for the Southern Interior Chapter of the CBC Pensioners' Association and in 2013 I was elected to the position as Vice-President. Having completed my term in that role, I am now a Director on the Board.


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CBC, SPACE & CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS, by me

Some space trivia questions to get started. The answers are at the end of this month's column. If you use Google to get your answers, you will be fired, one way, into outer space.

1. How many humans have landed on the moon?
2. How many were Russians?
3. How many were female?
4. What were the first words said on the moon by the two American astronauts, Armstrong and Aldrin?
5. Who was the commentator for CBS Television on most of the space shots?
6. How close was anything Canadian to the moon, just before Apollo 11 landed?

I was very ignorant of "space" at the beginning. When the USSR's Sputnik flew, I didn't know what all the fuss was about. I had no knowledge of how much power it took to get an object from earth into space. I had no concept of how a country's satellites might rain atomic missiles down on enemy countries. Fortunately, just a few years later when the Russians and Americans were getting ready to orbit the earth and beyond, I was working at CBC TV in the master control/transmitter booth area, and we were all well aware of the space race. We were, nevertheless, totally surprised when Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to enter outer space when he orbited the earth on April 12, 1961, in Vostok 1.
Only a month later, we at CBC were taking a feed from CBS as to the successful launch of American astronaut, Alan Sheppard, into a sub-orbital flight as part of the Mercury Space Program. (It was not until John Glenn's flight in 1962 that the Americans caught up to the Russians with an orbital flight).
Being on duty in a CBC control room during a space flight was exciting. The lift off time for a space flight was often at 6:30 a.m. in Florida, 3:30 a.m. Vancouver time. We would be on the air at least one hour before blast off, and having a shift beginning at 2:30 am. was exciting to us if perhaps not so exciting to our spouses. We also received a lot of overtime pay working these weird shift times.
CBC, with its CBS feed, carried all the space shots of the Mercury and Gemini programs, and some of the Apollo program. In the early stages of the American program, many flights were cancelled at the last minute (some flights cancelled as many as four times), so we had a lot of "space" shifts.
As there were three of us handling the job of "co-ordinating producers" in the Studio 50 control room, it didn't work out that I would be on duty during the historic moon landing by Neil Armstrong. However, I did view the landing on my little black and white TV at home with my wife and two young children. My brother-in-law boasted that he was going to watch the moon landing "in colour!" on a new large TV that he had just bought ("large" in those days was probably 21"). He was later embarrassed to find out that all of the moon landing was televised in black and white. (Later programs about the first moon landing show some colour, but that was from colour film that the astronauts shot, and was later processed on earth after they returned).

There was an incredibly large audience for the moon landing, followed by an incredibly small audience for the subsequent Apollo 12 moon landing. And it took the near-disaster of Apollo 13 to bring back many viewers.
The lack of interest in the subsequent five successful voyages to the moon have often been characterized as "been there, done that", although they were all miraculous space voyages, and far more potentially dangerous to the participants than we ever knew.

Perhaps it was a similar public attitude at the time of Columbus, and his four transatlantic voyages to the New World. Let us imagine:
Christopher returns to his old home in Italy in 1492, and runs into his old school friend, Fabrizio.
Fabrizio: Hi Chris, I read that you sailed off and found a short cut to India. Does that mean I'll get Indian food quicker when I order in?
Christopher (not really understanding the question): Well, I did discover the Bahamas, Cuba, Hispaniola and a bunch of other islands. I'm calling them the "West Indies". What have you been up to Fabrizio?
Fabrizio: Well, Maria just had our 4th child, but I'm hoping she will get back to work quickly".
Several years pass, and Fabrizio runs into Christopher again at a Starbuck's café in Milan, and Fabrizio says: "Yo, Cristo, have you discovered more?", and Christopher says: "Yes, in 1493 I did discover a bunch more islands, and I'm calling them the "Lesser Antilles".
"Strange name", Fabrizio mumbles to himself. "You know, delivery of Indian take out hasn't got any faster! And I should tell you, Maria has had two more bambinos, and now we have six!"
Christopher leaves as quick as he can, and is happy not to see Fabrizio in the next five years or so until: "Hey, CC, whatcha been discovering?", and Christopher replies: "Well in 1498, I discovered Trinidad and Venezuela, and I think I'm gonna call the whole area where Venezuela is "South America". It's an amazing place! We sailed past the mouth of a river that had such a flood of fresh water that it pushed us way out to sea. I'm naming the river "Orinoco Flow".
Fabrizio: Wow! Did you name the river after that song by Enya?
Columbo: No, it was for the cover by Celtic Woman.
Fabrizio: You should meet all my bambinos, we now have enough for a football team.
More years pass. It's 1502. Another meeting (but the last).
Fabrizio: I'm sorry to tell you my old friend that my darling Maria passed away recently after giving birth to our 15th child. I think she must have had a weak constitution.
Christopher: So sorry to hear Fabrizio. I guess you don't really care that this year I discovered Central America.
Fabrizio: But I do care CC, what's next! Eastern America, North America or what?
Columbus' answer is not recorded. It may be on the Nixon tapes.
It's ironic to realize that Columbus never set foot in what is now the U.S., and he obviously did not set foot in Canada. Nevertheless, there are more place names in the U.S. and Canada celebrating Columbus than there are in Central America or South America or the Caribbean. How come we're "British Columbia"? Sounds like a Jeopardy answer.

Answers to the quiz:
1. 12
2. zero
3. zero
4. Many trivia game answer cards state "Houston, Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed". Those were the first formal words said, but prior to that, Armstrong had said "Contact Light*, OK, Engine Stop", and other technical landing stuff.
5. Walter Cronkite. I just wanted to get his name mentioned so I could tell this little true story. Cronkite and his wife, Betsy, were visiting in Vancouver and someone told them the story of the notorious Hollywood film star, Errol Flynn, who died in Vancouver on a 75 foot yacht in the company of a 17 year old girl. When Walter said "What a way to go!", Betsy said: "Walter's more likely to pass away on a 17 foot yacht with a 75 year old girl".
6. The legs of the Lunar Excursion Module were made in Canada, and fortunately arrived on the moon just moments before the two astronauts.

* The contact light came on when a 5 foot lunar surface sensing probe, attached to one of the foot pads hit the surface, giving the astronauts a brief window in which to turn off the thrusters in order to reduce moon dust blow back, obscuring the spacecraft's windows, and affecting its delicate equipment.

A lot of good space movies came out last year, no doubt because of the 50th anniversary of the first human landing on the moon. One that I particularly enjoyed but might have been overlooked by many was "The Last Man on the Moon". Nobody has asked me but in my opinion, humans will not land on Mars in this century, much as it would be great if they did. The complexity of a Mars visit is truly daunting. If it turns out that I'm wrong in this prediction, please email me at alanyousillyoldbastardwhatwereyouthinking.com


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BONSAI BOSS BACKOUT BUMMER by Gordon Hunt


For a number of years I was assigned to a CBC TV daytime show called "Summer Unlimited" which was a summer replacement for the Bob Switzer daily show. Bob had always been a friend and mentor, and I had a huge respect for his work. In the 60s and 70s the show content and prep was largely left to Bob`s considerable skill. I don`t mind admitting that I struggled to seek out the three or four interesting guests for each show (and five days a week that`s 20+ guest spots)
In the summer during the PNE the show took advantage of the CBC presence at the fair and we worked in sometimes precarious locations. One such was situated under the chair lift/gondola ride from the west side of the park over to the midway. I'm not sure they were fans of the show, but some young riders would hurl comments or popcorn as they passed overhead. On one weekday I had arranged to interview a representative of the B.C. Bonsai Association, along with a distinguished Japanese expert who was visiting Vancouver. We had arranged a change of the set during the commercial break to include several examples of the bonsai plant art. With efficient props and studio assistance, it was a busy time as we thanked the previous guest, brought the new guests in, arranged mics along with the bonsai plants which had to be placed on the coffee table in front of us.
With just seconds remaining before a return to the "studio", the woman who was the president of the BC chapter of the Association, and my main interview subject, bolted from the set pleading a stomach upset. 3,2,1 no time for a change of topic now, I smiled and introduced my "special" guest from Japan who bowed respectfully and smiled. Now to say that I knew little about bonsai art would be a massive understatement. I know nothing and I mean nothing about gardening, OR the Japanese language which is why I was relying on the nice lady from the Association to answer all the questions. Now she was outta' there and I was left with the nice Japanese-speaking man from Japan. But, with perspiration beginning to show, I welcomed the bonsai expert to Vancouver and asked him how to begin choosing a suitable plant. My guest responded in a few words that, I'm sure, were couched in bonsai knowledge in JAPANESE "OK, I'll "branch out" I said (the humour was lost on everyone) with a few choice artistic suggestions hoping one of them would stick. The expert seemed to be enjoying the interview but didn't divert from his replies in Japanese. My eyes went to the production assistant standing beside the camera lens asking for the time remaining. Five minutes ! Might as well be half an hour!
Somehow I filled the time with riveting information about next week's guests and fun to be had at the fair. Just not HERE. Wishing I was up with those kids on the gondola heading for the midway, I wished everybody "Sayonara"!
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WHAT ARE OLD FRIENDS FOR


I ran into an old friend from my CBC days last week. We banged elbows, and then he said "Alan, I see you're writing a column for CBC about old times, but whose picture is that in your column?" "Actually, it's me", I said …."but from about 50 years ago".
"Well, you haven't got any better looking", he said.
As he walked away I began to think what nasty lies I could write about him.


****
This summer will be the 45th anniversary of the move of our various CBC locations into the new building. I'm hoping to round up stories of the move for this column (probably to be aired in August). What are your recollections? If you have a story, send it in to me at alangwalker@gmail.com It doesn't matter how short or how long it is. It doesn't have to be funny but interesting is good. Perhaps write something about how it was to arrive at the new location. A couple of photos if you have any would be great. Thanks. Alan

9. ALAN WALKER'S OLD TIME CBC TV MARCH 22, 2020

Hi Everyone:


Al Vitols starts us off this month with some wonderful recollections of working with the legendary CBC TV sportscaster, Ted Reynolds:

TED AND I

Panic ensued at CBUT-TV when Ken Bray, the sports producer, left to take up a better paying life elsewhere. Not only did the remaining producers not want to have anything to do with sports, they did not know how. One exception was Doug Gillingham who volunteered to do football, but the actual coverage was mostly done by the cameramen and the switcher as Doug got engrossed in the game and forgot he was directing.

