Chapter Twenty-nine

Jean Drapeau’s magic didn’t work on everyone. He certainly didn’t charm Hilary Brown, but then few public figures did. The tall, full-figured blonde from London, Ontario, was much more likely to overpower them. When I first met Hilary there was no suggestion that we would work closely in the immediate future. Rather, we appeared to be ships passing in the night. The same might be said of Gloria Bishop, another future confederate that I met about the same time.
Hillary, Gloria and I had been gathered together to participate in a noontime TV program called “Calendar.” I was one of three staff announcers on the show, Hilary was one of the program’s ‘regulars’ and Gloria showed up as a guest to be interviewed on a food-related subject. I remember that Gloria was in advanced pregnancy and demonstrating that the condition could indeed have you ‘glowing.’
You’ll remember that I had made an unscheduled guest appearance on a noontime TV show at CFRN-TV, Edmonton, thanks to our wandering tomcat, Brillig. Calendar was a much tighter program than its CFRN-TV counterpart, but it also made the most of being ‘live’ – and that’s where I came in. The other two announcers, Sheridan Nelson and Norman Keil, were familiar figures on CBXT, professionals to their fingertips and thoroughly unflappable. The program’s director was anxious to preserve their host image; as for the new guy. . . well, he was fair game.

A glib animal handler was a regular visitor to the program. He always turned up with some reasonably exotic creature in a cage. Since I was usually called upon to interview the handler, the size of his cage, the gauge of its meshing, and the clasps that kept it closed, were of burning interest to me.
“What have you got there?” I would ask, my voice quavering slightly. And he could usually reassure me that what he had brought to the show shouldn’t cause me any discomfort. Which would have been bad news for the director up in the control booth who would always roll a second camera into range to catch close-ups of my reactions – ashen terror being his favorite.
I was all right with most of God’s creatures – though I admit being face-to-face with a wildcat gave me considerable pause – but I wasn’t prepared for the boa constrictor, especially when I was told it was to roam freely over most of my anatomy. Somehow I suffered through it, but I was still numb when the rest of the cast, and even the usually stoic cameramen, gathered around to congratulate me after the show. Apparently, I was the best ‘fall guy’ the program had ever had.

I was still filling that role when a future governor-general of Canada visited the program. Adrienne Clarkson was then a popular figure on national TV, but she may have dropped by just to say ‘hello’ to Hilary Brown, an old school chum. It impressed me – but Hilary soon proved to be full of such surprises. Part of her first-class education was at the Sorbonne in Paris and her French was more than just serviceable. At the time, there was a live panel show running on the ‘other’ CBC channel in Montreal– the French one – and it had an interesting if challenging gimmick. Participants on Travail A la chaîne were expected to pick up on each other’s remarks immediately. A second’s hesitation knocked them out of the round. Hilary’s French made her a frequent participant, and her good looks weren’t exactly a drawback.
Hilary’s beauty almost got me in a traffic accident one day. I was trying to keep my eyes on the road when they were attracted to a billboard advertising a lawn dressing. There was Hilary in a skimpy bathing suit stretched out on a particularly healthy lawn! She later confided that a beau had talked her into that photo, neglecting to tell her exactly how it was to be used. She sounded more angry than embarrassed, probably because it was not at all the image she wanted to project – then or later.

The CBC had discovered ‘magazine programs’. Calendar fell into that category and so did a new show on local CBC Radio called CBM Magazine. Later, the concept would blossom into This Country In The Morning and bring Peter Gzowski to national attention. But that would be in mighty Toronto, and this was second-string Montreal.
Radio had always been ripe for specialization: “Kiddies’ Korner,” “Hobby Time,” “Travel Talk,” “Jazz Beat” . . . The magazine show was something new. It was meant to deal with everything from the latest movies to political analysis. The only concession CBM Magazine made to its late morning slot was to recognize that its audience was likely to be top-heavy with stay-at-home women. It came as no surprise, then, to learn that Gloria Bishop had been chosen to co-host the new program, and that Hilary Brown was to be an occasional contributor.

It was during that pre-Expo time that I was summoned to Ken Withers’ office. Ken was Program Director of English-language radio in Quebec. I wasn’t sure what to expect from him. We hadn’t met before but the other announcers were clearly in awe of the man. He had been a racing car enthusiast until he was nearly killed in a track accident. The only trace of the serious injuries he had sustained was a nervous habit: he cleared his throat far too often. It only added to my nervousness.
What did he want, anyway? It turned out Ken had an awkward hole in his broadcast schedule he wanted filled. It occurred between two network programs every weekday at 12:15 noon. I almost blew my chances when I blithely suggested he plug the fifteen-minute hole with martial music. As it turned out, that’s the last thing Ken wanted to do. He challenged me to come up with something different and I think I did.
Ken probably thought the title I chose – No Drums, No Bugles – was a direct response to his aversion to military bands. Actually, as I eventually explained on the program, it was the punch line to a writer’s joke. The title “No Drums, No Bugles” is now most associated with a 1984 film starring Martin Sheed. But the author Evan Hunter comes closest to the title’s origin as a writer’s joke in this ‘exchange’ I found on the internet. Here, Hunter is interviewing Ed McBain. This amounts to talking to himself, since Ed McBain is the name Hunter uses to write mystery novels.

