I guess I must be old if I can remember owning 78 rpm records such as "If you knew Suzy, like I know Suzy", made out of shellac (the record that is, not Suzy).  Mind you, by the early 50's, I also owned "long play" records made out of vinyl, and rotating along at a leisurely 33-1/3 revs per minute.  I listened to Benny Goodman's 1938 Carnegie Hall Concert and other great classics.  Then there were the one song per side 45 rpm discs which joined my collection also in the 50's including Little Richard's "Tutti Fruitti" and "Long Tall Sally". 

Then, in the early 60's, Phillips in Holland invented the cassette tape and the U.S. invented 8 Track tapes.  But the latter didn't succeed in the long run. 

While all of the foregoing was happening, reel to reel audio tape existed, beginning in Germany in the 1930's.  With the coming of television, many people asked why "they" didn't invent a video tape recorder.  The problem, said the engineers, was that the "bandwidth" of a video was so large that the video recorder needed to run at a speed of at least 100 inches per second, as opposed to 15" per second for an audio recorder.  Some clever brains at Ampex figured out that the tape head could move at a high speed rather than the tape itself, as long as the revolving tape head was a fraction of an inch away from the tape itself, so that it didn't tear the tape to ribbons.  So Ampex debuted the videotape machine in 1956, with the tape moving at a modest speed (although the tape had to be 2" wide). 

The initial videotape machines were the size of a small car, and cost about $50,000 U.S. (almost $500,000 in today's Canadian dollars). CBC TV was an earlier purchaser of the Ampex videotape recorders but, naturally, CBC Toronto received them first as CBLT was the originator of most of the network programming.  Another earlier purchaser of the VTR's was CBC Calgary – not the station itself but the CBC Calgary Delay Centre.  Many will remember that with the coming of the CBC cross Canada microwave network (rented from various provincial telephone companies), programs could be sent instantly across Canada, but Canada is a land of time zones, and thus an adult program that Toronto CBC aired at 8 p.m. would air at 5 p.m. in Vancouver if sent out directly.  As a result, the Delay Centre was born where a group of videotape recorders taped the programs coming by a separate microwave network from CBC Toronto, and then played back at the appropriate time to CBC stations in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and BC.  The Delay Centre went out of business once programs could be sent directly by closed circuit satellite. 

At the time, most everybody in the TV business loved videotape as a replacement for kinescope recordings ("kines" we called them).  As most will know, kines were made by having a fixed film camera (usually 16mm), shooting a bright TV screen running the program.  A kinescope recording suffered from a number of technical defects including poor resolution, limited contrast range, and undesirable effects such as white outlines around black objects.  As it happened, kinescopes had the last laugh because the kinescope film couldn't be re-recorded on, but not so videotape.  In early videotape days, videotapes (sometimes costing $200 per reel), were often re-recorded on, thus destroying the original material.  There are many stories on the internet about early classic TV shows having lost their history because of re-recording over the original videotapes. 

Tom Mavrow - Maintenance Technician

Enough from me, here are some recollections from Cliff Gilfillan, definitely "Mr. VTR" at CBUT. 


It is hard to believe that it is over sixty years ago in 1956 that l started work at CBC.  I worked as a technician in lighting then telecine and a short time in the on air booth in audio and switching. It was sometime in 1960 that two Ampex VR 1000 video tape machines were installed in what had been the technicians' lounge.  I was given the chance to be the first full time operator. 

Most of my training was hands on and with training manuals and the engineers that installed the equipment.  During these early years many local shows went to air live or from kinescope recordings or film. Now some shows started to be recorded on videotape and replace the very expensive kinescope process. We tried to record or playback as many shows in duplicate as possible in case of problems. We often had problems with the tapes causing the recording head to clog and lose the picture. The machines required a fair amount of maintenance and cleaning to keep them in top condition. 

Keeping track of tapes required numbering, labels to be filled out and a card system showing content.  Tapes could be erased and re-used as required.  We used 15, 30, 60 and some 90 minute tapes. Cost per tape between $100 and $200 each. 

We could do basic editing with segments of shows in sequence, with edits made during black periods for commercials, between scenes etc. Only on occasion did I physically splice a tape.  This was done with the aid of a Smith magnetic tape splicer. Finding the point to cut the tape was difficult as you could not see pictures on the tape as you would on film. To insert a new video into a show, the tape was played and stopped at the approximate insert point, by measuring back a mark was made on the tape and it was cut. The same was done on the tape to be inserted. The reels of tape were carefully removed and marked.  The two pieces to be joined now went into the editor and a solution called Edivue was applied to the ends. With the use of the microscope the operator could see where to cut the tape ends between the recorded video tracks. An adhesive tape was applied to the back of the cut pieces and the two pieces joined and trimmed off.  If the edit was a success the edit point was not noticed, at times there could be dropouts or a possible break at the edit point. I also made loops of tape to be used in a system made by our maintenance department as an early replay system for sports. 

CBC started colour production in 1966 and we acquired the Ampex VR2000 machines .We could now make edits by recording cue tones on the tape at the edit points.  Editing could be done by using reels of recorded material from various sources and assembled quite quickly without cutting tapes. 

I am not sure when we acquired a tape machine in our mobile production unit but it could have been when our first machines arrived.  We probably received a HS100 slow motion disc machine in 1967. 

I remember taking a course on editing in Montreal probably in 1968, but most was on the job training and practice with the equipment.  Ralph Weins and Perry Eaton were the first operators with me in the department, and Ralph became the tape operator on many mobile recordings. Other early staff included Andre Buller, Ray Lee, Archie Reid, Alex Duncan and Gord Gill. 

When I started in VTR, I was almost lonely, being the only one in the room.  Within 10 years, the VTR room was overcrowded with producers and script assistants editing their recorded shows.  Videotape had overtaken film as the source of edited shows. 

I remember during my last few years at the old building working with Patsy MacDonald, packaging and making copies of the Irish Rovers productions. 

I became the supervisor of videotape operations in 1975 when we moved to the new building, and I retired in 1991. 

Regards to all, Cliff


Gordon Gill was one of the earlier technicians in the VTR Department before moving on to a distinguished career as a producer/director at CBC Vancouver.  I recently asked Gord a bunch of questions about life in VTR and at CBC generally, and here are some of his responses: 

The Beginning:

I had worked at CFAX radio in Victoria before coming to CBC. I started in May of 1970 as a replacement for the technicians sent to the Beachcombers. I was an audio/video technician in Studio 50 for about a year before moving across the hall to VTR in mid-1971.  When I started in VTR, Cliff Gilfillan was the head honcho with Archie Reid, Perry Eaton, Ralph Weins and Alex Duncan being some of the guys around when I started. I think they all had a hand in my training but Cliff and Archie probably trained me the most. 

What was the best part of working in VTR?

I remember it was a lot of fun keeping up with the demands of the production teams. The News Department wanted everything yesterday. Sports always requiring special recordings and fast turnaround times with their editing. Later these activities came in handy when I worked the 1976 Olympics with Archie Reid. We had the great challenge of editing the nightly highlights package for the network. I always remember our motto was “No Problemo” Loose translation “Ya no problem “ when asked to do some unusual and tasking recording or editing job in the last minutes before going to air.  My time in VTR was a great experience and prepared me for the rest of my career in a most profound way. There were no really bad parts to working in VTR. Long nights editing which became the next day sometimes got tedious but I was well compensated.

Gordie Gill resting on Andy Williams 

When I first went in to VTR I was asked to make a physical splice on a 2 inch Black and white machine, much the same procedure used to splice audio tape, but much more complicated. I think Cliff set me up as the new guy. Cliff showed be how to line up the vertical interval and attach the special tape. When the edit I'd made went past the rapidly spinning video head my splice came apart and there was tape everywhere.  Same thing that happens when a film breaks on a projector but much more dramatic. After that, it was all electronic editing for the rest of my time in VTR. 

Most of the machines were colour when I started but I think there were black and white machines like the one used to destroy my meticulously built edit that were still being used.  I worked with many great guys over the years, some of them became good friends, and many of them editing my shows after I joined Production.  After retiring, I have run into some of them like Brad Baldwin, Dan Cramer, and Kenny Adams, but the ones I mentioned above were the mentors that started showing me the ropes. 

After becoming a Production Assistant near the end of 1977 my earlier assignments were variety oriented as they were in earlier years with VTR editing.  Variety was a good fit for me when going over to the production side of things. As during my time in technical, there are so many people who offered advice on how to do it right.  Ken Gibson and Patsy Macdonald whom I’d been working with for many years welcomed me to production and used me as a production assistant on many of their shows.  Ken asked me to direct the first live GoodRockin’ show after I had become a Director/ Producer. Patsy was already a Director/ Producer so I couldn’t ask her to be my script assistant, after all she had been one of the best, so on many occasions I asked Linda Cheng to script my productions. Linda was an incredible assistant in planning shows and saving my butt many times.  Linda remains one of the best to this day. Today these three people remain my best friends. There are too many more who influenced and shaped my career to mention. 


Linda, Ken and Patsy

How did you move from Technical to Production?

I had applied many times to move into production. I’d like to think my experience as a variety production editor slowed down that move as I was one of a few who could operate the new computer controlled 2inch tape editing. I believe I was the first editor on the system. The other VTR technicians had been given the opportunity to work with the newest 1inch machines in the new building while I had to stay back on Bute St.  So I think it was Cliff’s way of giving me a chance when he assigned me to work with the new computerized editing system when I arrived at the new building. As time went on a number of the guys got very competent operating the computer system and I finally got a job as a Production Assistant.                                      


         Gordie Gill Editing

The good and the bad of working in VTR?                                                          

Good - When the American production teams came to Vancouver. I learned so much as an editor and later as a Floor Director and Assistant Producer.  Bad - Can’t remember anything bad, not even the cafeteria food. I’m sure there were things which annoyed me but nothing of any consequence. I really enjoyed working at CBC for many years. 

Thanks Gord

 And now, for something completely different: 


by Al Vitols 

There are only a few times that I have had goose bumps and two of them feature an instrument not ‘recognized’ by the musicians’ union – bagpipes!  The union, however, does list a galvanized wash-tub as a percussion instrument as well as a washboard.  

The first goose bump time was on Canada Day at Expo ‘74 when during the closing ceremonies the Massed Pipe Bands of Manitoba marched into the Spokane arena with their version of Amazing Grace.  My spine shivered. 

The second time I wasn’t entirely sure I had not landed in Brigadoon.  I was slowly creeping through either low clouds or high mist in Scotland along a Highland “single track in with passing places” trying to remember if the signpost with a diamond on it meant that I had the right-of-way or that I had to give right-of-way by pulling off the road into a passing place.  At least these ‘tracks’ eliminated the worry about driving on the wrong side of the road.  

Eventually, about mid-morning when the fog lifted, a gorgeous across-loch vista opened up just as I was approaching a passing place and I pulled over to admire the view.  I also opened the window in order to experience the bracing and invigorating air of the high heath.  At first it was almost subliminal, but when I concentrated I could hear bagpipes.  At first I could only ascertain that it was pipes, but after a while I could recognize that a tune was being played although not a melody with which I was familiar.  I drove slowly down the hill and the sound got louder until, rounding a bend, the source became visible. A lone piper dressed to the nines in Highland regalia was standing on a large roadside boulder and it was the skirl of his pipes that had meandered over the moors. 

I stopped a respectful distance away and listened almost spellbound. After a while the piper decided to rest. I went over to express my appreciation with some money as I presumed he was busking. Not so. Our brief conversation elicited the fact that very few people used this track and busking would be useless. The Lone Piper just loved his pipes. That occasion was the third thing by which I remember Scotland, single malt and haggis being the first two. 

 I wanted to buy a set of bagpipes but they were very expensive back then. Now a couple of hundred pounds will get a pretty good set, and a ‘beginner's bag' starts at not much over sixty.   Also wanted to satisfy a hereditary desire to own a kilt.  Latvians had kilts and it is believed that it was the marauding Vikings who introduced that Baltic pseudo-skirt to Scotland.  

Did try on a splendid kilt at Kinloch Anderson, world’s premium kilt maker, where the pleated kilts start at £ 875 sterling. Their ‘try-on’ kilt was a Royal Stewart plaid.  What a magnificent bit of wearing apparel.  By the way, the original kilts were just eight yards or so of plaid fabric that had to be pleated around one’s midriff every time it was worn.  Actually there are a couple of very good kilt builders in Canada, one located in Vancouver.  Now and then I’ve thought about getting one but it still is a lot of money just to humour myself once in a while. 

By the way, the correct answer to the universal and ongoing question about what is under the kilt is 'socks and shoes'. 

Thanks Al

We had a photo of Al wearing a kilt but the editors deemed it too obscene to include in this article.


Al's story brings back to mind a personal story about kilts. Part of the time in my single days I shared a West End apartment with fellow CBC cameraman Bill Hitch, and a Scotsman named Ken. When Ken was about to get married, he asked Bill and I to be the "ushers" at his wedding.  Having said yes, Ken then requested, no, demanded, that we both wear kilts, and wear them properly, i.e., nothing underneath.  We found a place in Vancouver that rented kilts – expensively.  The wedding went fine.  The after-wedding party was the problem.  As the night wore on, the single ladies at the party became more and more interested in whether we were wearing anything underneath.  Bill was obviously the more interesting body because at the end of the night, he had a large tear in his rented kilt.  It cost him a lot the next day when he returned the kilt.  Bill never made it clear whether the excitement that night made up for the big hole – so to speak - in his budget. 

Bill Hitch

 I would like to make it absolutely clear that none of the ladies doing the prurient investigating at the party were employees of CBC then, or now, to the best of my knowledge.


This month's column begins with Al Vitols recalling his early days in TV dealing with the production of commercials.

Inside the idiot box, looking out

by Al Vitols

  The station was still very young, as was I, when I joined CFPL-TV in London, Ontario, as assistant scenic designer. Not what I wanted to do but it was a foot in the TV door and the set design portion of the Ryerson TV Production course wasn't totally wasted.  Within a few months the station got a reputation for getting our used car commercials looking better than those seen on our competition - CKNX-TV in Wingham.  The dealers kept pestering us, but the “secret” never got out.


Actually there were two reasons. First, I used to put a light source on the floor behind the car and have it shot so that there was light coming from underneath and illuminating the studio tiles and later a designed pattern. It seemed to do to cars what backlight does for people. Eventually the lightbulb over my head lit up and I put dealership logos under the cars. The other was the real secret. The last thing the dealers did before bringing the cars to the station was to get them as clean on the outside as possible. The first thing we did was to get one of the propsmen to take the cars for a lengthy spin along the gravel concession roads to get a good layer of dust all over. Eventually a pesticide sprayer and powdered fertilizer did the job better. 

Back in those days the black and white camera picture tubes didn’t like shiny stuff so after we dulled up the vehicles they looked very good. This also applied to musical instruments and many a horn player cried as he watched dulling spray being applied to his carefully polished horn.
White in a TV studio was a no-no back then. Most everyone used pale yellow which looked very white on the screen. White looked dingy and the camera tubes also produced all kinds of spurious effects, including “ghosts” - displaced images in “negative”  It was the era of pale blue shirts for men so that they would seem to be wearing white. That rule became so well known that even after telecasts were in colour, guests would turn up at the studio wearing blue shirts.

Lots of faking back then. Mashed potatoes for ice cream, peach halves for egg yolks, plaster of Paris for fried egg whites, etc.  Basically, if it looked right on camera, it was used. Jello, for instance, was prepared extremely hard, diced into tiny cubes and a thin layer of those put over crumpled aluminum foil. The studio lights reflected back from the foil and the Jello sparkled!  Saw the same methodology used by the Shirriff people in Grey Cup parade commercials in Vancouver. 

Good propsmen had their own tricks. For instance, a turkey properly set-up with the legs and wings spread just so and then frozen looked better than a fresh one sagging and flopping about. Tomatoes are easier to slice and the slices retain their integrity if partially frozen, etc.  Fruit were usually plastic as they were manufactured to look perfect. A plastic half apple never oxidized. 

The head of props was a very shy person. I suppose it was for that reason that he became the butt of some mild practical jokes. Back then, now too, a Trojan contraceptive was the best protection for a microphone when used outdoors in rain or dust or underwater.  The station went through quite a few in the course of a year. Normally the head of technical ops would do the shopping, but one time the shy guy was sent to the local drugstore to buy the year's supply. That was about four dozen. Back then they were 'behind the counter' and you had to ask for them. That quantity alone would have been embarrassing, but a phone call to the drug store ahead of time to make sure that he was served by one of the younger female staff made the embarrassment that much worse. She was also prompted to inquire if that quantity would suffice for the weekend and similar questions. He returned still pink in the face.               


The supper-hour weather was sponsored by a London lumber yard and Tom Bird, the meteorologist, did a live commercial at the start of the weathercast. One particular week the sponsor, a lumber yard, was flogging a door set, with the door already fitted in its frame. The setting was a wall with the door installed and opening to the back. Part of the spiel was for Tom to open and close the door. The way it was shot only he could see through the opening, the viewer could not. At that time we had a fun-loving film editor, a girl I dated for a while. She was a member of a Montréal brewing family and at parties a company truck would pull up and start unloading cases of their premium brand until she told them to stop. She agreed to stand stark naked behind the wall where only Tom could see her when he opened the door. 

Everything progressed normally until Tom swung the door open and saw what was behind it. Then there was a lengthy pause after which he proceeded to totally break down in laughter. He never did recover and we had to bail from the commercial as well as the weather. One would think that CFPL would have lost the sponsor. Not so. Apparently so many customers mentioned that commercial that the sponsor was actually happy rather than angry.

Late night sports sponsor was Shell Oil and their season-long pitch was the safety of their home heating oil. To demonstrate this, the sportscaster would light a soda straw and extinguish it by dunking it in a beaker of Shell heating oil located on the desk next to him. All real, no fakery. If I recall correctly, some commercials proved that point by lighting a piece of cloth dampened in the oil. Fuel oil stinks, particularly when left under the hot studio lights for a time. Everyone working the studio complained and the propsman solved the problem by covering the beaker with a bit of cardboard which he’d remove just before the sportscast started. One time he forgot and the cardboard was left in place on top of the beaker. No problem for the sportscaster - he just removed the obstruction. However, as the burning straw got close to the beaker the oil exploded in flames.  The oil was safe, the fumes were not. Shell Oil took a long time to decide to return. There were other items, but they've been lost in the neurons of time. 

At CBUT there were very few live commercials. I did a couple for Safeway, but they were not 'live'. The one I can think of was Shirriff sponsoring the Grey Cup parade. One actor was hired because of the way his hands looked. His 'bit' was to slightly move a Jello product that was shot in tight close-up. Problem arose when, having celebrated Grey Cup eve in every watering hole on Granville Street, he turned up with his hands shaking. The director, a Shirriff person, instead of throwing up his hands, had everybody in the studio line up for a 'hand check' in order to use the best looking one on air about an hour later. Max Albrechtson, the cameraman doing the close-up shot, got chosen.
The bonus was that, having rehearsed it many times the day before, he knew the action. Max was sent to make-up to do the best they could to make his right hand look as good as possible. That commercial aired without a hitch in that the only thing that was not as rehearsed was a slight dolly in. Max couldn't do both. Other cameramen were doing their own scenes such as shooting a near disaster where Lillian Carlson, the chosen actress, fainted as she was reaching into a kitchen cupboard for some Shirriff product. Fortunately the camera had already dollied past her when she collapsed onto the camera pedestal and all the audience heard was a strange clunk. 

Nothing to do with CBC, but unforgettable was the occasion when on the Johnny Carson show the 'actor' dog refused to eat Ed McMann's proffered bowl of Alpo.

Johnny crawled into the shot on all fours and proceeded to do what the dog would not.


The late Doug McKay, who adored his hand-wind Bolex camera and his vintage Volkswagen bus, told of a famous US director of commercials who when things went even a little bit wrong would vomit.

Noxzema ad agency had hired him to do a shoot in the Caribbean sunshine on a 'picturesque' beach near Nassau. As usual in commercials, everything had to be perfect - the sky, the clouds, the sand and the palms. Paradise Beach fit the bill perfectly except for the sky. Day after day it continued to not fit the director's expectations. The crew costs kept mounting up and the Noxzema model got more and more bored waiting. One sunny, but not satisfactory sky, day she decided to disobey the director and went to the beach to, well, enjoy the sunshine. Unfortunately she did not use the Noxzema sun screen product and the next day, which dawned with the director's ideal sky, when she disrobed the sunburn acquired the previous day was unmistakable. The director's reaction? BARF!

On another occasion he was contracted to shoot a commercial for a large Wisconsin milk producer. It was winter and the shoot could not take place at their own factory and they made arrangements with a similar site in Florida.  The opening shot called for a pull-back from a close-up of the milk bottle cap to a wide shot of the factory courtyard filled with milk bottles.  As this was a functioning factory, the shoot was to be done on a Sunday. The director arrived to see the acre of empty milk bottles, but only one with a cap. BARF! 

Arrangements were made to strike the thousands of cap-less bottles and set up for the shoot the following Sunday. Director arrived to see the acre of capped bottles, but all were obviously still empty. BARF! 

Next Sunday the bottles had been painted white inside to represent milk. Fine. No, not fine. In the rush to get all those bottles done they had been capped before the paint inside dried and as the camera pulled back from that first close-up rivulets of paint could clearly be seen on nearby bottles. BARF!

The next Sunday everything was perfect. Just in case, the bottles near the opening shot contained milk. Good to go. But for the first time in a long time there was a Florida downpour - BARF! BARF! BARF! 


Doug McKay was a great guy with whom to spend idle time, such as travel or waiting for weather. His tale of being aboard the Calypso, Jacques-Yves Cousteau's boat, was fascinating. Apparently Simone, Mrs. Cousteau, ran the ship and the divers were chosen not only for their underwater abilities. Doug didn't succumb and was disembarked at the earliest opportunity. 

Thanks Al.



In 1958  I was one of the most junior technicians at CBC Vancouver, and learning to be a cameraman.  One day Technical Producer Lloyd Harrop called a meeting of all the regular cameramen – and me as the trainee cameraman – to tell us all of the CBC's plans to televise the 1958 Grey Cup football game in Vancouver at the 35,000 seat Empire Stadium. 

After explaining where the cameras with the big zoom lenses were going to be placed on the roof of the Stadium as well as some back in the stands with the camera locations chosen with care so as not to block the view of the fare-paying spectators.

 And then Lloyd looked at me and said "And, Alan, I want you to operate the new creepie peepie down at the sidelines.  I was stunned – partly because I was being addressed directly and partly because I had no idea what a "creepie peepie" was! 

Lloyd explained:  "This is a miniature vidicon camera that is light enough to carry on your shoulder.  The name came about because the first portable radio phones used during World War II were called "walkie talkies". "Of course", continued Lloyd, "the miniature camera must still be connected to the mobile truck by one of the heavy camera cables and we will have to be careful where we lay the cable so that the camera is close to the sidelines". 

A creepie peepie (not mine)

I was ecstatic.  The day came.  I had the creepie peepie on my shoulder.  I was on the sideline. The game started.  Nothing happened for me at first because the game action was on the other side of the field or down at the other end.  Then the action moved in front of me.  I zoomed in to get a close-up of the play.  As I was concentrating on my shot, I heard something whistle by my ear. I then saw what it was – an empty mickey-size bottle of rye, and in those days rye was sold in real glass bottle, not in plastic ones. 

It only took me a moment to realize that the empty rye bottle was thrown by a disgruntled spectator who thought that my camera and myself were blocking his view of the sideline play.    

Other bottles and debris came flying past me or at me.  I spent the rest of the game with my camera pointed forward but my face turned toward the grandstand crowd to watch for dangerous missiles. 

                            I think the circled person is me, but I'm not sure. The photo is from the 1958 Grey Cup


The other cameramen at their high-up perches could see my dilemma, and were all laughing. I'm sure I heard someone say "dumb Australian" (Did I tell you I was from Australia?)  I think at that first meeting, the experienced cameramen had figured out the possibility of crowd missiles. 

As I recall, that was the end of my career as a cameraman. 



While I'm making fun of myself, I might mention the "microphone testing embarrassment".  Prior to the airing or taping of a studio show, a junior technician was sent into the studio to test all the microphones by saying the usual "one, two, three …"  After a while, I noticed that I was being called on more often than other junior technicians to perform the job, and they kept asking me to count up all the way to twenty. I finally found out that the technicians in the control room were laughing their heads off at my Australian accent.  "Australian" is a lazy language, and, unrealized by me at the time, when Australians pronounce "thirteen, fourteen" etc., they actually say "thirdeen, fourdeen" etc., the "d" taking less effort to say than the "t". (Try it!). 

For some reason, CBC Vancouver TV had a lot of Australian employees in those days including Bob Quintrell, Keith Christie, Roger Kennedy, Elizabeth Terry, Geoff Oates, Ray Hall, Danny Simpson, Jacques Bougrier and me.  Perhaps it was because TV operations in Australia didn't start until five years after Canada.  Jacque Bougrier's accent was so entertaining to listen to.  He was a Frenchman who moved to Australia where he learned English – Australian style.  We would call Jacques on the intercom system – often unnecessarily - just to hear his unique French-Australian accent.

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 .  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.



Welcome back - assuming you were here before!

Regular contributor Al Vitols leads off with this interesting story about CBUT technician Ken Lowe and the invention of the immediate video playback on CBC Vancouver TV sports shows.


Much has been said and published about the instant videotape replay invention by the late Tony Verna, a US sports producer. Not to take away from his accomplishment, but his “invention” involved two adjacent Ampex two-inch videotape machines, at least one extra microwave link between the the sports venue (probably two), as well as an extra pair of communication circuits. 

The replay was achieved by using one VTR machine to record the event and then the tape guided to an adjacent machine for playback. Complex and expensive and utilizing a lot of facilities, usable only by networks that could afford to tie up a large number of facilities.  Kenny Lowe, our Vancouver maintenance technician, “invented” an instant replay system using only one VTR machine and it could be done at the venue thus eliminating multiple microwave links.  Instead of two machines his method used a tape loop on one. 

At the outset he needed to know how long the loop should be, i.e. how many seconds of playback. I was involved with sports at the time and he asked my advice. I looked at the kinescopes of three football games to see, on average, how long plays lasted. I was astonished to discover that the longest play between ball snap and dead ball was 11 seconds and that was a 90 yard (82.296 m) run. Who knew?  The decision was made to make the loop 18 seconds because it took 3 seconds to recover from synch loss after the tape splice and an extra 4 seconds of usable time ‘just in case’.

 Eventually Kenny discovered that after a number of passes the splice gap got filled with the iron oxide, the recording medium, and there was no breakup of picture at the splice. The record-to-playback disturbance was very brief and minimal, usually just one picture “roll”. It was a great system utilizing Vancouver’s VTR Cruiser's single machine. The primitive-looking but efficient plywood panel fitted with many idlers to achieve the 18 second delay was mounted on and alongside the existing tape deck and - voila! instant replay. All 'permanent' changes to equipment had to be approved and authorized by the Technical Gods in Montréal. This wasn't permanent so no permission required. 