While still a studio director I wound up getting various nondescript shows on the air, many of them sports items assigned to some producer who sometimes did not even show up for the telecast. This usually involved working with Ted Reynolds who was not bothered by working with a lowly studio director. Eventually I took a salary cut and signed a contract to “produce and direct programs as assigned,” meaning I’d produce sports-oriented shows until the next century.
I no longer recall what all the ongoing shows were, but Ted hosted almost all of them. Sportscene and Time Out For Football, to name a couple. The only sports oriented show Ted did not host was Ski Scene. Mike Winlaw could ski and back then did not have a daily studio commitment so he could travel to locations.
For quite a while Ted and I were the entire TV Sports department so I got to know him probably as well as anyone because we spent a lot of time together.
The Canadian National Ski Team was just starting and were housed and fed by Notre Dame University. Ted thought a show about the nascent team would make good television.
Freelance cameraman Jack Long was going to meet us there while Ted and I boarded an Air Canada jet expecting to land at the Nelson airport, allegedly the most challenging one in North America. It is ‘pilot-optional’ meaning the flying chauffeur decides if it is safe to land. It is situated at the bottom of a deep ‘bowl’ surrounded by the Selkirk mountains and landings and take-offs are iffy at the best of times.
Didn’t get to experience any of that as the airport was already closed due to heavy fog and once we were airborne we were advised of that fact and told we’d be bused to Nelson from Penticton. Had Air Canada been honest and told us before boarding that our destination airport was closed, Ted would have driven and got us there faster.
The Greyhound lunch stop was the Grand Forks bus terminal coffee shop. Ted had relatives in town so he escaped the menu choices. When I asked about wines, I was told: We have both, a red and a white.” Back then I didn’t know yet that BC’s best borscht this side of Bydgoszcz was to be had at a small riverside gospoda, so I suffered meatloaf, gravy and grey peas, but skipped the ‘red’.
Long after dark we were dumped on a poorly lit street in downtown Nelson near the Hertz offices. There was no sign of life there and the only visible lit window was on the second floor of the adjoining building. Ted went to check it out. It turned out to be a lawyer working late and he told us that the white Chevy sedan parked on the street in front of the Hertz office was our car - keys under the floor mat. “You can leave it at the airport when you go.” Small towns.
Dave Jacobs was the coach and did everything Ted or I asked from him and more, as did Nancy Greene, the only woman at the time, who would squat against a wall during the ‘rest’ breaks in their exercise routine. I tried it and lasted a dozen seconds. She did it for the entire five minutes three or four times per session. Outdoors she’d carry a male teammate piggyback up and down one of the Nelson-bordering mountains.
In the cafeteria the team was allowed to pile their plates as high as they dared, but second trips to the buffet were not permitted and our future racers who were burning calories like Vancouver’s Olympic Cauldron, always lived a bit hungry.
Ted thought it would be a good bit for the film to see the team dig into a ‘real’ meal and I (the CBC) bought three team-sized prime ribs which Ted roasted to perfection and were accompanied by an assortment of vegetables prepared by the hostess of the borrowed house. Again, Long and I were happy.
Filming slalom practices on the slopes of Red Mountain was somewhat complicated as neither Ted nor Jack could ski so moving locations involved ski patrol assisted toboggan trips to the base to get on the chair lift again and again and then after the lift was stopped in the appropriate spot jump off into deep snow. Ted and I did it relatively easy, but Jack also had to drop his gear, something about which he was not too happy. Not a grumble out of Ted and his mid-mountain chat with Jacobs was remarkable.
Fred Engel, who was a film editor back then, spliced together a pretty good show while Ted looked after the narration. If I recall correctly, later some network show used a part of the slalom practice.
Ted and I did a fair number of special shows together, such as Oncorhynchus, all about sports fishing in our salt chuck. On that shoot I also had to be his temporary doctor as Ted while slicing a pork roast had almost cut off his thumb. That was two days before we had to leave. The shoot took place mostly in and around Georgia Straight, Desolation Sound and Rivers Inlet.
Up in Rivers Inlet while talking with the local float-store owner I happened to mention that John Wayne had his converted USN minesweeper anchored at the head of the inlet. The store owner then recalled a bald guy with a big belly who looked a little like the Duke had been in the store the previous day. Without his girdle and rug Wayne was hard to recognize.
Me, a medic? Well, yes, Ted’s stitches, a dozen or so tiny ones, had to be removed while we were still on location. Being right-handed with the stitches in his left, I think Ted could have done it himself, but I think he wanted to see if I’d keel over seeing what was under the bandage.
Although we spent the week or ten days being ‘guided’ by Mike Crammond, the Vancouver Province’s self-proclaimed fishing guru, the total catch amounted to one mud shark. Excellent footage of ‘fighting’, as the shark did put up a brief exhibition, but not a single frame of landing. Fortunately we met a Reynolds fan who let us borrow one of his Chinooks and we managed to fake the netting. On the show Ted had to explain the lack of a spirited fight when the fish was out of the water by suggesting that it was tired out after the lengthy duel.
The sound man had failed to record the sound of the fish running so we re-create it at a dock with Ted acting as the chinook and running along the dock with the line in his hand, giving it a few extra jerks. Ah, showbiz!
The CBC had made an arrangement with KING TV to share pictures of the ski races from Crystal Mountain. The downhill and GS courses were long and NBC was only interested in Americans, it being before Nancy did became famous on the slopes. NBC sent two feeds to Seattle in that the top of the course was covered separately from the finish line. As the broadcast progressed, NBC could follow an American all the way down and they didn’t care what a Canadian was doing on top of the course.

I had both feeds incoming at the VTR Cruiser and I could follow Canadians all the way, etc. Then when the races finished in late afternoon, Ted and I would drive back with the tapes and prepare a late night (post news from Std 49) ski race show with Ted’s ad-lib commentary. These races happened over three or four days. Then after the show was done, we’d drive back to Seattle in order to get as much sleep as possible before the next day. There was a lot of chat time on those three hour drives, plus the well past midnight ‘dinner’ at the only place we found open at that time of night - Marysville Coffee Shop near Everett. Good burgers, impossibly good pies.

(By the way, I tried to argue with the border people that the tapes I was bringing back were the same tapes I had brought down and thus should not have to pay the large duty. I lost the argument. The CBC was charged for the value of the different arrangement of the ferrous oxide!)

We used to cover assorted sports for delayed telecast after the late news. One such occasion was a rugby game with a team from ‘Down Under’ against a BC team. Back at the studio, while the crew and I were chatting still hanging around Studio 49, Ted came by and told me that he had made a mistake while calling the game. He had given the opposing team’s try to the wrong player. How so? Some of those antipode ‘bastards’ had exchanged their numbered shirts at half-time and Ted had, late in the game, given the right name according to the jersey, but wrong when worn by someone else.

"No problem. Studio 49 is still idle and we’ll just re-record you calling the game with the right name. Easy-peasy."
And so we did. However Ted didn’t sound anything like he did on the original recording. Totally different. Now what?
Ted knew. He went into the next door washroom and yelled his lungs out. He came back in a couple of minutes and the new take was a perfect vocal match. Ted had realized that his voice had become very tired by the end of the game, but had recovered by the time we did the first take, thus the holler fix-it.

He was unbelievably professional. I recall him doing a ‘live’ commentary over footage of the Knox Mountain Hillclimb in Kelowna. The editing had taken forever and Ted wound up doing the commentary ‘live’ from notes given to him by the writer or P/A or someone connected with the shoot. Assorted bits of information went into his headset and beautifully constructed and correct narration emerged from his mouth a few seconds later.
Not many are aware, but his expertise extended into politics and he was one of the mainstays in our election coverages. Great long and short term memory. He already had the previous election results in his personal memory bank, and then careful and concentrated study of the latest results made him invaluable in our election coverage. As invaluable as CKNW radio. When Len Lauk first slipped on the Current Affairs mantle a Provincial Election soon followed. I don’t recall, or never knew, but this particular election coverage was to be a computerized wonder. All kinds of data at the touch of a finger. Fantastic rehearsal after a two or three day setup.
On election night a few minutes after the polls closed the computer crashed. There was no back-up. There was, however, Jack Webster, one of the ‘colour’ commentators and he was providing the latest numbers and other tidbits. How could he? He had a pocket Sony radio with an ear bud and he was surreptitiously listening to CKNW coverage. They were not computerized.
Between Jack with the present and Ted with the previous election knowledge, the show went on as if it was so planned.
Ted also had a great sense of passing time. Now and then in Studio 42, while waiting for something or other, we’d hold contests to see who was the best judge of time passing. Ted, George McLean and Bob Fortune would be given a topic or subject to talk about for, say, 47 seconds. The winner was almost always Ted, but George was no more than a couple of seconds out. In my view the thing that also set Ted apart was that what he said seemed carefully thought out, and given a topic such as ‘yellow HB pencil’, his piece sounded as if a Farber copywriter had slaved over the text for days.
Those who were present at any party where Ted had consumed some liquid refreshment will always recall his ability to recite works by Robert Service. All of them. And he was not
reticent about reciting, say, The Cremation of Sam McGee. I think it was his favourite. That's 86 lines of poetry!
He was good, as good as they get, and equally ease at a swimming pool, soccer pitch, hockey rink, basketball court or election coverage. I don’t really understand (actually I do) why the Network/Toronto opted for someone like Ernie Afghanis who had Q-cards prepared for him that said:
“Good afternoon, I’m Ernie Afghanis”
If one needs an idiot card for one’s own name, well…
I can’t recall the reason why we did the Unlimited Hydroplane races from Kelowna. It may have been a “co-production” with Seattle’s KING-TV. Prior to traveling to Lake Okanagan Ted confessed that he had never done a hydroplane race, it not being one of our Canadian strengths. After a brief instructional chat with "Bill" Muncey, the American Unlimited Hydroplane racing legend, who was in Kelowna on behalf of KING-TV, according to Muncey, Ted did as well as any of the Seattle announcers.
(As an aside, because of weather delays for the final heat, my main camera wound up shooting into the setting sun and all the pictures from it covering the back stretch were unusable. Cliff Gilfillan and I spent an entire night making up the final race from pictures of the qualifying heats. All we had available from the final were wide shots from high up on Knox Mountain and extreme head-on closeups from a camera facing the back stretch as well as the turn around the end of the course. I don’t think Muncey would have been able to tell that it was not the real race.)
A thing that bothered every TP and lighting director and some producers was Ted’s upper lip. Regardless of what they tried, the edge was predominant and ‘shone’ as if lit separately. Phyllis tried everything she knew in terms of makeup and Jim Ellis and Jim O’Brien, the lighting directors, tried every imaginable way to light Ted’s face so the upper lip edge would not ‘gleam’ but all failed. The thing is, nobody could figure out just what was actually causing the problem.
Ted was the ultimate professional. I don’t think there ever was a better sports reporter in Canada, and perhaps only a handful or fewer in the USA.
A line in his obit said it all: “He had the intangible quality of elegance”
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Al Vitols joined CBC Vancouver staff as a TV Technician in 1958 and thereafter became a TV Production Assistant working mostly with Ain Söodor on “Let’s Go”, Vancouver’s contribution to “Music Hop”. A couple of years later Al became a Producer/Director, having the “B.C. Open Golf Tournament” as his first assignment to be followed by “The Canadian Open Tennis Championships”, “The Canadian Kayak Championships” as well as “The Macdonald Brier” from Kelowna. For the next few years along with Ted Reynolds, Al was responsible for all CBC Vancouver sports productions which included football, hockey, basketball, tennis, lacrosse, swimming, sports fishing, track and field, kayaking, rugby and series such as ”Sports Scene”, “Ski Scene” and “Time Out For Football”.
AL IN FORMAL ATTIRE

Variety series included “Let’s Go” (1964), “A Second Look” (1969), “Pifffle & Co” (1971), “The Pat Hervey Show”, “Reach for the Top”, “Big Band Jazz” and the Vancouver edition of the “Carol Baker Jamboree” A Dixieland jazz series with Lance Harrison from the Horseshoe Bay pub (1983). He produced “B.C. Parks” and “On the Scene” and profiled some of the better known BC artists, such as Toni Onley, Benita Sanders, Haida artists Robert Davidson and Bill Reid, John Horton, Wayne Ngan and Robert Bateman. “The Inventors” which Al produced in 1979 was a series highlighting amateur inventors. For a number of years he was Executive Producer of the nightly News/Current Affairs’ program “Hourglass” as well as other Current Affairs programs. Later Al created the highly rated “Pacific Report” with Carole Taylor as host. After leaving CBC, Al started a production company, but eventually shut it down when he and wife Barbara moved to Vancouver Island where they are happily settled and Al claims he has ‘tolerated’ retirement.

