60th ANNIVERSARY OF CBUT '53 (Parts 1 and 2)
Photos: CBC Studios THEN AND NOW


60th ANNIVERSARY OF CBUT part 1 and part 2
1200 W Georgia St - December 16, 1953

Part 1 click on:
Part 2:

Photos: CBC Studios THEN AND NOW




Over the years in CBC TV production I came to see the design department as the heart of the television business - a place where artists and craftspeople made real the ideas of writers, producers and directors.

Except for Canadian towns close to the U.S. border, there was no television service in Canada before the CBC went on air in 1952. Artists, craftspeople and designers ventured into this new TV world to find themselves in partnership with lighting, audio and video technicians, a group crucial in defining what would work on electronic screens, and what wouldn't. Every aspect of the 1950's business of design for television was new. Artists being artists, treated the business of sketches and illustrations as work for the ages. A great deal of it, such as set and costumes sketches, graphic department illustrations and promotional pieces were stunning pieces of art. Unfortunately, unlike the BBC archival treasure-trove, there has never been a CBC mandated design archive to keep safe the departments' artist sketches, drawings, graphic department illustrations or photographs - all of which would by now have comprised a 66 Year History of Canadian Television Design.

In my time at the CBC Vancouver plant there was seldom, if ever, a dull day. During the early years in the old studio at Georgia and Bute, and continuing right into the Hamilton Street facility, the plant rocked with music productions, drama series and one-off specials, along with continuing nightly news and current affairs shows. Studios, and all the design components that came along with them, were in constant demand and the work that came with that demand was never cookie cutter easy. Producers and directors came to the design department looking for original visual ideas that reflected the feel and look of the times. The work usually began with a set designers' illustrations and sketches, always solid working calibre drawings, but often beautiful highly detailed one of kind pieces of art. For historical productions, or productions outside the scope of off-the-rack procured clothing, costume designers researched and made detailed drawings of gowns, uniforms and all manner of authentic period apparel. Those drawings and sketches would be the guide from which cutters and seamstresses created the wardrobe.

With a production green light go ahead, set designers sketches were converted to blueprints that went to the carp shop, to wood frame construction, to canvas, to paint, and finally to the studio where staging crews put the pieces together, and set decorators and properties artists added the perfect finishing touches. When the machinery of design was operating at full throttle a walk through the carpentry shop was an amazing adventure. The shop was an enormous space that upon entering hit the senses like a forest of fresh cut wood and turpentine. Painters atop ladders broad-brushed and rolled color onto the surfaces of wood flats and canvas, their overalls so dotted and splattered with paint, the workplace garb alone deserved to be framed and celebrated on gallery walls. In fact I remember once asking one of the painters if I could have the old paint covered overalls if I replaced them with a new pair. The reply was, "no way. These are my history."

Even before any formal production meetings, individuals from various TV departments could be spotted checking out designer sketches and blueprints laid out on carpentry benches. The shop was a place where everyone - directors - producers - writers - camera - lighting and audio crew would make a point of dropping by. In a business that exists on the thin air of ideas it was a practical first place to spot and fix potential problems, to collaborate, contribute and just add your two cents worth in the effort to create the best possible work. It was a joy to be part of it all, and a heartbreaking loss when it ended with the termination of design departments all across Canada. CBC design attracted and employed some of the finest artists and craftspeople I've ever known. I considered working with them a major job perk. These days when I so often hear high praise from movie and TV directors for the excellence of BC design crews, I'm both saddened and proud knowing that the praise is meant for so many former CBC design colleagues who now work their magic on large independent projects - work that's gone such a long way in enriching the reputation of the industry in BC.

For the sake of illustrating this column there was an effort to locate as much vintage visual material as could be found. But with no dedicated archive, it became clear that most of the material had long ago walked out of the building with the artists who created it. What hadn't was lost in the rush to downsize. But efforts to find the stuff didn't go totally unrewarded. It was enlightening and a heck of a lot of fun to talk with former design staffers. I loved the anecdotes and the memories about the people, the times, the productions and the wonderful way it was in those years. It dawned on me that colleagues in the 20 Year Association would enjoy those stories as much as I did. I wanted to incorporate some of the anecdotes in this article, but they are memories that belong to, and would best be told by, the design artists and craftspeople who lived them. As much as it was fun in person, it would be a pleasure to read the stories here on the 20 Year Website. And who knows? Like an archeological dig, burrowing through home file cabinets and cupboards to find the visuals to illustrate your stories might just uncover some of those magical long lost works of art.