The network was curious how lowly Vancouver could afford the complex Tony Verna’s instant replay system but it remained Vancouver’s secret until George Retzlaff, the swearing football producer, who brought “his own” main cameraman because none of Vancouver’s were “good enough”, found out when he requested our “facility” for one of his network telecasts. What was permanent, and needed authorization, was Kenny's solution to switchers' (operators, not equipment) cramping wrists and semi-dislocated fingers.  The old mobile switcher (the equipment, not the operator) was mounted vertically in order to provide space under the console for the cameras when packed to travel.

Kenny, without asking for permission or telling Montréal HQ, hinged the switcher (the equipment, not the operator), a permanent solution, so that it could be used flat on the console. A great relief for switchers (technicians, not equipment) when working lengthy shows, such as football games. Having been a switcher myself, Kenny, I thank you. The system lasted until Vancouver acquired a slo-mo disk with its human slave - Ralph Wiens.  Tony Verna got all kinds of credit whereas very few people even know that Kenny was responsible or our system. 

I first noticed Kenny at a reception held by the Chinatown Benevolent Society after an Almanac 'live' telecast from and about Vancouver's Chinatown. The Chinese are very generous people and at the after party the water glasses in which the booze was served by the staff were never allowed to be less than full.  Kenny, being small and of Asian heritage as well as having consumed the copious quantities of quaff experienced facial flushing and was cherry-blossom pink when we departed Pender Street. He and the TP, and it was hard to tell who had consumed more of the Spirit of Chinatown, drove the mobile back to 1200 West Georgia. Try as I might, I cannot recall a single occasion when Kenny screwed up. Not one. 

One other thing involving Kenny's ethnicity.  Occasionally he'd join us for lunch in Chinatown,, usually at a place that specialized in chāu-mèn, a dish featuring noodles and sprouts  Eventually I noticed that when Kenny was with us the dish was predominantly noodles, sprouts taking second place, whereas without him it was the reverse.  "Why?" I asked Kenny.  "Sprouts are much cheaper than noodles and when I'm not there you get served the less expensive dish."  

By the way, Vancouver has the largest "sproutery" on the West Coast, which, by definition, means biggest not in the Orient. They grow them in old porcelain, lion-footed bath tubs. At one time they switched to 'modern' stainless steel tanks. They didn't work out (the sprouts didn't "taste right") and by the time that was found out to be true the old tubs had been sold or destroyed and the search was on for replacements, no mean task as they numbered more than fifty.

I used to buy direct but eventually found parking on Jackson or nearby streets to be a pain...  Mind you, the difference between those directly from the 'tub' and the plastic-bagged supermarket kind is like the difference between The Mcallan and Black Velvet.


Thanks Al.


1962 – NEARLY WORLD WAR III - by Alan

In October 1962, the Soviet Union began to secretly install medium-range nuclear missiles in Cuba, about 90 miles from the U.S. coast.  On October 16, U.S. President John Kennedy was informed that U.S. spy plane flights (by U-2's) over Cuba had discovered the missile sites.  On October 22, President Kennedy addressed the U.S. by television, revealing the missiles' presence, and announcing a naval blockade of ships trying to enter Cuban waters carrying war material.

Professor Graham T. Allison has written:  "Fifty years ago, the Cuban missile crisis brought the world to the brink of a nuclear disaster.  We now know that in addition to nuclear-armed ballistic missiles, the Soviet Union had deployed 100 tactical nuclear weapons in Cuba, and the local Soviet commander there would have launched these weapons without additional codes or commands from Moscow.  The U.S. air strike and invasion that was scheduled for the third week of the confrontation would likely have triggered a nuclear response that might have led to the deaths of over 100 million Americans, and over 100 million Russians".  And no doubt a few Canadians.

Kennedy                              Castro                               Khrushchev

At the time of the crisis, I was working as a coordinating producer in the transmitter booth (Studio 50) of CBUT.  Like every informed adult, I was aware of the U.S./USSR confrontation, but didn't think for a moment that it might touch me in any direct way.  It was October 25, 1962, I had just started the night shift when the Director of Television, Hugh Palmer, came into the control room.  He looked a bit awkward, perhaps because he didn't know my name (we had worked 100 feet from each other for the past 3 years).  And then Hugh cleared his throat and said to me "Take this envelope, but don't open it unless war breaks out tonight."  Well, those words made my rectum tighten somewhat for a moment.  Hugh left without a further word.  Now, I ask everybody who may read this story, if you were me, what would you have done now?  Of course, once I knew that Hugh was safely out of the way, I opened the envelope.  It said, to the best of my recollection, "To the Coordinator on duty:  In the event that there is an outbreak of war:

1.  Arrange for the signal from CBC Radio Vancouver to be plugged into the television transmitter of CBUT so that CBC radio's output will also be the (television) station's output.

2.  Allow all the technical staff to leave work so that they may be with their families.

3.  Remain in the control room to receive further instructions."

I could hardly believe what I was reading.  I had a wife and two young children at home.  Why couldn't I go home and be with them?  And then I said to myself:  "No way.  If war breaks out, I'll see to CBC Radio being plugged into TV, but then I'm out of here."

You probably know that World War III didn't break out.

Over the years, I wondered what the "further instructions" might have been.  Would I have been asked to put the TV station back on air, considering that 100% of the technicians would have left?  What video should have been showing while the CBC radio filled the air on TV?

Looking back all these years later, I figure if the same scenario was somehow reinstated, I would do the same thing (connect CBC Radio, go home), but before leaving I would put a slide in the telecine projector and hook it up to the TV transmitter.


The slide would say "WTF".



Ray Waines 

Many readers will be aware that Ray Waines passed away a week ago.  "Mr. CBC TV Cameraman" will be sorely missed.  I knew Ray for more than 60 years. Ray was a great contributor to this column. 



Hello everyone.  First up this month is our regular contributor Ray Waines who has this fun story about covering ski races in the old days at Whistler


by Ray Waines

Travelling up to Whistler one winter was an adventure for us because we had never covered skiing before with our old Marconi television mobiles.  After arriving at Whistler, the first challenge was to get the heavy Mobile and Cruiser close enough to the Slalom ski run, so that our camera cables could reach the hill and up to the cameras further up along the race course. With the helpful towing by a couple of snowcats through the snow, they got them close to the base of the Slalom course. 

Now we could relax and check in to our rooms, what rooms?  You could not find a Hotel in Whistler, remember this was the 1960s, Whistler was just a small village!  We were so lucky that Bob Hepworth found a rooming house for accommodation, with a kitchen staff who would prepare meals for our crew.  There were not many rooms, so we had to share and some were in rooms with a few bunk beds, four to a room!  So it was the luck of the draw! 

After a nice breakfast we got into our van, but it wouldn’t start?  We soon learned to not park in snow deep enough to freeze the gas line! Eventually we all made it to the base to start loading cables and cameras onto Thiokol snowcats provided by Whistler.  They made it easy for us and soon we were joining camera cables all the way down to the Mobile for the Marconi Mark II cameras and one run of Mark 4 cable was run down to the Mark 4 VTR Cruiser.


           Marconi Mark II camera                                                                Marconi Mark 4 camera 

We would use two Mark II cameras along the Slalom course and the third Mark II at the base, which was my camera at the finish line.  Bruce MacDonald would work the highest Mark II and when we tried to turn it on, the power supply was not enough to provide 6 volts to the filaments in all the many vacuum tubes!  The long cable run was just too long, so Ray Renning wanted to try a solution, by running Joy power cables all the way to the camera, which was a lot more work laying those cables through the snow up to the camera.  But success!  As they cranked up a rheostat until enough voltage turned on Bruce’s camera.                                                                                       


                    Mark II Vacuum Tubes                                                            Thiokol towing camera gear up


It was getting a little late, we had most of the cameras and cables in place, except for one Mark 4camera and the Thiokol snowcat could not help us because it would have to climb the hill on the race course, a no no. The heavy camera was loaded onto a sled and just about the whole crew was either pushing or pulling on the rope to get the heavy sled up the hill. The steep climb was difficult but we did get up as far as we had to, the only problem was that the camera’s location was on the other side of the course!  It was too dangerous for us to try pulling the sled with the heavy camera across this very steep part of the course.   

Along came a young skier who stopped and saw our problem.  She asked us to put the rope around her waist and very slowly, all by herself, she side slipped the sled and camera to the other side!  We were awestruck with her powerful legs and the control she had!  Bob Hepworth thanked Nancy Green and so did all the crew.  Nancy went on to win her Gold medal at the 1968 Olympics at Grenoble!


                            Nancy Green                                                                       Nancy Green Slalom Racing 

So with all our cameras working and covered in case it snowed overnight, a very tired crew headed over to our rooming house.  The kitchen cooks had made a great meal for us and after we finished, it was nice to relax and take time to talk with Ted Reynolds and Don Brown, who had flown out from Toronto to observe this mobile shoot. 

Later, while climbing the stairs to the room I shared with Bob Paton, someone had hung a sign that read “Welcome to Bob’s Sin Den”?  We soon found out why, some of the crew had finished eating early and headed upstairs with plans to surprise us!!  When Bob and I opened the door to our room, there to our amazement was a queen size bed with a wine bottle and an opened bible!! When Bob and I had gone down for dinner, there were only two single beds with our luggage and work clothes.  It did not take long to find a room that was for our Studio Director and his fiancée! 

Needless to say, their room was a total mess with our two single beds under all the luggage etc. So before this unlucky couple saw their room, we quickly took out all their luggage and moved it to the room now that has the double bed.  So all that we had to do was clean up our new room and put the single beds where they should be.  Letting the couple know why they had their room changed was too difficult, so we just wished them a good night. I guess that some of our crew were just a little upset about having to share four to a room, never mind the bunk beds!! 

The next day it was race day with Ted Reynolds by my finish camera along with Nancy Green who was not Skiing in this race. A low cloud had worked it way down by our cameras, but it was not a problem for the Skiers who raced down to the finish and it was great to have Nancy’s commentary describing every Racer’s run, along with Ted Reynolds doing his usual high-class and friendly hosting of this Slalom race, which was videotaped on the VTR Cruiser.  

Just had to mention that Don Brown who always had a great attitude, had to sleep in a bunk bed!  But never once complained about it.  Don went back to CBC Toronto with a receipt for $6 a night, for his room!  This must have shocked the CBC Unit manager back east.


                    Ted Reynolds and Nancy Green                                                             Don Brown 

When you visit Whistler these days, you have to look carefully to find that old Slalom run, because many trees have grown through the course.  But the memories are still there of this very small village of cabins, so remote and quiet.  Thinking back, I guess it was a pretty big event for a Television crew to come up here and cover the Skiing in those days.  I am glad that we took on the challenge. 

 Bob Hepworth (Audio), Stu Moscrip (Audio), Doug Franks (Tech Asst), Bob Paton

(Lighting), behind Bob is Bill Kyashko (Video), Bruce MacDonald (Camera),

Daryl Johnston (Maintenance), Ray Renning (Maintenance), Ray Waines (Camera),

Andy Martens (Technical Producer), Jake Wiebe (Staging), Crouched in front is

Marv Coulthard (Audio).  Photo taken by Bill Hadgkiss (Camera).

Ray Waines


by Alan


Even though Canadian Pacific Air Lines ordered three supersonic passenger planes, it never owned one because Boeing and the other American airplane builders gave up on the supersonic passenger jet project in 1971 when the U.S. Senate refused to provide any more funding.  Complaints were made about cost overruns, potential sonic booms and the destruction of the ozone layer. 

Britain and France kept up their supersonic project, and in 1976 the first Concorde had its inaugural flight. I had always wanted to fly on a Concorde (French) or on a Concord (English).  My only problem in so doing was that it cost too much, and the airports used by the Concorde such as London, Paris, Barbados and Buenos Aires were too far away to get to. 

But I did fly at twice the speed of sound as a fare-paying passenger on an Air France Concorde in 1988.  It was a beautiful plane, both inside and out.  Air France was trying to drum up business for their expensive airplanes.  A round trip from London to New York in those days cost $13,000 in today's money. The Concordes were mostly prohibited from flights over land because of their sonic boom.  It flew at an average speed of Mach 2.02, and as high as 60,000 feet. 

Air France offered a one-time promotional round trip to Honolulu from Vancouver.  I jumped at the opportunity.  I don't recall how much the fare was - it was expensive but livable. We got off to a bad start.  The Concorde couldn’t fit at any of the gates at the Vancouver airport because of its one-off design, so they had to find moveable stairs to get us on board.  That took an hour.  We had the same problem when we arrived in Honolulu.   In the end, the elapsed time for the trip was 5 hours instead of 3 – the same as a regular airliner.  Waiting in Vancouver was boring.  Waiting to get off in Honolulu was both boring and hugely uncomfortable as the engines were turned off, so there was no air conditioning.

 Another complaint was the small size of the interior.  If you're familiar with a regional jet where a person of average height can't fully stand up when at the window seat, on the Concorde you couldn't stand up fully even in the aisle seat. When the reduced size food trolley came by, there was no way you could get around it. 

On the positive side, being an Air France flight, the snacks and the drinks were terrific.  As to the flight itself, when we took off it had the usual feeling on being pushed back in your seat.  Then after about 20 minutes, the pilot said "We're now going to go supersonic". And the plane tilted up, we were once again pushed back in our seats. Before we went supersonic, the pilot announced that we would hear gurgling noises below our seats as the aircraft's fuel was funneled to the rear of the plane, apparently necessary if you went supersonic. It made us all a little nervous.  It was pre-9-11, and the cockpit door was open for most of the flight showing us the two pilots and the one flight engineer at work.

The pilot announced when we passed Mach 1.  We didn't hear any sonic boom, but apparently you never do when in the plane.  There was a basic LED readout at the back of the plane, and we watched it climb to Mach 2.  I read an interview of a Concord pilot.  He was asked did he notice any particular sensation when flying at supersonic speed.  He said "No" but added "When flying across the Atlantic, we could look down, from 50,000 feet, at the non-supersonic regular flights.  Because of our speed, it looked like the other flights were going backwards!" 

We had two nights in Hawaii.  The return trip was better in terms of getting on and off the plane.


Likely you know that the Concorde could lower its nose when landing so it could see where the hell it was going.  Sad to see its end.  It had only one fatal crash, and that was caused by another plane.  The only real complaint about the Concorde was that if you passed wind, the sound didn't reach you until several hours after you landed.

 A great experience. 

P.S.  The artist's drawing at the beginning of this article of a CP Air supersonic plane comes from a book by David Laurence Jones called "Railway Nation - Tales of Canadian Pacific – the World's Greatest Travel System", Heritage House Publishing Company Ltd.  Copyright 2020.  That book is a great read, and CBC is mentioned in it a number of times.  


P.P.S. My Editor just strolled by and said "This stuff on the Concorde is not too bad, but what's it got to do with old time CBC?"  "Well, I said "when I was waiting at the Vancouver airport for them to figure out how to get us on board the Concorde, the TV hanging from the ceiling was showing a CBC program".  "You didn't mention that in your article", he said, and I replied "No, I didn't think it was relevant".  He left, looking slightly puzzled.

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 .  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.



Hello Everyone, and welcome Back. 

Al Vitols first brings us some stories about legendary CBC personality and executive Len Lauk who passed away just last year.

His Laukness, The Leonard in too many words, the penultimate version.

From Len's Vancouver Sun obit: 

“Len joined the CBC in Vancouver, starting as a script assistant [studio director] and worked his way up to Producer of the evening news before moving to Halifax to be Director of Television and Radio. From there Len went on to be the Director of English Language Radio and Television in Toronto before returning to Vancouver as Director for the Pacific Region.”

Back to be the boss of his former buddies.

I first saw Len when he was a production assistant on a Thursday night 60 minute live drama. He was working with the sound effects technician and was responsible for the right mood-setting music being played at the right time and in the right place. 

Len was a smoker and to see him light up and inhale was witnessing a theatrical performance. Mind you, that was so with most everything Len did. Back then, before smoking was banned from the premises, the small sound effects booth, if nor actually blue, was redolent of his Pall Malls. The booth was accessed through the Studio 41 control room and when not used during dramas was a place to store extra gear and occasionally, just occasionally, was a place to make out, should the idea appeal to one of the switchboard operators who manipulated the connecting cords from a cubby next to Studio 41. 

Hugh Palmer, the Director of Television at the time, told me that Len kept pestering him to sign him up to produce and direct. According to Hugh, he swore on a short stack that he would direct news forever if only he was made a Producer. This was a tempting promise as management had a problem finding capable and willing Producers who didn’t think it was beneath them to perform the daily task. When I was making similar overtures about producing, Palmer told me that after signing his contract Len was back in his office what seemed like just a few days asking, almost demanding, to be assigned to produce and direct dramas. It took a while but eventually Len got his wish and the list of his drama productions is extensive. 

Archie Kelly & Len Lauk

A while before Len started doing the news, all the CBC control room clocks across the nation had been synchronized and ticked in unison from Newfoundland to British Columbia. They were self-correcting within five minutes but otherwise could only be changed by the master control supervisor.  Len, like most new Producers, had to have his “initiation” and I think Technical Producer Andy Martens was the instigator of the now legendary prank.  One night with the assistance of Master Control the Studio 41 clock was set three minutes early. 

To make it all look normal the coordinator in Studio 50 ran a phony station break, commercials and all, which could be seen on the control room “off air” monitor. That was followed by their own output.  At the ‘top of the clock’ at six Len and the script assistant, who was not in on the gag, began the newscast. The theme, played from a Chappel disk, wowed in and continued at the wrong speed. The camera shooting the news graphic, a CBUT logo on a corrugated cardboard background, wasn’t framed properly and was not in focus. The newsreader’s camera was caught dollying in to its position while the announcer was still clearing his throat and checking his tie. Actually none of that mattered much as Ali “never makes a mistake” Beheshti

 punched up the color bar instead of the camera and while in a ‘state of panic’ pushed every other button on the switcher console, all ten of them, before returning to the studio camera.  Len, who was nobody’s fool, thought he had figured out what was going on and said:

“Ah, you guys have fixed the clock.”  “Not so,” Martens denied the possibility, “All clocks are pulsed from Montréal and cannot be changed locally.” 

Len turned back to the still problematic newscast and continued to suffer until guffaws erupted everywhere and the jig was up. Everything was reset and the newscast went on at the real six o’clock without a problem. 

I didn’t know his stage background, but always thought Len was an actor or at least a wannabe. This was evident when he was rehearsing actors and he was sweating, literally, while doing so. He was respected by actors as, unlike some of the drama producers, he didn’t play out their roles but allowed them to contribute to the production.  I only worked closely with him on two shows and I can’t recall if I was still a cameraman or had changed departments and was his studio director. The dramas were: “A Raft In the Middle of Noon” and “Bespoke Overcoat”.  That he was ‘miscast’ as a Producer rather than being actor was evident when in one of my comedy series I was doing a parody of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In party and hired Len to be Canada's leading, or so he thought of himself, cape-wearing, silver-tipped Malacca cane wielding, Toronto drama critic Nathan Cohen. Can’t recall his line, but Len delivered it perfectly. 

I think Len’s first departure from drama was a ‘talk’ show - ‘Consensus’ - four people sitting at a table and arguing some currently popular subject. Two were pro and the other two anti whatever the issue. That show was Jack Webster’s early appearance on CBC as he was one of the two permanent debaters. 

After The Seven O’Clock Show chimed for the last time, Len was assigned the six o’clock time slot. He chose to call it Hourglass and it was a 60 minute mish-mash of news, sports and weather, with current affairs closing out the hour, similar to Almanac, CBUT’s original supper hour show. He still ‘moonlighted’ with a few dramas. 

Len was not kind to his ‘underlings’ and many a script assistant was in tears after Len publicly expressed his thoughts of her capabilities. I don’t recall similar opinions expressed regarding the male studio directors. Lauk loved magic and like his friend Mandrake he’d hide coins in assorted places and then, given the opportunity, ‘magically’ produce them. A better version of “There’s s a coin in your ear.” 

His obituary mentions Len’s love of opera. I don’t recall a single instance of discussing ‘serious’ music with him, much less opera. An aficionado of Figaro?  Didn’t seem likely to me. 

I don’t know what sort of inducement made Len leave production in Vancouver and move to be part of management in Halifax. Perhaps he secretly wanted to be a ‘suit’ and the title Director of Television and Radio certainly did that. 

I had very little to do with Len after he returned to Vancouver to be Director for the Province although I had an open invitation to join him for a cup -  china, not paper or plastic - of his Hawaiian Kona. 

He lost a little of my respect when he sided with the head of news at the time (who wore a fedora day and night and only needed a  “PRESS” card stuck in the headband to make him look like an idiot). Perhaps it was to remind him of his prairie newspaper roots.  The issue arose when Chris Paton, Executive Producer of Hourglass, wanted a few minutes at the top of the show to commemorate the death of Jack Wasserman who, at age 50 had a terminal heart attack while speaking at the Hotel Vancouver during a roast for Gordon Gibson Sr.  There was to be suitable song by either Almeta Speaks, as Chris recalls, or Eleanor Collins, if my memory serves. Although Chris was responsible for the hour, news was ‘grandfathered’ in to start the hour hence the need to get Len’s approval to move the newscast.  The head of news argued that Wasserman wasn’t important enough to delay the newscast even by five minutes.  Len’s thinking was different, but the result was the same. “We can’t do that because he is ‘one of our own,’ was Len’s reason. 

By contrast, the Vancouver Sun used “second coming” type size on the front page, above the fold, to mark the death of “one of their own”. 

            Al Vitols

Thanks Al

Alan:  When I was a very junior technician at CBUT, Len was a studio director.  In those days it was rumored that Len weighed 300 pounds although later he disciplined himself to be a svelte 180 pounds.  The problem in those days for Len as a studio director was ducking down in front of the on air cameras so that he could cue the performers and the props people and others.  It happened so often that Len's bent over back was in the bottom of an on-air shot that the control room gave up saying "The studio director's back is in the bottom of the shot, and instead just shouted out "Lauk shot!"  None of us in those days would guess that Len would end up the boss of CBC for the whole of the Pacific Region. 

The Long and the Short of Late Night Movies on CBC - by me

I think myself and my editor are the only ones old enough to remember "spaghetti westerns" – no, hang on, perhaps Andy Martens and Al Vitols might also recall.

The spaghetti western, known in Japan as the "macaroni western", was a genre of western movies made in Italy and elsewhere in Europe between about 1960 and 1978.  Many of these movies relied on the success of three Italian-made movies by Sergio Leone starring Clint Eastwood, "A Fistful of Dollars", "For a Few Dollars More", and "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly". More than 600 "spags" were made, and it would not be unfair to say that most of them were pasta duds.  We had plenty of them on CBUT.  One, whose actual name I don't remember, I'll call "A Fistful of Crap" ("AFOC") because it was so bad, and I could hardly understand its muddled plot.  The dubbed English dialogue was pathetic.

I pre-screened AFOC as it was part of my job as a coordinating producer to check movies a week or so ahead of their airing, to figure out where to insert commercials, and to provide a plot summary for the coordinating producer when the movie was actually aired through the Studio 50 control room.  As bad luck would have it, I was the coordinator on duty when it aired the following week, and I tried to ignore as best I could what was airing in front of me.

In those days, before we had videotape and DVD's, movies usually consisted of three reels of 16 mm film, each about half an hour long, and using two projectors, one would "cross-over" from the first reel to the second, and then from the second to the third.  An experienced telecine technician could cross-over between reels without anybody at home noticing.  It was the coordinator's job, my job, to be aware when a reel was coming to an end and a cross-over was imminent.  Airing AFOC, we successfully crossed over from the first reel, and I was getting ready to cross the third reel when up popped…. the closing credits of the movie!  "Holy grasshoppers", I said when I realized we had just aired the third reel of AFOC instead of the second reel.  While I was still flabbergasted with what had happened, we went into the sign off routine, and went off the air for the night.  Obviously somebody had put the wrong reel on the projector simply by error, or because the reel was wrongly numbered.

The Telecine room.  One of the  two film projectors can be seen in the middle

As I sat there feeling happy because I was getting off work a half hour early, I suddenly thought "How come no viewers phoned to say that the movie didn't make any sense" (because we had left out a whole third of the movie).  And then I realized that the audience of AFOC, if any, didn't understand the movie any better than I had (and I saw all three reels originally!).

We never told our bosses we got off work a half hour early, and nobody ever realized what a giant edit we had done to this spaghetti western.

It's a big wheel that turns.  Some time later – might have been years later – the same thing happened when I was on duty in the control room – the third reel followed the first reel.  This, however, was not a spaghetti western, and within minutes the phone started ringing with confused and angry viewers wanting to know what had happened.  So, I had an announcement made admitting we'd made a mistake, and that we would put the missing reel on the air at the end of the movie.  And that's what we did.  And then after running the missing reel, we started to close down the station when the phone started to ring again.  "Why aren't you finishing the movie?" viewers asked.  Then we realized that some viewers had only started to watch the movie after the missing reel two had started to air.  What could we do but run the third reel again!

So this time, we got off work a half hour later, and the technicians claimed overtime (except for the telecine technician who put on the wrong reel!)  And, that's the short and the long of it.



From the Middle English Insult Generator, the third, and the last article about finding new insults for stupid or irritating people. 

Adjective #1                 Adjective #2                 Adjective #3                 Noun 

wirtled                          weather-bitten              weedy                          whey-face 

currish                          knotty-pated                 reeky                           claybrain 

milk-livered                  malt-wormy                  measled                        mammet 

soot-faced                    saucy spleened               spur-galled                   scut 

mammering                  motley-mind                 mangled                        minnow 

ill-borne                       idle-headed                  infantile                         ignoramus 

beef-witted                   bolt-brained                  bootless                        bladder-cladder 

tickle-brained               tottering                        toad-spotted                 beetlehead 

half-faced                     hedge-born                   hasty-witted                  harpy 

headbroke                    hugger-muggered          horn-beat                     hedge-pig 

wayward                      wartweight                    yeasty                           puttocky 

rump-fed                      self-skinned                  imp-bladdered              bell-smell


The success of this column's future lies entirely in your hands.  The comments of mammets and minnows would be welcome, less so contributions from bladder-cladders or bell-smells.  If you have an item to add to a future column, please email me at .  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.



Only three weeks till the beginning of Spring!

Headlining this month's column is a story from Ray Waines about a Grey Cup with a difference! 


I was always proud to be a CBC television cameraman. Great memories keep coming back about a time when good television from CBUT was shared by Canadians. Before starting at CBC, I was busy working on a microwave system called the Electronic Skyway. It would send live television pictures from Vancouver to Halifax for the first time, starting in 1958. 

