STATIONBREAK.CA

STATIONBREAK MAGAZINE

                             

 
                                                                      MAY / JUNE 2019                                                 
                                                     Compiled by Ken Gibson for MAY 1 2019.

ITEMS IN THIS EDITION:

REMEMBERING DON S. WILLIAMS by Chris Paton
AULD ACQUAINTANCES (excerpts) by Peggy Oldfield (from 2009)
THE WAY WE (CBC) WERE TV WEEK MAGAZINE AWARDS. April,1989
FRACTURED TRAVELLERS' TALES
LEXOPHILIA from Alan Walker
THE LAST LAUGH:  AMISH AND THE ELEVATOR.


Feature Article:
                                               
                                     REMEMBERING DON S. WILLIAMS (1936 - 2018)

The news of the October 28 death of Don S. Williams brought feelings of sadness and loss to all whose lives and careers he influenced over the years. One of the last of a dwindling group of gifted veteran broadcasters, Don was a television and radio producer, director, writer, actor and teacher - skills honed over a lifetime of work in radio and television stations, on movie sets, and theatre stages all across Canada. 

My friendship with Don began when we met in the CBC Vancouver cafeteria in the 1980s and found out that we'd both been born in Edmonton, and in our search for careers in broadcasting, we'd both moved to the prairie town of Lloydminster. The shared history was a kind of bond. After that first encounter when we'd meet up we'd often exchange stories about a business that at the time, was as young and new as we were. 

Don was 19 when he got a job at Lloydminster's CKSA radio. Three years later in 1961 the station owner expanded the operation and opened CHSA Television which at that time was a CBC affiliate. These were the days when CBC was very much the Mecca of Canadian radio and television. For aspiring young people imagining a career in the business, the best advice came from sages who recommended leaving larger Canadian centers and going after jobs in small town radio and TV. The late 50s and early 60s were such lucrative years in the industry, radio and TV operations were popping up from one end of the country to the other - all of them desperate to hire staff, any staff, including rookies willing to work for experience and precious little pay. Once a person scored a job in a small station, there were no limits set on learning new skills. It was the early version of multi-tasking and an advantage for station managers to have employees capable of handling multiple jobs. From technical operations, to design arts and crafts, announcing, writing and directing, small stations were a smorgasbord of everything that radio and television had to offer. Whatever grabbed a person's interest or imagination was there to sample, test drive and pursue as a professional. 

Don had long wanted to develop a skillset that would allow him to write, produce and direct in the area of the performing arts. He was already a talented performer which made him a natural for on-air work. My dream in those days was to become a writer - but a writer of what, I wasn't sure. Writing advertising spots and promotional copy seemed like a great way to both earn a regular paycheck and sharpen my writing skills. At age 18 I got a job as the advertising and promotional copy writer at Lloydminster's newly opened TV station. I was hired about two years after Don had left the place to work in the larger market of Regina. But it came to pass that two decades later, long after we'd served our respective time in Lloydminster, we would finally meet and have that first coffee together in Vancouver. As Don commented, we were like Vets meeting up after having once shared a war zone.

The town of Lloydminster is located where it is because of a turn-of-the century screw up by the Dominion of Canada land survey. It's on record that the mistake shifted the town a few hundred meters from where it was intended to be built. Now at first glance, this wouldn't appear to be a big problem. But it put the meridian, the official north south boundary that divides Saskatchewan and Alberta, directly in the middle of Lloydminster’s main street. So to this day, on one side of the street residents shop in Alberta, while simply crossing the street takes them into Saskatchewan. In truth the split didn't make all that much difference in people's lives. But it did offer up one advantage that benefited some station employees. According to the Alberta Liquor Board of that day, vodka sales were outlawed in Alberta. But just across main street at the Saskatchewan liquor store they happily sold some of what was reputed to be the world's best vodka. If desired, a person over 21 could buy an entire case of the stuff. To supplement incomes it was rumored that some folks did exactly that. With cases and bottles of vodka hidden away in car trunks and back seats, the culprits ran the booze into Alberta where it sold for handsome profits. 

The war zone Don referred to was the two story building on the Alberta side, just a block off the main street. It had first housed the radio station and later, accommodated the studios and staffs of both radio and television. The radio station had a long standing "All Country Music All the Time" format. The station owner, an avid CW music fan, was fanatical that sound speakers located throughout the entire building, be constantly turned up and tuned into the CKSA radio signal. That included the speaker in an office I shared with Marlene, the writer responsible for radio copy. I was told that the case had been made to the owner that having the constant talk and country music pumped through the speakers made composing and writing copy near impossible. His reply was a firm "it's great poetry. Use it as inspiration."  