With affection and thanks to David Croal and Bill Waterloot for their research help, and to John Rogers, Marti Wright and Beverley Takeuchi for their contribution of pictures of people and memories spanning the last 50 years of CBC Vancouver Design History. TO SEE ALL 40 OF THOSE WONDERFUL PICTURES CLICK HERE


by Jeff Groberman.

In 1980 I left CKVU to produce Dr. Bundolo at CBC Vancouver. Gordon Craig, the director of television at that time, was spearheading the show's move from radio to TV. The idea was to give the show two years on regional television, then make the jump to the network.

Despite a Sunday midnight timeslot (and this was before PVRs) the show quickly picked up a devoted audience and won a regional ACTRA award as the best TV show in its first season. It took only a few weeks for the show to be picked up by all the other provinces on the regional exchange program. The show was wildly popular – with everyone except the Toronto CBC honchos who still believed if a show was good – it should be coming out of Toronto.

Toronto CBC was backing the Royal Canadian Airfarce, and despite several failed attempts at producing a network show, the network was still determined there was going to be only ONE network comedy show - and that was going to be the Airfarce – period!

That, coupled with the fact that Gordy Craig left CBC Vancouver for the CBC Network in Toronto and was replaced with two Toronto parachute executives indicated the show's days were numbered.

I had left CKVU to produce Dr. Bundolo and now that it was coming to an end it left me in a quandary. I could head back to CKVU and resume producing the Vancouver Show or find a new role at CBC. I decided to be pro-active and pitched a show to Jack MacAndrew, the head of television Variety. Jack listened patiently to my pitch then told me he'd rather I produce a new series he was planning: The Paul Anka Show.

At the time CBC was producing a lot of variety shows: The ever-popular Irish Rovers, the David Steinberg Special and Burton Cummings were just a few but, without a doubt, the Paul Anka show was going to be the plum.

Paul was an international star and the show would be a co-production with American partners. It would be a big budget high profile show – I couldn't say no. Instead of being constantly pushed aside as the little regional show by the network, I would be the guy doing the pushing. Of course, it turned out the guy I would be pushing would be me - as Dr. Bundolo was still in production.

I had to keep switching hats and fighting with myself for resources - but I made it work. Paul Anka would be coming out studio 40, the big studio, and Dr. Bundolo would come out of studio 41, the smaller studio. During one week both shows were recording simultaneously! I was running from one control room to the other. It was the best week of my life.

My title on the Anka Show was Line Producer. I was in charge of all the day to day running of the show. The executive producers were responsible for financing and providing the main talent. I would be in charge of the rest: hiring writers, back-up singers, arranging productions schedules and post production. Today the title would be Show Runner.

The American executive producers were Burt Rosen, an Emmy winner who had worked with Ann-Margret, Raquel Welch, Bobby Darin and the Smothers Brothers. His partner, Clancy Grass, had a less glamorous resume: his IMDB credits included Five Angry Women, Night Call Nurses and The Student Nurses.

The Director was Bill Davis, originally a CBC director, who had made it big time in the U.S. directing shows for Frank Sinatra, John Denver, Julie Andrews and Dick Clark to name just a few. He was a pleasure to work with. He had infinite patience with the cast and the crew would walk across hot coals for him.

Paul, on the other hand, was another story. In the 26 shows I produced I probably didn't have more than three discussions with him. Handling Paul was the sole responsibility of the Executive Producers.

Paul had also isolated himself with his own entourage. First and foremost were Jose and Mary – his gatekeepers. "Nobody gets in to see Paul. Not nobody no how!" was Mary's mantra. Jose and Mary communicated with each other with walkie talkies – even if they were standing next to each other. Paul also had his personal hair dresser (even though he had hardly any hair at the time) and a personal secretary who had three-inch nails and wore six-inch heels – enough said.

The designer, Danny Chan, had designed a gorgeous set with a stage that had multi-coloured lighting under a plexiglass floor. The floor would light up with all sorts of designs – it was way ahead of its time – and very prone to scratching. Any of us who got too close to the floor were chased off by Alex Pappas, our floor director.