Here I assembled and wired Microwave systems that used 139 towers across Canada to reach eastern Canada. Two years later, I was a cameraman operating a television camera on the Grey Cup game at Vancouver’s Empire Stadium.  My pictures were being broadcast on the microwave system that I help build at Burnaby BC.

Now for my Grey Cup story:

The year was 1960 and I had just started with CBC on May 2nd on a Summer Relief program and yes I needed a job. I soon found out during this first summer, it was more than just a job, learning to operate a Television Camera with lots of practice, became my top priority and I was scheduled to Camera on a variety of shows by the end of that summer.


This was our Marconi Mobile that we used to cover Football games at Empire Stadium.  Normally it had 3 Marconi Mark II cameras, (b&w).Ken Lowe added one more Marconi Mk II, which would be mine on tight shots. But we still needed one more camera and Toronto shipped us their RCA camera complete with a portable CCU, like they did for the 1958 Grey Cup Parade.  Now we had a camera for Ted Reynolds to host the half-time and any interviews with Players, down by the team’s changing rooms.


                 RCA TK31 b&w camera                               That’s Ken Lowe behind me
           from CBC Toronto                                     with Bill White on the right                                  

 Now I was looking forward to working as a Cameraman on CFL Football games, as I had played Football when I was at Vancouver Technical high school. I had been setting up our Marconi Mark II cameras on the roof of Empire Stadium with the help of Bob Hepworth, as it would take 2 of us to lift and mount the large 5:1 Pye Watson zoom safely on to a tripod placed at the front edge of the roof. Then the heavy Mark II camera would mount behind the zoom.  We did this for Dennis Hargreaves, who said that he did not know how to.  Maybe it was that he would work so close to the edge of the roof with no railing!


  5:1 Pye Watson zoom with a Marconi   That’s Harry Hooper on the right with a
                    Mk II camera.                   Marconi Mk II and a set of regular lenses. 


In our Grey Cup Camera meeting with George Retzlaff, TV Producer from Toronto and Lloyd Harrop, our Technical Producer, we were to go over our camera assignments.  It was most likely Bill Hitch who had the idea to have a little fun with Retzlaff, who had never worked with any of us cameramen here at CBC Vancouver.  

Our camera crew would enter the screening room by Studio 41, one at a time.  I entered first with no obvious problems and Lloyd Harrop introduced me as working with the camera with the tight close ups, .the next cameraman entered, (which I think was Bill Hitch), walking with crutches, who would work the sideline camera!!  Next cameraman, (Harry Hooper) came in wearing an eye patch over one eye, who will work with the wide Play camera. Then we heard the tapping of a cane as Dennis Hargreaves entered using a white cane to meet Retzlaff, as his tight Play cameraman!!  I remember it was getting really hard not to laugh!!   

Lloyd Harrop did not even crack a smile, nor did Retzlaff who just went on with going over our camera assignments. So here we all sat around knowing that our little fun had been ignored by the two most serious men in Television, one a Producer Icon and the other, our most senior TP, Lloyd Harrop!  

I would be using a 5 inch reflecting telescope for tight shots of the Football Players. Here is a bit of history on developing this for Television cameras . . .


 George Vipond and Jonny Bismeyer              Reflecting telescope, Lake Washington


In the early 1950s, Hydroplane racing on Lake Washington was very popular, but this lake was very large for Television cameras to cover it and show the exciting turns at the far end with tight shots.  So it took one station out of Seattle, KOMO TV to design a reflecting telescope to mount on to a Television camera and show tighter shots of the far end turns on Lake Washington. All the parts were listed with the Popular Mechanics magazine.  So George and Johnny bought everything and then proceeded to build the telescope and customize itto our Marconi Mark II cameras.



These are my lenses and reflecting telescope that I used on that 1960 Grey Cup game.  The long lens is a 25 inch lens, if I took off the lens, I could use the 2 inch

wide angle lens, at the bottom is the 5 inch lens to shoot the score after a touchdown. Here are the shots from the 25 inch and the 60 inch scope, (we named it)


                         25 inch lens                                                               60 inch scope 

Well, it’s now Saturday, November 26th 1960 and we were in early to set up our Television cameras for the Grey Cup game that afternoon. The brand new Gondola mounted just below the roof of Empire Stadium, was great as they had a winch to haul our cameras and lenses up to this new under cover platform. George Retzlaff came into our Mobile to look at all our camera shots and after checking them, he asked where was his tight play camera?  He saw my fixed 25 inch lens framing and said “Ray you will be the tight play camera”!!  I think that someone did mention that I had no zoom, only a fixed kens!  I guess it did not matter.  It was Lloyd Harrop who had told Retzlaff that with the new Gondola, the Play camera would be tight enough without a 2x extender?  He was wrong! So when the teams came out to practice, I concentrated on following the Quarterbacks throwing passes and tried following the football with the tight 25 inch lens. It felt strange staying tight with the football until it was caught down field by a receiver. I was used to always showing how big the pass was on a wider shot then zooming in to see the pass being caught.

Note:  Men still wearing hats!

 I had one more concern, my camera was behind those posts and for me to follow a running play with the 25 inch lens, the posts would be in the way to clearly see the play.  It did happen once in the game, they took me on the Play following Ron Stewart past one of those big posts!  The Gondola was built around those posts that are further back from the front edge of the roof, so definitely the tight Play camera needed a 2x extender to be tight enough for George Retzlaff. Fortunately, Ken Lowe and others went up to help mount a 2x extender in his zoom for Dennis, just in time for the start of the game.  That meant that I could relax and go back to putting up tight shots of the Players and oh yes swing over to a graphic stand with the 5 inch lens, to show the score after a touchdown. 

Our coverage of this Grey Cup game went quite well with Bob Moir doing the Play by Play in the first half and Ted Reynolds, Play by Play for the second half. Every time I would rack over lenses to the 60 inch scope, I had to electronically centre its picture because it was not aligned properly.  This was a nuisance when the boys ran onto the field to grab the football and then they ran up to the fence, where they threw the football over the fence and then climbed over to take their prize home. When I panned back to the field, hundreds of fans were already trying to tear down the goal posts!!  So with only 41 seconds left, the Referees and the Officials decided that with the score 16 to 6, they would declare the Ottawa Roughriders the winner over the Edmonton Eskimos.



For all of you Football fans, yes there was another Grey Cup game that was not finished the day it started!  That was called the “Fog Bowl” at Toronto’s Exhibition Park in 1962.  The Fog became so thick, with only 9 ½ minutes left, the Officials stopped the game and had the teams come back on Sunday to finish the game!


 32,000 fans went home thoroughly disgusted at the outcome, plus driving home In dense fog!!  I have often pictured the Grey Cup committee huddled in the fog that day, making a pact to “tell no one that the game had been scheduled to play in Vancouver”!!  You see the venue should have been alternated every 2 years.  And yes, it was a beautiful sunny day in Vancouver! 

I remember covering a BC Lions game one evening during 1961 and a little bit of fog came in off the ocean.  Not enough to stop the game and we finished covering it with no problems.  But the Grey Cup Committee heard about the fog and decided to cancel Vancouver as the venue, they would again bring the Grey Cup back to Toronto in 1962!!  Need I say more?

Thanks very much Ray!


Daryl Duke was an alumnus of CBUT being one of the first producers/directors in the early 50's when the station opened.  Some will remember that Daryl went on to fame and fortune as a director at CBC in Toronto and later of films and TV shows in the U.S.  Henry Irizawa is also a CBUT alumnus. 

DARYL DUKE by Henry Irizawa 

 After 6 years at CBC, I went to work for Darryl Duke as he and Norman Klenman were getting ready to launch CKVU and the 'Vancouver' show in 1976.  They hired a very strong on-air lineup of talent: Mike Winlaw, Laurier Lapierre and Pia Shandell as the hosts. Alan Fotheringham was a regular on the show.  'Vancouver' was a live 2 hour show 7 nights a week showcasing the best of BC.  Arden Ostrander and Clem Chapple were the producers during the week and I produced on weekends and directed 3 weekday nights.  Richard Watson directed the other 4 nights.  Our show production team was young, eager and extremely resourceful as we operated with minimum budgets.  The only set background was the spray foamed studios walls and large (6 foot tall) letters spelling out the name 'VANCOUVER' that hung from a track so you could move them. 


Daryl wanted to direct the first ten minutes of the launch show and spent a lot of time rehearsing the camera moves he wanted to go along with a song from Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side of the Moon'.  The last shot was a camera dollying from behind a set piece to reveal what he called the 'Bear Pit'.  It was a series of triangular set pieces placed 360 degrees around 2 chairs in the centre that the audience could sit on and watch Mike interview the first guest.  Daryl likened it to the Roman Coliseum where the gladiator took on the lion.  He did the shots so well, it just came naturally to him.  Daryl had the studio crew in the palm of his hand.  When the interview wrapped, he turned to me and said "OK I'm's yours!"  My knees were knocking at the time and it scared the hell out of me to sit down in the chair after watching Daryl do his magic! 

I think every band in the Lower Mainland performed in those studios alongside celebrities, politicians, academics, authors, cute animals, you name it.  If it walked and talked, they were on the show. 14 hours a week is a lot of time to fill! 

We learned so much from Daryl.  After his TV career at CBC (where he originated the first show from the CBC Vancouver studios), he had gone on to direct award winning movies and series in Hollywood and later, generously passed on his knowledge to us.  He had vision, style and passion in spades and was such a risk taker.  He would not take no for an answer when he suggested program ideas to us and he suggested a lot of ideas.  After our show meetings with Daryl, we would head back to our desks with our show rundowns full of his famous brown sharpie X's through our ideas.  But he would always say "try it this way, it might flow better".  He was right and always made you feel like you were improving. 

There was the time he wanted a motorcycle special one weekend.  In our show planning meeting he yelled out: "Arden, call City Hall and get them to block off our section of 2nd Ave. Deb, book the Vancouver Police Motorcycle Drill team.  Charles, get the local Hell's Angels to come down!  Dawn-Rae, get all the local motorcycle dealers to bring their bikes down.  Jeff, rent the biggest searchlight you can get.  Henry, find a mobile TV truck so we can do the show on the street.  On show day, 2nd Ave. was blocked off and chock full of motorcycles (and yes, the Hell's Angels did show up).  It was funny to see them in their leathers chatting up the VPD motorcycle drill team comparing rides.  Different times.  

 We go on air with a stunt rider jumping over a ramp multiple times (early local Evel Kneivel).  We were using a mobile truck with RCA TK44 cameras and Darryl comes in to say "Henry, I've haven't seen the searchlight on air!"  Me: "Right Darryl, Camera 2 (which was on a high scaffold), shoot me the searchlight!"  Just as the camera pans to the searchlight, it begins a low arc and the camera is shooting directly into the searchlight beam.  The light just about fries the camera's tubes and flares all different colors on air.  Daryl just loved it!   

Another time, he wanted a fashion show. We got Eatons Department store to be the sponsor and clothes supplier.  This time he wanted to book a stripper who would do a pole dance striptease.  Comes the time in the show that she is on and the prearranged signal that she would drop her dress was to give the camera a long lingering look.   I'm on a close-up shot of her slowly pulling back to a medium shot and Jeff, our lighting director, has both hands ready on the faders and when her dress drops to the floor, he hits the faders.  Daryl, who is standing behind me in the control room yells out "Get those damn lights back up!  Jeff instantly does what he's told as I dissolve to a full length shot.  The rest of the fashion show featuring models wearing the latest clothes from Eatons was pretty anticlimactic after that!  Surprisingly, there wasn't much heat about the nude shot as CITY TV in Toronto at the time was running their "Baby Blue' movies at midnight that featured a lot of nudity.   

One time, I was directing Laurier Lapierre interviewing an interesting politician.  Laurier is very, very expressive with his hands when he asks a question.  I mentioned this to Daryl who happened to be in the control room.  Daryl says 'Well, do something different'.  So. on Laurier's next question I cut to a shot of just his hands.  His hands were all over the place as he asked the question but the camera operator kept them in the frame.  His hands really did emphasize the question.  Daryl loved it and after the show I got a call from a CBC Vancouver News producer complimenting the shot.  

Daryl really did make work fun. 
What a fantastic mentor he was to so many!


Sixty might be the new forty but 9.00 is the new midnight.



I'm sure older readers have been somewhat downhearted by the falling use of the word "smithereens" as is "blown to smithereens" or "broken into smithereens".  The origin of "smithereens" appears to be an old Irish word meaning "fragments" or "little bits".  The decline in usage has not yet been the subject of serious investigation, but I'm trying to jump start something.  You're welcome. 

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 .  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.



I hope the New Year has been good to you so far.  First up this month some memories from Henry Irizawa.


I started at CBC Vancouver in Studio 50 in 1970 doing audio. I walked into the Georgia and Bute building in the spring of 1970 after spending the winter working on the Whistler Mountain Professional Ski Patrol.  Asked at the front desk if there were any jobs open and was immediately directed towards Ross Whiteside's office for an interview.  I recall meeting a smiling Peggy Oldfield (but it may have been Kathleen Gilfillan) who took my pertinent information prior to meeting Mr. Whiteside.  As I had a couple of years' experience working at CHBC TV in my hometown of Kelowna and learned a lot from Chief Engineer Tom Wyatt who luckily just happened to be friends with Mr. Whiteside, he asked when I could start as vacation relief in the technical department as CBC was hiring - just being in the right place at the right time and with a name drop! 

We had a great bunch in Studio 50 -  Ray Lee on the switcher, Ib in telecine, Archie in VTR and myself in audio and Des in Master Control.  I found the job, after a while, to be repetitive and boring.  The only time we could have a little fun was during the late movie, everything else on-air was by the book. There was a stack of audio tapes of different sound effects.  Cowboy movies were just the best!  When a cowboy got on his horse, we would insert a loud cloth ripping sound.  Sitting around a campfire, our favorite was the fart cart (pre Blazing Saddles days)!  Don't ask how the 'fart' cart was recorded.  Oh yah, we had the loon sound as well.    

I moved into TV Sports production as a Production Assistant after a couple of years and really enjoyed working with Ron Harrison, Len Chapple, Ted Reynolds, Bill Good Jr, Steve Armitage and Norma Burrows.   Ted was so generous with his time and gave me so much advice and constantly showed us what a consummate professional he was.   Norma kept the atmosphere in the control room light and breezy and always kept the shows on time.  RIP to them both.  TV Sports was such a fun group and I learned so much from Ron Harrison.  Ron made me his Iso Director on HNIC telecasts and I worked alongside the legendary Babe Pratt who was our analyst.  The tape and ISO department operated out of the CBUT Vancouver cruiser in those days and Babe and I sat side by side in that cramped truck watching our replay angles.  When Babe's son Tracy was a Canuck, it was sometimes brutal in the cruiser as Babe would pound my shoulder when Tracy screwed up on the play: "Dammit Tracy, you missed that check!" And as Ray Waines mentioned in an earlier column, the night of the Streakers at the Pacific Coliseum was one for the books.  The TV mobiles were parked inside the arena and our Cruiser was parked close to the visitor's entrance tunnel to the ice, we had the side door open and I could see women wearing raincoats so I asked them when are you going out to the ice.  They said next whistle.  I get on the intercom to Ron who's in the mobile and tell him that.  Well, they jumped the gun and just went out on the ice when play was going on.  The arena erupted!  Our cameras were quick to shoot them.  They ran in front of both player benches totally nude.  Wish we had a reverse camera to catch the player's reactions!  I told Ron we had 4 angles to replay, but they he chose only the wide angle (Ray's shot) and Babe also used it for his intermission segment.  I wonder if the other replay angles exist in someone's video collection? 

Early one spring, our Sports department Unit Manager comes in to say the department has a large surplus in the budget and we have to spend it before submitting next year's budget in a few weeks.  What to do??  Someone (won't mention who) comes up with the idea to shoot a spring ski program.  Within a couple of weeks, Ron Harrison, Bill Good Jr, Peter Allies, Bill Linn and myself are off to Sun Valley, Idaho.  We enjoy a week of fantastic skiing and shooting the fabulous ski area.  One afternoon as we set to shoot the obligatory interview with the General Manager of the Resort, we encountered a small problem.  Bill Good Jr. is 6'5" and the GM is 5'5".  So I have to locate a shovel and dig a one foot deep hole in the snow that Bill can stand in to level off their heads as Peter and Bill (our film cameramen) wanted the fabled Mt. Baldy in the background. 

The atmosphere and morale were never the same after the move to the Hamilton Street studios, in my view.

Henry's Post-CBC Bio

 After 6 years at CBC, I went to work for Darryl Duke as he and Norman Klenman were getting ready to launch CKVU and the Vancouver Show in 1976.  Always wanted to direct some music but couldn't at CBC as I was directing sports and all the directors had their own particular specialty.  Darryl promised music, variety, sports and talk along with the kitchen sink on the Vancouver show.  I learned so much from Darryl as he was such a visionary and risk taker.  

One year later, I get a call from BCTV asking if I would like to direct the Canucks on BCTV and the Alan Hamel show for CTV network. 

So began 21 years at BCTV directing shows like the Alan Thicke show, Vancouver Whitecaps on BCTV, NHL on CTV, Variety Club telethons, Elections, Opening Galas of BC Place and General Motors Place, Terry Fox funeral, Winter Olympics as CTV had the Winter and CBC had the Summer Games in those days.  When BCTV lost the Canucks contract, my position disappeared and I spent a year directing News Hour but didn't see that as what I wanted to continue with.  So a timely call from Sportsnet offering me a freelance job to direct NHL was accepted wholeheartedly. 

As a freelancer (which in hindsight, I should have done much earlier) I accepted many global assignments,  Olympics as a Host Broadcaster director on both  Summer and Winter games, Host Broadcaster producer/director for 6 years on IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships, Aboriginal Day concerts from Yellowknife, Whitehorse and Winnipeg for APTN,  MLS Soccer, Curling, etc.  Last Feb. 26 was the last NHL telecast I directed before the pandemic shut down everything.  Hopefully, the Tokyo Olympics go ahead in July as I have been hired as Production Manager for Volleyball and then six months later, same job for Curling in Beijing.  Here's hoping!


Life Through Drinks


In the late 50's and early 60's when I was a very junior technician at CBUT in the old studios, I often worked on what we called the "News Shift", or sometimes the "Beer Shift".  The hours were generally 2:30 to 11:30 p.m.  In the afternoons we might televise a show such as "Country Calendar", and then the news and sports and public affairs package from about 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.  Then there was nothing to do until 11:00 to 11:30 p.m. when the late night news and sports were on.  What to do in the meantime?

  Most of the time we traipsed down to the Ritz pub near Georgia & Thurlow (the Blue Horizon Hotel hadn't been built at that time).  When we got back to Studio 42, the Technical Producer made us all stand with our hands out in front of us, and the technician with the steadiest hands got the job of handling the main news camera (even if he wasn't a cameraman!). 

Friday nights were different.  A group of CBC producers had volunteered to audition would-be performers, so Friday nights in Studio 42 echoed to the sounds of an actor doing something from The Glass Menagerie in front of a tied down camera, and a fixed boom microphone.  One technician was left behind from the pub visit to look after the fixed camera and the fixed mike, and to otherwise monitor the sound level in the audio control booth next to the main control room, where five or so producers would be sitting, usually agreeing that the acting left a lot to be desired.

It was my turn to be the designated technician.  I waited for the actor or actors to arrive.  Instead, a five piece rock band showed up for an audition!  I nearly had to change my pants! 

I went down to the studio floor and moved the boom mike around so that it sat over the musicians.  The musicians gave me a bit of a look seeing there was but a single microphone, but I think they were too nervous to complain.  Back in the audio control room I was monitoring the single knob which controlled all the audio when one of the producers, Peter Elkington, called through on the talkback and said "more drums!".  Well, I wasn't going to answer back that I only had one mike, so I simply turned up the overall volume, and a minute or so later Peter gave me a thumbs up sign through the control room window.  I smiled happily to myself. 

I never did find out how that band fared in the future.  I think the band's name was "Chilliwack", but it might have been "Maple Ridge".


Not the night I'm writing about, but it is Studio 42 in the old building.  Switcher is Al Sommerfeld.  Others were possibly producer Keith Christie and his script assistant, Dorothy Vickery.  In the studio you can see the mike boom that I was using for my one-man technical crew.

A somewhat similar situation in which somebody assumed that something had happened but in fact nothing had changed, is told by the late Alex Trebek in his recently released book "The Answer Is"*.  In the very early days of Jeopardy, a representative of the show's distributor complained to Alex: "The material is too difficult.  The audience can't relate to it.  That's why the ratings are not taking off".  "All right", said Alex, "I'll soften up all the material".  The representative clearly didn't know that the Jeopardy shows had already been taped two months in advance, and the next time Alex ran into the rep Alex said, "Did you notice that the material got a lot easier?".  "Yeah", said the rep, "Thanks so much for doing that.  It's playing a lot better now".  Of course, Alex hadn't done a thing!

Alex's book is a great read, and includes some discussion of his last severe illness, as well as the current virus epidemic.  Alex spends some time talking about his CBC days (although, of course, they were all back East). 

The book is available at Indigo in Vancouver or on, and elsewhere, and costs no more than a couple of fancy coffees at Starbucks.  If you grab this book, and the Beachcombers one mentioned in my September column, you will have plenty to entertain yourself during any lockdowns. 

*Copyright 2020 by Alex Trebek, OC  Simon & Schuster, N.Y.  N.Y.


CBC OUT OF SIGHT, by Bill Murray

Rightly so, most of the pictures and stories about CBC co-workers in Stationbreak have been about the production side of the business. That is what the CBC did – produce outstanding radio and television broadcasts. But there were other departments with staff working behind the scenes that don’t get mentioned too often and I’d like to say a few words about some of the people I had the privilege of working with in my early years at the CBC.  Many of these names will be familiar to some of you.

In 1968, the father of a friend of mine - Eric Lavell, a senior television technician, asked me what plans I had after graduating. I told him I hadn’t given it a lot of thought. He asked me if I’d be interested in a job with the CBC and I quickly said yes. He arranged for me to have an interview with Jim Syroishko, the Personnel Manager. Jim’s office was located on the third floor of a five-story office building at 747 Bute Street, part of the Pacific Palisades property. Jim and I had a brief chat and then he took me over to see Ron Mahy, the Administrative Services Officer in his tiny office. A couple of days later I had a call from Joy Williams who was a clerk in the Personnel office, offering me a job. On August 12, 1968, I started my first job with the CBC as a File Clerk in something called “Central Registry (CR)” receiving a salary of $2,800 a year! A fellow by the name of Mario Crudo, an aspiring actor, was the File Clerk who trained me before starting out on his acting career.

The first person I ran into the day I started work was Richard Woo, who at that time ran the Xerox machine in the Duplicating Department. After welcoming me, he introduced me to Clayton Mann, who along with Claire Lentini (Firth) was a Coder in CR. In those days, incoming correspondence (mail, telexes) and internal documentation was recorded and filed in one area (CR) after being dealt with by each department. The Coders would assign a departmental code to each document and a Precis clerk (in this case a wee Scottish lady – Jean Rankin), would record the date, code, and subject of the document before passing it on. The senior Coder in the Department was Rita Romaniuk.

In those days a lot of information was transmitted to other CBC locations via a Telex machine and Edith Roberts was the Telex Operator. Smoking was permitted in the offices in those days and a couple of times Edith accidently set fire to the carbon paper in her wastebasket. Other than putting out fires, my job was to file and maintain all the documents mentioned above in the dozen or so filing cabinets that formed the walls of the Department.

The Personnel Department, under Jim Syroishko, included his secretary Carolyn Miller-Logan, Veronica Wagner - Personnel Clerk, Ron Kitamura – Payroll Clerk, and Howard Simpson – who handled Labour Relations and who also had a tiny office.  Howie quite often wore Bermuda shorts – even in winter!  Irene Coutts was the Recruitment and Benefits Officer, and she had perhaps the smallest office of all three. As my grandfather used to say there was – “not enough room to change your mind.”  One Christmas I had bought a gift for my girlfriend’s sisters at “Crack a Joke” on Granville Street. It appeared to be a jewellery box, but when you opened it there was a rubber snake inside that turned to face you. As I was passing Veronica Wagner’s desk, she insisted that I show her what was in the box. I reluctantly gave it to her and she opened it and let out such a scream that I am sure was heard all the way up to the fifth floor!  Ron Mahy came out of his office and I was sure I was going to get fired! I ended up working with Ron for most of my 30 years at the CBC.

The Mailroom had Jim Gilham in charge, assisted by Wayne Sterloff, and two mailboys – Gilles Daoust and Al Berardo who later went on to work in Props. One of the mail routes required someone delivering the mail to and from the Radio department which was in the Hotel Vancouver. The other route served the 747 building as well as the 1200 West Georgia building. The latter route was quite involved, requiring the mailboy to duck under vents in several spots and wind his way through a complicated route.  In Duplicating, besides Richard Woo, there was Pieter Ahrend, a tall Dutchman, who claimed everything was invented in Holland. His favorite expression was “we had that in Holland already ten years ago.” Pieter was responsible for most of the color printing – tickets, brochures etc. and Wayne Hildebrand ran the printing press. Wayne later transferred to the Design Department. The Mailroom and Duplicating departments served as entry points for a number of people who went on to brilliant careers with the CBC – Pieter moved in to the Graphics department, Tom Bryden went into Public Relations, then there was Bill Nevison, Chris Cutress, Rod Mundy, Brad Marshall, Gary Heald, John MacMillan, Chris Stear, Jeff Hill, Chris Robinson, Alan Waterman, Rob Dillon, Frank Palcich, Dale Loverock, and Todd Elvidge – all of whom started in either the Mailroom or Duplicating!

Rounding out the denizens of 747 Bute Street was the Purchasing Department headed by Floyd Gribben. Martin Dohm-Schmidt was the buyer and Sylvanna Depieri was the clerk.

The Stores/Shipping and Receiving Department was also part of the behind-the -scenes group, and occupied the western-most space at the rear of 1200 West Georgia building, backing onto Alberni Street. Hillis Stratton ran the Stores Department, ably assisted by Janet Pollock. Doug Horner, Vern Chilton, and Wes Lemphers wearing their smart white shop coats manned the Department and I think Frank Neale was also a Storesman, however I am not positive this is the correct name (its been a long time and my memory isn’t what it used to be!)

In my time with the CBC I was a File Clerk, Duplicating Clerk, Coder, Administrative Assistant, Materials Management Officer, and Human Resources Officer. I worked directly with over 150 different people while I was in these positions, hiring many of them. There were some great times and some not-so-great times but I remember them all with fondness.

Thanks Bill.  Pictured above, starting from the top, are Bill Murray, Eric Lavell, Ron Mahy and Peter Ahrend.


If you read last month's column, you'll know that this portion is about finding new insults for stupid or irritating people. 