Don told me that during his time at the radio station, on air DJs were told by the program director to use the name of the town as often as possible, and to develop something he called "snappy on air repartee." Those instructions accounted for some of the most eye-crossingly awful prattle ever heard on the air. Big Ray the D.J. for instance, made a habit of starting the day with variations on banter such as this, "Good Morning Lloydminster!! It's mighty Pretty in the Meridian City at 5 minutes after the hour. Wake up ladies and get your boots on 'cause we're all about to Walk the Line with the great Johnny Cash." 

The upshot of all of this was that my “welcome to the office” gift from my long-suffering co-worker Marlene was a set of earplugs - the same kind she'd started using when the noise became unbearable. But the plugs only added to the aggravation and a short time later, I found just getting out of bed every morning and facing another work day became agony. One night just after quitting time, Marlene located a step ladder and when the staff cleared out, she locked our office door and between the two of us we managed to yank out the wiring that attached the speaker to the wall. Free at last, free at last....

Located directly across from our office was what was laughably called the "newsroom." It was a walk-in closet sized space that housed two News Service teletype machines that constantly clacked away like stereo castanets while spouting out streams of paper detailing the day's most important news stories. During his time at the radio station, Don recalled that the music only stopped long enough for the announcer to read a commercial, introduce a tune, or deliver a five minute top or bottom of the clock newscast. In radio, just as it was during my time at the TV station, news gathering, and the order in which the stories were read, were all the responsibility of the announcer. As such the term "rip and read" was coined. Rip and read described what happened dozens of times a day when the news announcer, usually the DJ, would drop a needle on the recording of the longest tune he could find, run like a lunatic down the hall to the teletype room and rip the stories off the machines. All this done at breakneck speed so as to make it back to the control room before the tune ended. 

 During one of those dashes Don told the story of sprinting down the hall, coming to a grinding halt at the newsroom door, flinging it open and confronting an enormous leopard. At that moment the cat was licking one of its big paws while leisurely stretched out over a shredded heap of teletype paper once meant to have been Don's top o' the clock newscast. Don backed away, shut the door and pressed his full weight up against it. He stood there wanting desperately to yell for help, but hesitating, not sure he'd really seen what he thought he had. After what felt like a lifetime, a tall, broad shouldered stranger came out of the washroom. Don asked him to go for help, but the man just smiled, said "no problem" and opened the door. Once inside he bent over the big cat and vigorously rubbed its head. Don said the room filled with the sound of purring so loud it drowned out the clacking machines. It turned out the man was Al Oeming, the owner of the Alberta Game Farm, the cat was named Tawana, not a leopard as Don thought, but Al's pet cheetah. The two of them were passing through Lloydminster on a publicity tour for one of Al's many books about the Game Farm. See Tawana HERE.

There's no doubt in my mind that many of his friends and colleagues could speak to Don's character, write stories about fine times spent in his company and address the enormous, varied and impressive catalogue of work he produced over the years of his life. But those things are not what I knew best about Don. So in the spirit of our friendship and fun times shared, I wanted to remember our beginnings and the kind of small town starts so many of us lived through on the way to careers in Canadian radio and television.


Chris Paton's original goal was to be a writer and to make that ambition a reality she began her career as a junior copywriter with an advertising agency. Envisioning a "real" writing career in theatre or television, Chris says it "was a dream come true" when she heard there was a job opening at CBXT Edmonton for a Script Assistant. She got the job and although writing was not part of it, it launched her broadcasting career. She and her family moved to Vancouver and Chris joined CBUT staff as a summer replacement Script Assistant and was assigned to the supper hour newscasts. Chris applied for and became the first female Floor Director (Production Assistant) at the station. As a Script and then Floor Director, Chris was assigned to The 7 O'Clock Show, Cuisine, On the Scene and Let's Go. As a Producer, Director and then Executive Producer she worked on Hourglass, The Nice Show, Vancouver Secrets, The Canadians and Expo '86 New Lang Syne. Between 1989 and 2001, Chris was with the CBC Network working in Toronto on shows including Kids in the Hall, Street Legal, 19th Annual Genie Awards, The Aboriginal Achievement Awards, Leap of Faith, That's Skating and The Blues Masters. Over the years, Chris worked on these and innumerable other productions and held management jobs within the Corporation as well which she freely admits never provided the level of satisfaction she found on the creative side of the business.. Chris returned home to Vancouver in 2001and in the ensuing years has studied computer illustration and animation editing, and worked as a writer and media consultant.