A couple of days before production, Paul arrived unannounced in the studio. He was wearing a large cowboy hat and cowboy boots - and the first place he headed for in those cowboy boots was the stage. He had clomped around the stage for about 30 seconds before Alex spotted him.

"Hey you," Alex shouted across the studio at Paul. "Yeah, you, the idiot on the stage, get the hell off it - now!"

Paul stood there stunned. The whole studio suddenly went very quiet - waiting for the inevitable explosion. At this point I should point out Alex had never actually met Paul and had no idea what he looked like. All he knew was some idiot was scratching up his stage.

I took control of the situation: I rushed over to Alex and grabbed him by the elbow and walked him over to Paul.

"Alex, I'd like to introduce you to Paul Anka, the star of the show. Paul, I'd like to introduce you Alex, he used to work here."

Paul paused a moment then laughed and apologized to Alex. From that moment on, Alex and Paul had a special relationship. Paul might not listen to us, but he would listen to Alex.

Paul's contract called for him to have his own dressing room. The CBC provided the studio green room and had it re-carpeted and rented fancy furniture for him. All of us, including the director, were forbidden to enter the inner sanctum – except for Burt, Clancy – and one of the drivers - whose nickname at the time was "The Prince of Snow." The lack of access to Paul led to some hilarious incidents.

Since we weren't permitted to enter Paul's dressing room to choose his outfits Paul become the sole arbitrator of what he would wear for the show. For one set, he chose a black velour suit. Unfortunately, the set director had chosen a black curtain as a backdrop and a black piano for Paul to perform on. When Paul walked onto the set it was like watching a pale pumpkin float across the set. There was a bit of a Mexican standoff to see who would back down first: we changed the set.

We would shoot five shows a week - take two weeks off - then shoot another five shows. The day would begin at ten in the morning with the orchestra rehearsal. Paul would arrive around four o'clock to rehearse his numbers and run his lines.

At seven we'd tape the show. The moment we finished taping Paul would rush to the airport, jump on his chartered jet and head down to Las Vegas where he'd do a midnight show. At three in the morning he'd head back to Vancouver and catch a few hours sleep before showing up in the studio for the next day's show. Eventually burning the candle at both ends caught up with him.

We had just begun taping a show when Paul got the hic-coughs. He'd sing a line then there'd be a loud hiccough. The audience thought it was hilarious – and so did Paul – for a while. The audience shouted out their favourite cures and Paul tried them all – drinking out of the top of the glass of water, breathing in a paper bag, holding his breath – nothing worked. Eventually we had to record the show complete with hic-coughs. The director stayed mostly wide and said we'd lip-sync the show later in the week.

A few days later, I was summoned to the Director of Television's office. He wasn't happy with me. He was never happy with me. He held up a can of video tape.

"Do you know what this is?" he demanded.

"I'll take a wild guess – video tape?"

"Don't be a smartass. It's an Anka tape. And do you know where I got it?"

"The tape library?" I offered.

"No. I got it in shipping where it was about to be sent to Dick Clark's Blooper show. This is CBC property and I want to know who authorized this ... and when I find out," giving me a knowing look, "that person's fired. Now get out and get me that name."

I should point out our director, Bill Davis, was also the director of Dick Clark's Bloopers show and felt the hiccough episode would provide excellent promotion for the upcoming series. I agreed and said I would take care of it - hence my summons to the principal's office.

I waited about five minutes then returned to his office carrying a clipboard.

"Do you have the name?" he demanded.

"Right here," I said pointing to the clipboard.

"Let me see that, "he shouted, yanking the clipboard out of my hand.

He stared at it a moment in disbelief.

"That's my name!"

"Yes, you signed the request two days ago."

"I didn't realize what I was signing," he stammered.

"Does that mean you're fired?" I asked

"Get out!" he shouted.

Paul wasn't the only one burning the candle at both ends. I was not only responsible for running the show, but also responsible for the post production. Because of the tight schedule, a previous show was often being edited the same day another show was being recorded. On those occasions my day would begin at 9:00am in the studio, and when the taping was over, I would head to the editing booth for another 8 hours of editing. On those days I didn't go home; I just caught a few hours sleep in one of the dressing rooms.

On one of those nights I got a call in the editing booth at 1:30am from Don Costa, the musical director of the show. Don only worked for two performers: Paul Anka and Frank Sinatra.

"What are you guys doing?" asked Don in his gravelly voice.