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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Last month's column "Reaching for the Top: Jeopardy" caused a few of our hundreds of thousands of readers to write to us. Normally we get no letters, and sometimes not that many. Here's a selection:


From Chris Paton
Last month I read Alan's article about the 1960s era Vancouver Reach for the Top host auditions. All these years later, and given a reason to once again consider the show concept, it dawned on me that Reach for the Top was truly a brilliant program idea - a quiz show that unlike any other, had both solid entertainment and educational values... in other words, it was a kind of Jeopardy for high school students, parents and grandparents - a perfect example of what was once CBC television at its mandated best. Maybe it's time to partner up and farm the format idea to an independent production company for a CBC rebirth of the series.


From Ken Gibson…
I was one of those new producer/directors who were forced into doing Reach for the Top. Terry Garner was really irritated, hating having to “train” a new producer seemingly every year or so. I got in his bad books very quickly as after a couple of shows with lengthy dead air while excerpts from classical music were played and the kids were asked to name the composer, resulting in further long deadly silences, I suggested we exchange classical for popular music questions and Terry was adamant that he wouldn’t accept that, turning to the others at our pre-program meeting for agreement.
Being stubborn and knowing I was correct, I eventually informed him that while I was the producer and therefore fully responsible, we would do it my way and that was final. By then he knew I could get just as angry and argumentative and I wasn’t going to change my mind. I suggested we try it my way just once. Suddenly the contestants were coming up with answers (I wrote the questions) and there was no longer dead air. Terry capitulated grudgingly and eventually agreed to other suggestions coming from me. I don’t remember him actually asking how long I would remain with RFTT. But initially he was far from being a happy camper and did not like a new producer usurping his position as trainer of subservient newcomers.
Actually I quite enjoyed my brief stay with the show, it being a complete contrast to the variety shows I was producing.


From Gordon Hunt…
It's hard to believe now, but back in the early 70s when Lottery draws were relatively new, the Corp. actually covered a drawing on live TV. My foggy memory says it was 1972 at the North Vancouver Centennial Theatre. I was sent over there to be the "warm up man" and handle the voice over intro/exit to Alex Trebek's hosting. In those days, I was a serious music guy for most BC radio shows and Alex was the CBC Toronto serious music host among many other duties. I recall the conversation we had in the dressing room before the show as Alex told me he was thinking of "pulling the plug on old Mother Corp". He told of his prospects south of the border, specifically game shows like Aces Wild or Joker's Wild. (?) I had a lot of respect for Alex and his language skills on many serious music programs on the net and it was my advice that he "might be making a big mistake"! I try not to pass along advice these days.

From Anonymous…
I was intrigued by Jeopardy from the beginning with its format of giving the answer, and asking for the question. After a couple of years of watching, I started to get worried that the show might run out of material, so I sent some to them. I received a quick reply which said: "Thank you for your submission of the answer "Because not many of them know how to dance" for our Jeopardy show. Please note however that we must also have the question".
I wrote back immediately "Of course, silly me, the question is "Why do mice have small balls?" I haven't heard back from them since, but I know they're really busy.
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WHO PICKS YOUR LOUSY MOVIES?

It's a common program format for TV stations to have news, sports and weather at about 11 p.m., followed by a late movie, if not a "Tonight" type of program. For an average TV station, it means having to obtain and air some 30 movies a month. And how do TV stations get these movies? Well, other than in the most exceptional circumstances, like the Turner Classic Movies channel, movies are rented to TV stations, not sold.
It took no time at all for those companies who held an inventory of movies to realize that TV stations would never rent the "bad" movies unless they were forced to do so. So the suits at the movie distributors offered for rent only "packages" with a typical package of 100 movies having perhaps 10 "good" movies, 40 "OK" movies and 50 "crappy" movies. And worst still, because of the cost of renting these movie packages, a typical TV station had to air each movie twice, and sometimes three times to be able to afford the cost of the movie package.
Imagine the home viewer's reaction to the resultant process. One night there may be a "lousy" movie, and within the next 90 days or so, that same "lousy" movie might well be aired another two times. This process was explained to me by Sam Shaw, the irrepressible film buff who was in charge of "movie selection" at CBC in my time. Sam always reminded me of someone who starred in "Fiddler on the Roof".
As a co-ordinating producer at CBUT, one of three at any one time as it took three of us to cover all daytime and nighttime shifts, seven days a week (not quite 24/7). One of us was always on duty during the late movie being aired, and unfortunately for us, the main telephone line for CBUT was patched through to our control room in studio 50 after the regular switchboard operators left at about 11:30 at night.
In my early days as a co-ordinating producer, I would try to explain the process for the selection of movies to the complaining viewer (and often it was a viewer who was a little drunk who would phone). It rarely worked. After a while, when an unhappy viewer phoned after 11:30 to ask "Who picks your lousy movies?", I would answer "Mr. Sam Shaw. You may reach him at this same number on weekdays", and then I would hang up very quickly.
I don't think I ever told Sam that I did that.

The success of this column's future lies entirely in your hands. Comments would be welcome, and your contributions would be greatly appreciated. If you have an item to add to a future column, please email me at alangwalker@gmail.com . If you require any assistance in editing, I would be happy to help. If you think my articles need editing, please email me, and I would be happy to have your help.

In this frightening health scare time, please stay clear of your best friends but do contact them by email, text, phone, mail or even fax!

ALAN WALKER'S OLD TIME CBC TV FEBRUARY 23, 2020


Hi Everyone: First up this month from me:


Reaching for the Top: Jeopardy


I'm always disappointed that after almost 8,000 Jeopardy TV shows, Alex Trebek hasn't given me credit for his fame and fortune. "Why should he?", I hear you say, and here is the why.
It was 1961. I was working at CBUT as one of coordinating producers. It took three of us to man the Studio 50 (transmitter booth) control room because we were on the air 17/7. When we had two coordinators on duty, one would be tasked to pre-screen an upcoming late night movie. We did that with all late movies so that we could determine the best place to insert commercials. We also did it so that we could provide a plot summary for the coordinator who would be on duty when the movie actually aired.
To pre-screen a movie, we needed to book a "screening room", which not only had a 16 mm film projector for the obvious purpose, but also had a boardroom table with a bunch of chairs, and thus was a meeting room as well.
There were two screening rooms in the 1200 West Georgia location – not nearly enough for the various uses – and one had to be very careful to make a firm booking of one of the two rooms.
On this particular day, just as I was setting up for a movie screening, along came one of the junior producers at CBUT, Jim Carney, who said "I want that room!". I was about to tell Jim where he could put his request when he added "I'm hosting a group of people to discuss the creation of a high school quiz program to be called "Reach for the Top", and he ranted some more before I gave in (having done so because I knew that he could go over my head to the Program Director, no doubt resulting in my being unceremoniously ejected from the screening room).

And now the cliché: the rest is history! After its most successful on-air debut in 1961, the Reach for the Top ("RFTT") show concept was picked up the next year by CBC in Edmonton, and by 1966, another 23 stations in all 10 provinces were carrying their own local version of the show!
And who hosted the Toronto version for seven years: Alex Trebek! And who went on to be the host of Jeopardy in 1984, and ever since Alex Trebek!
So, as you can see, there is a direct correlation between my surrendering the screening room, and today's iconic Alex. [Stationbreak editor: What do you think folks – is Alan getting a little carried away with himself?]
A little Reach for the Top and Jeopardy trivia:
Terry Garner hosted the Vancouver version of RFTT from 1961 – 1982. In my view, he was every bit as good as Alex.
RFTT was a training ground for many junior producers, in Vancouver, and elsewhere at CBC. With a good video switcher, a very competent script assistant keeping score, and above all a very talented quizmaster, the trainee producer learned a lot without really doing anything and screwing up the show.
The original Jeopardy was created by Merv Griffin in 1964. The original show, and its first successor, were cancelled, but Alex's debut in 1984 was clearly the cause of Jeopardy's continuing and present-day success.
The TV program set for RFTT in Vancouver featured a clock on a wall where the clock hand moved backwards, counting down the remaining minutes of the show. During one taping, the clock hand fell off. Terry Garner didn't notice as he had his back to the clock. The school contestants didn't notice as they were too busy concentrating on the questions. But the rest of the studio people, and the control room staff, were laughing so hard they could hardly stand up (or sit down). Somehow the show kept going and was ultimately aired with the detaching clock still in place.
Two former prime ministers of Canada have appeared on RFTT, Stephen Harper and Kim Campbell.
There has been speculation recently about a replacement for Alex Trebek on Jeopardy because of Alex's ill health. The producers of the show have quietly been seeking suggestions from the public for replacements. I plan to submit the name of Don Cherry as I understand that Don has recently become available for additional work and of course, like Alex, he's a Canadian. What do you think of my idea? [Stationbreak editor: more evidence of Alan's mental condition]
And, to end this article, a short snapper from Gordon Hunt (more from and about Gordon below),
I would only guess at the year this might have been...but, Reach for the Top was getting ready for their weekly show in studio 42 when I arrived to record the next day commercials and promos up in studio 50. Passing Jack Webster in the hallway near reception, I asked what he was doing here..."Oh, I'm supposed to be the "mystery guest" in their show". This, of course, was the part of RFTT where the kids were blindfolded and the game was to see who was first to guess the name of the guest through questions about them. At the end of my arduous commercial session I tripped down the stairs to see Jack pacing back and forth at the front door waiting for a ride home. "How did it go Jack?", I said, "Hrrrrmph" as only Jack could , an added, "wouldn't be so bad except that their first guess was Ben Ginter !! Ben Ginter, imagine that ! ^%*(^%* ". Jack wasn't prepared for the kids to come up with the name of a then famous BC brewer before himself, an even more famous broadcaster. Jack...gotta' love him RIP.

