Chapter Forty-four

Over the years I’ve had several chances to return to both Winnipeg and Edmonton. Some of the changes I’ve found in both cities are nothing short of alarming.
The proudly distinctive City of St.Boniface has been swallowed whole by its larger neighbor, Winnipeg.
Those call letters ‘CKY’ that described the Manitoba Telephone System’s Winnipeg radio station during my Good Deed Radio Club days – and then identified a private radio station owned by Lloyd Moffatt –were still around in the ’90s, but they were attached to a Winnipeg television station.
Meanwhile, CKY’s snooty rival, CKRC, has disappeared; it’s no longer on the radio dial. Before it did, the station went into free fall. The process spanned several of my return visits to Winnipeg. On one, in the 1990s, CKRC had gone to a country-and-western format and was about to move out of the Winnipeg Free Press Building where it was born.
I dropped in and identified myself as a CKRC ‘old boy’ and got a friendly reception and a quick tour. Curiosity drew me to the talks studio where I had read a few thousand newscasts in the 1950s.
I thought of the time Bill Walker’s operator tried to gross me out by shoving a ketchup-smeared sanitary pad under my nose while I was trying to read one of those newscasts. I remembered knocking the foul thing out of his hand hard enough to send it all the way to the studio’s ceiling. And now I was in the same studio, some forty years later. My eyes went to the ceiling and I flinched: the ketchup stain was still there!

My latest return to Winnipeg was in 2004. I knew CKRC had gone but the Free Press Building hadn’t. I went through its revolving door to see how much of its splendor remained.
The building’s foyer was just as impressive as I remembered it, with its light fixtures shaped like torches to symbolize Freedom of the Press, its elaborate chandelier and its spiral staircase, gleaming as only polished marble can.
But where CKRC once proclaimed its presence with a neon sign and a spiral staircase of its own, there was only a very ordinary door that opened on to a bland bank of offices.

Two-thousand-and-three was an anniversary year for Radio Station CKUA. Seventy-five years on the scene surely ranks the doughty little Alberta broadcaster with Canada’s oldest.
ckuasignThe exterior wall Jack Hagerman had had painted to my specifications was still there – and considered something of a treasured relic. I wish I could say Jack thought of me the same way, but he didn’t try to hide his residual resentment over my untidy exit from his beloved CKUA. At one of the reunion functions, Jack introduced me to someone as a person who “got the station in a lot of trouble.”
Others at the same reception retained a more positive impression of what they now call “CKUA’s Golden Years”: Dan Key, Gil Evans, Jim Edwards, Tommy Banks, Monica Norris-Jones and Herb Johnson.
Herb introduced me to another CKUA alumnus, Alex Frame, the CBC producer who became the CBC’s vice-president of radio. With Frame at his elbow, Herb praised me as a key influence on the CBC’s radio programming, insisting that the format I introduced as CKUA’s Program Director inspired such CBC programs as Eclectic Circus and later, Disc Drive. Frame blinked a few times, but he didn’t challenge what Herb said. It more than made up for Jack’s jibe.

* * * * * * * *

Several of the people mentioned in this book have won recognition of one kind or another: they include a Governor-General, a Prime Minister, a couple of Senators, a CBC chairman and the Corporation’s ombudsman, people elevated to various levels of the Order of Canada, recipients of honorary degrees and the like. Good on them.
But what about the rest of us? What about the also-rans who did their best to be entertaining or informative – or just understood – over several decades? I consider myself to be one of them.

It was Gloria Bishop, my old radio buddy from the sixties and seventies, who – in her customary offhand way – provided an assessment.

I was visiting friends in Toronto ten years or more after my retirement when I paid a visit to the brand-new CBC building in that city. Just inside the entrance I almost collided with Gloria as she emerged from an office in search of a cup of coffee.
I hadn’t included her among the people I intended to approach at CBC Toronto; Gloria then held a senior position there: director of local Radio. I thought she wouldn’t have time for me – and I was right.
We chatted amiably enough while she bought her coffee from a cart that made the rounds of the building. Then, obviously searching for a way to end our conversation, she mused:

“You know, Pat, you were better than you thought you were.”

Not exactly an honorary degree, but it will do.

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2 Responses to “Chapter Forty-four”

  1. Janet Roman Says:

    I would like to get in touch with Mr. McDougall. Can anyone assist me ?

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