"We're editing the show, Don. What's up?" I asked.

"I've cooked a huge pot of pasta and the guys didn't show up. You guys hungry?"

I conceded we were hungry, so the editor and I grabbed a cab and headed down to Don's suite at the hotel. We arrived around 3:00am.

Don was sitting at the kitchen table, a glass of scotch in front of him, a huge joint in the ashtray, and a pen in his hand. His attention was divided between a porn movie on the TV, a steaming pot of pasta on the stove, and scoring the parts for that day's show. The orchestra had 30 pieces and Don was scoring each of their parts by hand.

While Don was busy with all this the phone rang. I wondered who the hell calls at 3:00am?

"Can you get that, Jeff?" shouted Don from the stove. "I'm sort of busy here."

"Hello?" I asked.

"Put Costa on," a voice ordered.

"Who's calling?" I asked.


"Frank who?" I asked.

I was greeted with an icy silence. By then Costa had waddled over and took the phone. I suddenly realized which Frank it was. I'd heard he called at all hours of the night.

Don put the phone on speaker so he could continue his multitasking.

"What are you doing up there?" demanded Frank.

"I'm working with Paulie," replied Don.

"You working for the midget? (Frank's nickname for Paul). How's it going?"

"F**king Paul," sighed Don. "He can't sing Happy Birthday without six sets of cue cards."

The exec producers, Burt and Clancy, liked pasta too, but not Don's. They only frequented Vancouver's finest Italian restaurants.

One of their favourites was Umberto's. They would have lunch or dinner at least two or three times a week. One of Burt's favourite dishes was special meatballs that he claimed Umberto made just for him. It was rumoured when Umberto heard Burt was coming he got the can opener out.

One day the Director of Television dropped by the production office to wait for Burt and Clancy who were taking him to Umberto's for lunch. He was very impressed the American co-producers were taking him to an expensive restaurant for lunch. I recommended he order Burt's special meat balls.

About three hours later, he dropped by again to comment what classy guys Burt and Clancy were. We could all learn a lot from them.

"Yes, including how to expense everything," I replied, holding up the receipt Clancy had just dropped off. "Congratulations! You just bought yourself lunch."

There was a plethora of "big name" guests booked on the show: Andy Williams, Dionne Warwick, Anne Murray, Tony Orlando (without Dawn), Andy Gibb ... Some stars were bigger than others – in more than one way. I remember the night we had Peggy Lee on. She was in the twilight of her career- but could still belt out "Fever," her signature song. They had flooded the stage with fog and as she entered through the fog one of the cameramen whispered into his headset, "I thought there was a law against something that big moving through fog without running lights." Not nice, but still funny.

One star the exec producers signed was not a musical star but a Canadian sports idol, Wayne Gretzky. Wayne couldn't sing to save his life; but he'd just signed a contract the night before for 20 million dollars - making him the highest paid hockey player in the NHL. It was the sports story of the month and I had him in my studio – along with every sports reporter in the city demanding interviews. In addition, the studio was filling up with adoring fans thrusting hockey jerseys, sticks, gloves at him to sign. There was such bedlam we couldn't run a rehearsal. I finally got on the P.A. and announced that it was a closed set – Everyone out! I didn't care who they were. A few moments later I felt a tap on my shoulder.

"Does that include me?" asked Len Lauk, the Regional Director, clutching a recently purchased Gretzy jersey.

"Rank has its privileges," I conceded.

All good things must come to an end, and so did the Anka series the following spring. After 26 episodes the show wrapped and Burt and Clancy threw a gigantic wrap party. It was held in a Gastown restaurant and the food and booze flowed. There were speeches and tears. The crew had chipped in and bought Paul an expensive Cowichan Sweater.

The next morning Paul was gone. For the first time we could enter his dressing room. We found the Cowichan sweater balled up and tossed in a corner.

by Al Vitols

Al Vitols joined CBC Vancouver staff as a TV Technician in 1958 and soon thereafter became a TV Production Assistant working mostly with Ain Soodor 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 "Ski Scene" and "Time Out For Football". Variety series included "Let's Go" (1964), "A Second Look" (1969), "Miss Patricia's Songs and Things" with Pat Hervey (1970), "Pifffle & Co" (1971),"Reach for the Top", "Big Band Jazz" (may not be the accurate title) and the "The Carroll Baker Jamboree." A Dixieland jazz series with Lance Harrison from the Horseshoe Bay pub in 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 and wife Barbara moved to Vancouver Island where they are happily settled and Al says that he "is suffering retirement".