From Gordon Hunt….
I worked on the Royal Tour team with Monty (Lamont Tilden) and Stan Peters back in 1971. It was on that same tour that the Queen visited Queen's Park in New Westminster and Bill Good Jr and I hosted the national show. At the time, I was a serious music host, mainly on radio, so Bill insisted that I handle all music related issues in the broadcast. Also, since I was colour blind, he would be the man to respond to anything related to colour. I'm sorry, I can't remember the name of the director for that show but he complained that "this show is like the blind leading the deaf".
Round about 1969/70 I was the regular late night news reader at CBUT and Bill Good, a friend from 'way back at CFPR, was the sportscaster. He liked his smoke before the show and we would stand outside the fire doors on Alberni Street in the minutes leading to the news. Somehow, the doors were not firmly closed and in the middle of the news a man burst through the doors, shouting and banging the doors against the wall. Six foot 4 Bill kindly ushered him back out onto the street. That kind of thing never happened in the "new" building and neither did the crawling under air conditioning pipes to get from newsroom to studio.
Thanks Gordon for those stories. Gordon has a really interesting biography which I am going to share with you. Who knew that the CBC chauffeur would end up being the serious music host on CBC in Vancouver!

Gordon's bio:


I began violin lessons at age six and took that into UBC Music School in 1960. Probably too lazy to pursue that career and after two years at UBC, joined the CBC as an office boy. During those first two years at CBC I progressed (?) through many positions (even "CBC Chauffeur", no kidding, which involved driving a station wagon between CBC ops. Hotel Van-Bute St.-Davie Building-etc. every half hour, 16 times a day!) Came to my senses with a move to Prince Rupert as a Nabet "announcer operator" at CFPR in '64. Transferred to CBC Vancouver in '66 mainly in radio and serious music shows. Television news announcing began shortly thereafter. Worked both services until about '88 and concentrated on radio until retirement in '95.
Television shows in the years 67-88 included Night Final (5 nights/week), Hourglass (sub for Harvey Dawes and host of Summer edition), Switzer (Summer show), Royal Tour specials, Klahanie (last few years) but majority of work in radio with a number of national music programs like Command Performance, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and Vancouver Chamber Orchestra (both weekly) Bob Kerr show (sub) and Hot Air jazz show. In those days announcers were multi taskers and I feel this helped to enliven the sometimes boring job. It allowed me to also meet the biggies of motorsport as I reported on car racing (Jackie Stewart, Michael Andretti, etc. at Westwood).

An Electrifying Event
From Dagmar Kaffanke Nunn:
Ann Elvidge and I sat side by side in Radio Arts on the third floor for several years. One very fond memory is the day of the CBC Christmas Party that was being held down in the big TV studio. I think it was in 1980. We were still at our desks when Tom Robinson came around the corner wheeling a cart bearing two electric typewriters for us. Until then we'd been slaving away on ancient manual machines. Ann, being a drama queen, got up from her chair and collapsed prone on the floor in a mock faint. Poor Tom was quite concerned but I burst out laughing and we couldn't stop giggling for the rest of the evening. Before going down to the party, we rolled sheets of paper into our new electric typewriters and happily clicked away for a while!
Editor: Anybody who has worked at CBC will know that the delay in providing these ladies with modern equipment was a "budget issue". It was hard enough to get funding for a radio or TV program, much less to get funds for the proper tools to create those shows.
Dagmar was with CBC Vancouver from 1976 to 2008 and her career encompassed the roles of Production Secretary, Production Assistant, Associate Producer and Producer in Radio.
Ann Elvidge was on staff from 1975 through the mid 1980s as a Production Secretary and then Program Assistant in Radio. It was in the Radio Variety Department that she met her husband, Producer Tod Elvidge. Sadly, Ann passed away December 8, 2019.

Valentine's 2020
My wife said: "I've been reading on the internet that Valentine's Day is being celebrated less and less, which is a shame when you think that Valentine celebrations were first held in 496 A.D." "I thought that Valentine's Day celebrated Rudolph Valentino from the 1920's", I responded. "No, Silly. The Wikipedia article says there are way more people between 55 and 90 celebrating Valentine's than there are between 20 and 55. Why don't we do something sentimental and nostalgic for Valentine's this year? Let's go to a restaurant that was in business when we were courting". "I'm always happy to go to Denny's", I said. My wife turned, looked at me icily, and said "I was thinking of the White Spot!"
We compromised by ordering a medium sized margherita from Nat's New York. It turned out to be a prudent decision as Al Vitols reported that the White Spot was overwhelmingly busy. Gord Gill said that Denny's was OK, and strongly recommended the Super Duper Slam at $6.99.

The success of this column's future lies entirely in your hands. Comments would be welcome, and your contributions would be greatly appreciated. If you have an item to add to a future column, please email me at alangwalker@gmail.com . If you require any assistance in editing, I would be happy to help. If you think my articles need editing, please email me, and I would be happy to have your help.
Alan

7. ALAN WALKER'S OLD TIME CBC TV JANUARY 25, 2020

Hello Everyone, and Welcome Back. This month we begin with a couple of stories about a most-respected contributor to CBC Television in British Columbia.


Being Bob Quintrell

1. How to Become Your Own Host


Bob Quintrell was an "A Class" cricketer in Australia in his younger years, and played for Canada against England in 1954. How and why Bob came to Canada and ended up working for CBC Television, is unknown to me. What I do know is that Bob was already a TV producer at CBC in Vancouver when I joined in 1958. I also know that we junior technicians liked Bob – he was friendly, and remembered our names. I could tell you about some other producers who were just the opposite, but I won't.
When I joined CBUT, the evening current affairs/entertainment show was called "Almanac", and its on-air personalities were Bill Bellman (later boss of CHQM), Alan Millar, and Bob Fortune. The producer of Almanac at that time was Dagg Overgaard (an unfortunate first name if you come from or have ever lived in Australia). It was, according to the big brass, time to retire Almanac in favour of a new show, to be called the "The 7 O'Clock Show". (Guess what time it started? Wrong, not 7 o'clock but 7:01 p.m. because of commercials).
I believe it was Gene Lawrence, executive producer, who said to Bob "Find me a great host for our new show!" So, Bob started auditions. In the break we had most nights between the early news and the late news, Bob organized on-camera auditions of would-be hosts for the new show. Usually, the would-be host interviewed a local celebrity, but not someone who could ramble on without any questions being thrown at him or her (Dave Brock comes to mind). We, the technicians, also got into the act, and we'd say something to each other after an audition "he was the sh*ts, wasn't he?" I don't remember a single interview of a female – but those were the times.
After many, many unsuccessful auditions, Bob said "I'm going to audition myself!" He did, and he won (somebody else obviously reviewed Bob's audition).
More follows here about Bob's career in a story contribution by Chris Paton who in the 1960's worked with Bob on the nightly current affairs program, The Seven O'Clock Show, and on many of his remote telecasts.

2. The Versatile Mr. Quintrell
by Chris Paton

To many of his colleagues, and the audience members who remember him, Bob Quintrell is still thought of as one of the best and most versatile broadcasters on CBC television. At the core of what made him exceptional was a deceptively simple sounding thing, but a rarity in the TV business - he was the same person on camera as he was off. A quiet man with a soft hint of an accent from his Australian birthplace, and an open and engaging charm that the camera embraced and audiences loved. In interview situations, Bob not only listened to what was being said, he processed and followed up on it instead of mindlessly sticking to a list of prepared questions. A top notch talent and a pleasure to work with, there was something else about Bob that made him invaluable - he was one of the most adaptable broadcasters in the business. When disaster struck, as it so often does during live television productions, Bob was not only amazing at salvaging what was swirling 'round the drain, he often managed to make the screwups more entertaining than what was originally planned. One Quintrell moment in particular remains as a memory of that versatile Quintrell style.
In the 1960s we were in Victoria with a full television crew to do a live telecast of the opening of the B.C. Parliament. At those openings the Lieutenant Governor reads the Speech from the Throne - a speech normally prepared by the Government in consultation with the cabinet. This particular year the Lieutenant Governor was a well loved, esteemed and dedicated gentleman, but a man who, as an official earlier in the day pointed out to us, liked to "brace" himself for these events with a shot or two of good brandy. On this particular day, word went out that he had somewhat overdone the bracing.
In the very hushed and respectful tone of voice normally associated with sports announcers covering major golf tournaments, Bob was at the microphone with a live voice-over play by play of the events taking place inside the Legislature. As he explained the historic significance of the proceedings being shown on the screen, the Lt. Governor of the day, dressed in traditional garb, including a hat with a large triangular brim, slowly and uncertainly made his way up the stairs to the throne. Once there, he stood in front of the thing gently swaying from side to side. In the assembled house, and outside in the remote TV truck, people collectively held their breath waiting for the moment when he'd step back and sit down. Finally with an audible plop that echoed throughout the house, the gentleman tentatively bent his knees and collapsed onto the throne. Normal breathing resumed among audience members, but just as he leaned back, his black tricornered hat hit the back of the throne and dropped down over his face. He must have thought the lights had suddenly gone out because for a moment that seemed endless, he made no attempt to return the hat to the top of his head. Bob missed not a beat and commented, "the Lieutenant Governor is now seated on the throne, and in what I believe was once a traditional gesture, has doffed his hat to signal the start of the proceedings."
"He did what to his hat?" one of the control room crew asked. The technical producer replied, "I think he said he doffed it." "Offed it?" - "no, he doffed it." Later when the production wrapped and many of us, including Bob, went to the local pub, there were questions about how and where Bob had learned about the hat doffing tradition. Bob smiled. "Well, I've been thinking about that. I may have been confused. Doffing may actually be an old Australian tradition, but it looked a lot like what this Governor did."


No more mention of Hat Doffing surfaced after that night. Surprising, as Victoria has long been home to many a scholar dedicated to the official history of the B.C. Government and Legislative Assemblies. But then, at least to my knowledge since that Opening Day Ceremony of the British Columbia Legislature, no other Lieutenant Governor has ever Doffed,

Bob Quintrell's last production was a remarkable documentary - one which he produced, directed and hosted for the UBC Film Communications Department in 1987. It was a personal and valiant story about cancer, and his own battle with the disease. Bob died at age 57 on February 21, 1988.