So, from the Middle English Insult Generator, here is the next collection: 

Note that it is permissible to join a noun to any one or more of the adjectives.  Here are the second examples.  Start with "You are a (an)……..…."

Adjective #1                 Adjective #2                 Adjective #3                 Noun 

craven                          crook-pated                    clouted                         canker-blossom 

puking                          pribbling                         common-kissing            maggot-pie 

jarring                           dread-bolted                   pignutted                      coxcomb 

fly-bitten                       fool-born                         folly-fallen                     foot-licker 

pox-marked                   pin-skinned                    plume-plucked              pottle-deep 

fen-sucked                    fawning                          flap-mouthed                flax-wench 

sponge-nosed               sheep-biting                   swag-bellied                 skainsmate 

desulphurizing               dankish                          dizzy-eyed                    dewberry 

gleeking                        goatish                           gorbellied                      giglet 

wirtled                          weather-bitten                 weedwoken                  whey-face


The success of this column's future lies entirely in your hands.  The comments of dewberries and giglets would be welcome, less so contributions from canker-blossoms and maggot-pies.  If you have an item to add to a future column, please email me at .  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.




I hope everybody had a fun Christmas despite these trying times.  Wouldn't be hard to guess what many would think an appropriate New Year's wish! 

To start of this month's column, Mike Oldfield explains some of the mysteries behind sound effects in radio, TV and movies.

SOUND IDEAS   by Mike Oldfield

CBC Vancouver Radio Technician Lars Eastholm

using coconut shells to create the sound of horses hooves.

I guess I have always been interested in sound effects.   I can remember going to the movies as a kid and watching one of those short subject features on how they did sound effects for radio plays.   I was transfixed as I watched men splashing the water about in a small tank to recreate the sound of somebody swimming,  coconut shells used for the sound of horses hooves and a device with lots of wooden pegs strung together which simulated the sound of soldiers marching in step.   As a kid, I also loved the music of Spike Jones and his City Slickers because of all the wonderful sound effects they added to their whacky tunes.    I may have also been influenced by the animated cartoons of Gerald McBoing-Boing , the kid who could make all kinds of funny noises. 

My first entry into the world of creative sound came at my very first TV station in Northern Ontario.   Our news cameraman had shot 16mm footage of a downtown building going up in flames but had recorded no sound.   Since I knew this would be the lead item on our local newscast,  I tore the cellophane covering off a new LP record and got one of our guys to sit in the announcers booth and when the burning building item came on the air,  he crumpled the cellophane near the microphone to recreate the sound of flames.   It worked great and we even received a couple of phone calls praising our coverage of the fire! 

I was to hone my skills a little more when I arrived at CFTO-TV in Toronto and started working on some big- time commercials.   One of them was for Nescafe’ frozen coffee crystals which was a new product on the market at that time.   The producer asked me to come up with the sound of a jar of coffee being instantly frozen into a block of ice.  Luckily, I had some time to think it over and finally decided on the process of crushing a plastic coffee cup with lots of reverberation behind it and then running that tape recording backwards.   The producer loved it.   

At this point, I should take a moment to pay tribute to those who paved the way in the sound effects business.   To be blunt, the movies and TV have invented very little that was new in the way of sound.    All the best effects came from stage productions and then from radio’s golden age.  In the early 1800’s, they were rattling sheets of copper backstage to simulate the sound of thunder and employing slide whistles and small firecrackers to add excitement to stage comedy.   Whenever a fight broke out on the stage, a man standing in the wings with two pieces of wood hinged together would slap them loudly to recreate the sound of the punches.   Hence, we had “slapstick” comedy. 

For you classical music lovers, this device is still used in symphony orchestras whenever they play Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride”.   It becomes the sound of the whip cracking.   The effects’ men who worked behind the scenes in radio dramas had an entire room full of devices to provide the right sound.   They had small wooden doors in frames,  some which creaked when they opened,  a pane of glass which could be broken with a hammer,  pistols filled with blanks,  tanks with water for splashes or the sound of swimming,  coconuts for horses hooves plus a large selection of 78 rpm records with howling wind, wolf howls, pouring rain or roaring fires.   These clever men also manufactured some very elaborate devices to fill all needs.   Check out the picture of this contraption built by an NBC radio technician to create the sound of a horse-drawn wagon.


 When I began working in film sound at CBC Vancouver in 1970, there was a great deal of sound effects work to be done.   There was a weekly nature show called Klahanie which used film shot by independent film makers who rarely recorded any sound on location plus outdoor shows for the network such as This Land.   Various sound recordists who had preceded me had built up a library of audio tapes containing all sorts of natural sound effects such as water lapping,  birds chirping in the forest,  chain saws at work, trees falling,  rapids, waterfalls, assorted boat engines, traffic noise, etc.  and we were constantly adding to this library.   I can remember working on my very first nature show and after supplying editor Larry Stark with all the various sounds he had requested,  I had the pleasure of sitting with him at his Steenbeck editing device as he laid these sounds next to the pictures and I watched it all come to life.   

One of the things I learned during this process was not to tell producers exactly how I had created a sound effect.   This coloured their thinking and destroyed the illusion.   Telling a producer how you had created an effect was very much like telling a little kid that it was not Santa who left his presents under the tree.   Producer Mike Poole did a lot of outdoor shows and in one of them, he needed the sound of a young eagle standing on the edge of its nest and flapping its wings as it learns how to fly.   I did not have any recordings of such a thing so, after much thinking, I stood in front of a studio microphone and recorded the sound of me flapping the sleeves of a raincoat.   The film editor laid it next to the picture and it sounded pretty good.   When we showed it to Mike Poole he thought it was great also.   Then he asked me how I had created it.   I told him that he didn’t really want to know.   But…he insisted on hearing how I had done it.   So I told him I had flapped the arms of a raincoat.   He took another look at the picture with the sound and said….”No…sorry…that won’t work!”.    Knowing how it had been done destroyed the illusion for him.    Lesson learned.   Don’t show people what is behind the curtain.  

On another occasion, a producer for French Radio asked if I could create the sound of a volcano erupting.   He wanted the whole thing…the slow rumble, the eruption, the boiling lava and everything else.    Well, I worked on this effect for several hours, mixing together slow rumbling noises, explosions, hissing steam, falling debris and anything else I could think of.   If I do say so myself, it sounded pretty authentic. I played it for the producer and when it was all over he said…..”Is that the sound of a real volcano erupting?”.    I was somewhat stunned by this question and was tempted to say….”No…sorry, pal, but most sound men don’t tend to stand on the lip of a volcano when it is about to erupt so that they can capture the authentic sound!”  But, ever the diplomat, I simply told him that I had created it.   He shook his head and said he needed the sound of a real volcanic eruption and left.   

My other recollections of complete frustration revolve around amateur theatre groups.   At some point, CBC’s Director of the Province, had let it be known that CBC Vancouver was always ready to help out local theatre groups.    Not long after this, I would get phone calls from some band of players asking if I could supply them with sound effects for their upcoming play.   In most cases, this was simple stuff….traffic noise,  forest sounds,  waves on shore, etc.  but one call in particular really rattled my cage.   The teenage director of this play called me up and said that in one scene, a group of Italian people had just witnessed a road accident and were arguing about it in an excited manner.   Did I have any recordings of excited and angry Italian street crowds?     For a moment, I could not think of anything to say because I was so completely stunned. 

Finally, I asked if they had any actors in this company of theirs.   He replied that they did.   I then calmly suggested that these same people could be used to create the sound of an angry Italian crowd and hung up.   I was tempted to tell him that if they had no idea how to portray this, perhaps his theatrical company could go to their local ristorante and throw some dishes on the floor.   Then, take careful note of the way the waiters and the manager reacted to this.   That would be their acting lesson for the day!  

One final thought about sound effects.  I said that it was not a good idea to let producers know how you manufactured an effect, well, the same thing applied to the public.   It can destroy a lot of their illusions also.    An episode of Klahanie that I worked on had some great footage of big horn sheep banging their heads together.   This is a mating season ritual wherein the rams compete with each other to see who is the dominant one.  As usual, it had been shot with no sound recorded.

I thought about this for some time and finally decided on a way to create this effect.   With the help of TV audio man John Crawford, I went into TV Studio 40 with a couple of large wooden blocks and whacked these wooden blocks down on the concrete floor.   John recorded the sound in his audio booth and added some reverberation to it.   I transferred this recording to 16mm soundtrack and took it to film editor Jane Morrison who spliced it in every time two rams bashed their heads together.   It looked pretty realistic with these two magnificent creatures slamming their horns against each other and the sound reverberating off the hillside.    When it finally went to air, a friend of ours commented on the show and said how exciting it was to see those big horn sheep crashing into each other and to hear the sound of it.  Without thinking, I told her exactly how I had created the sound with a couple of wooden blocks.   She was gobsmacked.   “Oh no.”  she said.  “That’s really ruined it for me.   I’ll never be able to watch another outdoor show ever again!” 

So…I guess the motto for all sound effects men should be:   Don’t ask.   Don’t tell.   



In the CBC Vancouver Staff Training Documentary "Inside Out",  Mike Oldfield demonstrates the illusion sound effects can create. In this still photo captured from the film, Mike was enhancing a party scene for a “Beachcombers” episode and with the assistance of Production Assistant Rosie Sinie, he demonstrated how sound can make the unseen come alive..  The champagne bubbles were a fun touch to prove the point.


SAVING CBC'S FACE   by Al Vitols

In 1971 the new Chinese ambassador to Canada made a stopover in Vancouver on his way to take up his post in Ottawa.  Local 'bigwigs' were asked to attend a reception given in his honour. The mayor and other city officials, UBC and SFU Presidents and such attended.  CBC got an invitation but ignored it.

My friend and Sun columnist, Jack Wasserman, was going to be there (it being a great item for his column), along with Galt, the publisher of the Vancouver Sun.

"Who from the CBC?" Jack asked.


"Bad idea.  CBC will lose 'face' with China, and not just in Vancouver but also in Ottawa. Grab the invite and go!"

I retrieved the gold-embossed invitation from a senior executive's waste basket, figuratively speaking, and Jack and I went.

I was introduced to the ambassador as the person in charge of CBC News and Current Affairs, which was true for Vancouver, but the local China diplomat who was making the introductions, and knew who I was, gave the impression that I was responsible for the entire CBC.  I raised my eyebrows but didn't correct him.  As people were introduced, the ambassador's secretary was making notes in his red book.  

 Found out later that it was a good thing I had gone as Ottawa was somewhat upset that top management in Vancouver had not responded to the invitation.  Ignoring his invitation meant 'loss of face' as if the ambassador was being snubbed, which he was by our top management.  I represented the CBC, and my "office" was deemed high enough to qualify.

Great finger-food and booze, although the Ambassador stayed sober. Not sure whether Jack or I did.



I know that Stationbreak readers are enthusiastic trivia players, so let's start with a few questions.  Those readers who get all the answers correct will be inducted into the Stationbreak Hall of Fame.  Our Hall of Fame has had so many winners recently that we have had to order six additional porta-potties, you will be relieved to hear (so to speak).  The questions:

1.         What does the "S" stand for in his name?

2.         What was the first name of his wife?

3.         In which of these years was Churchill First Lord of the Admiralty:  1911, 1939?

4.         In which of these years was Churchill not the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom:  1941, 1946,

            1950, 1951, 1955?

5.         What was Churchill mostly doing in the month before the outbreak of World War II?

Answers at the end of this article.

There are hundreds of books and perhaps hundreds of thousands of magazine articles about Churchill, with many written by him.  I have been reading a 2017 book by Thomas E. Ricks about both Churchill and George Orwell, called "The Fight for Freedom".  A couple of non-serious extracts:

In 1899, Churchill went off to South Africa to cover, as a war correspondent, what was to become the Boer War.  "He brought with him two cases of wine, eighteen bottles of whiskey, and six each of port, brandy and vermouth".  A man after my own heart.

In 1931 on a speaking tour in New York, Churchill looked the wrong way while crossing a street (no doubt because he was English and they drive on the left), and was hit by a car, dragged for a spell, and ended up with some cracked ribs and his scalp slashed open.  Fortunately for the free world, he recovered.

Obituaries:  Most will know that newspapers require their junior reporters to pre-write obituaries for famous, or infamous, personalities so that the newspaper can, within hours, make sure they have an up-to-date summary of a person's life in the next edition.  You can bet with a degree of certainty that every major newspaper in Canada has obituaries in the wings for every surviving Prime Minister or Governor General of Canada, and for every performer of note in Canada or internationally, including Ann Murray and Gordon Lightfoot, and for Wayne and Shuster and Charlie Chamberlain – that's if the last three weren't already post-obituary.

Radio and TV stations did not and do not play the obituary game.  It is too expensive to do so, and there are technical difficulties in updating the obituaries.

Despite the foregoing, we at CBC Vancouver did have one half-hour 16 mm film obituary, and it was for Winston!  It was prepared in about 1955.  At CBUT we kept our copy in the telecine room, ever ready to air it.

 I was on duty as the coordinating producer in the transmitter booth control room at CBUT on January 24, 1965, when at about 12:30 a.m. I received a call from the CBC newsroom advising me that Churchill had died.  I knew that I would be airing the Churchill obituary film that we had had on hand for the past 10 years, but there was a problem:  we were more than halfway through the late night movie!

Should I abandon the movie and run the obit?  Should I delay the announcement of Churchill's passing until after the movie finished, and then run the obit?  What would you have done if you were me?

[Pause while you think about your answer]

Well, I felt I came up with the best solution, I stopped the movie, had an announcement made of Churchill's passing, and advised that a film tribute (the obit) would be aired after the movie was finished.  I thought this was a good compromise.  Others didn't.  We no sooner re-started the movie when the phone started ringing, and kept ringing throughout the remainder of the movie until we actually started to air the obit.  A typical caller would say something like "Don't you idiots realize that Winston Churchill was one of the most important people in history, and helped win the war against the Nazis?  Why do you continue to show this stupid movie?"

I had no effective answer, although I kept thinking to myself how many calls would I have received if I had run the obituary immediately, and simply cancelled the last half of the movie.


In December 1941 Churchill gave an inspiring speech to the Canadian House of Commons which was carried on CBC Radio.  In that speech, he said that the French had claimed that Britain was about to have her "neck wrung like a chicken" in the dark days of 1940.  Pausing for a second, Churchill added "some chicken, some neck!"

 Quiz Answers:

1.         I was asked this question in a recent trivia game.  I quickly answered "Stanley".  Wrong.  Correct

            answer is "Spencer".

2.         Clementine.

3.         Both 1911 and 1939.  What a gap!

4.         1946, 1950.  He was P.M. 1940-1945, and 1951-1955.

5.         Painting landscapes in France!




 I don't know about you but I'm finding it difficult to come up with new insults for people, especially politicians, who do stupid things like losing an election, and then fighting the result with 20+ unsuccessful lawsuits.  That person is definitely a rankling, rude-snouted, ruttish, ratsbane. 

Of necessity, I've had to dig out of the archives the Middle English Insult Generator, and for the next few issues I'll provide some examples for your possible use. 

Note that it is permissible to join a noun to any one or more of the adjectives.  Here are the first examples.  Start with "You are a (an)……..…." 

Adjective #1                 Adjective #2                 Adjective #3                 Noun


unmuzzled                     onion-eyed                   rough-hewn                  nut-hook


bawdy                          beslubbering                 broad-bummed               bat dunger


vainglorious                  viviparous                     vassal-willed                 vasculum


lumpish                        lewd-minded                     loggerheaded            lout-licker


churlish                         cockered                      clapper-clawed            tandem schemer


fobbing                         full-gorged                    froth-filled                     flirt-gill


rankling                        rude-snouted                ruttish                           ratsbane 


Try them out on your friends without warning.  I think you'll be surprised at the result. 

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 .  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.





Hello everybody:

First up this month are fond memories of how we entertained ourselves during long boring shifts.

Hi-jinks in Master Control & the Transmitter Booth in the 1960's

"Hi-jinks" – carefree antics or horseplay (old fashioned)

Danny Simpson, an Australian, was probably the most energetic hi-jinker at CBUT.  Danny worked at CBC for 7 years, left early in the 60's, and was thus one of the earliest employees of CBC TV in Vancouver.  Danny's background before CBC is unknown, but he couldn't have received TV experience in Australia as TV in Australia didn't arrive until late 1956.  I wonder if anybody reading this will remember Danny.  If so, send me an email!  Perhaps Andy Martens or Jim Carney will remember him.  Here are three of the hi-jinks that Danny, as the telecine operator, got up to. 

He loved making the person in charge of the Transmitter Booth (the co-ordinating producer), very nervous, especially newbies at the job, by not being in the telecine room until the very last minute (actually almost the very last second) before a station break .  He would appear through the back door of the telecine room just in time to roll film on one of the four projectors, or to illuminate slides on one of the two slide projectors.  Danny's favourite haunts between station breaks in the evening were the corner grocery store at Robson & Bute, or flirting with the switchboard girls downstairs (ask Patsy Macdonald!).

Danny's career as a heart-stopper mostly ended when one night Danny raced along the corridor, seconds before the station break, only to find that his back door entrance to telecine had been locked by someone from the inside!  The station break didn't happen!  The "locker" of the door was never found out.

One night, to fill some of the boring time during the late movie, Danny brought his BB gun to work.  While cleaning the gun it discharged, blowing out the window of the door to master control, and scaring five years' growth out of the technical supervisor who was sitting behind the door.

When operating the slide projector in telecine, the operator would pull two levers simultaneously, turning off one side of the slide projector and turning on the other.  The effect was a fast or slow dissolve depending on how fast you pulled the levers.  One night, Danny in his boredom, tipped his stool back, and operated the two levers with his toes!  Nobody in the control room could see Danny and what he was up to until on one station break, Danny had a cramp in his foot and as a result the levers were stuck halfway (so two slides showed simultaneously).  Somebody had to go in and remove Danny and his foot from the equipment. (By the way, the picture at the left is not Danny, and the slide projector in front of the console had replaced the two-lever one).

Danny's most elaborate hi-jink, and the one that got him into the most trouble, was when he created his own background scene in a movie. We found out later that the incident started when one night CBUT showed a Dracula-type movie.  Unknown to anybody else, when the movie finished, Danny cut out some film frames of Dracula.  (Anybody who works in film is aware that cutting out a few frames of film is generally unnoticed by viewers, assuming you glue the film back together again ahead of time!). The following night the late movie was a quiet romantic story, and just as the on-screen couple were enjoying their first embrace, in the background Danny superimposed his frame of Dracula!  Nobody watching that would fail to comment, and the next day Danny was on the carpet in front of the Technical Director, Ross Whiteside.  Danny wasn't fired.

Danny's legacy continued after he left, but more subtly.  Video hi-jinks were easily recognized and disciplined, but not audio ones.

Al Vitols can tell the story about someone in the control room subtly inserting the sound effects of machine guns into the Hopalong Cassidy Western series of movies and syndicated shows.  Of course, it wasn't Al himself.  The crew in the control room were amused to think of some home viewers of the westerns (mostly men in those days) believing they heard machine gun fire, but not really being sure.  One technician said "I think machine guns had already been invented at the time these westerns are set" but another responded that he didn't think Hopalong Cassidy carried a Gatling machine gun around on his horse!

A long-running gag in the control room was inserting the sound effect of the Canadian loon bird in the late night movies.  Although the loon has a distinctive sound, when inserted very quietly, it was surprising to us that nobody ever picked up on it, and complained – and we did it for years!  We made our own rule that the effect could only be inserted if it was absolutely clear that a loon couldn't be there – such as movies set in a submarine, or in a spacecraft, or even in the Oval Office!

Announcers also had their fun, but they had to be more subtle as they were on the air – either radio or TV.  The long-time announcer for the late night sports results whose name (Bruno), I'm not allowed to mention, gave a big smile on the late sports one night when he needed to report that a Canucks player scored a goal and his name was – get this for a NHL hockey player – Bart Crashley.  We all laughed in the control room as well.  The unnamed sportscaster (Bruno) started introducing Bart's name in every sportscast when he could, going so far as to announce "Bart Crashley didn't play tonight".  The anonymous sportscaster (Bruno) had to explain how the verb and the score had to agree.  As B was on air reading his sports script, he came to a part which on his script read something like "the White Rock Beavers edged the Surrey Rednecks 4-3", but instead he announced "the White Rock Beavers wiped the Surrey Rednecks 4 to zip."  When queried afterwards, Mr. B. explained that having inadvertently used the wrong verb "wiped", he had to change the score to suit.  That folks is why you sometimes hear the wrong score on radio or TV.

When CBUT signed off each night after the late movie, the announcer on duty would read a standard sign off announcement including that CBUT operated on Channel 2.  When CBUT opened up its first repeater station in Courtenay, we then had to add "and on Channel 9 in Courtenay".  CBUT started adding more and more repeater stations on the Island and up in the Interior until there were 20 or more – with the result that the sign off announcement got longer and longer, and more tedious.  This changed when a bored announcer added "and Channel 37 in Port Moody" where the announcer lived.  (We never would have had a repeater station so close to the main one on Mt. Seymour).  The idea caught on and the late night announcers all started to include their own towns or places that were familiar to them.  Nobody watching CBUT noticed, probably because nobody listens to the sign off announcement unless they are just waking up.  Some of the ones I remembered were "Channel 14 in Reykjavik" [Iceland]; "Channel 42 in L.A., Lethbridge, Alberta"; "Channel 33 in Zihuatanejo" [Zee-what-an eh ho], and my favourite, "Channel 72 in Walla Walla and Wagga Wagga".  [Walla Walla is a town in south-eastern Washington State, and Wagga Wagga is a town in south-eastern Australia].

Small amusements for big bored minds.  And what hijinks have other CBC staff been up to since I left the Corporation?  Do write!


CHIEF DAN GEORGE - a short recollection by Alan

Cariboo Country, a really great series written by newspaperman, Paul St. Pierre, was initially produced live out of CBUT's cramped studios on West Georgia Street, and went directly on air or to kinescope.  (Later the second and subsequent series were shot on film.)

Chief Dan George was at that time unknown in the TV or film world.  One of his sons who I will call "Jim" but that wasn't his real name, had a key part in one of the early Cariboo Country shows in 1959.  We rehearsed the show during the week, but on the day of the telecast, Jim didn't show up, but Chief Dan George did!

I wasn't privy to the discussion between Chief Dan George and the Cariboo Country director (Phil Keatley), but I believe it went something like this:

Phil:                              Who are you?

Chief Dan George:        I'm the father of Jim

Phil:                              Where's Jim?

Chief Dan George:        He's home sick – can't be in the show today

Phil:                              [Too flabbergasted to say anything]

Chief Dan George:        But I know all his lines, so I can do the show for you.

And Chief Dan George (at age 60 and with no acting experience),
did an incredible job on this live one hour drama.

Many reading this will know that Chief Dan George went on to an impressive film career including Little Big Man with Dustin Hoffman in 1970, and in The Outlaw Josey Wales with Clint Eastwood in 1976, and many other successful movies.  Actor Donald Sutherland narrated a quote from Chief Dan George's poem "My Heart Soars" in the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Chief George was also in multiple episodes of The Beachcombers.


In next month's column, this handsome if sober young fellow is the subject of an article.  Do you know who he is?  Hint:  he has the same initials as a public utility. He was on CBC Radio across the country at one time.


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 .  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.




Hello Everyone:

First up this month is a really intriguing story from Chris Paton:


One day in the fall of 1966 an exuberant Doug Collins came flying out of his office, waving a newspaper and loudly announcing to everyone inside the old CBC Alberni Street Production office that he'd managed to land an interview with Alexander Fydorovich Kerensky. It was like Doug to assume that everyone within earshot would immediately know who Kerensky was and share in his joy at having booked the interview. Later I learned that Kerensky was one of the men who had played an enormous role in the instigation of the Russian Revolution and the formation of the government after the murder of Czar Nicolas the Second and his family. In fact, Kerensky had been the Prime Minister of the Provisional Government of Russia until he’d been overthrown by the Bolshevik Revolution in November 1917. 


Doug's booking of Kerensky happened on one of the first days I was assigned as a production assistant on the nightly current affairs program, The 7 O’Clock Show. One of my functions would be to drive out to UBC, retrieve Mr. Kerensky who’d been visiting Canada on a lecture tour, and deliver him to the old CBC building at Georgia and Bute. The idea of transporting a living breathing piece of world history in the back seat of my old Mustang was thrilling. Doug explained that the now 85 year old Kerensky had been in exile for close to half a century, but that he was still well aware of current events in his homeland. Given Kerensky's age and the fact that the October day was wet and cold, I stowed a blanket and pillow in the back of the car before setting off for UBC.  

On arrival a public relations person brought Kerensky outside to meet me saying “this is Miss Paton of the CBC. She’ll drive you to the television studio for the interview.” Kerensky said nothing, nor did he look at me as I opened the car door and politely extended a hand to usher him into the back seat. Suddenly he drew back his arm and punched me on the shoulder in a blow hard enough to turn my body sideways. As he did he hissed, “I am not an old woman.” Now facing away from the man, stunned and trying to regain my composure, I heard a cracking sound similar to a bat hitting a baseball. I turned around to see the former chief of the Revolutionary Russian Provisional Government holding his head which he'd struck on the roof of my car while attempting to get his miserable self into the back seat. The skin on his head showed a small abrasion and a bit of blood appeared in the cut.    

Along with the emergency blanket and pillow, I kept a box of bandaids in my car's glove compartment. So when Kerensky took his hand away from his head and stood looking at the blood on it, I retrieved the box of bandaids. His face softened a bit as I held up the bandaid strip. The bandaids were meant as emergency first aid for the times when I looked after my sister's kids. Unfortunately the strips came emblazoned with the words "I got a boo-boo" in large letters. I admit to a moment of quiet amusement as I lightly dabbed the man's brow with a tissue and then applied the strip to his forehead, sure in the knowledge that a suitable bandaid would be available when I got Mr. Kerensky into the hands of the CBC makeup department. 

Without a single spoken word between us, the trip downtown remains in my mind as an eternity of red lights and the humming sound of pavement passing under the car tires. Getting close to the back door of the old CBC studios I spotted Doug on the corner of Alberni and Bute. In typically Doug style, he was smiling broadly and waving his arms at us. As I pulled over he ran up the street to open the car door. Bending over into the car, the first thing he saw was Kerensky under a blanket with his head propped up against a pillow. Stunned would be one way to describe Doug's expression. But stunned progressed to jaw dropping as he spotted the fluorescent pink "I Got a Boo Boo" message glued to the man's forehead. I got out of the car and came round to the curb side. "Honest Doug, it's not as bad as it looks." With those words, Doug straightened up, his face a serious shade of red and only a couple of inches away from mine. "Alright then, exactly how bad is it?"  "He's fine. Just a little scratch on the head. But be careful getting him out of the car - he throws a hell of a punch."  