Excerpts from AULD ACQUAINTANCES by Peggy Oldfield (Spring 2009)

Cheers Restaurant in North Vancouver was the amiable setting for the annual Spring Luncheon and Annual General Meeting of the CBC 20 Year Association on March 24th. Attendance was great with 47 people on hand to enjoy a sumptious buffet and re-elect by acclimation President Angela Nash, Vice-President Joyce Pears, Treasurer Pat Hartley and Secretary Peggy Oldfield. The newly elected Executive has been pleased to announce that Serafine Crawley, Alan MacMillan, Ron Mahy, Maurice Moses, Digby Pears, Don Waterston and Larry Watson will continue to serve on the Board as Members-At-Large and Neil Trainer will continue as Immediate Past President. Claire Firth has joined the Board as a Member-At-Large.
How many of you remember the giant photo album that Fran Rayner compiled in the Film Department? It was legendary - so big that a special wood stand was built to support its weight. After Fran retired, the album languished for a time but was later taken over by Beverley Takeuchi who reports it was in rather sad shape by that time. Beverley took it apart, incorporated her own collection of crew, talent and make-up photos so that everything is in right order, and so created a brand new collection of photo albums ... nineteen of them!  Congratulations to former CBC Canadian Gardener producer Mike Maslenki who has recently joined CTV staff as Senior Promotions Producer.  Former colleagues Chuck Davis, Ernie Fladell (for festivals), Ken Gibson, Jurgen Gothe, Fanny Kiefer, Barney O'Sullivan (theatre and TV actor), Bill Reiter, Peter Ralston (puppeteer) and Jack Wasserman have been inducted into the B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame for making significent contributions to the industry both locally and internationally. Their names were added to those already engraved on plaques in the Orpheum Theatre on Granville Street's Entertainment Row on April 19th. Ken Gibson was very honoured to be included, joining previous producer inductees Daryl Duke and Philip Keatley.  Chuck Davis sent in the following report which will stir memories for many of us. "My wife Edna and I met in 1964 when I was a new announcer at CBC Vancouver, and she (Edna Schmidt then) worked in the TV newsroom. One of the other announcers working for CBC was Doug Campbell, and Edna and I had a terrific lunch with Doug and his wife Marion, tossing around names of other people, mostly announcers and newsroom people there in the 1960s and 1970s: Tom Robinson, Bruno Cimolai, George McLean, George Finstad, Judy Piercy, Telford Oliver, Bob Kerr, Stan Peters, John Sharpe, Bert Nelson, Greg Barnes (the announcer and not the executive), Gordon Inglis, Les Jackson, Vince Duggan, Eros Pasetti, "Duke" Gardiner and many more."  Joyce Kozy King has had a very busy time recently coping with house renovations and the subsequent cleaning that entails. Ditto Ron and Carole Devion. Must be Spring!  Maurice Moses reports that the JCC (Jewish Community Centre) Showtime, of which he is a long-standing member, recently celebrated their 100th performance. The entertainment group has appeared before countless seniors and their families and caregivers. They perform songs, dances and comedy routines from Broadway shows and popular musical classics to being back memories and happy times for people in community centre seniors' programmes, hospitals, retirement homes and care residences. Also, Maurice sings with the Vancouver Men's Jewish choir. Ron Taylor and wife Sheryl Smale hopped over to Cuba for a week's R&R and report that the trip was a lovely break from regular routine. Tony Wade, whose home is in England now, made a flying visit to Vancouver and Calgary for a few days in early May. In addition to catching up with family, he squeezed in visits with John Collins and Doug Baird on the North Shore. Three of our long-serving Radio employees have decided to retire from the CBC. Tod Elvidge, Paul Grant and Chris Cutress will all be leaving at the end of July. That's a wrap for this issue. Do keep in touch so I can!   Cheers ... Peggy.