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Tales of the CBC TV Switchboard


1. OVERHEARD


At the old TV studios at 1200 West Georgia, the Master Control area contained about 4,000 cubic feet of electronic equipment, most of it being plugs and sockets for directing and re-directing video and audio circuits for the entire three buildings that comprised the 1200 West Georgia Street studios.
One master control operator who had nothing better to do was nosing around in the back end of his territory, and found a bunch of circuits relating to the public address system emanating from the switchboard office which was located downstairs near Studio 41. Once he figured out what circuit was what, our master control operator plugged the microphone in the switchboard room into the PA system, and bypassed the on-off switch on the microphone. The result was that not only the valid announcements made by the switchboard operator went out over the PA system but, also, all the private conversations between the two on duty switchboard operators! You could hear laughing throughout the three buildings when people realized what was happening. It didn't last very long – for obvious reasons.
Once the cause of the brouhaha was discovered, it was reported that one of the switchboard operators said "After we catch him, he's going to be a soprano!"


CBUT Switchboard

2. SODBE


It was a Saturday afternoon, and I was on duty as a coordinating producer. The program on air was a live telecast on the CBC Network via Toronto, of a major league baseball game, starring some guy named Micky Mantle.
It was the bottom of the 9th inning, the overall score was tied, the bases were loaded, Micky was up, and the count was 2 and 3. Just as the pitcher wound up, the telecast cut away at precisely 4.00.00 pm (the scheduled ending time of the live game) to "Magic Moments with Mantovani". You can imagine the reaction of viewers! The switchboard lit up like a Christmas tree, and the poor switchboard ladies didn't know what had happened, or why it happened. The male viewers phoning in were particularly adept at using profanity.
Over the years since, one of the former switchboard ladies, and I won't mention her name because Patsy MacDonald told me not to, attributes the cutting off of the game, and the substitution of regular programming, to me. I kinda like the infamy, but I never had the authority to terminate a live sportscast. SODBE, some other dude back east, was the author of that kerfuffle.

                                                                                                          That's Not Patsy McDonald on the left


P.S. The CBUT switchboard operators were incredibly talented. Not only did they handle the incoming phone calls for several hundred TV employees and performers, they also dealt with long-winded calls from viewers praising or criticizing (sometimes abusively) the shows that were being aired on CBUT.
P.P.S. The first picture above of the CBUT switchboard is fake news.
P.P.P.S Above: -that's not Patsy on the right either.

For those few viewers who are wondering about my dealings with the Nigerian FBI, I can now report that they are prepared to investigate on my behalf for the sum of Ten Million (10,000,000.00) U.S. Dollars. I'm meeting with my banker tomorrow.

6. ALAN WALKER'S OLD TIME CBC TV DECEMBER 22, 2019

Welcome back everybody. First up this time is a recollection from Taylor Ogston on one of the sad events of the 1960's.


June 5, 1968: A Night to Remember


I was a summer relief audio operator, working in the Transmitter Booth (also called "Studio 50). At around 11.45 pm on this night, CBUT was presenting its regular local newscast with Dan MacAfee being the newscaster.
The newscast location in our old premises at 1200 West Georgia Street had just recently been relocated from Studio 49, at the opposite end of the hallway, to our Studio 50, and the very small announce booth attached. An old studio camera was set up beside the audio operator in the control room, shooting through the glass into a ‘phone booth’ sized studio.
Following that regular newscast, Dan McAfee returned to the newsroom, filed his script away, and was about to go home when he heard the various news teletype machines all chiming continuously with their news alert bells*. Thankfully, Dan looked into the teletype room (actually an air conditioning/furnace duct ‘closet’) and saw the enormous quantity of wire copy spewing out of the machines. A quick scan of the stories revealed the tragic news of the shooting just minutes earlier of Senator Robert Kennedy, just after he gave an election speech at a hotel in Los Angeles.

Grabbing an armload of teletype copy, Dan ran back to the announce booth, told the Presentation Co-ordinator, Tom Dodd, and the Technical Supervisor, Dave Sharp, what had just happened in L.A. Quickly it was decided to get Dan back on the air with this breaking news while some quick phone calls were made to enable CBUT to carry live coverage coming from Los Angeles.
CBUT was the first Vancouver station to have live coverage just minutes after the shooting.
Yes, a night to remember.
*Both wire-service and private teleprinters had bells to signal important incoming messages and could ring 24/7 while the power was turned on. For example, ringing 4 bells on UPI wire-service machines meant an "Urgent" message; 5 bells was a "Bulletin"; and 10 bells was a FLASH, used only for very important news, such as the assassination of President Kennedy.

Taylor (Ogston) has had an interesting career having been, among other things, a "Boss Jock" at CKLG, an associate producer/director for CBC's Hourglass, and Canadian Vice-President of Fuji Film Motion Picture Sales.
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This month's sports trivia question:
What sport is at least 5000 years old? Answer at the end of the column.
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Meeting Lorraine

In 1958, Lorraine McAllister was a beautiful 34 year-old entertainer who already had a career on radio and at concerts as a singer with big bands across Canada, and as a solo vocalist. At the same time, I was a callow 19 year-old, working as the most junior technician at CBC Television in Vancouver.
Ms McAllister was starring in her own TV show "Meet Lorraine", a weekly nighttime presentation on CBUT. Lorraine's musical accompaniment was by the Chris Gage Trio, featuring the amazing keyboard talents of Chris Gage, with Stan Johnson on bass, and Jim Wightman on drums.


Lorraine & husband Dal Richards

In our crowded main Studio 41 at CBUT, the show's technical staff would likely have consisted of three cameramen, Harry Hooper, Jim Currie, Bob McQuay, Harold Haug or Max Albrechtson. Our switcher was probably Art Doig, video control Andy Martens, our audio operator Dave Liddell (who was known for making the funniest comments over the talkback mike listened to by the boom operators), and perhaps Bob McFarlane and Bill Kyashko on boom. (Bill Kyashko was perhaps the friendliest technician you could ever meet, and I was very sad to hear of Bill's recent passing.)

The producer of the whole musical extravaganza was Jörn Winther, a Danish ex-patriate who went on to a brilliant career in the U.S., directing among other things, many of the "Sonny and Cher" shows, and the interview series with David Frost and the disgraced President, Richard Nixon.
And then there was me – totally in awe of the whole process, especially looking at the gorgeous star. My job on Lorraine's show included pushing the boom men around on their boom dollies, pulling the heavy camera cables out of the way of other equipment and people, and incidental tasks like the one I am about to describe, the highlight of my whole existence!
On this particular show, the esteemed director decided that he wanted some "wide" shots of Lorraine singing with the band in the background, which would have been a problem creating without the boom equipment showing. "I have the answer" said director Jörn, "we'll have one of those small microphones concealed in Lorraine's cleavage!"
Guess whose job it was to install it? The microphone was called a "BK6", and it was the size of a short, fat cigar. I approached Lorraine with the mike and the cable, and asked her to pull the mike and cable up inside her dress to her "front". Lorraine asked me to help, and I was doing my nervous best when she said to me, "Haven't you ever touched a woman's breast before?" And I said to myself as I blushed, "Not as much as I'd like to."

Lorraine continued her most successful career at CBC TV and elsewhere, but passed away at the relatively early age of 62. By contrast, Lorraine's husband, Dal Richards ("Vancouver's King of Swing") survived to age 97, and just passed away in 2015.

During the same time period, I occasionally worked on CBC TV shows starring the incredible Eleanor Collins, "Vancouver's first lady of jazz", who just turned 100 years old last month. I was never asked to help put on her microphone.
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For those few following my attempts to get $10,000,000.00 US from Nigeria, I can now advise I am negotiating with the Nigerian FBI as to how much I need to send them before they begin their investigation.
* * *
SURELY, I CAN'T LOOK THAT OLD
A story from a former CBCer. She does not wish to be identified.
Have you ever been guilty of looking at others your own age and thinking, “surely I can't look that old?”
I was sitting in the waiting room for my first appointment with a new dentist.
I noticed his diploma on the wall, which bore his full name. Suddenly, I remembered that a tall, handsome, dark-haired boy with the same name had been in my high school class some 30-odd years ago.
Could he be the same guy that I had a secret crush on, way back then?
Upon seeing him, however, I quickly discarded any such thought.
This balding, gray-haired man with the deeply lined face was way too old to have been my classmate.
After he examined my teeth, I asked him if he had attended Delbrook High School.
"Yes, yes, I did. I was a football and hockey star" he gleamed with pride.
"When did you graduate?" I asked.
He answered, "In 1975. Why do you ask?"
"You were in my class!" I exclaimed.
He looked at me closely, and then, that ugly, old, bald, wrinkled- faced,
fat-ass, grey-haired, decrepit, s.o.b. asked,
"What subject did you teach?"

Yesterday's Bad News: First day of Winter. Yesterday's Good News: The days are starting to get longer.
Trivia Answer:
In the 1930's, a British anthropologist discovered a child's grave in Egypt more than 5000 years old which appeared to also contain a crude form of bowling paraphernalia. Underneath the bowling stuff was a Stationbreak flyer from Peggy urging attendance at the next scheduled get together at the Giza pyramid lanes.

4.  ALAN WALKER'S OLD TIME CBC TV NOVEMBER 25 2019

Hello Everyone and welcome back!


First up this month is a fascinating history from Al Vitols about Jack ("Wass") Wasserman's time with CBC TV.
Jack Wasserman, after whom a block of Hornby Street was named “Wasserman’s Beat” in the wake of his untimely death, used to write negative columns for The Vancouver Sun about the CBC based on information being fed to him by someone on staff. It got to the point where the Program Director issued a ‘top secret’ memo threatening the ‘leaker’ that when discovered he or she would be dealt with severely, possibly fired. In the next day’s column Jack was quoting from the memo.
Eventually he told me who the ‘leak’ was. It was… well, perhaps it better remain a secret.
Wass first appeared on CBUT during some sort of telethon-like money raiser to present something to be auctioned. I no longer recall what it was, but he sat on the set in Studio 42 scared out of his wits. Not at all like his print life where he could hold his own against anyone and do so with impunity.
He felt quite comfortable while searching for items for his column in various clubs and eateries snatching forkfuls from the plates of his column fodder to the extent that he became known as The Fastest Fork in the West.
Len Lauk, who knew Wasserman professionally, eventually convinced Jack that he should do some work for the CBC while still a columnist in the Vancouver Sun, and Jack bought the idea. After I took over Hourglass, Len told me that the only reason he got Jack to be on the show was to stop his constant knocking of the CBC. It worked.
At the beginning Jack was terrible, but Len persevered and Wass became a very good interviewer as well as a source of program ideas. It wasn’t easy for him because he seldom finished his column before three in the morning in his Gastown office and didn’t get to sleep in his West Vancouver bed until somewhat later. We held program meetings at ten o’clock and he was expected to attend. He was forever sleep-deprived.
Much later, when he was already established as an ongoing member of Hourglass and was scheduled to interview Al Johnson, the big CBC boss at the time, Al told Jack in the pre-interview specifically not to ask a certain question. On the show, when the camera red tally light went on, the first question Jack posed was that a very one. As it turned out, Johnson managed to answer it so eloquently that he forgave him and even bought us dinner.


