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STATIONBREAK MAGAZINE

                             

 
                                                              JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2020                                                 
                                                   Compiled by Ken Gibson for January 1st 2020
                                                           with technical assistance from Bill Morris

ITEMS IN THIS EDITION:
STARTING TELEVISION DRAMA FROM CBC VANCOUVER
by Philip Keatley.
AN URBAN PEASANT TAKE-OUT
by James Barber
A TASTE FROM THE EARLY EDITION.
WHAT MAKES OUR TV VIEWING
by Les Wedman, Vancouver Sun
AULD ACQUAINTANCES
Excerpts from Peggy Oldfield 2000
SO YOU THINK YOU KNOW CANADA QUIZ.
NOTES FROM 30 YEARS AGO 1989.



KIDS SERIES AND SUMMER REPLACEMENTS:

STARTING TELEVISION DRAMA FROM CBC VANCOUVER
by PHILIP  KEATLEY.
Originally published in Stationbreak  Oct - Dec 1999

 

HIGH TIMES.
For a couple of years in the mid-1970s, almost half of CBC’s television drama programs were being produced from Vancouver. “The Beachcombers” was filming 26 episodes a year up in Gibson’s Landing.  “Leo and Me” was shooting 13 half hours of single camera taped shows with Brent Carver and a new kid named Michael J. Fox all over the Bayshore, and in the brand new studio on Hamilton Street we had 60 and 90 minute Specials like “Stacey” by Margaret Lawrence, W.O. Mitchell’s “Sacrament” with another new kid, Ian Tracey, in the lead. And there was “A Gun, A Grand and A Girl," “Kaleshnikoff,” Claude Jutra’s production of Anne Cameron’s “Dreamspeaker.” And yet another kids’ half hour series called “The Magic Lie” that was honest to God regional production, with shows from Halifax, Winnipeg, Montreal, Edmonton and Vancouver. Bill Mitchell hosted the series (spitoon by his side) from Studio 40, and all the regions kicked in for the budget.  So what happened to all that?  The answer is not one of the high points.

BACK STORY.
Drama production was always a priority here in Vancouver. Politics and population made Toronto and Montreal the nationals centres for News and Current Affairs. Sports, Farm and Fish, and Music belonged everywhere.

But somehow Vancouver got the idea it had a special talent for telling stories. It started in radio. Remember the CBC’s  great “Stage” series?  It started here with a youthful Torontonian named Andrew Allan sent out to learn the trade, then heading back East with a raft of Vancouver talent as the “Stage” nucleus – John Drainie, Fletcher Markle, John Bethune, Lister Sinclair and more.  Others stayed here – Frank Vyvyan, Bill and Doris Buckingham,  Kathy and Jimmy Johnstone, Alan Young (until Hollywood gobbled him up), Eric Nichol (with temptations from London and Paris along the way). And Sam Payne, the incomparable. And Dorothy Fowler and Dorothy Davies

Radio drama was really something at that time. CBC Studio A in the Hotel Vancouver was a huge space, two storeys high, with the control room window up on the second floor from which the godlike producer waved cue to actors on the floor, and to the 12 piece orchestra conducted by John Avison or Lawrence Wilson. The Sound Effects crew was amazing – records spun, men ran up and down staircases or crunched real gravel, rang doorbells.

                  
A HAZARDOUS LIFE.
When television started in the early ‘50s, it was Variety that was the star, not Drama. Daryl Duke and Mario Prizek’s “Parade,” “Bamboola” with Eleanor Collins and “Lolly Too Dum” with Betty Phillips and Ernie Prentice.

But at 5 o’clock on Friday afternoons, television drama hit the air live. Producers Jack Thorne and Frank Goodship turned the tiny studio into Charlie’s Chocolate Factory one week, the Agora of ancient Athens the next.  30 hours of dry rehearsal for the cast, one day in the studio for cameras and crew from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., then live to air. We called it Learn or Die. We did both.

When I arrived in CBC drama in 1957, I was handed over to Jack and Frank for care and feeding. Or perhaps it was to Technical Producer Lloyd Harrop and Lighting Director Jim Ellis. They certainly seemed to be the ones in charge. Michael Rothery and Jorn Winther began producing about the same time.

Time for a tribute to Harry Hooper and Jim Currie., two cameramen who saved our necks and our shows many times. If a camera packed up or an actor dried or the lighting effect didn’t light, the show went on. There was no choice.  But wheeling and dipping those great clunky studio cameras, improvising and improving, Harry Hooper and Jim Currie sewed it together, made it work. Hooper and Currie were worth any three producers.

WHILE THE CAT’S AWAY.
Summer time was the off-season in those days, and while Toronto shut down for thirteen weeks, Vancouver had the chance to invent “summer replacements” along with Montreal. Where this tradition came from, I don’t know. Nowadays the repeat season and the regular season blend endlessly together. But in the late ‘50s it worked marvelously. It seemed that the critics and the audience took holidays too, and we tried out some pretty strange formats and ideas while nobody was watching. It’s hard to remember when television had time to explore and experiment.