Ted Reynolds, aged 84, died on April 28th, 2009. Ted spent more than 50 years calling the action for at least 23 sports and at 10 Olympic Games. He did 35 of those years at CBC Radio/TV Vancouver from 1956 to '91 and kept working right up to his 80s. Born in Grand Forks, BC, he worked for three different media outlets in the province, starting from his first job at a radio station in Kamloops right after WW11.  "My career was off and running on May 17, 1945 at the magnificent stipend of $85 a MONTH!"  It all began innocently enough with advice from his mother, "Get a job where you have to talk." Along the way he earned a multitude of awards including induction in the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame. "There are so many memories and so many friends and memories from all around the globe - all because I was a part of the greatest era in TV broadcasting," Ted said at the 2003 Achievement Award. Throughout his career he proudly remained in B.C.  

THE WAY WE WERE: TV WEEK MAGAZINE from April 3 1989
"There were 27 Radio and Television Awards and CBC was nominted in almost all of them and WON eleven including:
Best Entertainment Program: THE IRISH ROVERS SILVER ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL. Ken Gibson, Producer
Best Sports Program: NHL BREAKAWAY. Steve Armitage, Host,  Brian Scheter, Producer,
Best Youth Program: SWITCHBACK. Stu Jeffries, Host. Herb Baring, Producer.
Best Documentary: I CALL HER LOOTAS. Bill Reid, Host.  Nins Wiznicki, Producer.
Best Afternoon Drive Radio: DISC DRIVE. Jurgen Gothe, Host.  Ed Norman, Producer.
Favourite Vancouver Radio Personality: VICKI GABEREAU.
Best Actor - Local series: ROBERT CLOTHIER, Beachcombers.
Best Actress - Local series:  JANET-LAINE GREENE. Beachcombers."

TRAVELLERS' TALES:
From the Soviet weekly: There will be a Moscow exhibition of Arts by 15,000 Soviet Republic painters and sculptors. These were execcuted over the past 2 years.

Outside a Paris dress shopr: Dresses for street walking.

In an East African newspaper: A new swimming pool is rapidly taking shape since the contractors have thrown in the bulk of their workrers.

Outside a Hong Kong dress shop:  Ladies have fits upstairs.

In a Vienna hotel: In case of fire, do your utmost to alarm the hotel porter.

In a Bankok dry cleaners: Drop your trousers here for best results.

In a Rhodes tailor shop: Order your summer suit. Because in big rush we will execute customers in strict rotation.

LEXOPHILIA from Alan Walker
"Lexophile" describes those that have a love for words,
such as "you can tune a piano, but you can't tuna fish",

To write with a broken pencil is pointless.
An annual competition is held by the New York Times to see who can create the best original lexophile.
This year's winning submission is posted at the very end.
I changed my iPod's name to Titanic. It's syncing now.
England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.
Haunted French pancakes give me the crepes.
This girl today said she recognized me from the Vegetarians Club, but I'd swear I've never met herbivore.
I know a guy who's addicted to drinking brake fluid, but he says he can stop any time.
A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.
When the smog lifts in Los Angeles U.C.L.A.
I got some batteries that were given out free of charge.
A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail.
A will is a dead giveaway.
With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.
Police were summoned to a daycare center where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.
Did you hear about the fellow whose entire left side was cut off?  He's all right now.
A bicycle can't stand alone; it's just two tired.
The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine last week is now fully recovered.
He had a photographic memory but it was never fully developed.
When she saw her first strands of gray hair she thought she'd dye.
Acupuncture is a jab well done. That's the point of it.
I didn't like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.
Did you hear about the crossed-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn't control her pupils?
When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble.
When chemists die, they barium.
I stayed up all night to see where the sun went, and then it dawned on me.
No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.
I'm reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can't put it down.
Those who get too big for their pants will be totally exposed in the end.


A LAST LAUGH:                       AMISH AND THE ELEVATOR

An Amish boy and his father were visiting a small mall. They were amazed by almost everything they saw, but especially by two shiny, silver walls that could move apart and back together again. "What is this, father?"
The father (never having seen an elevator) responded, "Son, I have never seen anything like this in my life.
I don't know what it is."  While they were watching with amazement, an old lady in a wheel chair rollled up to the moving walls and pressed a button. The walls opened and the lady rolled between them into a small room. The walls closed and the boy and his father watched the small circular numbers above the walls light up sequentially. They continued to watch until it reached the last number and then the numbers began to light up in reverse order. The walls opened up again and a beautiful 24 year old woman stepped out. The father, not taking his eyes off the young woman, said quietly to his son, "Go get your mother."

THE NEXT STATIONBREAK MAGAZINE WILL BE AVAILABLE ON JULY 1st 2019.