After dinner we wound up drilling and rehearsing him for his scheduled meeting with the pushy Vancouver branch of, I think, Friends of the CBC, or Friends of Broadcasting, or some such organization, the actual reason for his trip out west. Apparently our practice session was helpful as most of the questions he faced had already been posed by Jack and me.
Although there was supposed to be great rivalry between the Mouth that Roared - Webster, and The Fastest Fork in the West - Wasserman, that was mostly a promotion by the Vancouver Sun publicity department. There is a picture of Wasserman threatening Webster with a typewriter, all part of promoting both of them as being the Sun’s stars. In real life they trod different boards and in doing so had very little reason to be jealous of each other. Publicly, of course, they bristled at the mention of the other Jack.
Wass was developing a balding pate. He didn’t care, but it was gleaming in over-the-shoulder shots. At first we used spray to minimize the problem, but eventually that was not enough and I had him get a hairpiece. For a while he only used it when he was on camera and it was kept in makeup. Then filming (yes, there was this medium that used rolls of acetate with holes down the side to capture pictures and sound) also saw the need to hide the shine and Jack kept the ‘rug’ in his care. Eventually the on-again off-again of the hairpiece became a nuisance and Jack started to wear it all the time.
One such occasion provided much laughter for the Hourglass staff. To do a political summary the director, and I don’t recall who it was, had Jack emerge from Lake Okanagan like a surfacing Ogopogo and while doing so his rug slipped off and floated out of camera shot. As I remember it, the director let Jack carry on for a bit as obviously he was not aware of his hair departing.
Actually there were very few things that he refused to do. During yet another election campaign I had him chopper around the northern communities, including the Cariboo, and find out how ranchers and others living in remote communities felt about the candidates. He spotted what looked like a setting for a Currier and Ives painting and the chopper landed as close to the ranch house as the pilot dared, but still some distance away. Jack jumped out into the snow and his city shoes plowed his way to the ranch and wound up with a very interesting item.
He and I used to grab a post-show, mid-evening bite at a steakhouse on Seymour St. We used to go there mainly because they set a bowl of the best chopped liver, Jack’s favourite nosh, on the tables as kind of a gigantic amuse-bouche. We would practically lick the bowl clean and sometimes ask for another. Keeping in mind that Jack would get ‘comped’ in the place, as he did in most eateries that were hoping for a positive mention in his column, we were constantly trying for something inexpensive and we'd order hamburgers.
One evening the owner came by and asked if we would please have steaks because his kitchen didn’t stock cheap meat and for our burgers they had to use their steak tartare, the house specialty, and the most expensive kind of beef.
Even after years on Hourglass he had very little savvy about how things worked. After we did a special program about the similarities and differences of two native settlements, both within the shadow of a metropolis, the stand-up recorded at the intersection of Marine Drive and Taylor Way in West Vancouver was unusable because of heavy traffic noise. Not too heavy per se, but did not go with the serenity of the Cocknawaga community.
I brought him in to lip-sync the piece and Jack was sweating blood about having to do this. The way it worked was that the original audio was fed into a headset and all he had to do is repeat himself. When Wass found out he didn’t have to remember every word of his intro he was so relieved that he almost kissed the sound technician.
He became very ill for a couple of days while we were in Montréal on the shoot, but his own doctor back in West Vancouver pronounced him in perfect health.
Some weeks later during an amusing speech as he was ‘roasting’ Gordon Gibson at the Hotel Vancouver he collapsed at the lectern. The audience laughed thinking it was part of his speech about the collapse of the Liberal Party. Not so.
Jack died while he was the centre of attraction, his ongoing aspiration. He was aged fifty, plus seven days.
There could be more, particularly about the people who used to drop in late at night, early morning really, for a chat and a nightcap. Politicians, union leaders, and just folk who had something to say and were hoping, perhaps, to make it into print. The downstairs gate was locked at midnight, but a few pebbles thrown at Jack's office window, providing one knew which was his, would have Wass throw down the key.
Not all chats were identified as ‘off the record’, some tipsy politicians blurted out state secrets, but Jack always used his own sense of what could or should not be in his column.
He was very possessive of his spot in the paper. As I recall, it was below the fold on the back page. The time he had a fight with the publisher and got moved to inside the paper hurt his pride quite badly. Eventually he got his spot back.
And so it goes.....-30-
Thanks Al

No Icing on This Cake


Before I begin my story, a little trivia:
What is Canada's official sport? See answer at the end of this article. No Googling, please.
One of the tasks of the Coordinating Producers at CBC Vancouver in the '60's and '70's was to be in charge of the Control Room at 1200 West Georgia when a live hockey game was being telecast from the Forum (later the Pacific Coliseum).
Although all the main action of the telecast was handled through the CBC's TV mobile vehicle, some aspects of the telecast such as commercial inserts could only be carried out at the downtown studios. And thus the output from the mobile truck was fed to 1200 West Georgia for appropriate inserts, and from there went out to the cross-Canada TV network, as well as to the local CBUT transmitter.
A few days before I had my first scheduled time in the Studio 50 control room for an upcoming network hockey game, I was required to have a meeting with the hotshot producer/director of network hockey games from Toronto. "Al", he said, "I want you to know that our hockey sponsors, Imperial Oil and Esso, pay big bucks to put their commercials into our hockey games, and it's therefore important that you don't screw up when inserting commercials into the game." "Okay", I said to myself, "Rule one is that there isn't to be any screw-ups." Hotshot went onto say, "We're not allowed to cut away from the game when in progress to put in the commercials. We can easily stick the commercials at the beginning or end of the game, and between periods, but all other commercials have to be inserted on the fly, without interrupting the game, and that's why a lot of commercials are "supers", ones that we can superimpose over the game. I'll tell you when to insert them. And", he added, "Never ever insert a commercial during a fight on the ice. Hockey fans want to see those fights. It's the same thing as auto racing fans want to see a giant smash-up between cars, but they never admit it." "Rule 2", I said to myself "no commercials during fights". On the day of the game, I was sitting nervously in the Studio 50 control room, and the hotshot director is loud in my headset. I kept thinking of the rules, "no screw-ups and no fights in the commercials, oops, no commercials in the fights".
The first commercial I inserted before the play started went without a hitch. Then the game started, and after a while, Hotshot calls through to me and says, "Ok, Al, stick in that Esso super after the next icing". "Icing!", I say to myself, "What the hell is an icing?" (Did I mention I'm from Australia?) I looked around the control room to see which technician I would be the least embarrassed to ask what was an icing, and then I noticed a kind of pause in the hockey action so I yelled "roll film" and an Esso super appeared over the rink. Nobody had detected my ignorance of hockey terminology, or indeed of the whole game. 

Some weeks later I got around to asking one of my fellow workers, "Is there a hockey rule called frosting?" He looked confused for a minute and then said, "Do you mean icing?". When I said "Yes", he started to laugh so hard he couldn't answer my question. Duh!
Later that same year I had my first opportunity to insert commercials into a CFL game being played at Empire Stadium, and sent out to the CBC network. Once again I met with a hotshot producer/director from Toronto who specialized in network football games. By now, being somewhat cocky because of my hockey experience, I said to him, "You'll tell me when to insert the commercials, right? And there are to be no commercials during fights." He looked at me like I was crazy and said "What are you talking about? We don't have fights in football games and, you tell me when you want to insert a commercial and I call through to the referee on my headset and tell him to stop the game. Then you'll hear Ted Reynolds say "There's a time-out on the field", and after that, you stick in the commercial." My breast billowed with the knowledge of my power over the CFL.


Thinking back on my dumbness about hockey rules, I had this daydream about a Vancouver cameraman (who looked like Ray Waines) who was asked for some strange reason to travel to Australia to be one of the cameramen on an international cricket game. Ray arrives in Sydney, and the first day just about kills himself crossing the road because he was looking to his left for traffic instead of the right (Australians drive on the left). Ray sets up his camera, and then hears on his headset the director say "Ray" (it sounded more like "Ry" because of the director's Australian accent), "swing your camera around and get a medium close-up of the fielder at silly mid on". Ray says to himself, "What the hell is "silly mid on?" Of course, there's no point my telling Stationbreak readers where this cricket position is located, but you might be interested to know that the fielding position is so close to the batsman that the word "silly" is meaningful.
Footnote:
Years later when I was training a new coordinator on inserting commercials into a baseball game (which was a slam dunk because you simply inserted commercials after every half inning or complete inning), my trainee said to me "What period are we in?" I smiled to myself. I won't mention my trainee's name, but he became famous at CBC later on as a studio director because of his habit of wearing white gloves.
Hockey trivia:
In 1931 in the pre-icing days, the Boston Bruins and the New York Americans played a game that resulted in a scoreless tie, possibly because the Bruins iced the puck 87 times.
Answer To Trivia Question:
I know that hundreds of thousands of Stationbreak's readers answered "hockey". A few thousand, fearing a trick, put "lacrosse". The correct answer however is…the question is wrong, it should be "what ARE Canada's official sports", and the answer to that question is hockey as a winter sport, and lacrosse as a summer sport and synchronized swimming as a spring sport (I lied about synchronized swimming). If you answered correctly, you are entitled to join the Stationbreak Hall of Fame, with its numerous non-financial and intangible benefits.
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My ability to remember song lyrics from the 60's far exceeds my ability to remember why I walked into the kitchen.
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For those few readers who are following my saga of obtaining Ten Million ($10,000,000.00) U.S. dollars from various persons in Nigeria, I can report that my bank has advised that all the money orders I mailed to cover initial expenses have been cashed. I am beginning to think this is a scam. I may shortly contact the Nigerian FBI.


The success of this column's future lies in your hands. Comments would be welcome, and your contributions would be greatly appreciated. If you have an item to add to a future column, please email me at alangwalker@gmail.com . If you require any assistance in writing, I am happy to help. Alan

Be sure to read Alan Walker's Old Time CBC column coming up on December 22nd when Taylor Ogston tells a sad story about an assassination in the 60's, and Alan reports on getting up close and personal with a CBC musical star.