CBC Vancouver cameraman Roy Luckow was sent by the then-current-affairs'-supervisor Len Chapple out to the West Coast of Vancouver Island to get some extremely low angle, water-level footage of waves for a mostly old photograph program he was assembling to do with the sinking of Lusitania.

Roy, taking his trusty Arriflex camera and heavy-duty battery belt with him, paddled a small plastic inflatable a short distance off Wickaninnish Beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island. He was all enthusiastic about the footage he was getting and was leaning over the side more and more to get even lower angle shots of the swell. Then his centre of gravity wound up more outboard than in, and into the saltchuck he went. As he was trying to kick to the surface he wondered why he continued downward. Ah, the heavy battery belt cinched around his waist. He undid the buckle and away it dropped. What Roy had forgotten was that the Ariflex was cabled to the battery and the weight of it ripped the camera out of Roy's grasp and it became just another piece of sea-bottom rubbish. Roy managed to scramble back into the dinghy and paddle ashore all the while bemoaning the loss of the footage.

Bob Reid was the most senior and also oldest of the CBC Vancouver film cameramen and liked a wee dram (not so wee, actually, but only after work) and thus knew the location of the government liquor outlet in every town in BC. He would always stop for a 'mickey' en route to a location. Just the half bottle, never a big one. Actually none ofthe cameramen, save John Seale, would turn down a dram or two. Perhaps a good thing as Seale drove his Mercedes like a terror and none of the production people would travel with him. Camera assistants were forced to ride with him, but all tried various and devious means to avoid that fate. Alcohol would not have improved his driving.

A few years later Bob floated off the same beach in an inner tube, such as fly-fishers use, wearing a wet suit and fins in order to also film some sea level stuff. He was out there for a while and by the time he was done he had drifted some distance from land. Kicking his fins he saw himself not getting any closer to the shore. In fact, quite the opposite. Regardless of how hard he tried, he was being carried by the ebbing tide toward Tokyo or, perhaps, Amchitka.

Eventually he tired and had to stop. Then he recalled that tides reverse and all he had to do is wait for a tide change and it would bring him back toward the shore. As it turned out, he had to paddle very little as the flood tide carried him very close to his starting place. Only harm done was a slight case of hypothermia as he was in the cold Pacific for quite a few hours and a wet suit can't protect one indefinitely.

Robert Asgeirsson, a freelance cameraman, was working with Mike Halleran, our occasional "green" reporter. He was doing a story to do with river pollution from a mining operation near Keremeos, B.C.; pollution that crossed the border into the USA. They found the location and Robert started to film but he was not happy with the footage as too much engine vibration got transferred to the lens. As he was looking through the viewfinder he kept yelling at the pilot to do something to smooth out the flight. Then, indeed, it got very smooth and Robert was shouting praises instead of complaints. A quick glance forward, however, and over the pilot's shoulder, Robert could see the propeller blade not turning which was the reason for the smooth flight. The plane had become a glider.

Attempts to restart the engine were futile and they kept losing altitude all the while realizing that in the Cathedral Mountains there's no place to land a glider. They did get the engine started eventually. Why did the engine stop? The pilot had forgotten to turn on the carburetor heaters and when they reached altitude the carbs iced up. The engine started when the pilot realized his error and turned on the heaters. A close call.

Robert had another close one while filming an inflatable boat commercial in Howe Sound. It was a sunny and gusty day with whitecaps just beginning to form - perfect for an Avon commercial. However, on such a day the Howe Sound winds produced unpredictable conditions. During one tracking run the chopper experienced what we civilians call an air pocket – a sudden drop. This particular drop took the aircraft from hundreds of feet to just a few feet from the saltchuck. Bob thought so at the time, and the pilot confessed later, that he also thought that brining was about to take place. At the last moment the pilot did regain control and they landed safely on the nearest beach. The pilot thumbed a ride back to base. No more flying that day and a different pilot had to bring the chopper to home base.