Just 4 years later in 1970, Alexander Fydorovich Kerensky died while being treated for heart disease in a New York hospital. As it is with all old memories like this one, they rest in the brain until some associated circumstance hits the right memory recall button. In this case instant replay for me happens with almost any mention of Russia, the Revolution, the drone of tires on pavement, and although I haven't seen the Boo Boo assortment for years, all television bandaid commercials.




This coming Saturday will mark the 60th anniversary of when the first private television station in Vancouver, CHAN Channel 8, came on the air October 31, 1960, at 4:30 p.m.  Competition for CBUT was hardly unknown.  Prior to CBUT going on the air, there were a host of TV channels that a Vancouverite could watch if you had the appropriate antenna, including four broadcasting from Seattle KOMO, KING, KIRO and KCTS.  And one in nearby Bellingham, KVOS.

But CHAN (later, BCTV and Global) was local.  Here is a list of their programs that they advertised in the Vancouver Sun in a full page ad just before opening day:

Feature movie every night (first one was 12 O'clock High with Gregory Peck)

News (8 times a day!)

Hawaiian Eye


Play of the Week

The Naked City

Assignment: Underwater

Chan-O - Rama (a daily talk show)

Two Faces West

Probe – a once a week interview show

Time to Remember

Children's Carousel (daily)

Route 66

Sports – twice a day!

Adventures in Paradise

Dan Raven 

The local live productions only covered the usual, news, sports, talking heads and children.  No locally produced drama, comedies, musicals or anything else that involved large expenditures.  As the new station opened, CBUT lost a few of its key people to CHAN including Ernie Rose, the assistant technical director, Dale Donaldson, maintenance chief; and cameramen, Max Albrechtson and Harold Haug.  We heard later that Max and Harold regretted making the change as they hadn't realized that CHAN would never be producing shows that would exercise their full cameramen abilities such as on dramas and musicals, as CBC had done, and was still doing.

At CBC we were envious of CHAN having brand new equipment, especially the TV cameras.  But we made ourselves feel better by telling each other that their studios were way out in an industrial area in Burnaby, and as a result would have difficulties hiring staff, and getting TV guests to find their way to their studios.

The reality was that we forgot about CHAN in quite a short period of time.  CTV itself did not open for business until two years later, so there was no competition at first with CBC nationally. Later, in 1961, CHAN and a group of other private stations across Canada founded the CTV Television Network.

Al Vitols has the last word: CHAN signed on - the first picture telecast - with a commercial.  Can’t recall what it flogged but the very first slide of the very first commercial was either upside down or backwards. True. I saw it.


Not relevant to anything, I found this ad on the back of my souvenir newspaper page re the opening of CHAN:

"For rent – a charming studio apartment in Waikiki for 2, with daily maid service and a U-drive car included, for $10.95 a day.  Phone Trinity 6-3304."

 I just tried the number - it's disconnected.



     One of the perks of life as a broadcaster for CBC in "the old days" was the opportunity to be a multi tasker and widen the horizons of your workaday world.   Despite the fact that I had a pre CBC life as a violinist (first lessons at age 6 and carrying that life to UBC's music school) I was no different from most males growing up in the 40's and 50's.  The automobile was not just an everyday conveyance it was one of the two main pursuits of my buddies' teenage lives.   

No surprise then, that as a broadcaster hired primarily as a news and serious music host I could pursue the car passion from time to time.  Most often, those times were spent at Westwood racetrack in Coquitlam on Sunday afternoons.  This was the first purpose built racetrack in Canada built on Crown land on the hills above what is now Coquitlam Centre.  Earl Westwood was the minister of Recreation and Conservation for B.C. and gave the Sports Car Club of B.C. the go ahead for construction of the track back in 1958.  First races were held in '59 on a 1.8 mile circuit that was pretty challenging.  The Carousel turn 1 was banked 15 degrees, turn 3 seemed almost reverse camber and was actually two turns in one.  Then there was Deer's Leap, a crest in the middle of the back straight where some cars became airborne.  It was also where drivers often had to avoid deer or other creatures that bounded across the track as they sought normally deserted wildwood regions.   

Sometime in the late 60s I offered to provide reports from motorsport events to Bill Good Jr. who was the CBC radio sports guy and who had a weekly radio half hour show in addition to daily casts.  One of my first reports actually filled the entire show, an interview with Jackie Stewart as he was in town to promote the Players Pacific race.  When late night weekend sports offered to send a cameraman with me to Westwood I jumped at the chance to interview the big names of the motorsport world.  World driving champ Keke Rosburg, Indy 500 winners Bobby Rahal and Danny Sullivan, Michael Andretti and Canadian star Gilles Villeneuve were a few of those stars of motorsport to drive at Westwood.  Gilles in particular was famous for his very smooth transitions of those difficult corners. 

First attempts at sending reports to TV were via film (this was the "old days", remember?) and some of the cameramen needed encouragement to brave the noise and fury of car racing.  No such issue with Pat Bell, a young VTR cameraman in later years, who would try ground breaking ideas to cover a race. No, I would say, you can't stand at the end of the straight to get a shot of the cars hurtling at you at over a hundred miles an, he would lie down behind the armco barrier shooting under the gap to get the shot. 

Westwood would host a feature race from time to time, and, as part of the entertainment, a sponsor like Westminster Volkswagen would provide cars for "celebrities" to drive.  I joined about 10 or 15 Vancouver radio and TV  people in what was called the "celebrity race".  One year we drove VW Rabbit GTIs which proved to be a little too fast for novice "celebrities" and in successive years they slowed us down with diesel rabbits and even Hyundai Pony cars.  Most years the competition was pretty scarce until the year that a young man showed up from LG or CFOX (fortunately I can't remember his name).  He came to the drivers' meeting dressed in a nomex fire retardant racing suit and his personal helmet.  The rest of us were in our jeans and sneakers and asking around for the loan of a helmet.  No, he didn't win every race and I have a trophy somewhere. 

In the early 80s I produced an item for Steve Armitage and his "Sportscene" show in which I would enter the annual driver training session for prospective Westwood racers.  This was a required program for drivers to obtain a "competition licence" and allow them to drive in future races.   I put my TR7 sports car on the track with some minor mods.  The idea was to follow my progress through classroom sessions and on-track guidance from instructors.

This grainy picture of me passing a Datsun in the hairpin was taken by one of the newspaper photogs.  I wish I had a picture of Pat Bell lying on his stomach in a hatchback racecar (hatch up!) shooting back to me as we drove the track and he tried to remain stable.

 Westwood was to remain active only for a few years after that and, by that time, I had found a new love - boating.   Another of life's pursuits and another story.



1.         Bruno was of Italian background, playing a person of Greek background.

2.         "Relic" was the nickname of the character (originally "old Relic").

3.         Everybody enjoyed that the character played by Jackson Davies had a last name of "Constable", the same as his rank, thus "Constable Constable".

4.         Bruno had his own CBC Radio show.

5.         Athens was the city.  Jackson momentarily thought he was internationally famous until he found out that the Athens resident who recognized him worked part time in North Vancouver.

6.         Angela Lansbury was the odd person out.

7.         "Nick helps a Russian spy to defecate to the West" was not a Beachcombers' plot line.  It still wouldn't have been a plot line if "defecate" had been replaced by "defect".

8.         Robert Clothier played the part of Relic whose actual name was "Stafford Phillips".

9.         Molly's Reach is and was the name of the restaurant.

10.       Michael J. Fox did not star in the Beachcombers although his friend Jackson Davies lobbied for him to be cast, but the timing wasn't quite right.  Before becoming "Michael J. Fox" the actor's stage name was just "Michael Fox", but another actor had already registered that name.

11.       Robert Clothier was the sculptor – and a bunch of other interesting things, including being a World War II bomber pilot.

12.       To "Groucho" was to slouch, hip shift and bend knees, so that Jackson Davies – because of his height, could fit into a shot – especially inside Molly's Reach.


Merv Campone and Chief Dan George

13.       Actor and writer Merv Capone created the character of Relic.  Relic wasn't in the earliest shows.

14.       Jackson Davies was made an honorary sergeant in the RCMP.

15.       Can't imagine anyone didn't guess "Adventures in Rainbow Country".

16.       Another easy question, and the answer is "Hockey Night in Canada".  Hang on, wait, no, "Constable Constable".

Hope you had some fun answering the questions.

And the winner of the quiz, who gets a copy of that great book "Bruno & the Beach", was Mark Johnson of Vancouver (with no present or past connection with CBC only a Beachcombers fan!)



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 .  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


Hello Everyone:

What a great Canadian and CBC Vancouver show!  387 episodes, 19 seasons, and telecast in more than 50 countries!

And this book:

is a terrific summary of the shows – the stars, the locations, the technical and production people. the hijinks, the relations with the Corp, lots of great photos  – and much more!  It doesn't matter whether you never worked on the show or whether you ever watched The Beachcombers on TV, the book contains fascinating anecdotes about the "inside" of shooting a drama/comedy series on location – beautiful Gibsons BC, and occasional other locations – some overseas. 

Even now, 8 years after it was published, the book is still available to buy on and no doubt at other on-line stores or booksellers, and costs no more than a couple of movie tickets. 

Both authors, Jackson Davies and the late Marc Strange, have wonderful senses of humour, e.g. Jackson in part of his bio about movies he has been in: "Bird on a Wire in which Goldie Hawn dumps me for Mel Gibson, and I bet she'd like to re-think that now". 

Here are some stories (some from the book, some not) from a few of the hundreds (thousands?) of people who worked on the show: 

From Nick Orchard, Production Manager:  Ultimately in the Water 

There was a rite of passage on Beachcombers that few new crew members escaped. In its simplest form it involved getting said new crew member wet. We were, after all, set on or near the water. The methods of accomplishing this feat, however, were usually far from simple and often involved intricate planning. 

When Amir Mohamed first joined us on the lighting crew he was told we needed to do a camera test on some new film stock. He was positioned just outside the back door of Molly’s Reach, and asked to hold a white feather in his hand. The camera rolled in super slow motion, and captured Amir at first smiling and waving the feather. Then water begins to enter the top of the frame from the two large garbage pails manhandled by a couple of lighting gaffers on the roof over the door. As the water hits his head, the smile turns to surprise and then to shock as he looks up and shakes his fist in mock outrage. 

Barry Reid, another lighting guy (did we pick on them?) was a big guy. There was less planning in this case, apart from setting the camera, but more crew effort, as 4 or 5 crew members were needed to push him off the dock’s loading ramp.  And he took every one of them with him. 

Gary (suitcase) Smith, our first AD on one of the new Beachcomber movies, required the usual divestment of personal items before he could be thrown off the dock. “Can I borrow your watch for a second? I want to time something”. “Hey, can I use your walkie-talkie? I forgot mine”. “That sure is a big wallet you have”. He understood the trap he’d walked into just before he hit the water. 

I was proud that I had avoided my own baptism for a good two and a half seasons, though it was not for lack of trying on the crew’s part. But I’d seen too many of these to fall for it. Or so I thought. Why I decided to have lunch with the crew on the filming barge one day I can’t tell you, but when I looked up and saw four burly crew members walking toward me I knew I was doomed. 

From Dennis Robertson, lighting technician:  Gone Fishing 

Some practical jokes are spontaneous.  Others take some planning.  The Beachcombers had its share of both.  The key to success was patience and anonymity. One of the favourite targets in the early days was production manager Bob Gray.  Bob was just as good at giving as he was at taking.  He was a planner and would take weeks to set a joke up and pull it off.  He was not easy prey.  If you were successful and found out, then you knew it was only a matter of time before he retaliated.  Mike Bolton, John Smith and Derek Gardner set up and implemented one of the best. 

Bob never strayed too far from the office and was seldom on set.  The crew was shooting on location at a booming ground well past Port Mellon.  Derek Gardner waited till the hottest time of day, then called Bob on the radio and told him they had a problem and he needed to come to the set.  Bob hopped in his rented production vehicle, complete with air conditioning and power windows, and headed for the set.  What he didn't know was that John Smith had put a well-ripened and rotting salmon on top of the engine and that Mike Bolton had removed the fuses for the air conditioning, and the power windows.  The heat of the day heated the inside of the car and the rotten fish was cooking from the heat of the engine.

By the time he got to location, Bob was sweating like a pig, and smelled like a dead fish. 

(Courtesy of the authors of Bruno & the Beach) 

From Marc Strange  Productions and Pranks 

We were blessed with one of the best production managers in the business, Bob Gray.  If the CBC had listened to him, they would easily have saved a few million dollars over the course of The Beachcombers series.  Take Nick's boat Persephone, for example.  After the first season, Bob did some quick calculations and came to the conclusion that even if the show ran only a couple more seasons, CBC management would be saving money if they bought Persephone outright rather than renting the boat year after year.  Head office, in its infinite wisdom, shot down that suggestion.  Perhaps they didn't want anybody out in Lotusland thinking the show was on solid ground.  Whatever the reasoning, they took a pass and continued to pay a substantial boat rental fee for another eighteen years. 


             Bob Gray

There was also the matter of accommodation.  Bob recognized that if you have a small army of technicians and production staff on location for eight months of the year, it was going to cost a lot to put them all up.  It turned out that the Boy Scout camp next door to the Langdale ferry terminal was closing and was for sale – lock, stock and cabins.  In a detailed memo, Bob spelled out how The Corporation could lease the camp, refurbish the cabins, and turn the place into a self-contained and very comfy movie campground, thereby saving a fortune in hotel, motel and house-rental fees.  They turned that one down, too.  I'd hazard a guess that over nineteen seasons, the CBC helped build quite a few privately owned motels around Gibsons.

(Courtesy of the authors of Bruno & the Beach) 

And before some more stories, a little trivia quiz:  Email your guesses by October 15 to  A draw will be made of the correct entries and the winner will receive a copy of the "book". 

1.         Bruno Gerussi, the character of Nick is:

            (a)        of Italian background playing a person of Greek background

            (b)        of Greek background playing an a person of Italian background

            (c)        a British Royal playing the part of a French Canadian.

2.         Robert Clothier played the part of the "scoundrel" Relic.  "Relic" was

            (a)        the first name of the character

            (b)        the last name of the character

            (c)        his nickname.

3.         Jackson Davies plays the part of an RCMP officer on the Beachcombers.  What is his rank on the show?

            (a)        Deputy Commissioner

            (b)        Inspector

            (c)        Matron

            (d)       Constable then Sergeant

            (e)        Assistant Barista

4.         Bruno Gerussi, before he was Nick on the Beachcombers, was:

            (a)        maitre'd at an Italian restaurant on Richards Street in Vancouver

            (b)        a 747 pilot

            (c)        host of a CBC radio show

            (d)       head of Vancouver's Greek club

            (e)        an income tax assessor for Revenue Canada

5.         When shooting an episode of the Beachcombers overseas, a man in the street recognized Jackson Davies as one of the stars of the show.  What was that overseas city?

            (a)        Victoria

            (b)        Athens

            (c)        Berlin

            (d)        Reykjavik

            (e)        Paris.

6..         Which of these actors or personalities did not have guest roles on the Beachcombers?

            (a)        Chief Dan George

            (b)        Gordon Pinsent

            (c)        Elaine Tanner

            (d)       Angela Lansbury

            (e)        David Suzuki

7.         Which was not a Beachcombers plotline?

            (a)        Nick meets his estranged father

            (b)        Saving wild goats

            (c)        Constable Constable comes out in drag

            (d)       Nick helps a Russian spy to defecate to the West

            (e)        Nick joins the Irish Rovers

8.         Which actor played the part of Stafford Phillips?

            (a)        Pat John

            (b)        Robert Clothier

            (c)        Bob Park

            (d)       Nancy Chapple

            (e)        Merv Capone

9.         What was (and is) the name of the restaurant in Gibsons where much of the action took place?

            (a)        Polly's Beach

            (b)        Molly's Beach

            (c)        Molly's Reach

            (d)       Good Golly Miss Molly

            (e)        Umbertos

10.       How many shows did Michael J. Fox star in?

            (a)        4

            (b)        10

            (c)        11

            (d)       None of the above.

            For no extra points, what was Michael J. Fox's performing name before his current name?

11.       One of the Beachcombers' stars was an accredited sculptor.  He or she was?:

            (a)        Bruno Gerussi

            (b)        Jackson Davies

            (c)        Shirley Broderick

            (d)       Robert Clothier

12.       What does "Groucho" mean as in the expression "Do you need me to Groucho?" said by Jackson Davies to the director when playing the RCMP constable?

            (a)        Put on a crazy face

            (b)        Light up a cigar

            (c)        Arch the eyebrows

            (d)       Slouch, hip shift and bend knees

            (e)        Look more Jewish

13.       Who created the character of "Relic"?

            (a)        Marc Strange

            (b)        Phil Keatley

            (c)        Merv Capone

            (d)       John Harling

            (e)        Janet-Laine Green

14.       Actor Jackson Davies, one of the stars of the Beachcombers, in real life is only one of two Canadians who have?:

            (a)        been made an honorary sergeant in the RCMP

            (b)        been inducted into the FBI

            (c)        made an honorary member of the Hell's Angels (Kitchen Auxiliary)

15.       Marc Strange gives credit to another CBC TV show that helped inspire the concept of the Beachcombers.  That show was:

            (a)        Don Messer's Jubilee

            (b)        The Nature of Things

            (c)        Adventures in Rainbow Country

            (d)       Hockey Night in Canada

16.       The Beachcombers had a spinoff.  What was its name?

            (a)        Combovers

            (b)        Jackson Jackson

            (c)        Constable Constable

            (d)       Walla Walla

            (e)        Hockey Night in Canada 


From Mike Oldfield, sound effects and post sound:  150 feet of the Persephone Idling 

Since I had cut my teeth on outdoor shows such as Klahanie and other nature documentaries,  it was pretty predictable that when The Beachcombers started up in the fall of 1971,  I’d be providing sound effects for this show sooner or later.   My co-workers such as Martin Fossum and Dave Curle had inherited the job originally but when they moved on to greener pastures, I was given the task of providing the sound editors with whatever sound effects they needed.    The biggest problem I faced was the fact that there was no post production budget for film sound.   Oh sure, there was money available for cameras, recorders, microphones, lights, etc. that were needed for the on-location filming but not for the work that came afterward.   We were told repeatedly that there was simply no money available for our part of the production.   Fortunately, the recordists on location up at Gibson’s were all pros and knew that we would need the sound of all the various boats used plus any vehicles which appeared on camera along with general atmosphere sound….waves lapping, seagulls calling, boats squeaking against the dock.  On most days, we were fulfilling the requests of the sound editors by providing them with 150 feet of the Persephone idling…50 feet of the jet boat revving up….the sound of the door at Molly’s Reach opening and closing…and some general traffic noise around Gibson’s.  But…there were always calls for some special effect that we just didn’t have.    To show you how threadbare we were,  we were using old 78 rpm sound effects records which had been the staple of American and Canadian radio networks for the dramas which they had broadcast back in the 1940’s!  There were, of course, modern libraries of sound effects that we would have loved to own but…they cost money. was a case of beg, borrow, steal or create those special sound effects which had not been recorded on location and were not available from our sound effects library.


There were a couple of independent film production companies in Vancouver at that time and on several occasions, they were kind enough to supply me with the effect that I needed.   This was a case of “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” and I responded in kind by supplying them with effects from time to time.   I must also pay tribute to the technicians in Radio such as Joe Silva and Chris Cutress who were always willing to share whatever effects they had that might be of use to me.   Judy Knox in the Radio Music Library was also very helpful in digging out records of sound effects and letting me borrow them.   There were some occasions when I would grab a Nagra tape recorder and a microphone and go out to record a sound effect myself.   Since I was often the only one in the department, I was kept on a short leash and had to tell the Film Dept. office where I was going and when I would be back.    Most of these events took place at the old location at 1200 West Georgia.   When we moved to Studio 60 at 700 Hamilton Street, we had much more space for film sound although there was still no money available for our needs.   But, the carpenter shop built us several long wooden trays which we filled with straw and twigs to recreate the sound of someone walking through the woods and a donor provided us with a number of big flat paving stones to simulate the sound of someone walking along a sidewalk.   These came in very handy when film sound editor Stu Copley told me one day that we needed to recreate the sound of somebody walking down a wet and muddy street towards Molly’s Reach.   I got some old towels from the Costumes Department, soaked them in water, wadded them up and laid them on the flat paving stones.   When Stu walked on those soggy towels, it was the perfect squishy sound of footsteps on a soaking wet street.    Later, I heard that the carpenter’s shop was about to get rid of a wooden staircase from some show so I grabbed that and got it moved down to our studio.  This became one more device for creating footsteps which came in handy whenever anybody went up or down the stairs at Molly’s Reach. 

Today, as I watch the Academy Awards and see engineers getting Oscars for “sound design” I can only stare in wonder.   I know they are working with sophisticated computers which give them the sounds they need and I harken back to those days when I had to cut a ¼ inch tape into a loop because I only had eight seconds of a Volkswagen van idling and needed two minutes of it.  I guess as far as film sound was concerned, I had lived through the Stone Age! 

From Marv Coulthard, Audio and ENG/EFP.:  Beachcomber Moments

In 71 post our NABET strike I am going through my first traumatic experience in life, a separation and divorce.  Patsy McDonald suggested I apply for the boom operator position on Beach coming up in the spring.   Best move I ever made.

Around late August 72  one morning we are just setting up on the docks just below Molly's Reach, right near a local ketch by the name of "King Cyrus".    I spotted a nice looking young lady step down from the boat onto the dock, walk past us, and up the ramp.   That weekend I had the weekend off (4 day weekends) and I had my three kids visiting with me for the weekend.  On the Saturday morning I took them for a drive up the coast to Sechelt.  Near the top of School Hill, there's the same lady, thumbing a ride. We pick her up and give her a ride to work at a restaurant in Sechelt.  We had a good chat and I asked for her number.   Later the next week I called, and set up a date.  Bottom line: she became Mrs. Marv II. 

One day while shooting on the Persephone, just after one of the takes, Nelson (Smith) is on the headset to me from below in the cabin.  "It's getting pretty full down here..." he says.   I don't get what he means. Nelson would often make some off the wall expressions out of the blue like "I'm a lousy dancer but a reasonable lay", or "last night I went up over blue mountain",  so when I heard "it's getting pretty full down here", it didn't really click.   Two minutes later the same expression but with a little more urgency. I reply to Nelson, "I don't understand".  Nelson: "Tell John Smith it's getting full down here!"  Nelson is the only one below in the cabin. Turns out we had a hole in the hull, and the water was up to his ankles. John put us all on the barge, and put the Persephone up on her side on the beach, stuffed a rag in the hole and we headed for home the jetter pulling the barge, while John went on ahead. The rest of the day we picked up a couple of scenes on land while the Persephone was in repairs..   Hence the line... Drinking?  No,  we're not drinking..... oh  sinking! 

For some reason Harvey McCracken, our 1st AD, was standing all alone, on the end of the dock.  There were about 5 of us in the jetter (Relic's jet boat)...Johnny driving of course. John pauses for a second.. ."ok guys when I give you the signal everyone get on the bow, and hang on for dear life."  He turns the jetter so the stern is toward Harvey. "GO"  we all leap on the bow and the stern comes right up out of the water.  John gives the throttle a good poke and a huge jet of
water, like a fire hose, soaks Harvey completely. Perfect hit. 

Beach was one of the several highlights of my wonderful time at the CBC. I learned a lot of skills that paid off later.  Like how to move a log by rolling it with a tow rope.


From Maurice Moses, unit manager and location production manager:  Beachcombers (1980 – 1982) 

After 19 years in the Accounting Department with CBC Vancouver (1958-1977), TV Production Manager Fred Engel hired me as a TV Unit Manager. Three years later my boss Mal Baardsness, Manager Administration & Finance – TV Network Programs, felt it was time to take over The Beachcombers as Location Production Manager.  I took over three times from 1980 to 1982.  Those three years were the best of my 38 years with the CBC (1955 – 1993). 

Thanks to Joe Battista who was Production Manager at the time (1980) for helping me immensely by introducing me to all the shop owners, the Mayor and RCMP whom The Beachcombers used throughout production.

We were not into the computer age yet and controlling costs was very difficult.  My accounting experience helped me a lot in keeping up with the requirements.  Being a brand new Production Manager, I was unknowingly initiated like every new manager was.  There was an emergency call to me on a loudspeaker, asking me to climb a high hill.  When I got there, everyone applauded saying I was filmed making the climb!  It was played back for everyone’s entertainment that night.

Living in Gibsons, away from Vancouver, was overwhelming at first.  Thank goodness the crew were provided homes that spouses could visit.  I’m grateful that I was single at the time as the separation for couples took a toll on relationships.  

Now for my memorable experiences….

On my third day of working on location, actor Reg Romero (“McLoskey”) was appearing for his first day on the show that season and suffered a heart attack.  Joe Battista and I were there when it happened.  Sadly Reg did not survive and later, Joe arranged for Reg’s ashes to be taken on the Persephone and scattered near Salmon Rock.

I soon found out I had to get involved personally with the community of Gibsons.  We used the RCMP for assistance with traffic control, helping them in turn with development of new recruits by hiring them to deal with traffic when needed.  Every year for the Sea Cavalcade Parade, our Design Department helped build a parade float for them. In November, 1980, Gibsons’ RCMP honoured me with presentation of a framed certificate in recognition of The Beachcombers’ contribution to improving Police/Community Relations.

Our crew played softball matches with the girls of Rogers Creek (located between Gibsons and Sechelt, 30 km SW of Lillooet) and after the game we played on the same night as the Mr. Rogers Creek contest, we were invited to a party where Dan Tohill and I dressed in drag. David Croal kindly jogged my memory about this and added that Dan borrowed the Little Bow Peep costume that had been seen earlier at the game - and much to the horror of the Rogers Creek gang, Dan won!  He appeared the next day in the Roberts Creek Daze Parade, driven in the Beachcombers Suzuki by David Croal. 

There was an annual Miss Gibsons’ Pageant and because of my voice, I was asked to participate in the Pageant and sing “You Are My Special Angel” to the new Miss Gibsons, who turned out to be from Sechelt that year.

I was at my house in Gibsons on my birthday – May 18, 1980 – when Mt. St. Helen’s erupted with blowing smoke all over Washington and Vancouver.  It was my day off and I was celebrating with a friend when I got a call from our Wardrobe Mistress saying that we were broken into and that cameras were missing.  This had happened during a 4-day break from shooting and the Wardrobe Mistress made the discovery because she was prepping the next episode..  I don’t know if the thieves were caught or the cameras ever found, but they were a Japanese type and would have been of no use to the robbers.

I was also involved with a Gibsons’ talent contest that was organized by one of our Assistant Directors – Dan Tohill.  It was tempting to enter the contest but I felt that I wasn’t eligible.  The winner I believe got a shot as an extra on The Beachcombers.