EH: A lot of people had trouble with one of my titles.
McB: Which one?
EH: Love, Dad.
McB: That’s because it’s a terrible title, very difficult to say. You have to say, “My new book is called Love, comma, Dad. Otherwise, no one will know what you’re talking about.
EH: Most people thought the title was Dear Dad.
McB: Why?
EH: I don’t know why. Actually, I thought Love, Dad was a wonderful title.
McB: You should have called it No Drums, No Bugles.
EH: Why?
McB: Were there any drums or bugles in it?
EH: No.
McB: Well, there you go.

My new program began in the Spring of 1966 and ran for about a year. Here is the script for a “No Drums, No Bugles” show I feel is representative:


PAT: No Drums, No Bugles.


PAT: Mostly music here but we talk some, too. Later, though – later.


PAT: What does the name Vincent Youmans mean to you? I asked some of the young people on the TV show “Teen 66” and they all said they’d never heard of him. Moving up about ten years, I quizzed the cast of the program “The New Generation” and got much the same response. Now, that’s strange, when you think of it. Vincent Youmans wrote one of our most familiar songs – “Tea For Two.” He also wrote “Without A Song,” and “More Than You Know” – and all the music you’ll hear on this little island today. Including this one:


PAT: Local stations, take a break.


PAT: About Vincent Youmans. He was probably the most insistent collaborator in popular music. He often got together with as many as four other people to produce a song. In fact, if his name goes down in history – and I think it will – it will probably have a hyphen either before it or after it. In 1933, Mister Youmans wrote music for a movie called “Flying Down To Rio.”  “The Carioca” is from that film. It was the last major undertaking for Mister Youmans. He was ill. He retired to Denver, Colorado, where an interesting legend has developed from the final thirteen years of his life. I’ll tell you about it in a minute.


PAT: Local stations, take a break.


PAT: When Vincent Youmans retired to Denver, Colorado, he didn’t own a car. Instead, he took taxis everwhere. He kept writing, but for some reason he didn’t produce any more popular songs. Let me correct that – I should say there were none published. Some people say Youmans wrote dozens of melodies during those years, many just as catchy as “Tea For Two” or “More Than You Know.” And although he seldom committed them to paper, Youmans is said to have whistled or hummed them wherever he went. And that gave rise to the story that cab drivers in Denver were heard whistling beautiful, unknown tunes for years after Youmans died in that city in 1946.
Is the story true? Perhaps not, but it’s quite a thought.


PAT: That’s Oscar Peterson’s handiwork there. William Warfield sang “Without A Song” and we also heard from the Boston Pops.
This is Pat McDougall and technician Ken Albert. Please come and see us again tomorrow at 12:15.


* * * *

For people unfamiliar with radio scripts, an explanation:

“THEME (CLOSED POT BEGIN AT 11:20) UP AND FADE FOR” told the technician to start playing the theme with the volume turned down to nothing at the 11 minute and 20 second mark of the program, and to play it softly under my closing announcement.

instructed him to then bring the theme up to full volume and play it till it ended.

And yes, indeed! CBC Radio carried commercials back then.


2 Responses to “Chapter Twenty-nine”

  1. Stephen Humphreys Says:

    Interesting! I remember “No Drums, No Bugles” very well. I used to come home from school for lunch and arrive just in time for the noon radio signal. If I remember correctly, “The Archers” were on from 12 to 12:15, followed by “No Drums, No Bugles”. I thought the show actually went on for longer than one year. I have a vague recollection that Max Furgeson had that slot at one point.

    • debunko Says:

      Hi, Stephen . . .
      As you may have noticed, my blog hasn’t attracted many comments. Yours was especially appreciated. It had me re-reading that chapter and wondering whether Max Ferguson was still alive. The last I heard he had retired to some remote place on the eastern coast.

      I’ve been surprisingly busy since my retirement doing things that seldom pan out. About a year into retirement from the CBC I took a 3-week job with the only English-language radio station in Vienna, Austria and then blew all my earnings touring Europe.
      I had an agent for a while and wrote several mystery books which she couldn’t sell so she dropped me. I helped edit a publication aimed at seniors which merited me some freebee trips as its travel writer: Malaga, Spain, Jamaica and the weird Marguerita Island, part of and just off the coast of Venezuala.
      After spending most of my life in Quebec province I moved to Ottawa where I plunged into volunteer work, mentoring in a local school and helping a young immigrant from Bangladesh get his Canadian citizenship. Somewhere in there I wrote 10 songs.
      I love to sing and have belonged to five choirs since retiring. So I keep busy.
      Again, thanks for your interest.

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