Asgeirsson, as most cameramen do, preferred to fly in choppers with the door removed and with his seat belt either off or very loose. A properly cinched belt restricts freedom of movement. This used to unnerve me until I bought a safety harness such as used by ocean racing sailors. It had a 6-foot tether and by means of a carabiner could be clipped to anything sturdy inside the aircraft. In choppers usually around the rotor column. One of the pilots, seeing this device, remarked to Robert that if he fell out he should fall within the skids as if he were to dangle outside them it would be "a bitch" to land.

Eventually I used the harness in many dangerous spots, such as at the edge of a Mt. Robson glacier 'moulin', a hole into which meltwater disappears and from which rescue is impossible. With borrowed crampons, wearing the harness and belayed by two of our expert mountain guides, Robert could lean over and shoot straight down into the eddying waterfall. The guides were laughing that if one fell in, considering that the glacier was moving at an, er, glacial pace, the body would not get found at the calving edge of the glacier until the year 2247. I, too, got harnessed in for a quick look, but it was a very uncomfortable, though exciting, experience.

I was 'following' a couple of climbers who were aiming for the top of Mount Robson. We were getting fairly good wide and medium shots, but there was a dearth of dynamic close-ups. To fulfill this gap I set the climbers on a ridge high up on the west side. There was a ledge nearby from which Robert could get not only spectacular wider shots, but also extreme close-ups. The rocky spur from which he would be filming was so narrow that the pilot could not actually land but was hovering at full power while Robert eased out with his hear. "Don't fall off!" was the pilot's admonition before we took off to wait for Robert to finish the sequence.

Once that was done, it only remained to see the climbers on top of Mt. Robson's snow-blanketed peak at 3,954 m (12,973 feet), the highest in the Canadian Rockies. The Jet Ranger theoretically has an operational ceiling of 20,000 feet, but ours couldn't even make to the top of Robson. We stripped the aircraft of every extra ounce, such as doors and other heavy bits such as the extra battery and the assorted junk stored in the tail. Thus emptied, the pilot was able to get just me alone up over the top for a 'look-see'. It was eerie looking out to mountain peaks without any kind of barrier to peaks, all lower than us. Later the pilot admitted that he, too, wasn't entirely comfortable during that short flight.

Unfortunately, choppers being just mechanized balloons where an ounce makes a difference, with Robert and his equipment the Bell couldn't get up high enough. In fact I had to order a CH-21 Shawnee, one of those 'flying bananas' in from Calgary for the next day's shoot.

The plan was to drop Asgeirsson and the climbers on top of Robson. They'd drop out of sight and on cue Robert would shoot them arriving at the top. A few 'over the shoulder' shots and then we'd pick up Robert and redo the sequence from the air and eventually get everyone off the mountain.

Great stuff, except that Mt. Robson was in charge of its own weather. We could see a small puffy white cloud form above and around the peak just before we got there and this prevented us from either landing or shooting.

Just before I called for a return to Valemont, our base, the puff moved aside and we could see the top. The pilot still considered it too dangerous to land so we did a quick fly-past and Robert captured some boot prints – two tracks in fact – in the otherwise pristine snow. It had to do, and it did, and my thanks to the two climbers who had left them there.

For reasons I no longer recall I needed to include in the BC Parks series some tiny alpine plants. We found the perfect scree slope in Manning Park with the best selection of high alpines. Unfortunately, as I mentioned to my pilot Freddie, there was no place to land nearby. Freddie maintained that there was a ledge only feet from where I wanted to be. But anyone could see that the ledge wasn't wide enough to land a chopper. Freddie insisted that it was while I maintained that it was too narrow. We bet a coffee, cream and sugar, and Freddy proceeded to land us on the ledge. I was calculating that the ledge wasn't wide enough for the blades. Freddy saw that the scree sloped back rapidly enough so that at the rotor height there was about 5 feet to spare.

There is a mesa near Vaseux Lake just south of Penticton which is famous for rattlesnakes. In order to film a snake on location without searching for one I had hired a "snake wrangler", a man who provided the creepy-crawlies to the film industry. We set ourselves up in a picture-perfect location and had the wrangler release the splendid, recently shed and thus looking its best, rattler in the proper place. The mesa was oven-like with the ambient temperature well into the high 30's. The snake after only a moment's hesitation made a beeline (can a snake make a beeline?) for Robert who, looking through the lens, didn't realize how close it was getting to his tripod and thus himself. The wrangler moved the snake back to where I wanted it to be, but the same thing happened.