There were also some not-so-good moments that I won’t elaborate on.  One which is already public knowledge, involved a notable cast member who had a fight with his girlfriend, got drunk, and drove his car into a house.  Luckily no one got harmed but we had to convince the RCMP that it would not happen again, and corrective measures were taken.

There was a time when I realized that the crew was not in a good mood and something had to be done to improve morale.  I called my sister Joyce who loves entertaining and invites singles to Friday night dinner every week.  I asked her if she would come up to Gibsons and cook some of her Indian and Iraqi dishes for the crew.  She did come and cooked all day, providing an elaborate curry pilau and salad with her special pies for dessert.  The crew brought wine and the event was a complete success.

My second stint at The Beachcombers was in 1981.  Mal Baardsness asked me to take over as Production Manager when my predecessor was elevated to Producer.  That was well into the season.  Thank goodness Linda Kinney was there to bring me up to speed.  Linda was a Cost Assistant to The Beachcombers as well as Ritter’s Cove which was being produced out of Sechelt.

It was during my time with The Beachcombers that I met my wife Judith.  She was on a field trip to The Beachcombers with her Grade 3 students.  She and her fellow teacher loved Molly’s Reach and especially the Design Department’s jail cell.  They loved “Relic” (actor Robert Clothier) who was on hand to greet them (“Nick”, actor Bruno Gerussi, stayed away).  Judy loved it all and wanted to stay on and see the rest of Gibsons.  I said, “Stay.  Your other teacher can take the kids home.”

At the end of each season, Bruno Gerussi invited the community to an end of season Pig Fest with the cast and crew to thank the community for all their help in making The Beachcombers such a success.  They thanked all of us in turn for bringing their community together and especially the various businesses normally in competition all year.

My third and last stint on The Beachcombers went well until three weeks prior to the end of the season when the Producer suddenly left the show.  That left Post Production Producer Jack Thorne and myself to handle everything.  Bruno was in a fit over it but luckily there were only some reshoots to do and Jack was able to accomplish all that was required.

In March, 1983 Bob Fredericks, David Dewar, Nick Orchard, and I think Dan Tohill became proud fathers - 3 girls (Bob, David and Dan) and 1 boy (Nick). That same summer during Cavalcade week we all met at Gibsons to show off our little ones.  Bob Fredericks’ daughter Cara and my daughter Melissa later both went to Crofton's girl school.

It’s a tough life for a crew on location, being stuck together from March to September but there is a good side with all the overtime compensation.  I didn’t qualify for overtime but the monthly meal allowance I received was enough to buy a new car! 

I will always have fond memories of my life at The Beachcombers.

From Hugh Beard, Executive Producer Beachcombers – Seasons 4 to 10.  An Executive Decision

 I had just become the Executive Producer of Beachcombers, and it was the first day of shooting for the fourth season. I had been the line producer last year, and for the past few months, I had been working with the writing team on this season's scripts. As I sat in my office, I wondered what it actually means to be the executive producer. 

Then I got the call that I was needed on set. The crew was about to start shooting the first shot of the season, and I guessed they wanted me to be there for it.  As I walked down to the dock, I immediately sensed something was wrong. The crew looked tense. From Bruno's body language, he was agitated.  The costume designer was crying as she held up a white shirt. Young Margaret, wearing a bright orange lifejacket, was standing beside Bruno, wearing a red shirt. I immediately knew what the problem was. The red shirt clashed severely with the orange lifejacket. As a director working with Bruno, I knew he loved to wear red; it catches the viewer's eye. This story takes place over a few hours, so if he wears the white shirt it will be for the entire episode.  As Executive Producer, I had to make the call. Do I let Bruno have his way, or do I support the costume designer? 

So I said to Bruno, "Wear the white shirt, then in the next scene and for the rest of the episode wear the red shirt." Bruno blustered, "That doesn't make any sense. There is no reason for me to change." I turned to the script supervisor, saying, "Change the script. When Bruno walks past Molly in his red shirt, she comments, 'You're all dressed up Bruno, are you expecting to go on a hot date?' Bruno smiles as he replies, 'You never know, Molly… you never know." 

Then I walked back to my office, totally understanding the power of an Executive Producer.

And now for something completely different

From Jackson Davies, a star of the Beachcombers! Outdated Cultural Depictions? 

We just passed an important milestone in Canadian TV history with the 30th anniversary of the final Beachcombers episode wrapping. It was fun to have all the press and the social media attention for a show that has notoriously been kept off the current airwaves. With just 13 out of those 365 episodes only available on Amazon Prime in the U.S., here’s hoping that will change with the 50th anniversary of The Beachcombers on the horizon in 2022.  

I think it was on a "Friends of the CBC" Facebook page (which sometimes comes across as more of an "Estranged Friends of the CBC") where there was an active discussion about the 365 episodes of The Beachcombers not being available on CBC’s GEM. But that is a discussion for another day. Someone suggested if CBC were to rebroadcast the Beachcombers, there would have to be a disclaimer saying it contained “outdated cultural depictions.” I guess that makes sense, because a show that started airing 48 years ago with some of the first scripts written in 1970, would be outdated by those dates alone.   

But is it outdated? Has time has been kind to Beach? The lead characters were an immigrant, a single grandmother raising two orphans, an Indigenous teenager helping to raise his young sister, and a scavenger who lives in a floating shack. It wasn't set in a big Canadian city: the home of The Beachcombers was a small, real, not fictitious, town on the coast of BC where people were struggling to survive. That doesn't sound like 70's TV. Long before Schitt’s Creek, The Beachcombers was Canada’s original dysfunctional family TV series.   

There's no argument that the show contains some dialogue that could be labeled "cringe-worthy" today. When the two lead characters cement their partnership in the very first episode with a spit on the hand and a handshake, Nick says, “deal, Indian?” while Jesse replies, “deal, Greek.” There were a few others that, from a 2020 and 20-20 perspective, I really want to forget. Blame it on naiveté, the 70’s, lack of sensitivity or just plain stupidly.  I’m sure we would love a couple of do overs.    

But when I started to think about that “outdated” statement, a strange dichotomy enters the memory.  Beachcomber episodes in the 70’s and 80’s were about: 

The removal of a statue honouring an individual who was racist. 
The destruction of salmon spawning grounds. 
Reactions to residential schools and the 1970's scoop children. 
Bullying and harassment of Indigenous youth. 
Acquiring coastal land that could be used for a pipeline. 
Stopping dangerous cargo from being shipped on the water. 
Protection of endangered species. 
Conservation and protection of BC Forests.
Female RCMP officers. 
Indigenous land claims. 
The repatriation of stolen Indigenous artifacts. 
Discrimination against people because of nationality and disabilities.  
The politics of Indigenous reservations 
Protecting the environment. 
Teaching Indigenous history. 
Protecting Indigenous land from development. 
Indigenous youth leaving their homes for the big cities. 
American interference in the sovereignty of our waters. 
Many of The Beachcombers' storylines would not look out of place on TV today. As the wonderfully creative Phil Keatley once said, "the key to finding stories is to go to where they happen." So what does it say about present-day Canada when now almost 50 years later, some of those stories are still happening?   

Something has increasingly been on my mind over the last few months. I find myself asking if the series was fair to Indigenous peoples. Were we depicting a place where indigenous peoples could live and work together with other nationalities in a small Canadian town without harassment? A place where the RCMP was always friendly to Indigenous peoples? But were there real places like that in Canada in the 70’s and 80’s? Was that even a possibility? I was once told that "being able to see faces on your TV screen that looked like yours" was important to our Indigenous audiences. I'll always be proud to be part of a show that recognized that. Maybe right now in 2020 we need The Beachcombers to experience its view of Canada of the 70's and 80's, and to realize that we should be so much better now. For 16 years I was fortunate to work with wonderful Indigenous actors, they were incredibly kind as actors and as friends, I only wish Canada was as kind to them as they were to me. 


If you have a Beachcombers story that didn't reach us in time for this column, do send it in.  We have lots of opportunity to air it in the future. 

P.S.  When I was the most junior of technicians at CBC TV in Vancouver in the old studios, pushing around the boom operator up on his boom platform, I first saw Merv Campone acting – possibly it was in a Cariboo Country episode  – and despite my lack of knowledge of actors and acting, I thought "What a great actor he is!". The very next day when I was walking along Georgia Street to the nearby coffee shop, a cab stopped near me, the passenger hopped out, and I looked over at the cab driver, and it was Merv Campone!  That five second glimpse told me a lot about the uncertainty of the acting profession as a steady source of income.   In Bruno and the Beach, Marc Strange says, succinctly, "Most actors are a day or two away from unemployment".

My thanks to Peggy Oldfield for her assistance in putting this month's column together.

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 .  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.



Hello Everybody: 

First of all, I'd like to thank Bill Morris for all the technical help he gives me with this column.  I don't thank him enough.  Without Bill's help, I'd still be walking Ken Gibson's dog for a living.

This month's main feature is about the big "Move" in 1975, but first this fun story from John Kirkup who was in charge of Film Procurement at CBC Vancouver in the 1970's and 1980's. 


by John Kirkup 

Because there was no hockey and lots of programming time to fill, the powers to be agreed to a first time airing of the classic Gone With The Wind on a Saturday Night in prime time on CBUT! (It would also be available south of the border if CBUT's signal was available!).  I was very pleased about that decision and it would be a feather in my cap and really p.o. Toronto!  


So on that memorable Tuesday morning before Saturday's telecast, I received a phone call from film editor Debbie Grinke (she usually edited the movies and thank heavens she was an old movie fan!).  Debbie said "John, you had better come downstairs, there's a problem with Gone With The Wind that you are not going to believe!" 

So, I dutifully went downstairs to editing and Debbie loaded up the problematic reel of the movie on the Steenbeck (editing machine), and smiling mischievously said "Watch this!", and found the spot where Clark Gable says to Vivien Leigh (Scarlet O'Hara) -  Frankly my dear I don’t  give a damn!   Except, to my shock, "Damn!" was missing! 

I immediately got on the phone to the MGM Distributor and after I told him my problem, and everyone had a good laugh, he said "Don’t panic yet, I will see what I can do!"After 24 hours passed he was on the phone and said that apparently my GWTW was previously telecast in one of the southern states and because DAMN was considered to be offensive, it was removed and never replaced after telecast! (Don’t forget this was the 1970s!)

He further elaborated by saying he had located a fully intact reel in, of all places, Atlanta! Atlanta said they would ship the reel immediately, but if anything happened to it while I had it, I would have to give up my first born!   Thankfully, it arrived on time and "Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn" was intact!  So, it was aired without further incident and received praise for being telecast for the very first time in prime time in the Vancouver market (in the Pacific Northwest, for that matter!) 

If Debbie had not been a classic movie fan, and another editor had worked the film, it is possible that it would have gone on air in prime time with DAMN missing, and the newspapers would have had a field day saying something like "CBUT doesn’t give a damn!"  Toronto would have loved that, chuckle, chuckle. Thank goodness for Debbie Grinke!

Thanks John.  Some GWTW trivia: 

1,400 women were auditioned for the part of Scarlet O'Hara.

When adjusted for inflation, Gone With the Wind is the highest grossing film in history.

Shooting of the movie was delayed two years until Clark Gable was available to play the part of Rhett Butler.

Olivia de Havilland, who played Melanie Hamilton in GWTW, died last month at the age of 104. By contrast, Vivien Leigh, who played Scarlett O'Hara, died at age 53.

None of the movie was shot in Gibsons, B.C.

John Kirkup bio    

During his many years with the CBC, John worked in Accounting/Finance, Performer's Contracts, Purchasing and Supply, Shipping and Receiving and a few others places he wants to forget, but he enjoyed his best times in Film Procurement during the 70s and 80s when he was responsible for Feature Films and Syndicated Programming on CBUT.  He also served as Local President of CUPE-O&P for 5 years.  John says he almost always had a camera with him and luckily for us, he used it frequently to capture his co-workers in the office and at social gatherings.  Following his CBC retirement, John worked for a time with the B.C. Corps of Commissionaires before relocating to Toronto.  In December 2019 John moved to Ottawa to be nearer his son and family.


Debbie Grinke bio  

Debbie Grinke began her CBC career in 1976 and was trained as a Film Editor by Fran Rayner in CBC Vancouver’s new premises at 700 Hamilton Street.  She became the sole negative cutter for The Beachcombers series.  With the demise of film, Debbie transferred to TV Technical as a VTR Operator and then Master Control operator where she remained until her retirement on November 1, 2001.  Following retirement, Debbie and husband Dave Padgham moved to the Sunshine Coast where they enjoy gardening, playing the ukulele and spending time with their adored Chihuahua, Skylar, whom Debbie trains for dog competitions.

Pictured is Debbie in Master Control at the Hamilton Street studios.

Says Debbie: I never thought I would have ended up In Master Control one day! As a young 20 something delivering film to telecine for on air play back, all those buttons & wires used to scare me. How does one learn to operate all that??? Well,…..I found out!  Lol!”



When I asked for contributions to this column to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the consolidation of the CBC Vancouver facilities at the Hamilton Street location, I hadn't put my mind as to who might contribute. I realize now there were people like me who left CBC before the move, there were those who saw the move but have passed away in the 45 intervening years, and there are the large number of CBC-ers who joined after the move who never knew the fun and games of the relocation and consolidation.  But, we do have some memories.  First up from Al Vitols, some critical comments on the new building's location, and some aspects of the move.

The Move, by Al Vitols

 1.  Long Before the Move – Where will be the Permanent Home for CBC in Vancouver?

 The ‘new’ CBC is where it is because of what I call the "idiotic notion" of one of the top brass (let's call him "Mr. X") that the National Broadcaster should be part of the Vancouver Arts Scene, i.e., next to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. The original plan, I was told, even included a pedestrian overpass connecting the QE Plaza and the CBC site. That got dumped due to costs. 

The leading contender among the other proposed locations was the acreage where the Vancouver Museum and Music School (Academy?) are now located, almost under the Burrard Bridge.  All the TV production facility was to be a single story structure with studios and all services handy. One of the studios, 42, was planned to have a glass wall overlooking the West End, a kind of permanent news set background. All the rest, the non-TV stuff, was to be in a multi-story structure at the back of the property, Radio, French and English, accounting, sales, etc.  With unlimited parking and also close to public transport, that ideal location would have been the envy of any network, Canadian or not, but Mr. X nixed it. 

It may be an urban myth but it is said that one of upper management in CBC Vancouver personally nixed a few floors of parking under 700 Hamilton, some to be used for staff, and the rest for paying public - especially QET audiences.  When he was told it would be very helpful for CBC employees to have a convenient parking place, his response was "Let them take a bus".  Rumour has it that someone then asked "What bus will you take?" 

When the Queen Elizabeth Theatre was being built, the blueprints called for permanent camera cable ducts to 3 or 4 locations, locations, by the way, decided by engineers, architects, Mr. X himself - who knows, but definitely not anyone possibly doing productions from there.  It didn’t really matter as eventually the sharp angles in the ducts were too tight for the huge back then camera cable connectors. They could not be pulled through. For a while there was discussion re having the QET ends of the cables wired to the connectors in situ, but that, too, was nixed, and mainly because of costs. 

It would not have mattered as we wound up doing just a couple (if that) of productions out of there, The QE’s were under a different union jurisdiction, and every CBC technician and stage hand had to have a stand-by theatre dude. Sky-high costs! 

2. The Building

 Of course, a huge complex such as the new CBC Centre necessitated input from a whole host of sources including such major ones such as money (Ottawa), Engineering (Montreal) and Architects (Vancouver).  The local brass in Vancouver also has their say – too much in my opinion, and too early in the planning process.  They didn't allow the Vancouver producers and other people who would actually use the new TV and Radio studios to see the plans until the producers threatened to go public with a complaint.  Who insisted on reducing the dressing room space so that at times stars had to share the "chorus" dressing room which in any event which, designed by the brass, and was not big enough to handle a choir or an orchestra or a dance company?  Who demanded an elevator by the executive offices thus separating the three elevators which would have been much more functional as a group at the main entrance? Who wanted the cafeteria to be hidden from public eyes until overridden by Montreal, so instead the executive floor had its own private kitchen installed whose occupants could hide themselves from the public? 

I do recall that almost every request for things in the new building was answered by “You’re asking too soon”, followed not too long after with “It's too late…” 

I very carefully explained to some planning joe that the Hourglass area had to have doors in very specific places in order to avoid the public on their way to the ‘green room’ wandering past desks which may have had secret stuff visible. They could not have put the door in a worse place. 

We had long discussions how the screening room would fit in with the film editor’s room. The editor could play back film from a projector, single or double system, in the editing room and the noise would be kept out of the screening/meeting room. It also was to have dimmable lights. They managed to do the exact opposite - and it could not be reversed. Dimmer switches in an editing suite? Projecting into the editor’s room?  

The negative-cutting suite must be dust free. They did install positive air pressure system, but what was on the floor? Wall to wall dust gathering carpet! 

The gentleman in charge of furniture had some good ideas such as desks that could be disassembled for moving, but his couches and other seats were so low that no woman could sit down or get up and keep her, er, dignity intact. 

I’ve been at dinner parties where one of the architects involved with the design of the building always wound up defending it. I thought that assigning floor space according to need was a good idea and if that meant that executives were on the top floor, so be it. The immense air ducts could have been hidden, but why bother. They serve their purpose of moving a lot of air very quietly as opposed to small diameter noisy ducts. 

I'll let others comment on the joys of the move.

Alan's Notes on Chatting with Patsy Gill (MacDonald) about the Move 

Patsy:  My biggest surprise from the move was how much I missed the old Georgia Street location at first.  1200 West Georgia was "cozy", we knew how to get from Studio 42 to the newsroom by ducking under the air conditioning ducts.  We knew almost everybody we saw.  We knew the limitations of our studios and equipment, but we got the most out of them.  We knew where we could park our cars!

I quite enjoyed the airy, bright and friendly cafeteria in the new building – the first time we could dine without leaving our building.  But at the same time, I missed going out to the other places for lunch and coffee, as nothing much else existed in that part of town – the Sandman Inn came along later. 

Of course, the new studios were fabulous.  But it took us a while to get everything running smoothly.  Some technical equipment (including videotape editing equipment) hadn't arrived, so we were running back and forth from Hamilton Street to Georgia Street for much of the spring and summer in that first year, 1975. 

Sometimes, however, it was easy to think that the new building had been designed by a committee, none of whose members ever worked in show business.  Dressing rooms for performers was an early issue [Editor : – see Ken Gibson's comments below].

As a result of moving to Hamilton Street, we had the opportunity to work with our colleagues to the south, many of them Canadians.   The new building's facilities and exceptional crew allowed them to bring their variety productions to Vancouver, such as "Wolfman Jack" and "Paul Anka".  Those times were informative for all of us, technical and production crews, as well as administrative staff.  None of this would have been possible if we had not moved to the new building.

As a Production Assistant, the first major television production I worked on in the new quarters was the 50th anniversary salute to the Composers, Authors & Publishers Association of Canada ("CAPAC") which was aired on December 5, 1975, directed by Neil Sutherland.  It was while working at the new building that I moved from being a Production Assistant to being a Contract Producer, and all the shows that I directed while there are very pleasant memories for me. 

Ken on Dressing Rooms: There was a large en suite and a small dressing room which had to accommodate not just hosts but also their “name” guests, and that was for both Studio 40 and 41 which were adjacent to each other on the Studio floor.  Down the hall on the same floor was the make-up room and opposite that were two large changing / washrooms with lockers in the former. Those were for the band members, dancers, back-up singers, etc.  I complained to John Williams of the Design committee that we needed more dressing rooms pronto as the guests on the Rovers’ shows were both male and female. Furthermore, often while we were taping, there was another show in Studio 41 and there wasn’t a dressing room for any of the performers.  Almost immediately John had three smaller changing rooms built opposite the main dressing rooms, and a further three were added later close to the Rehearsal Hall. 

Neil Sutherland (interviewed at the time)

The CAPAC show called for a heavy production and rehearsal schedule and, for the first time, we were able to rehearse in a hall which was right next to the studio.  We were able to go onto the set at a moment's notice to check out actor's movements, etc., while in rehearsal.  The cameramen were in seventh heaven, being able to shoot up without exposing the lights as they would have done in the old building.  We should have a happy future here, and it's going to be a terrific building to us all.  We just have to make sure we do good shows, and the investment comes out the other end in terms of high quality production.  For the producer, it's a marvelous tool, but the tool isn't the ultimate.  It's what you put in, and how you use the tools that counts.

A MOVING EXPERIENCE by Peggy Oldfield 

I remember the move as though it were yesterday, not 45 years ago.  CBC Vancouver staff, scattered in various buildings through the downtown area, had anticipated the consolidation for a long time and many conversations started with the phrase, “Just wait ‘till we’re all in the same building!”.

From the start of my CBC career, it was common practice for me to go to the studios at 1200 West Georgia or the Hotel Vancouver or to other offices within the space where I was, first at 1192 Alberni Street and then 747 Bute Street, to talk to someone, pick something up or drop something off.  As a result in those early years I knew almost everyone – at least to say hello to – in radio, TV and the support departments.  I often spent lunch hours watching studio drama productions and stayed after work to join studio audiences for show tapings in the evening.  It was exciting and fun and furthered my education about the workings of television – the bonus of which was that I understood the language and meaning of the memos, dictation and meeting topics which were a major part of my job as Secretary to the TV Production Manager, Executive Producers and Unit Managers and later, the Director of Television.  I thought it would be wonderful to work with all those people under one roof and to interact with them much more often.

Peggy packing up at 747 Bute

I was one of the first to move to 700 Hamilton Street and I made the move twice.  Or more correctly, I was involved in the work of the move twice.  The first offices to unpack in the new premises were those of the Regional Director Bob McGall and the Manager of Public Relations Reg Jessup on the second floor.  Grace Sigmund, Vivian Jorgenson, John Lysaght, Jack Hundley and I, unpacked boxes, filled desks and filing cabinets, and when we were all too tired to do any more that night, someone ordered pizza which we ate sitting on the carpeted floor in front of the gorgeous wood panelling that separated the main reception area and Vivian’s desk from the Regional Director’s washroom and shower, the coat closet and the entrance to the Regional Director’s Hospitality Suite.  A few days later, the Director of Television Bob Service and I unpacked our own offices on the main floor.

The only office I ever had of my own in my years with CBC was at 747 Bute Street.  I was sorry to give that up, but my new work station was an alcove next to the Director of Television’s office with a window overlooking the corner of Georgia and Hamilton Streets and the lovely new CBC plaza with its own “grove” of trees and pool complete with waterfall.  I loved that space and enjoyed it for many years before reconfiguration of the area changed things yet again.

Did it prove better to have all of us under one roof?  I would say yes and no.  State of the art facilities for production was of course fabulous.  But – the new premises brought changes that meant staff in jobs like mine were more tied to their desk and had less freedom to go to other departments.  The telephone replaced the personal visit and consequently one didn’t necessarily meet new staff.  Having an in-house cafeteria was great but somehow I never managed to take many breaks there .  I do remember that at first the cafeteria was open to the public.  On one occasion when I was there on a lunch break, a group of workmen were at a nearby table and we could hear them exclaiming over the “stars” who were there. We wondered who they were recognizing and, assuming one or more famous movie stars or entertainers were taking a break from the studios, we looked around to see who was attracting such excited attention.  We found them – Bill Good Jr., Ted Reynolds and Jack Wasserman.  It was a nice reminder that we were lucky to mix with the stars every day!

Looking back, it’s interesting that there is a nostalgic yearning for the days of maneuvering the labyrinth of halls, pipes, stairs, twists and turns that had to be negotiated at 1200 West Georgia Street to find the newsroom, design and technical departments and the studios.  Some great parties planned by the then Staff Association, took place in the old studios there and having a bar and food was a given – there were no concerns about damaging the floors.  The new premises understandably required more respect and care, and therefore parties encompassing all staff moved to hotel and restaurant venues.  That said, the Regional Director’s Hospitality Suite at 700 Hamilton became a great venue for smaller departmental gatherings, as did other boardrooms throughout the building.

There were good memories in both the old and the new buildings, and I treasure having being part of them.


747 Bute Street housed most of the office staff and the TV program staff.  A fine-looking building, only to be demolished when less than 25 years old (because of the previous occupants?).  The photographer's location is now a liquour store (fat lot of use that is now!)


And so, it came to pass that as the spring of 1975 wore on,  the old CBC headquarters at 1200 West Georgia Street transferred its occupants down the road to the new Regional Broadcast Centre at Georgia and Hamilton.    One by one, all the departments made the big move.   The TV technicians, the office workers, the stagehands, propsmen, scenic designers and painters, graphics people, make up artists, costume designers and everyone in the news room packed up and moved out.   That left only me.   I was a technician in Studio 49, the film sound department and our premises in the new building had not been completed.  

Some people cannot stand the thought of working alone but that has never been a problem for me. I would buy a coffee at the McDonalds on Alberni Street on my way into work each morning and walk down to the old CBC building to begin my day.    My job consisted of doing film sound transfers, creating sound effects and doing film sound mixes for the film editors who were now in the new building.    A delivery van service had been set up and the driver would bring work up to me and take whatever I had completed back to the film editors.   The phone system still worked so the film editors could call me up and tell me what they needed.   All in all, it worked quite well.


Apart from going out to lunch, my only other human contact came at the end of the day when the nighttime security guard showed up and started doing his rounds.   He was an old Englishman and had a lot of stories about things he had seen while working for other companies.   It always struck me as amusing but, there we were, the only two humans in a deserted building and yet, when he wanted to confide something confidential to me, he would move in until he was only a few inches away and whisper about some  illegal goings-on that he had witnessed in days gone by. 

Then, finally, the Big Day arrived.   I received a phone call from my supervisor telling me that the new film sound premises were ready in the new building and that I should report there on Monday morning.    So, on my last Friday in the old abode,  I bade farewell to the night security guard and took my leave of the old building which had once been an automobile dealership and showroom and from which CBC Vancouver’s earliest TV offerings to the network had originated.


PROPPING UP THE DEPARTMENT (Design Props and Set Decorating, that is….)

by John Rogers

 I got a call at 1am on a week day in 1975 not long before the impending move from John Williams, Design Manager, telling me as senior Set Decorator in Vancouver that I should be prepared to hire another five Set Decorators!!!  And to do so as soon as possible.

We were told the new premises would be very busy. Within three months, Alfio Berardo, Jimmy Chow, David Cole, Sean Kirby, Kim McKenzie and Garry Olson had joined the department, doubling our group. 

Ian Belcher... now a Design Coordinator…. looked at the Studio 40 grid and smiled. The idea was to fly sets out of camera range to save time.....just like a theatre.  However, there was a flaw: the studio cameras on a wide shot passed the top of the grid! The flown sets would still be much for EHQ research!  (The flaw never was resolved!) 