3.  ALAN WALKER'S OLD TIME CBC TV OCTOBER 25 2019

Last month's column on a Royal Tour brought back these memories of royal visits to Al Vitols:

The Queen Mum and the Brownie caper

Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon, Empress consort of India, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, but known to one and all as Queen Mum, visited Victoria on March 19, 1966. She was in Victoria to lay the cornerstone for the new Royal British Columbia Museum, an event being covered by the CBC with Len Lauk in charge. While in Victoria she was also reviewing a batch of Brownies. I was to blame if things went south at that location. Mum, as befits royalty and government appointees, was staying at Government House and the Brownie event was to take place in front of the main entrance. While the crew was busy setting up I wandered around the mansion and wound up in the kitchen where, having explained to him what I was doing there, the chef invited, nay - insisted, that I sample the breakfast he was providing for Her Highness. It turned out to be a British kind of breakfast, kippers and all. I still don't see the Brit's love for smoked herring at the crack of dawn. I suppose I'd be correct in saying I shared Queen Mum's breakfast. If I recall correctly, the event was scheduled for ten o'clock to be telecast across the CBC network as well as fed to CTV, the only other Canadian network at the time. By nine-thirty, we were all set and ready for the ten o'clock appearance of Her Highness. At nine thirty-five it started to drizzle. By nine forty the event was moved indoors into the Government House ballroom without consulting me regarding what the move would do to the nation-wide telecast. But move we had to.
Not only was the location changed, but because the ballroom stage featured a grand piano, a short recital was added to the ceremony by the local Brownie leaders. I don't recall how and why we had enough camera cable to reach all the new camera positions, but we did. There certainly wasn't enough time to fetch any from the old mobile in downtown Victoria. There was one camera up on the ballroom balcony, a place shared with a few light standards to add some extra illumination to the otherwise candelabra-lit parquet floor and whatever light seeped in through the windows. Another camera was at floor-level inside the ballroom and the third covered Her Highness while she chatted with invited guests in the lobby. We were not allowed to actually hear what Her Highness was saying and had to 'bury' her comments into the general hubbub. When the time came for her to move into the ballroom, cameraman Bruce McDonald outdid Bannister* and Landy in getting his camera from the foyer through a short hallway into the ballroom to see her disappear through one door and watch her arrive through the other. No mean trick with a top-heavy, tiny-wheel, hard to steer tripod.  From there on all went boringly as planned and I hope people in Punkeydoodles Corners, ON and Spread Eagle Bay, NL enjoyed our seamless on-air effort.


1968 – Vancouver – The Two Jacks
Anyone of my vintage will remember Jack Wasserman and Jack Webster. They were fierce but friendly rivals although the reality was that Wasserman was really a celebrity columnist and Webster was an investigative reporter. Their real competition in later years was not in the print medium but as talk show hosts on competing radio stations. Both appeared many times on CBC TV in Vancouver both as guests, and sometimes as hosts. Wasserman became a regular host on CBC's Hourglass, and Webster had five years as a panelist on CBC's Front Page Challenge. The royal connection? When the Queen Mother visited Vancouver on the royal yacht Britannia, a few "important" people were invited to dinner aboard the royal yacht. One of those individuals was Jack Webster and not even on his deathbed did he divulge what took place during that dinner or what they talked about. Wasserman was quite jealous that he was not invited.

Editor's Note:
In next month's column we'll be featuring some more stories from Al Vitols about Jack ("Wass") Wasserman.

* Many will remember the great rivalry between the two long distance runners, Englishman Roger (later Sir Roger) Bannister and Australian John Landy. Both had broken the 4-minute mile barrier in separate meets earlier in 1954. The first time they competed with each other was in the 1954 British & Commonwealth Games held at Empire Stadium in Vancouver in August, 1954 in which both men broke the 4 minute mile barrier, but Bannister won. The press called it "The Miracle Mile". You can see the whole race on film in CBC's archives.


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For readers of last month's column, I can report that I have not yet received the first of the anticipated TEN MILLION ($10,000,000.00) Dollars U.S., likely as a result of postal delays.

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My column this month is a little personal – I hope you won't mind.


I Travelled Halfway Around the World to be an Office Boy at CBC


Part I
When I was a teenager living in a dusty, small town in south-east Australia, I came upon a travel magazine which dedicated a whole issue to travelling by train across Canada. There were CP trains and CN trains dashing hither and dither through and around mountainsides, across rivers, through forests and wheat fields, around and across lakes, and occasionally stopping at some obviously historic railway stations. What a vision! I determined there and then to go to Canada as soon as I was old enough, and had enough money.
My school friends scoffed at my plans – why don't you do what we're all going to do, and go straight to England – see Big Ben, buy a ticket to the Folies Bergère, and drink beer at the Oktoberfest in Munich? They also pointed out that you could enter England without a visa, and get a job almost immediately. I wasn't dissuaded then, but when I applied for a Canadian visa at the Canadian High Commissioner's Office (the name for a Canadian embassy in a Commonwealth country) I almost changed my mind.
It took me a year to comply with the various visa requirements. (Many years later, a Canadian immigration official explained to me that in those days when I applied to emigrate to Canada, there was an unwritten policy among some Commonwealth countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, not to "poach" immigrants from each other's country, but rather to concentrate on getting English and European immigrants to their respective countries. Presumably, a Canadian in those days would have had as much trouble getting an Australian visa as I had getting a Canadian one.)
When I thought I had completed everything, the junior Canadian consular officer said to me, "Just one more thing, Mr. Walker, we need you to provide us with a TB x-ray, certified by two Canadian doctors". I was stunned! Where would a teenager living in a dusty, small Australian town find two Canadian doctors? But then I thought, my dusty small town is Canberra, the capital of Australia, and Canberra has a national university. Maybe they have The Canadian flag in 1957
graduate medical students? And they did, and I got my X-ray and then my Canadian visa after proving that I had the minimum necessary finances of $300 Canadian dollars!
After stops in New Zealand, Fiji and Hawaii, and many nights and days of partying, my P&O ship and I arrived in Vancouver in late October, 1957. As the Lions Gate Bridge came into view, I said to myself, "Holy wombats, I thought we were going to Vancouver first, that's the Golden Gate Bridge!" This was the tip of the iceberg of my ignorance of Canada and Vancouver.
As we were approaching the ship's berth at CPR's pier B/C (now Canada Place), I saw this giant lighted tower with a large "W" on top (it was the Woodward's sign). I nudged my new shipmate friend, and said, "Look at that – they put up that sign just to welcome me to Vancouver, "W" for "Walker"!". My friend said, "Not funny." He was eastern European.

The classic elevated sign "W" for Woodwards,
Vancouver's own department store chain, much
beloved by locals and much missed on its demise

After establishing my residence ashore at a rooming house at a giant $7.00 per week, I walked up and down Granville Street and went into every store and asked if they had any jobs. I was a bit surprised when everybody said, "No", and some even seemed to be laughing at my audacity in even asking for a job. Of course, if they told me that 1957 was a recessionary year in Canada, or even told me that Fall/Winter wasn't a good time to find a job (hence all those ads by Manpower Canada re "Why Wait for Spring, Do It Now"), I might have understood.  I gave up on Vancouver, but on the day my bus was scheduled to leave for Toronto, I received a call from CBC Personnel, to come for an interview for the position of an office boy as a result of an application I had made several weeks earlier. I survived three interviews, including one by legendary Personnel Director, Cal Pepper, and joined a group of six other office boys who were bossed around by Brian O'Dowd and Jack Hundley. My salary was $160 a month, but then a case of beer only cost $2.52, and my rent, in a shared West End apartment, was only $40 a month.

Competition to my arrival in 

Vancouver in 1957.  Can't

remember the singer's name.  Enos?

Part II


Location, Location, Location!
When I arrived for my first day's work as an office boy at CBC's "office" location in the Day Building on Burrard Street (then between Christchurch Cathedral and what would later become the Park Place high-rise), I found out that that CBC was spread out! CBC Radio alone had three locations, (including the station itself), all in the Hotel Vancouver on the 16th Floor, the First Mezzanine, and the basement. Just visiting CBC Radio's location to distribute and pick up mail kept an office boy busy. CBC TV was just as bad with its sprawling Georgia Street location, which needed two of us office boys to service. Later the office staff would move from the Day Building to an office building at the corner of Burrard and Davie. The TV program staff later moved to the upper floor of a small office building at the southeast corner of Alberni and Bute, and subsequently moved to a floor of a brand new building at the southwest corner of Alberni and Bute, part of the Pacific Palisades complex.


                                                       Vancouver's West End 1957

Only 6 weeks after my start as an office boy, a vacancy came up
for a junior (very junior) TV technical position, and relying on my
teenage hobby of electronics, I applied, and was accepted.
My boss' boss at the time, Betty Rollins, said to me "I'm Competition to my arrival in Vancouver in 1957.
recommending you for the promotion, not because I think you Can't remember the singer's name. Enos?
have any talent, but because you're one of the worst office boys
we've ever had. On the average, an office boy takes 20 minutes to do the rounds at TV, but you take 2 hours. I know you are watching shows in the TV studios". (Many, many years later when I had a different career and Betty became one of my clients, I reminded her of this conversation, and she said "I wasn't wrong, was I?")
Although CBUT was only 4 years old when I joined it, it was already a very sophisticated television production centre, and I had a lot to learn. More later on my initiation into show business.


                                          Vancouver downtown when I arrived in 1957.

Since then:
- The ugly Shell sign on the top of the Vancouver Block building has gone, but the historic building itself and its clock remain;
- The black shadow to the right was the Courthouse, and is now the Art Gallery;
- The beautiful old Birks Building at the corner of Georgia and Granville has gone, replaced by the uninteresting Scotiabank tower;
- across from Birks on Granville Street was a large parking lot, the former home of the second Hotel Vancouver (demolished in 1948) , and subsequently became part of Pacific Centre with the Eaton's Building (later becoming Sears and then Nordstrom's);
- the large fountain in the middle of the grassy area, courtesy of Premier W.A.C. Bennett, came, and went;
- Opposite the Bay and kitty corner to the Birks Building was a series of low rise offices, subsequently becoming the tip of the iceberg for the underground Pacific Centre Mall.
The West End still had a multitude of classic houses from the 1920's and 30's, and earlier

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Breaking News!
CBC Toronto has announced an upcoming one-hour special on women's underwear to be called "The Nature of Thongs". =================================================================================

An Abbotsford couple were treated for injuries yesterday after their Smart Car hit a squirrel on the trans-Canada highway near Langley. The squirrel refused treatment, and left the scene.

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The success of this column's future lies entirely in your hands. Comments would be welcome, and your contributions would be greatly appreciated. If you have an item to add to a future column, please email me at alangwalker@gmail.com . If you require any assistance in editing, I would be happy to help. Alan

2. ALAN WALKER'S OLD TIME CBC TV Sept 22, 2019

Hello Everyone and welcome back!

In my last Stationbreak Magazine article, I invited those readers who did remember me from CBC TV early days but I had neglected to mention their name in my article, should write to me and tell me I'm "old and stupid". Well, I've had hundreds of replies, although, strangely, all of them were from people whose names I really didn't remember, and they all lived in Nigeria. "Perhaps the CBC pension goes further in Nigeria", I thought. Each email offered me the opportunity to join with the email sender in a scheme where I would get TEN MILLION US DOLLARS ($10,000,000.00 U.S.), with just a little assistance from me. Well, I've written back to them all, and most have replied that I just need to send them ONE THOUSAND US DOLLARS ($1,000.00 U.S.) to cover initial expenses, and the game will be afoot (not quite sure what that means).I'm getting the money orders together now for mailing. Readers will be excited to know that when I receive the first lot of TEN MILLION US DOLLARS ($10,000,000.00 U.S.), I plan to give it to Stationbreak so that the editors can enhance the website, or perhaps pay Peggy an honorarium. Stay tuned!