Thinking that Robert was somehow standing in the snake's favored place, we moved elsewhere and wound up with exactly the same results. "Resetting" the critter many times I got what I wanted and we could escape the oven. Over litres of iced tea at the snake wrangler's house we figured that the reptile, being extremely sensitive to variations in heat and wanting to get to a relatively cooler place, simply made for the closest bit of shade – Robert's shadow. We concluded this because the final time instead of slithering towards Robert's shadow it slipped into shade provided by a nearby flat rock.

We were also able to manage a 'snake's point of view' sequence. Robert had acquired a 'minimum envelope' camera made by Arriflex which was about the size of a fist, held 25 feet of 16mm film and had a very wide-angle lens. With this camera gaffer-taped at the end of a broomstick Robert was able to keep it just behind the rattler's head as it snaked its way over the hot terrain.

Peter Allies, a freelance cameraman, did a lot of work for the CBC. One time we flew a noisy float plane filming aerials back and forth over Desolation Sound, a popular boating area north of Vancouver filled mostly with Washington and Oregon boaters. No longer 'desolate' was the gist of our story and indeed it was only too obvious from the air.

Back in Vancouver when the film came back from the lab, Peter tried to make light of it, but that day's shoot had produced not a single foot of usable material. Why? Due to the noise of the aircraft and the brilliant sunshine Peter had failed to make sure that his 'push on – push off' switch was actually on when he thought it to be on. We had hundreds of feet of film of the aircraft interior and of lining up getting shots ready, but the at the moment when everything was just right – nothing. The camera was shut down until we pulled out of the filming run and once more everything between takes was perfectly recorded.

Peter almost redeemed himself while we were on the way to the 1974 Spokane Expo in a chartered Cessna. The pilot was about to land us in an US Air Force restricted base, thinking it was Spokane International. I think the base was about to do something drastic when our aircraft failed to respond to their repeated challenges. Apparently our pilot thought they were talking to someone else. Peter was sitting in the co-pilot seat of the tiny aircraft and had been following our progress on an air-route map the pilot had clipped to the dashboard. He had been a bit concerned ever since our pilot had identified Omak Lake as the body of water behind the Grand Coulee Dam. Peter realized what was happening and told the pilot to gain some altitude and get out of there immediately as well as to respond to the radio calls.

This all took place when the CBC found out that the next day was "Canada Day" at the Spokane Expo and Vancouver hadn't planned anything to cover that event. I was cajoled if not actually coerced to produce a half hour film from Spokane to do with Canada Day. To get me enough travel money every department's petty cash float got emptied of their stash of cash. I wound up with a couple of thousand dollars in fives, tens and twenties.

Was Canada Day a big deal? We rushed off at the crack of dawn in order to film the Canada Day parade scheduled for mid-morning. We got there in time to capture the Canada part, which consisted of most of the RCMP Musical Ride members riding their black horses and a pipe band making a lot of noise marching after the riders and watching where they stepped. That and the Winnipeg Massed Pipe Band performance in the agricultural arena that evening was all that was "Canadian" although the hundreds of pipers marching into the arena playing Amazing Grace was a hackle-raiser.

I drove a rented car all night to get back to Vancouver the next day early enough to start editing and get the show ready for telecast that evening. A fortunate decision as it turned out as I had to get it done by mid-afternoon because suddenly the network also wanted it for telecast that day. I think we had to reverse the microwave (no leasable satellites back in '74) to get it to Toronto in time. Actually the whole post-production episode is a bit of a blur in my memory aside from the fact that I could use as much of the bagpipes as I wanted because the AF of M doesn't consider them to be a musical instrument. Jack Wasserman wrote a very good script and Greg Barnes, best voice at the CBC anywhere, read it while I mixed A and B reels "live" in Studio 50 as the show was microwaved to Toronto.

Doug McKay was/is a fantastic photographer, be it film or stills. I was told that he was consulting with some Hollywood director and they were spending some of their 'consult' time in the Ritz bar. The Hollywood dude asked Doug how he would light the place to keep the dimly-lit atmosphere. Doug responded that it was already lit. What the movie director didn't know was that McKay was a low-light genius and there was more than ample light in the bar for Doug's needs.

Doug loved his original VW bus; loved it to the extent that he bought three more for when parts would become scarce. He tried one of the later Westfalia models but went back to the old ones. I'm told he also loved swamp 'critters' and spent hours in a wet suit wallowing among the reeds peering at miniature creepy-crawlies at Crescent Beach.