We moved to Still Creek and were given 50,000 square feet which we filled up in three months as a result of a great deal of donated furniture from viewers.  People loved CBC and donated house loads of furniture!  Calls from the public began coming in as a result of seeing the Props Department during the Open House which was held to show off the new building, studios and state of the art equipment. I picked up the items as the offers came in and Regional Director Len Lauk asked only that donors furnish a letter stating that the pieces were donated.  A call also came in from Crown Assets Disposal Corporation in Richmond, offering army and navy surplus which we were pleased to accept. Then the question was where to put everything! Added to this a second carpenters shop (the first being at the new building) was opened in Burnaby to feed the Super Special demand.  We had already reached the point where there was nowhere to store sets and they were being kept in the parking lot under canvas. 

A very busy start......then Wolfman Jack arrived! Wolfman Jack taught the CBC how to do Big City TV…the sets were all on wheels ready for quick skits - roll in and roll out.... Big TV had arrived! 


THE MOVE by Al Weemay

Yes, I enjoyed my new office with a view of everybody arriving or leaving by the front door of the new building.  Much more important than my office were the new studios – bigger, brighter, way more modern and flexible, and above all, more "headroom" - studios higher by anywhere from two to six feet than the old studios on West Georgia Street.  With the higher studio ceilings, we had greatly increased opportunities for higher camera shots, crane shots, lighting subtleties, set designs with ceilings, and so much more. And the boom operators were in heaven not having to constantly duck their heads to miss the studio lights. 

If I had one big complaint about the new building, it was the lack of underground parking – or any parking.  In my job as a director and producer of TV shows, I was constantly travelling to off-site locations for meetings, rehearsals and other stuff, so "in and out" parking was a pain in the butt. 

I remember the first show I was to direct in Studio 40, with one exterior shot.  It-was a live television remake of Gone With The Wind.  For the shot of Atlanta burning to the ground, I had this brilliant idea of setting fire to the whole of the old 1200 West Georgia complex, and I approached the Vancouver Fire Marshall about the idea.  "If you do", said the Fire Marshall, "it would probably set fire to the whole of the West End!", and I said "Wow, what a great shot that will make for my show!" 

(Editor: At this point I realized that I was probably getting my leg pulled).


The inexpensive and varied menu that appeared in the June column was, of course, from when the cafeteria opened in the new building.

Numbers: From Bob McGall. CBC Director for B.C. in April, 1975: 

The capability of the plant is great but our major problem is staff.  At this time we only have 518 people including our operation in Prince Rupert.  We produce The Irish Rovers, the highest rated television variety show in the country, and we have only one TV Variety Producer.  We really don't have any backup.  A critical shortage is in design and staging where we have only three carpenters.  An expansion in staff must take place in order for us to use this place properly. The capacity that is here far exceeds the manpower we have, and so we are negotiating with ESD to get more resource to meet the potential of the building. 

Alan:  Didn't extra space have to be rented for office staff in the nearby B.C. Turf Building in less than a year after the move? 

Numbers: From Bill Campbell, CBC Technical Supervisor, in April 1975. 

We have four Technical Producers and something like 130 technicians, male and female, in television. 

Alan:  I found that comment interesting. When I left CBC Television just two years before, there wasn't a single female technician at CBC TV in Vancouver.  Somebody made the breakthrough! 


The move overall was so successful that a Broadway musical was based upon it.  The show is still running on Broadway (or, at least it will be when Broadway re-opens). 

It's called "Hamilton".


In next month's column coming out on September 27, the plan is to feature stories about the incredibly successful CBC TV "Beachcombers" series.  If you had any connection with the show, whether at on-location shooting, studio post-production, behind the scenes helping shows happen, or at the fun times of social get-togethers in Gibsons, and you have a story – short or long - do send it to us.  Your story can be funny, mildly amusing or serious.  If you think you're not a writer and wouldn't be comfortable telling your story, send the gist of it to Peggy or to me, and we will polish it up for you.  Peggy can be reached at, and I'm at  We hope to hear from you!


When we live in a time when a video of your favourite pet can be sent around the world in a couple of seconds, it's amazing how complicated it was 50+ years ago to cross the world with television pictures. Here's the story from Al Vitols.  

In early television, Our World was the first live, international, satellite television production, broadcast on 25 June 1967. Nineteen nations were invited to perform in separate segments featuring their respective countries. Unfortunately Czechoslovakia, Poland, East Germany, Soviet Union and Hungary reneged because of something the West did which was not to their liking. Viewers in those countries missed being part of the estimated 700 millions who tuned in. Our World used four satellites “Early Bird,” “Lani Bird” and “Canary Bird” and ATS-1, a NASA bird, to achieve world-wide coverage.

The show was coordinated in London where the English contribution was the Beatles performing a song written especially for the show by John Lennon - “All You Need Is Love.” It was broadcast from a crowded Studio 2 at Abbey Road Studios. The group had invited many friends, including The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Marianne Faithfull to join in the chorus and add to the atmosphere. It looked like a Beatles concert.  

Some of the “rules” of the telecast were confining. For instance politicians were a no-no and the USA lost their argument and was not allowed to show the meeting of president Lyndon Johnson and Soviet premier Alexei Kosygin. They wound up showing the outside of the house where the two leaders met and describing voice-over as to what was going on inside.

Also, everything had to be ‘live’ - no pre-recorded material.

Mexico did a complicated dance number and denied pre-recording and editing. However, the dance number was so fast and the hundreds of camera cuts so precise that it was impossible to have done it live with never missing a beat.

The technically complicated point in the broadcast came, as both the Japanese and Australian satellite ground stations had to reverse their signals: Tokyo had to go from transmit mode to receive mode, while Melbourne had to switch from receive to transmit mode. This was accomplished with the tiniest of twitches in the picture and was a lot less noticeable than the glitches that have frequently happened between our studios and master control.

The show started with looking at babies born that day around the world starting with Japan then various places winding up in Edmonton where a Cree baby was born.
It was summer evening in Paris, winter morning in Melbourne and just before lunch at my location.
Japan showed the construction of the subway in Tokyo. A bit iffy as laid out in the show’s premise.

Australia had a boring pre-sunrise bit from Ayers Rock (back then, now
Uluru) as well as an item from the Parkes Observatory tracking a deep space object, also boring.

France had Cousteau underwater near Monaco with flares and bubbles and frequent loss of sync. Exciting, but difficult to watch.

I don’t recall what all of the Canadian segments were. Toronto was the Canadian control point and their contribution was, if memory serves, Stanley Burke interviewing Marshall McLuhan in a TV control room. How did that fit in with Sunday activities?

Oddly, don’t recall anything from Montréal or the east coast. Perhaps there was nothing, although that seems a bit far fetched.

Alberta used a BC crew and the location at Ghost Lake, featured the Two Rivers Ranch and showed a rancher on his cutting horse singling out a calf from the herd. The site was so distant from civilization that Andy Martens, the technical producer, had to have a score of telephone poles ‘planted’ on which to hang the wires in order to get the signal out.

Vancouver segment was to be a picture taken from a high rise balcony overlooking the Lions Gate Bridge and the inner harbour, with announcer Mike Winlaw providing the description.

Or so it was supposed to be.

At the last moment because he was not feeling well, I was asked to ‘sit in’ for Len Lauk, the original producer who was assigned to do the Vancouver bit. I was told that everything had been done and all I had to do is be there during the Saturday rehearsals and the Sunday morning telecast. Fine, I agreed.

Well, I found out during the first communications check that Len had moved the BC location to the pool at UBC where Elaine Tanner, the “Mouse”, would attempt a new world record. On Saturday when the executive producer in London at the coordinating centre saw our picture there was great unhappiness. Apparently it was not at all what the script called for.

Stanley Burke, the CBC News anchor back then, and for this telecast also the Canadian host in Toronto, suggested that to improve the situation I should have a freighter steam under the Lions Gate Bridge at the moment our bit was seen around the world. “Cue the freighter!” I heard myself saying.
As it was, nobody in Toronto or London apparently thought the idea outrageous as I didn’t hear any derisive laughter. I mentioned that there was not enough in the budget to lease a freighter for the time period required and eventually Burke’s suggestion was deep-sixed.

Ultimately London made it clear that this Vancouver site would be eliminated unless the location was changed to someplace more suited to the script. All this took place late Saturday morning. The show itself less than 24 hours away.

So that was my ‘inheritance’.

At this point I found the script, a tome of hundreds of pages, and from the précis found out that the idea of the show was to show people’s activities taking place around the world on a Sunday. Patently, a wide shot of Vancouver harbour, freighter not withstanding, did not fit the concept. The location had to be changed to stay in the game.

We had to move the camera and associated equipment which included cables dangling from the 11th floor balcony of a West End high rise to… somewhere.

An ad hoc meeting with assistant Technical Director Bill Skelcher and my Technical Producer regarding a possible alternate location eventually produced Kitsilano Beach.

It seemed to me that indeed any one of our beaches - the show aired our portion before noon our time - would fit the concept. We could use the old Kits boathouse as a ‘control room’ and it certainly was a place for human activities on a forecast sunny Sunday morning.

While video was sent to Toronto via microwave, audio used land lines, as did communications, for a total of four. Could we by lunchtime on Saturday: a) get permission to use the Kitsilano park Sunday morning, and b) get four audio lines to the Kits Beach boathouse?

Well, somebody at the CBC, I think it was Reg Jessup, knew somebody at the Vancouver Parks Board and got permission. The Master Control supervisor’s next door neighbour was high up in the BC Tel hierarchy and Eric Lavell found him mowing his lawn, and he authorized the closing down of all the public telephones in the Kitsilano Beach area and had BC Tel people string lines overnight from tree to tree from the various phone booths to our location at the boathouse in order to provide the required audio links.

By late Saturday it was a go, at least on paper. I tracked down the executive producer in London and he accepted the new location providing it was all I promised it to be by dress rehearsal time early Sunday.

At dawn Sunday morning when the dress rehearsal took place the beach looked like 5000 people had dropped their garbage all over the place, which is indeed what had taken place.

London was happy with the location, but the executive producer was very concerned about the trash on the beach. Stanley Burke tried to suggest a different angle that would not include the beach, the only reason for the location, but was finally shushed by the Toronto executive producer. Back then the news readers didn’t have to shine brightly.

I guaranteed London that the beach would be pristine by showtime even if I had to clean it myself. Actually the beach cleaning machinery arrived around eight o’clock and did what it does every morning – raked the sand and removed all the trash.

By 9:30 on this sunny Sunday the beach was filling up with people taking up favoured spots against the rows of logs. While the log in the foreground of our wide shot had people on the beach side, our side, the side facing our camera and the sun, remained empty.

I managed to convince a bevy of bikini’d beauties who were a bit farther down the beach to move to “our” space by promising that they’d be seen around the world.

And so the Vancouver Sunday morning dress rehearsal sequence begun with a shot of the four not quite naked sunbathers, then pulled back to a wide shot of the beach and English Bay and the still snow-capped North Shore mountains in the background. Some people would be seen playing with Frisbees, a few splashing in the shallows, some with dogs, with the show stopper being the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club’s Sunday morning dinghy race with many boats flying multi-coloured spinnakers sailing just a few hundred yards off the beach. Could not have done better if I’d planned it. 

The London producer complimented me on doing a good job - cleaning the beach… 

Editor's Notes: Wasn't Al lucky to be directing part of a show that will always be a part of television history?  Len was not so lucky.

You can see most of the show on YouTube. The show was in black and white. Some have suggested it was in colour but that's likely because the section with the Beatles was extracted years later and colorized to form part of a Beatles anthology.

The BBC didn't think to have the closing credits checked by their Canadian counterparts. The credit for CBC's participation in the show was to the "Canadian Broadcasting Commission".


A man saunters into a tavern carrying a thesaurus.... 


Slip slidin' away
Slip slidin' away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you're slip slidin' away

In 1958, myself and four other handsome young men were trainee TV technicians at CBC Vancouver. Two of us expressed an interest in becoming cameramen, myself and Ray (that's not his real name in case he might see this)! We practised for hours and hours when the studios weren't in use for shows.
The TV cameras in those days were Marconi Mark II's and Marconi Mark III's. The picture you see in this article is a Mark III.  At this point we need a little camera construction lesson. The camera itself weighed about 130 pounds, and because of that we took the much lighter Mark II's to sporting events. If you look at the picture with Camera 2 in it, you'll see, above the triangular base, a big black tube. That tube was filled with lead weights that counterbalance the camera's weight. With that arrangement, you could make the camera move smoothly up and down on its pedestal. However, the camera unit now weighed 260 pounds plus the very heavy base. Not easy thing to push!

The large ring you see with cameraman Jim Currie's hand on it is the steering ring. It had a big red arrow on it to tell you where the camera would go if you pushed it. Now look at the triangular base of the camera. Inside that base were three heavy wheels which guided the camera's path when pushed. You could lock all three wheels to point in the same direction.. But you could also have all three wheels operate independently. You only would do that if you wanted to re-align the base – either the flat side towards you or if occasionally you wanted the pointed side towards you. After re-aligning the base it was imperative to change back to the mode of the three wheels pointing in the same direction.

Back to Ray. Our technical supervisor gave Ray his first "live" camera job on the late local news at 11.15. There was nothing scheduled that day after the early news finished at about 7.30, so Ray had almost 4 hours to practice his camera debut. What was he required to do? Well, the late news started with a wide shot of the newsreader and the news set, and on cue from the producer in the control room, the cameraman dollied in (moved in) with the camera until he had a medium close-up of the news announcer. At the end of the news, the reverse happened, and the cameraman pulled back to a wide shot. Complicated, eh? Ray practiced moving in and out, and kept changing where the base of the camera pointed as he couldn't make up his mind which way suited him best.

So Ray, hugely nervous, eventually sees the red light glow on his camera, and knows he's on the air. He waits for the cue from the news producer in the control room. It comes. Ray (who was of small stature) pushes his camera hard to move in, only to find his camera moving rapidly to the left, with the result that the newsreader appeared to be moving rapidly to the right. Ray had forgotten to put the camera wheels back into all steering in the same direction!! Ray was clinging to the steering ring, pushing frantically forward, only to cause the camera to move faster sideways. The newsreader, George McLean, was professional enough to keep looking at the camera lens despite the camera exiting rapidly to his right.

Most of the technicians in the studio, including me, were laughing so hard we could hardly stand up. Finally, an experienced cameraman ran over and grabbed the camera from Ray, and put the show back on the road.

The newsreader later commented that he thought some damn fool producer had decided to open the news a different way, and hadn't told him. Ray never touched a TV camera again. He did go on to be a senior technician in other areas.

My editor said make sure the readers don't think you're talking about our illustrious retired cameraman Ray Waines. It won't happen I said, because Ray has already read my article and has made fun of his own boo-boo in the following.


I remember being on camera one night for the 6pm Studio 42 newscast. Before the weather segment, a hair had blown onto the camera tube in my camera. Funny thing about a hair on a lens or on a camera tube – you can barely see it with your naked eye, but on a TV or movie screen, it looks like the Grand Canyon.

During a commercial break, I took off one of the four big lenses on the camera turret, and put it down on the camera pedestal base. Then I rotated the turret so that I could see the camera tube and give it a puff with our handy blower, (one of those large enema syringes)! It worked, so I went over to shoot the weather with Bob Fortune.

Bob was well into making his perfect circles, when all of a sudden the big lens sitting on my camera base fell off onto the studio floor, making a very loud noise and of course surprising Bob who did well to hide his shock as he acknowledged with a small smile the strange sound that everybody could hear at home too.

I was hugely embarrassed. During a break I re-mounted the lens back that I had forgotten to put back earlier.

My mistake was duly recorded by Master Control on the daily "fault" report. The report was circulated to the appropriate supervisors the next day, including my boss, Ross Whiteside, and I had to explain to him how I made that objectionable noise during the newscast. Actually Ross was not too upset, so I got off pretty easy!


From Gordon Hunt

This is part two of a CFPR Prince Rupert recall of the sixties.   I was one of five announcer-operators at this small northern CBC location in 1964.  We were on the air from 6.00 a.m. to a few minutes after midnight in those days, and life as a broadcaster was extremely varied.  Your assigned "record shows" would range from classical music to rock and roll, and most days one would also edit news reports for local casts, man the typewriter for station logs and music clearance reports, and document the performance of transmitter operation.  Kind of an all- in-one, hands-on radio experience.  Just what most of us needed. 

From the early years of my time at CFPR (see Part One), it wasn't long before major changes were planned for the station.  The feeble 250 watt Marconi transmitter which was buzzing away in the studio next to us, was about to be replaced by a 10KW Gates monster that needed a new home.  That home would be several kilometers away on Digby Island and to get there the station would require a boat.  I can still hear the cheer from the announcers as we all celebrated our good fortune.  We could do some fishing, maybe even water skiing - a station boat, does it get any better?  About an hour after the announcement there appeared on the control room door, this notice.




And, that wasn't the only setback.  Teething problems soon developed in this new technological marvel.  We had control (off and on) of this new transmitter through a microwave link from studio to site (Kaien Island to Digby Island) And, that link wasn't always reliable as I soon discovered.  I think it was during the return to earth of Gemini 3 in March of '65 with all ears glued to CBC's  coverage of the splashdown.  It went something like.. "We should see the capsule".. poof, off the air we went and I jumped up to turn the transmitter back on..."Yes, I believe that's .."  poof again and more jumping for ... "Now, we get our first look..." poof.   You get the idea.   

It may not sound like it, but most of my time at CFPR was well spent learning the trade.   The station manager Will Hankinson proved to be just the man I needed to work at reading those multi language serious music scripts.  He was a stern and unforgiving teacher but he offered his time after hours and he knew his stuff. 

One last example of the great variety of duties at CFPR.  I was to interview a beautiful young woman from the Prince Rupert Little Theatre group.  In an effort to publicize their new season, she would play the part of "spring", and my questions would allow her to expand on the coming theatrical season from the dark of winter.  She succeeded despite my lame questions.  Thank you to my guest that day,  the Hon. Iona Campagnolo (aka "Spring"). 

That's just a few of the growing experiences as a broadcaster thanks to CFPR radio.  Shortly after I was transferred to CBC Vancouver (1967), the old shack next to the coke bottling plant was torn down, and CFPR moved into a new building on Stiles place in Rupert.  Sadly, that building is now a Pizza Hut as CBC northern (B.C.) operations have been moved to Prince George. 

 Thanks Gordon.

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 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


Hello Everyone, and welcome back.

I was working on this edition when my Editor walked by looking at my work and said "What the hell (he is known for his crude language) are you writing about CBC Radio for - have you forgotten the name of your column?"  "Why don't you fire me?" I retorted. He did. He's given me twelve months' notice.

From Gordon Hunt


It's time, my friends, to talk about the "senior service"... that's radio, of course. I know, I know, this column is about CBC TV Old Days. But I think it would be nice (after all, we're Canadian eh) to give radio a stationbreak. My first on-air experience took place at the only other CBC owned and operated station outside of CBU in Vancouver... call letters, CFPR Prince Rupert. Chuck Davis, Bill Good Jr., Dan McAfee, and Craig Oliver (CTV bureau chief) are just a few who started careers at CFPR.

CFPR has an interesting history. It actually predates CBC by just a few months in 1936. A group of northern B.C. men bought a 250 watt Marconi transmitter and literally hand built the items needed to put a station on the air. The station was a vital link to first nations villages through the daily "message period" and became an important link to lighthouse keepers and fishermen during the war years. That's when CBC entered the picture, signing a lease with CFPR before buying it outright in 1953.

It's eleven years later, 1964, and this big city 22 year old is driving the nearly 1,600kms from Vancouver to try his hand at radio. When I got there I found the station on Second Avenue, a three- room shack built up against a coke bottling plant. Clarence Insulander, the technical supervisor and one of the original founders of the station, showed me around. "Mr. I" had an easy manner that served to calm the fears of young radio novices.

The station manager, Will Hankinson, was next to greet me in his office across the street. Mr. Hankinson, the less than benevolent dictator, was quite the opposite of Mr. "I". But this day he had a problem and saw me as his solution. I was, apparently, an oddity, an announcer who had experience in serious music and he needed an interviewer to promote a concert tomorrow night in Rupert. The city was one of the stops on the "Alaska Music Trail", and a young Japanese cellist and his Canadian accompanist were waiting to be interviewed over at the station. This is not how I imagined my first words would be delivered into the CFPR mic. In fact, the "words" scribbled onto my notes were shaking so badly I couldn't read my questions. My poor guests, cellist Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi (newly arrived in the west but now a distinguished Canadian artist) did his best to answer my questions and we were saved by the presence of his Canadian accompanist. I wasn't sure there would be a second day of life at CFPR as, covered in perspiration, I stumbled out of the station.

But there WAS more and I soon decided that my aim was, like all the other young announcers, to get out of Rupert and into the "big time" at various major CBC outlets. I decided that, since Prince Rupert was known as the "halibut capital of the world", I could send reports down to the daily Vancouver farm and fish broadcast and gain the attention of that major market. On a rainy morning I took my gear down to the docks to speak with the crew of a herring vessel about their catch. A word about my gear. The recording machine we were using in those days was a Nagra IIC. The announcers all hated this outdated machine as it was heavy and required one hand to wind a crank to keep it going and the other hand to hold the mic We all lusted after the lighter Sony units used just about everywhere else. But I was a reasonably athletic 22 year old, I'll just leap over this rail and join the crew for a chat. Suddenly the Nagra slipped from my shoulder, hit the greasy deck and, like the coyote chasing the road runner, was suspended over the open ocean before disappearing forever. Can you hear the applause back at the station?                     

It wasn't just the outdated Nagra that proved to be an obstacle to modern day broadcasting at CFPR in the early sixties. The building itself, although quaint, was old and well worn. Soundproofing was sometimes an issue. The control room door, although a foot thick, was hampered by a well-worn step. It was discovered that small bearings or marbles could be rolled under the closed door. Don't ask me how I know this, O.K. ?

There was a small room next to the control room that could be used as a recording studio for interviews. I remember one interview with the much loved mayor of the city, Peter Lester. He was valiantly answering questions about a delicate issue in the city. It went something like..."what is the plan to fund this ambitious program?" Before he could answer the airwaves were filled with a sound from the bathroom next door. FLUSH !

It may not sound like it, but things were on the move at CFPR. Plans were afoot for the removal of the old 250 watt Marconi transmitter which was buzzing away not 6 feet from the control room mic, and in part two of this history, I have words about a more modern CFPR. 

Thanks Gordon.  Part 2 of Gordon's story will appear in the July 26 issue of this column

When preparing Gordon's article it was wrongly understood that our CBC Announcer Emeritus, Gloria Macarenko, was one of the graduates of CFPR Radio.  Gloria kindly corrected with these comments:

I did get my start as a radio announcer in Prince Rupert in 1978. It was at the private station there, CHTK Radio. I was 16 and benefited greatly from the weekly elocution lessons with former CBC Prince Rupert manager Will Hankinson. The manager of CHTK arranged the sessions. I would read the newscasts on Saturday and Sundays from 6am to noon. After my shift on Saturdays I would staple together my scripts and take them to Will's home (he was the husband of my piano teacher). He had recorded my newscasts on a big reel-to-reel machine. We would go through the scripts line by line and that experience has served me well over the years.
So, sorry I don't have a CFPR connection. I still feel fortunate to get an opportunity like that at such a young age.

Thanks Gloria.


TV STATION LUNCH, Aussie Style by Alan

In 1974 in a fit of insanity, I asked my family if they would be interested in going to Australia, and seeing where the "old man" came from.
"Family" at that time consisted of one wife, two children and four step-children. Considering the family's size and the cost of transportation to Australia, I said we would need to go for at least a year to justify the cost, and I would have to work which would reduce travel opportunities in Australia somewhat. All seven dependents said "Let's do it!"
In the mid-1970's, it was still cheaper to go long distances over water by boat, rather than by air, so we booked the eight of us on the Oronsay, a P&O ship. Planning for our trip was going ahead well until I was advised at the last minute that the Oronsay couldn't "afford" to pick up passengers in Vancouver because of the fuel prices resulting from the 1973 oil crisis. Instead, P&O proposed to fly all the Vancouver passengers to San Francisco, to join the Oronsay on its trip to Sydney.
When checking in at the Vancouver Airport, a bored CP Air ticket clerk, without even looking up, asked me how many bags I was checking, and when I replied "33", I immediately had his attention. (Any excess baggage charge would have been paid by the cruise line).  When the bags were finally checked for my party of eight, I thought the worst was over. It was not. The dockworkers were on strike in San Francisco, and with only the most modest help from the rest of the extended family, I carried 33 bags from the dock, down four decks on the elevator-less Oronsay.     Immediately upon arrival at our intended destination, Canberra, my hometown, I looked in the local paper for job ads.

Amazingly, on my first look, there was an ad from the local ABC television station for a job as a TV cameraman! I applied. I was interviewed. Questions were like – what did you do at the CBC? And I answered truthfully that I had done camera work on regular stuff like news and sports and talking heads and sports, but also on musicals and dramas! They were impressed. Nobody asked me when I had done that last, which was in fact back in 1959, some 15 years ago! As it turned out, this never was a problem as the camera work involved at this small TV station was never too difficult.
I'm finally getting to the point of my story. On my first day in the new job, I said to my fellow technicians: "I know there's no cafeteria here, so where is the nearest place to have lunch, or to buy some takeout?"
"Uh, we don't go anywhere for lunch. We just go out the back of the [TV] station".
I didn't know what they meant, but when it came lunch time (which is 12:30 in Australia not 12) one of my fellow technicians said "Okay mate, come out the back and I'll show you how we make lunch".
So I go out the back of the station where I see about 22 barbecues lined up. And then, my new best friend says, "What would you like for lunch? Here's the menu." And then he rattles off "bangers, chops, burgers, kidneys, prawns, steaks, chips, red peppers, onions, green peppers, ribs, corn, asparagus, carrots, potato pancakes, tomatoes, 



I said "You're allowed to drink beer at work?" "Yes, as long as we don't get p*ssed, especially when Goff or Hawkie are going to be on." It turned out that "Goff" was the Prime Minister of Australia, Gough Whitlam, and "Hawkie" was Bob Hawke, the leader of Australia's largest trade union (and subsequently another Prime Minister of Australia).
Later they explained the mechanics of collecting funds to pay for the food, buying and bringing the food to work in "eskies" (Aussie for "coolers"), and using the station's several fridges.
With that luncheon menu, I don't know why I ever returned to Canada. Perhaps it was the cafeteria in the new building.

End notes:
The TV station in Canberra was equivalent to CBOT, the CBC station in Ottawa. It was a small, and basically had hardly any status except it was in the capital city, and thus much easier to get people for interviews such as the Prime Minister, other politicians and heads of institutions.
I met both Gough Williams and Bob Hawke while working at the station. Just a year later, Gough Williams became famous as the only Commonwealth prime minister to be fired by his Governor-General. Bob Hawke was the only Australia prime minister who cried while being interviewed on national television. He was a well-loved PM.