And now for something completely different.

You've Lost the Queen!

Almost every July since 1959 I've has this recurring dream. In my dream I'm a cameraman working on the televised Gay Pride Parade, and the show's technical producer yells at me through my headset over and over again "Alan, Alan, you've lost the queen!" It has been suggested to me by paid professionals that my dream is likely a kind of ongoing trauma brought about by a real life incident that occurred during a visit to Victoria by the Queen and Prince Phillip. The following is the story of what happened.

It was a hot July in 1959 when Vancouver technical producer John Christensen called a group of us technicians together to give us details of our roles in what he described as "an overseas live telecast". I was slightly less excited when I realized that "overseas" meant Victoria, but then I was the most junior technician in the group, and thrilled to be going on a special assignment.

The Queen and Prince Philip were on a royal tour of Canada, and our TP explained that CBC would provide live coverage of the arrival of the Royal couple in Victoria's harbour from Nanaimo on a Canadian naval ship. "Your job, Alan", said the TP, "is to operate a microwave dish near the edge of the harbour so that your dish tracks the ship which is hosting the Queen and Prince Philip. We will have cameras aboard the ship, but we won't be able to get the signal out to the network without firing the signal from a fixed microwave dish on the ship out to your dish on shore, and then your dish will the shoot the signal to the mobile truck, and then onto the network". "Wow", I thought.

After being dumped at a very hot former quarry on Victoria's harbour edge with nobody there except me and my dish, I waited eagerly for something to happen. I had no monitor to see what was up. I did have a headset, and could hear the TP who said he would help me aim my dish by telling me continually the signal strength, like a game of "hotter/colder", except he said "good, better, worse" and sometimes "gooder and worser".

I proudly pointed my microwave dish at their Majesties' ship in the middle of the flotilla as they cruised into the harbour, reveling in the thought that all Canadians watching this program were relying on my stalwart hands moving the microwave dish to stay aligned with the Royal couple's moving headquarters.

And then, the TP screamed into my ear "Alan, Alan, you've lost the Queen!" (Afterwards I thought, "You don't hear those words every day!") I was confused – I hadn't done anything differently. I furiously swung my dish back and forth and up and down, and finally after 20 seconds (it felt like 20 minutes) the TP said in my ear "Great Alan, the signal is even better than it was before!" I was surprised because my dish was pointing in quite a different direction from earlier. Later it was determined that my dish had been pointing all along at the wrong ship in the flotilla, but by a fluke chance the signal from the Queen's ship was reflected by the superstructure of an escorting ship, right into my microwave dish. I was embarrassed of course, especially when I heard an ethnic slur on my headset from some unknown technician as to "that dumb Australian". (Did I mention I was from Australia?)

I somewhat redeemed myself the next day when the Queen and Prince Philip arrived in Vancouver – again by way of a flotilla of Royal Canadian Navy ships. This time my microwave dish and I were stationed on top of the mini lighthouse at Brockton Point in Stanley Park. This time, being more experienced and much closer to the action, I could identify the appropriate ship, and the viewers across Canada had the benefit of my dish-tracking skills. The Queen obviously forgave my error in Victoria, and instructed CBC to send me this certificate. I understand that no more than 6,500 certificates were issued. I have been resisting the temptation to put mine up for sale on e-Bay.
Alan

1. ALAN WALKER'S OLD TIME CBC TV Sept 1 2019

Hello everyone. The editors of Stationbreak Magazine have kindly allowed me to write a column to be called"Alan Walker's Old Time CBC TV". (It took us a long time to come up with that catchy title). Part of the column will be my reminiscences of working at CBC Televisionn Vancouver from 1958 to 1973. The other part of the column will be, hopefully, your reminiscences of working at CBC Vancouver, whether during or after my years. The Stationbreak editors and I believe there are lots of readers out there who could contribute shortitems about something funny or interesting that happened during their time on the job. As our technical editor Bill Morris says, it's not necessary to write "War & Peace", in fact an item could be as short as a couple of sentences.

I think of my decade and a half at CBC as the "Happening Age" because so many things happened during that time that changed television, or in some cases changed the world. Those events included the completion of the television network across Canada, TV competition in Vancouver, the coming of videotape and color to CBC, television via satellite and sending men to the moon. There were also international emergencies including the FLQ crisis and the Cuban Missile Crisis, local tragedies such as the Second Narrows bridge disaster and Hurricane Freda, and three world-shaking assassinations, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

Before getting to my first reminiscence, I'd like to acknowledge, in the list below, the staff at CBC who I recall. Certain departments of CBC TV are not well reflected in my list because most of my time at CBC I was hidden away in the master control area – so apologies to some in staging, props, graphics, carpenter shop, costumes, makeup, design and stores. If I did know you back then and failed to mention your name below, please email me and advise that I'm old and stupid.


And now, to reminisce:

The Rabbit Warren – 1200 West Georgia
Ottawa, 1952: An imagined conversation between the Head of Plant & Engineering, CBC Ottawa (the "Boss"), and various employees of his department (the "Team").

The Boss, addressing the Team: "I need you guys to go out to Vancouver, and find a place to house the offices and studios for when CBC Vancouver goes on the air next year with the first television broadcasting station in British Colombia."
Team Member: "Will we get hardship pay?"
The Boss: "Don't be a wiseass. We only have a limited budget, but you will need to find a downtown Vancouver building that is big enough to hold a large TV studio, a medium size studio, and a utility studio – as well as space for 100 or so employees".
Team Member: "What about utilizing some space in the existing CBC Radio location?"
The Boss: "Dummkopf – the CBC Radio studios are in a hotel. Do you think we can take over the hotel's ballroom and make it our Studio 41!?
The Boss: "And the building must have a microwave direct line of sight to a nearby mountain called "Mount Seymour", because that's where the transmitter is going to be".

........Two months later, the search team returns to Ottawa to report to the Boss......

Team Leader: "We have good news and we have bad news".
The Boss: "What is the good news?"
Team Leader: "We have found a location in downtown Vancouver that is within the budget, and has a direct view of Mount Seymour".
The Boss: "And what is the bad news?
Team Leader: "It's a two-story building on a corner....
"And, it's connected to an ugly one-story building....
"And the ugly one-story building is connected to an ugly three-story building.
"And the space where Studio 41will go does not have a very high ceiling, so the boom operators will need to be midgets.
"And, they'll need signs throughout the buildings as there are so many entrances, exits and staircases.
"And the teletypes for the newsroom will need to fit under the equipment in the air-conditioning room.
"And there's no room for the office staff.
"And we will need to pray that someone doesn't build a tall building kitty-corner because if they do we will never see that mountain called "Mount Seymour" again (they'll be calling it "Mount See-Less").
The Boss: "Well, it may not be a great location but we only need to use it for a little while because a brand new complex for all of CBC is planned to be built in Vancouver within the next five years."

Actually, it was 22 years before the new building.

                Home of the future studios                           1200 West Georgia Street circa 1974
         1200 West Georgia Street circa 1931

It's interesting to compare the two photos. You can see how much the contractors had to do to the exterior to turn the Willy's buildings into studios and offices. I don't know when the later picture was taken, but the butterfly on the corner shows that it was after color TV arrived in Vancouver, and after the Pacific Palisades complex and the Empire Landmark Hotel in the background were built (the Landmark in 1973). Time marches on: one of the Palisades building in the background was demolished by imploding more than 25 years ago, the brown building partially seen above CBC to the left was a 5 story office building, once partly occupied by CBC Program staff and torn down 25 years ago, and the Empire Landmark hotel on the right was recently demolished, floor by floor.

For all the jokes about the rabbit warren studios of CBC TV in those days, it was the home for an amazing amount of television production of huge quality and great quantity, and everybody who worked there was proud of what we accomplished.


                    =================================================================

From the staff magazine Intercom, February 1961:
Dear Mr. Editor,
Listening to the program "Cornucopia" on Saturday, January 21st, I was overjoyed with Greg Barnes' suggestion that Gerard Hoffnung be invited to the Vancouver International Festival this year. Splendid idea Mr. Barnes – should the authorities sanction exhumation since Hoffnung having ceased composing, is now rapidly decomposing.
Bill Terry, TV Tech

Alvin Armstrong was the still photographer at CBC TV for umpteen years. He was always busy shooting stills of productions for record purposes, shooting stills of sets to assist set designers, creating scenic and graphic slides for station breaks and commercials, and a million other projects. Not everybody was aware of his sense of humour unless they tried to phone him, or read this letter in the staff magazine Intercom in February, 1961:

Dear Mr. Editor,
Try phoning Alvin Armstrong on local 297 when he's not in the back room. A voice says "Just a moment"; you hear 4 gun shots fired in succession; there's a long pause and the dull throated voice at the other end says "he's no longer here".

Memories from Hugh Beard.
Practical jokes were an accepted fact of life at CBC Vancouver in the 60's. Some elaborate classics included a goldfish swimming inside an electronic scope. This took days to prepare allowing the perpetrators to witness a brief moment of surprise on the intended victim's face. Or the master control supervisor's desk lamp that was wired to turn off ten minutes after the supervisor sat in his chair in the darkened room. Thinking it was a burned-out bulb he got up to get a new one. When he returned with the new bulb the desk light was back on. A few minutes later, after he sat down, it turned off. So, he thought it must be a faulty lamp. He plugged in a replacement lamp, but after a short while it also turned off.

This frustrating event went on for hours much to the delight of the master control technicians who had rigged his chair with a contact switch that activated a timer to turn off the power to the electrical outlet that his lamp was plugged into. Hours of prep to pull off a practical joke.

For a brief part of my CBC career, I worked in studio 42 as a switcher. Doug Haskins was the host of a live 15-minute program titled "Scan" that showcased upcoming CBC programs. He was good at his job, but very nervous. Before going on air, as the switcher, I would cut between the two studio camera shots of Doug allowing Harry Taylor, the video tech to match the cameras. Then I would leave up a close-up shot of Doug as we waited to go on air. I noticed that Doug always checked himself out in the studio monitor. He'd adjust his tie, and then he would take out his comb and run it through his Brylcreem greased hair. This was his nightly ritual before going to air.

So, I got an idea. I would stay on the close-up of Doug until he just started to run his comb through his hair, then quickly cut to colour bars. Doug would be frozen with his comb partway in his hair waiting for me to cut back to his close-up so he could finish adjusting his hair.

I started to play this game every evening for months. Sometimes I would keep Doug frozen with his comb partway through his hair with only seconds until air time — much to the delight of my friends Harry Taylor and audio mixer Bob Hepworth, who shared in my practical joke. I was careful to vary the timing, and not to do it every day, so Doug never found out that I was playing a game with him.

That also reminds me of a practical joke played on Len Lauk who thought he was 10 minutes late for the evening news broadcast ... but that's a story for another edition

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