Mike Halleran wanted to do a film about the West Coast Trail and figured that he needed Doug McKay and his spring-wound Bolex-16 for the job. Arriflex battery belts were heavy and there was nowhere to charge them over the seven or more days on the trail. Doug agreed providing Mike hired an "ape" to carry all of Doug's gear, both personal and film requirements.

Mike found a UBC student more than enthusiastic to do the lug-for-a-fee. The pictures were terrific, the final product so-so. As a producer/director Halleran wasn't a picture person, more of an interviewer of dull officials. Also, he had learned film editing from Mike Poole, a television producer friend and colleague, who scissored transcripts of his interviews and then Scotch taped the strips of paper in the order he wanted and then had the film edited to the new order. Most, but not all, of the jump cuts were covered by the B-roll, but that didn't help changes in inflection in mid-sentence or the overall cadence of a paragraph.

When I had Asgeirsson shoot the Cody Caves for the B.C. Parks series I too hired a couple of loggers, who were on strike at the time, at $200 each. They had to hump 10 car batteries, boxed in pairs, into the caves over slippery rocks, mud and makeshift ladders in order for Robert to light the deep caverns properly with 110 Volt lights. It was a long way in and down, and the muscular dudes groaned and sweated. They worked so hard that after it was all over I tripled their fee.

The couple of spelunkers who were guiding us were astonished when Asgeirsson finally turned on the lights. They'd never seen caves lit by anything other than their helmet lamps and flashlights. Robert lit up the cathedral-sized main chamber to almost daylight.

It was a tight shoot as the batteries had a very restricted life. Robert would line up everything by lanterns and headlamps, I would rehearse and then when I was ready he'd first turn on the camera, then the lights and then indicate that I could call for "action". I can't remember exactly, but it seems that in total we only had about ten minutes of usable battery life, so the 12 volts, converted to 110 they produced was the most precious commodity.

I have claustrophobia so crawling under overhangs and through ice-cold running water was not my favorite pastime. As a matter of fact, Robert reminded me years later that my first words at the cave entrance were: "I'm not going to enjoy this."

The spelunkers went under a low overhang spanning an underground creek in spider fashion on their fingers and toes and their bodies never touched the water. Robert and I had to slide on our bellies through the ice-cold water. But it turned out it was well worth it as the difficult access kept most everyone out of that area. I even managed to find a side tunnel away from where Robert was shooting Sungun-lit close-ups of various limestone sculptures and kept going until all light and sound was left far behind. The pitch black seemed to get even blacker with time and I could hear the sound of my blood coursing through my arteries. Furthermore, there were no other footprints than mine in the soft muddy sand which meant that I was the first to set foot there in millennia – actually, ever. Don't know what I would have done if my light had ceased working when I needed it for the return trip. Probably yelled for help as Wayne Stetsky, the B.C. Parks rep, had to do when he couldn't find the right route from a large central cavern with many tunnels leading from it. I avoided a similar fate by leaving a yellow 2B pencil on a rock near the proper tunnel.

The following didn't involve an actual film shoot, but was something my heli pilot told me when we were filming up north.

He had been freighting plywood panels from Iskut to a construction site across the Stikine Canyon. At the bottom of this sometimes 900 ft. deep chasm flows the wild and unnavigable Stikine River, which varies in width from hundreds of feet to as little as 80 feet and for the most part there is no way out because there is no way up.

The method of transporting plywood is simple. A sheet of plywood is put into a cargo net along with a large stump to add weight and stabilize the sling in order to stop it from flopping into the tail rotor. The whole thing is hung from the cargo hook. Easy-peasy.

Someone at Iskut didn't load the stump properly and just before crossing the Stikine it fell out with predictable consequences to the tail rotor. The pilot managed to autorotate onto a gravel bar in the canyon. He got out of the aircraft happy that he had survived only to realize that it might have been better to have died instantly in a crash rather than starve to death in the canyon, as there was no possible way out.

This thought had barely established in his mind when he heard the unmistakable sound of heli rotors and moments later one appeared from around a bend. It was one of his buddies on a tourist flight and, as they were paying close attention to the canyon, had no trouble seeing the Jet Ranger and the downed pilot waving his arms standing next to it. In less than five minutes after crashing and certain death he was safe and on the way back to the base in Iskut.