Look at this great menu!  Where does it come from?  Answer will be in the August column of this literary masterpiece.



Almost every former CBC-er reading this will remember suffering from, and cursing, the cuts to CBC's budget – forever happening. Can you imagine a headline "Giant Increase in CBC's Budget"? No. In the spring of 1959, we, CBC TV Vancouver, produced a live one hour show for broadcast live (mostly) across Canada called "Sea to Ski". The theme of the show was simply that Vancouver had such a great climate, that you could do almost anything outdoors at any time of the year (a gross exaggeration of course).
Coordinated by a host in our Vancouver studios, we had remote cameras feeding images of skiers on Grouse Mountain, fishermen in the Capilano River (including CBC's Ernie Rose), and cricketers (including CBC's Bob Quintrell), on the Stanley Park Oval.
I have no idea how the show was held together. I had the most important job on the show (up on Grouse Mountain) of burying the audio and camera cables in the snow, because I was the most junior technician. Not having anything to do on the show itself, I skied into the picture, with real skiers, and then watched myself when the original live show was sent out by delayed tape to CBC Vancouver from Toronto.
In those days, Grouse Mountain had no gondola – everything and everybody went up or down Grouse Mountain on the chairlift, then located to the side of the "Cut". Imagine carrying a TV camera on your lap up the chairlift. Even then, as one of the most junior employees at CBC Vancouver, I wondered why we were spending the money to do this show when at best it could be said it was helping "tourism Vancouver".
The highlight of the whole experience, in my mind, was when we were lugging up all the equipment on the chairlift, when one of the cameramen (whose name, Harold Haug, will go unmentioned), dropped the test pattern chart that we used to calibrate the cameras, halfway up the Cut. Harold was then ordered by the technical supervisor to walk halfway back down the Cut, without benefit of skis, to pick up the test pattern.
It was a good show, even if it didn't have any purpose.
I showed a draft of this article to a couple of retired producers from CBC who immediately said "Obviously, the Public Affairs Department of CBC Vancouver was trying to get rid of leftover monies in the budget – you don't spend it, you don't get it next year.


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 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


Hello Everyone:
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work for an organization like CBC but in a different country? Al Vitols has this fascinating summary of his visit to check on the operations of the BBC.

BBC’ish by Al Vitols

Sometime back in the 70’s I had a message to see Hugh Palmer, our Director of Television. Nothing unusual about that as being in charge of Hourglass assured frequent meetings regarding something we had aired, and somebody had not liked.
This was different as instead of standing in front of his desk, I was invited to sit.
After a few pleasantries, Hugh cleared his throat, as was his wont before saying something important, and asked me if I’d like to visit BBC to see how they handled current affairs. Does a bear, um, do stuff in the woods?
Hugh had presumed, correctly, that I would jump at the opportunity, and handed me a cheque for an obscene amount and a return Air Canada ticket to Heathrow. Am I required to get and submit receipts? No. How long am I to stay there? As long as the money lasts. I presumed that it was his way of reducing his end-of-fiscal-year surplus.
Leaving my senior producers to take charge of Hourglass on alternate weeks, I boarded an Air Canada 747 and after the in-flight movie and chats with a couple of flight attendants, landed sleepless at Heathrow during a drizzle.
I was looking forward to an experience similar to the one in Goodbye Girl with Richard Dreyfuss and Marsha Mason, a film I had just seen on the plane. The protagonist also disembarked in a drizzle, and then began his British adventure. His was romantic. I would settle for interesting or unusual.
Did not happen. Instead of a shared taxi with Ms. Mason, I took the Heathrow Express, a train dedicated to moving passengers to and from the airport, and wound up in Paddington Station sooner than I expected.
A London taxi delivered me to the front of The Inn On The Park, back then a Canadian-owned hotel where I had booked a room before I left Vancouver. After watching my suitcase disappear from the taxi through a hotel back door I was duly signed in and escorted to a second floor closet for which I was going to pay £150 per night. My suitcase was already there, on the bed and open wide.
The room was tiny, austere; light shone from under the doors, both, from the hall and from the bathroom; it had a tiny TV bolted to a table, probably so people wouldn’t pocket it. It did have a cubby next to the door, accessible from the hall, for shoes left to be shined. I wore Clarks desert boots - suede.
At these prices I’d be back in Vancouver sooner rather than later. And if one added the atrociously priced, but very poor quality, plate of bacon and eggs, the trip would end in days!
I followed Hugh’s suggestion and got in touch with the CBC London contact, a woman who, it seemed, did and knew everything and everybody. When I expressed shock at the cost of my accommodation she, too, thought it was outrageous, Canadian owned or not, and asked what kind of room did I actually need. A bed, a shower and a TV, and a good place to have breakfast within walking distance.
So after the third ‘contracted’ day at The Inn, apparently a commitment I could not break, I found myself in a hotel still facing Hyde Park in a room with a bed, a great shower and colour TV at a fraction of the previous price. Coffee shop was downstairs on the main floor with a view of the park. The place catered mostly to tours and when the buses departed at eight o’clock, it quieted down considerably.
It poured good coffee and served an excellent, free with the room, breakfast, American or British, the difference being that with the eggs the local version also had a spoonful of baked beans, a couple of slices of black (blood) pudding, and instead of bacon, a couple of ‘bangers’ All breakfasts seemed to come with half a fried tomato called a ‘slice’, and cold toast in a rack. Hotel and coffee shop staff mostly from the subcontinent.
The CBC woman took me over to the current affairs building, a separate and quite distant location from news, and introduced me to the head of BBC-TV Current Affairs. He had already been notified that I would make an appearance and need assistance. He thought that I should have an expert guide and that his secretary needed a “vacation” and, throwing two stones at one bird, assigned Barbara to look after me for as long as I needed her. Mrs. Barbara Mitchell.
Her first task, something that I’d forgotten to ask the CBC person, was to arrange a ‘hire’ car. What kind? Oh, something small and inexpensive. Mrs. Mitchell escorted me to a car hire place and we drove off in a Triumph Stag, the equivalent of a BMW 325i Euro. Very posh, very fast, very convertible! Very expensive? No, not at all. Mrs. Mitchell had some sort of connection with the car hire people and because of reasons I still don’t understand, got it for about the price of a Morris, the sedan not the Minor. On my next trip to London I tried to hire one, but they were no longer available.

“Executive Producer” on my CBC business card seemed to carry a lot of clout over there. I was always introduced to the boss of wherever I went. Or perhaps it was just Mrs. Mitchell continuing to be very efficient.
Aside from special coverage, there were three ongoing public affairs (or current affairs, I no longer recall which word they used and I think they were probably interchangeable) shows: Panorama, an Hourglass kind of program, aired daily at the supper hour. There was also a weekly half hour, not unlike Pacific Report which I started after I left Hourglass, telecast on Fridays, and a monthly 60 minute flagship, I don’t recall the name, nor the telecast day.
BBC ‘Green Rooms’ fascinated me. They seemed to operate on the class system. The head honcho denied it, but the way it worked there wasn’t much doubt - Upstairs, Downstairs in real life.
The Panorama Green Room was open to everyone - technical people, production staff and guests when such were booked. Beer and assorted wrapped plain sandwiches available all day, and for a couple of hours after the telecast.
The weekly half-hour show had a higher status and their Green Room had reasonably good wine, beer and assorted basic booze. There were sandwich platters, some hot dishes, soups and assorted desserts. It was staffed by BBC and food came from the cafeteria. Restricted to guests and production people only – no technicians or staging people or other ‘riff-raff’.
The monthly one hour flagship’s Green Room was catered by an outside company and had a proper hot buffet, a good selection of booze, including expensive brandies, good wines and an assortment of beers and ales. All quite fancy.
Who were the recipients of this largesse? Not the technicians. Not staging people. Not the production staff. Only guests. It was there mostly to keep them happy and relaxed before they were escorted into the studio,
Actually there were two Green Rooms, as the one catering to the lowly was always available, an ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ kind of situation.
At ITV, the private network, there was just the one Green Room and it was much like a small cafeteria with a “quiet corner” for pre-show interviews.
All cameras at the BBC public affairs building were equipped with Autocues, a far superior system to Teleprompter. Similarly at their news division. When I got back to Vancouver I tried to convince the people in charge that we should switch to Autocue, but CBC was married to Teleprompter, an unwieldy system.
I noticed that all script assistants carried rolls of adding machine tape. Why? In a corner of every studio there is a Vidicon camera focused on a variable speed moving platform. The frame is the width of the tape which equals one line on the camera-mounted monitors. Regular typewriter fonts get enlarged to the proper size. Text could be typed on any typewriter anywhere within the BBC, rather than on a special ‘Teleprompter’ typewriter as at the CBC. That is why all the S/A’s carried their own supply of ‘paper’.
The content of the higher-ranked shows I happened to observe was what back home I’d consider average, if not below. The BBC producers were ecstatic. Why? One of their 650 MP’s had agreed to appear. He probably should not have been allowed in the Green Room prior to the telecast as by the time the red tally light went on he had obviously sampled some of the more expensive wares.
To me the most fascinating part of the evening was the show post-mortem in the Green Room. I couldn’t agree with their definition of a successful show, but interesting it was. Just the fact that an MP had been interviewed was enough to make it, in their opinion, a “good show”
Interdepartmental battles must be world-wide. One morning as I arrived at Panorama there was a bit of a problem, a “minor nuisance” as one of the producers put it. There had been a nurses' strike going on in England for some time. The Panorama producers had decided that the show should originate from a ‘struck’ hospital close to the Welsh border. The problem was that on this same day there were football matches everywhere in the country and the Sports Division needed every bit of remote equipment the BBC owned. After a minor war in the office of some executive in charge of the mobile equipment, the Public Affairs people won and they had the use of a mobile truck at the hospital. So, what was the problem?
The problem was that the night before the telecast, i.e., last night, the strike was settled and there was no more need for the remote. Fine. Just cancel the location and revert to a studio show. No, can’t do that. Why not? The next time that there was a facilities conflict, the Sports People could use this as a good example of Public Affairs wasting facilities.
So the semi-panic was about what kind of show could now be done from the hospital? The head of the nurses' union could still be interviewed about the new benefits, but for an entire show! As it turned out, it was a good show with hospital management and patients talking about the almost-nurse-free time and what the future would bring. I’d been happy if it was Hourglass.
Virtually every BBC location has its own pub. The only ones without their own have a public house just a few doors down the street. The people I was with would have a pub sandwich, usually a Ploughman, a meal of bread, cheese and onions, and at least one pint of ’bitters’ I joined them for a small glass of their dark “Are you sure you want to try it?” ale and was looking for a place to crash as opposed to getting back at work. Mrs. Mitchell did her pint same as everyone and was no worse for wear. I seem to recall that the lunch hour was actually 90 minutes like in CBC Montréal, but perhaps everyone just stretched the hour.
Early on I asked Mrs. Mitchell to suggest a good place for us to have lunch. We wound up in the basement of a small building, almost like the ones in Montréal with its outside staircase leading up to the second floor. We ducked under and wound up in a very cozy Italian establishment, the ubiquitous red checkered cloths on every table.
Thinking it was time for Mrs. Mitchell and I to get on a first name basis, a rite sometimes celebrated with a glass of something alcoholic drunk from entwined arms, I ordered a martini. What arrived was indeed a Martini, a water glass full of warm Martini & Rossi vermouth. An enjoyable lunch, despite the vermouth problem. Mrs. Mitchell became Barbara, which we accomplished with the traditional sip of wine, but no matter how hard I tried, I remained Mr. Vitols.
One small hitch at the end was when Barbara couldn’t find one of her shoes. Why? One of her ‘quirks’ was removing her shoes whenever she sat down. She did at the restaurant as she would every time the opportunity presented itself. Somehow it had been kicked under the next table, but after a brief search we returned to the office - one of us lightly tipsy because of Martini & Rossi, the other, having only had a glass of ale, alcohol-unaffected.
Barbara’s shoe fetish was well known by her co-workers and they quite often would hide one or both of her shoes. Mind you, I had noticed that she didn’t bother wearing shoes while in the office and walked, mostly ran, in nyloned feet.

Public Houses, pubs, are ubiquitous throughout the country and one would be hard pressed to find a village without one. So it was with the BBC in that every location in London, and undoubtedly everywhere in the UK, if there was no BBC pub there would be a brewery-owned pub nearby.
Pubs were also part of the TWW, Television Wales and West, the Welsh border station, as well as the Welsh studios in Cardiff. I thought that having a brief visit with Welsh TV and later with Scottish studios would give me a better perspective on BBC London.
Found much sameness everywhere. Before I visited I thought that because both the Welsh and the Scotts, sharing a common hatred of the English, would be ideological partners, but not so. They also hated each other. Hate is probably too strong a word, but dislike each other they did.
I suggested that I buy the Public Affairs people lunch at the best restaurant in Cardiff, expecting to sample some Welsh cuisine. I was taken to an Italian place and ate yet again at a red and white checkered tablecloth covered table. Best food in Cardiff? Yes. Welsh food not up to scratch? Well… there’s leeks and there’s rarebit.
It was someone’s birthday and they were going to celebrate it at their pub. I was invited (Barbara had remained in London in order to entertain her traveling booze salesman husband). Oh, no, you’ll just stand around the piano and sing Welsh songs,” I declined the offer. That would not do and they insisted that Welshmen are not like you see them in films, etc.,etc. I capitulated. After about an hour in the pub all the men were standing around the beat-up, cigarette scarred, pint-ringed upright singing their hearts out. I didn’t have the nerve to remind them of what they had promised.
The next day I did readily accept an invitation by the head of the Public Affairs department to join him to a ‘take-away’ lunch at his cottage. It turned out to be a fantastic place on the Welsh shore of the river Wye (Afon Gwy in Welsh), the river separating Wales from England. We were joined by one of the Welsh historians who explained some of the ongoing English/Welsh problems. The lunch almost turned into dinner and only the need to be near the studio at show time brought it to a close.
My Triumph Stag was due back at the rental garage, so I hustled back to London on the M4. Got lost in downtown and with the ‘petrol’ gauge flashing ‘E’, I just couldn’t find my way. I was about to park and call a taxi and have him lead me to the rental place, but just before I gave up the PanAm skyscraper loomed ahead and I knew where I was. A great car and if the Triumph people were to make a left-hand drive version and export them to Canada, I’d be first in line.
Barbara also took me over to ITV to sit in on their Sunday morning one hour current affairs show. No problem getting to the studio on Saturday for rehearsals, but Sunday morning everything was locked up and only Barbara’s list of helpful telephone numbers got us in the building in time. Everything seemed very disorganized right up to telecast time.
In England, possibly elsewhere in Britain and Europe, all playbacks are 35 mm film. AMPEX 2” tape is used only as back-up. I’m no longer sure if there even was a 16mm possibility. On this particular Sunday the producer kept changing his mind regarding the order of the four items on the show. This involved re-editing the double system 35 mm film rolls. Having to have a 10 second roll-up didn’t help matters. I failed to ask why the items were not on separate reels, but they were not. Finally, just a few minutes from on-air the producer changed his mind once more and then was told by the Technical Producer (I can’t recall if they’re Technical Directors over there) that there was not enough time to edit and they’d have to use the back-up videotape. Frankly, standing at the back of the control room I couldn’t tell the difference in quality, but would be the first to admit that all commercials, they too being 35 mm, looked better in England.
Most of my time in London was spent with BBC’s Panorama. After all, it was just Hourglass with a foreign accent. There was not much difference between BBC and CBC, and that included producers complaining about being poorly paid and inadequate compensation for out-of-town expenses. Barbara was a constant companion and her Rolodex opened a lot of doors. She was very useful even outside the BBC. There is ‘roundabout’ in Hyde Park which you enter from underground into the middle. There are three or four lanes going around the centre and a bunch of streets leading from it. A wagon wheel of traffic. I had been stuck in the circle a number of times as there almost never was a gap in traffic big enough for me to change lanes. I tried to avoid this circular hell, but somehow wound up its victim a number of times. And so I did with Barbara in the car. After I circled around a couple of times she wondered what I was doing. I explained my problem. She solved it. Apparently the rule, official or not, is that one simply puts on the turn signal and then eases over. The car behind adjusts accordingly. Simple - but only if you know the unwritten rule.
On my final day in London before I took the train to Glasgow I wanted to treat Barbara to a really splendid meal. The Savoy dining room seemed like a posh enough place. It turned out not only posh, but snooty as well. The valet practically sneered as he parked the Stag in among the Rolls and the Bentleys.
In the marble-columned dining room we were treated decently as the staff there didn’t know in what kind of car we arrived. There were two of us looked after by four splendidly-clad waiters. Back then I was a smoker and had barely got the pack out from my pocket when one of them was offering a flame from his lighter. Similarly, before we could manage our napkins, they were picked up just as we reached for them and placed on our laps. Barbara was out of this world and quite likely will never have such a lunch again. For once she kept her shoes on. Actually it was all too much even for me and the Dover sole, prepared at the table, didn’t make up for it. Also the price probably shortened my trip by a day or two.
I may have overtipped the dining room staff, but I definitely made a point not to do so when the valet brought our car. I did what I had once seen in a movie. I had a decent bunch of bills in my hand as if that was to be the tip and then removed most of it as he stood looking. Barbara thought he didn’t deserve any tip whatsoever.
So ended my final day with BBC London. I had given my thanks to all the Public Affairs people and said goodbye the day before, so Barbara was the last contact. I got a kiss on the cheek, just the one.
The next day I was driving to Wales and then when I returned to London I almost had to spin around and entrain for Glasgow, my last stop in the UK.
I had been to Edinburgh before and loved it. Hated Glasgow from the moment I stepped off the train. Why? I’ve no idea. Just as I’ve no idea why I dislike Denman but love Hornby Island. That dislike continued as my hotel was being totally redone and I spent a couple of days and nights in a construction zone.
Perhaps the television people could sense my opinion of Glasgow and I was tolerated as opposed to received with pipes and drums. Found it all to be just like any other small town station with no new ‘discoveries’ to take home. Come to think of it, my opinion of Glasgow was shared by some of the staff who lived and commuted from Edinburgh, 60 minutes by train.
Having seen the airport virtually within city limits, called a cab an hour before my flight to Vancouver. “Which airport?” Confessing surprise about there being a choice, I was asked my destination and ‘America’ meant the ancient London-type of cab would be hard pushed to get me to the right one on time. With the promise of a generous tip if we actually made it - we did somehow. That even included a brief breakdown on the motorway. I made the flight, my suitcase did not.
I gave Hugh four or five pages of notes that he thought covered my trip adequately. My main conclusion was that basically in the production of Current or Public Affairs, there’s not much difference between the BBC and CBC, but the beer is better there.


Energy Brought Them Together – Peggy O’Neill and Mike Oldfield Meet at CBC by Peggy Oldfield

In exchanging banter about CBC Vancouver productions going way back, Alan Walker and I somehow got into a discussion of the Watergate era and the supposedly accidental 18.5 minute audio tape erasure of recorded material by Richard Nixon’s Secretary Rose Mary Woods. The Uher Universal 5000 recorder/playback machine she was using was the same type I used at work to transcribe sono tapes of interviews for various programs and I’ve always felt that accidentally erasing a recording was simply impossible. Bringing up transcription of sono tapes reminded me of their part in introducing Mike and me …. I had been on staff since 1966 as Secretary to the TV Production Manager, Executive Producers of TV Drama and Variety, and the TV Unit Managers. In May, 1971, Mike was hired as a Summer Relief Film Sound Technician in the 1200 West Georgia Street studios and, working with Producer Dick Bocking to record studio interviews for the documentary Energy: The Price of Power”, began delivering sono tapes of those interviews to my office in the TV Admin area of the offices at 747 Bute Street for me to transcribe. A full sono tape contained about 40 minutes of material and if speech was clear without a lot of “umm, errrrr, ahhh” interruptions (which had to be included in the transcription), it took about three hours to type out. If the tape had to be replayed over and over to catch everything, that time could occasionally end up doubling. That one show had Mike delivering 150 audio tapes to me and I often jokingly greeted him with, “Go away! I don’t want to see you!” Luckily he didn’t listen and when his Summer Relief job ended in early July (he returned on permanent staff in September), he invited me for coffee on his last day and then asked me out on a date. My Dad was in hospital at the time and Mom and I were visiting him daily so I wasn’t able to accept the date nor on the next two times Mike asked. He didn’t give up and our first date towards the end of July was dinner on a Saturday night at Hy’s Encore. Best first date ever. I was pretty shy in those days and could never think of anything to say so conversation with a guy could be excruciatingly non-existent. With Mike, I was at ease and he got me talking about travel which had me going on endlessly about Hawaii – my favourite destination which I’d been to twice at that point. I remember on that date that he laughingly said, “I feel sorry for the guy who marries you. He won’t have any choice about where you go for your honeymoon.” Almost a year later, on July 15, 1972, we were married….and yes, our honeymoon was in Hawaii.
Did you meet your future spouse while working at CBC? If so, we'd love to hear your story – short or long as it may be!

From Ray Waines - Feedback on my article Naked on the Ice in last month's issue
Some of the best feedback came from Greg Douglas, who was pleased to finally see a video of the streaking. On his website I found this and I still get a chuckle thinking about Ted Reynolds at intermission sitting with Babe Pratt who was the analyst of the highlights from the first period of Canucks Hockey. Imagine Ted trying to keep a straight face, asking Babe "What did you think was the highlight of that first period?" and Babe says:

‘Oh without a doubt — roll it again George’!
Of course the playback of the streakers came up on air for many viewers who were hoping to see a replay, and Babe disappointed no one except the Commissioner of NHL, Clarence Campbell, who just happened to see the playback of the streakers on that intermission. Mr. Campbell got on the phone and raised hell.
"The hockey club was instructed by Mr. Campbell to eliminate and destroy every print and piece on video or tape," said Douglas. “He thought it was outrageous and was calling from Montreal saying "Stop this madness!"
Jim Robson told me that after reading my story, he agreed that it was right that our cameras were allowed to show the streaking.
Note: Greg Douglas was from 1970 to 1977 the original Canucks Public Relations Director, and assistant to the General Manager.


When CBC Management were discussing the introduction of colour TV to the CBC stations and the CBC network in the 1960's, the main topic for discussion wasn't the cost of re-equipping all of the CBC stations and transmitters, or the cost of training staff, but was how to spell it; should it be "colour" as the word is spelt in Canada, or should it be "color" as the Americans spell it, and would show up on any colour show that was being imported from the U.S. As everybody knows, the U.S. spelling won out.
Pressure was on the CBC for a long time to provide colour TV because the major population centres in Canada, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, already had colour TV courtesy of the American border TV stations. CBS had color telecasts as early as 1951 with a mechanical color television system which was overtaken by an all-electronic system invented by RCA (owner of NBC at the time). NBC started broadcasting some color television programs in late 1953, almost exactly the same time as CBUT went on the air with all black and white programming.
Some 13 years later in 1966 at CBC TV, we were getting excited about colour TV finally arriving. Those of us working in TV control rooms were scheduled for a test of our "colour eyesight". We laughed about the upcoming test, and we all said we weren't colour blind although most of us seemed to have known about a friend who was. Remember those books with pages of number combinations in colour which picked you out if you had a colour eyesight deficiency?
Our colour inspector arrived one day, and opened his box of tricks. The first test was composed of 15 shades of purple which we were required to put in order of colour intensity – more purple to less purple. I failed miserably. I can't remember what the other tests were. Amusingly, at no time in my subsequent career at CBC was I ever asked to do anything that involved analyzing colour.

I happened to be on duty in the transmitter booth the first time we broadcast colour from CBUT. After the late movie finished about 1:30 a.m., we ran some silent colour film (mostly of flowers) on air for the benefit of the technicians at the CBC transmitter on Mt. Seymour, for the adjustment of their new colour transmitter equipment. My job was to pick some music to go with the silent colour film, and I picked "Red Roses for a Blue Lady", and being ironic "Black is Black (I want my baby back)". Nobody noticed my choices. Colour went live on September 1, 1966 (just after Peggy was born).

For the longest time, the daily schedule at CBC TV consisted of a mixture of black and white and colour programs. The newspaper listings had an asterisk when the show was in colour. I remember the Sunday night lineup:
Walt Disney (in colour), Ed Sullivan (black and white), Bonanza (in colour, and starring former CBC announcer, Lorne Greene), Close-up (in black and white).

Colour Comes to the Studios
I'm not really qualified to write about the effect of colour TV coming to the studios, but I do know it was a fantastic relief for our CBC set designers, costume designers, painters and make-up people who previously created interesting color sets, costumes or faces, but at the same time, had to know how the colour would be "translated" when broadcast in black and white. I'm planning to add to this article a photo of me on a boom in a studio 41 set, and beside it the same picture only this time in black and white.

Those brilliant craftsmen/craftswomen knew whether a bright indigo colour would turn out to be a light grey, dark grey, light black, or black black, when appearing on TV.
The costume designers were also relieved when colour came in as the previously forbidden white shirt was now allowed. In black and white television, a white shirt was way too bright in the scheme of things, and all on air people were required to wear blue shirts or blue clothing instead of white clothing. The black and white picture of me on the boom shows how white comes out too bright.

Al Vitols has a comment on that point: I started in TV in London, Ontario, designing commercial settings, anything from cars to cans. We were famous for having the used cars look better than at our competition. The dealers would scrub the cars to get them as clean as possible before they delivered them to the studio. The first thing we did was send a propsman out to drive it a bunch of miles along dusty, back country, concession roads and get a good layer of dust all over. That eliminated the TV camera's problems with shiny things, a kind of dulling spray, if you will. Eventually we wised up and just used baby powder on the camera side. I’ve seen grown men, horn players, weep when they saw me spraying their shiny instrument with dulling spray.

The introduction of colour studio telecasts at CBUT was a slow process. Only CBC Toronto had the technical facilities to produce colour shows in their studios when colour officially came to CBC. Ray Waines may have a future article for us on the first colour programs created at CBC Vancouver.
End notes
1. Canada was the third country in the world to get colour TV.
2. CTV started broadcasting in colour the same day as CBC.
3. When colour TV was introduced in Canada, fewer than 1% of Canadians had a colour TV set. Many, however, had 8-track tapes.

Is anybody reading this old enough to remember the wonderful and complex songs from the 1950's? If so, perhaps you remember this Dean Martin classic:

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 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


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.
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.



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


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"!


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 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


Hi Everyone:

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


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”

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”.

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.


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.


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 . 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!


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 . 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.


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.

Tales of the CBC TV Switchboard


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


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.


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.
This month's sports trivia question:
What sport is at least 5000 years old? Answer at the end of the column.
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.
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.
* * *
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.


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.
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.
My ability to remember song lyrics from the 60's far exceeds my ability to remember why I walked into the kitchen.
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 . 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.


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.

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.


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

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.


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 . If you require any assistance in editing, I would be happy to help. Alan


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.


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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