Tidewater Tramp” was a breakthrough for us. It was another kids’ show but it was a series with a continuing storyline and characters – youngsters growing aboard a tramp steamer on the Pacific coast. Jack Thorne and Mike Rothery produced most of them, and even shot some scenes on film. At the time there was a very formal agreement between the CBC and the Film Board that CBC would only use film for news coverage , everything else had to be electronic so the two crown corporations stayed off each other’s turf.  That’s another Immutable Law from the present day, but it was real. Well, first they extended it to other documentaries, which was good for Daryl Duke and the documentary unit at CBC who were already making about ten a year, and then it spread to Farm Broadcasts, and on. It was probably the most important thing that happened for drama productions too, although we didn’t know it yet.

Among the summer replacement shows one year was a half hour script by an editor at the Vancouver Sun, Paul St. Pierre.  St Pierre was a hunter and an outdoorsman who had developed a passion for the people and the places of B.C's Chilcotin, maybe as an antidote to his suit-bound career as the Editorial boss at the Sun. One day he told Frank Goodship and me that he could write a better show in ten days and with one hand tied behind his back than the things we were inflicting on the public. So Frank said “Do it. We don’t have a script for the week after next.” And Paul did it because he didn’t know how to get out of it. The result was “The Window at Namko,” an aimless half hour conversation amongst a bunch of cowboys in a rundown beer parlour somewhere up in the Cariboo. There was no dramatic conflict, no crisis, no hero, no villain, no action. Frank Goodship decided to do it anyway, he liked shaggy dog stories too.

When “The Window at Namko” went on air, the response in Vancouver was amazing. The audience (those not on holiday) liked it. They liked it a lot. They said they would like to see more of this. Frank Goodship was surprised. I was astonished.  Coming out of a kind of academic theatre background, I had been pretty lukewarm to the idea but realized the show had a story-like magic on camera. It’s lucky I caught on as I was going to spend most of the next eight years in the Cariboo.

First of all we mounted a thirteen episode studio series of “Cariboo Country.” The stories screamed to be filmed on location but we shot in Vancouver. Len Lauk and I directed most of them when Frank’s health deserted him just as the show began. Humorous, ironic, a mixture of sharp character observation and small tragedy, they reflected us to ourselves.  Which is when the Corporation axe fell. Vancouver was told to stop all future drama productions.  Network said that our shows from our low-ceiling garage studio couldn’t compete with the Hollywood sound stages the US networks had taken over.

The Network was right. The Western and the back-lot Cop show were the new Kings of the Tube. The prestige live dramas like Playhouse 90 and Omnibus in the States, and CBC’s Folio, were toast. And so was CBC Vancouver.  Except that our Program Director, Marce Munro, was a very stubborn man. He told the Network it was political suicide to stop drama out here. He told them we had thirteen brilliant “Cariboo Country” scripts. I told him we had five very brief outlines. He told me to go to Toronto and not come back until the Network told us to go ahead.  I went to Toronto.

IN THE NEXT EDITION, UNEXPECTED FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES
AND THE STORY OF A LOT OF TALENTED PEOPLE HERE AT HOME.

Originally posted April-June 2000


AN URBAN PEASANT TAKE-OUT from JAMES BARBER   March 1996.

It is rare when a CBC Vancouver TV series passes the 500 shows mark but James Barber’s “Urban Peasant” has done that. But who is James Barber and where did he come from? The accent gives away the land of his birth but did you know he has been and is in his 70 odd years a soldier, sailor, physicist, consulting engineer, magician, actor, motorcyclist, surveyor, salesman, miner, dishwasher, commercial fisherman, auctioneer, marketing consultant, artist and camp cook!  He speaks 9 languages including French, German, Italian and Spanish. He got into the culinary business after a skiing accident that left him in hospital for a year. Since then, he has produced and illustrated 8 cook-books, published a children’s book and written children’s songs. His writings on food, the arts and politics have been published nationwide. To many he is still the mmmmmarvelous mushroom man. When a crew actually looks forward to taping days, a producer knows he has something very special.

From James Barber:   "Show number 520 was slightly different.  We whacked the top off champagne bottles with sabres and kitchen cleavers whereas we normally open our wine bottles with everything from the conventional corkscrew to chopsticks or a screwdriver. All I can remember is the differences, like the day when the fry-pan caught fire, the day when Ellen from make-up came on the show and got so enthusiastic with her hello hug that we were stuck together. I remember Lawrence McDonald metamorphosing into Lawrence Scorsese every time he got his hands on a fog machine. I remember the pounds growing on Bruce McDonald as he appointed himself the official licker of the bowl. I remember the guys doing the air quality report coming down from the fourth floor because they thought our kitchen on the studio floor smelt so good. I remember Shelley and Nancy learning not to wait outside the door when the final theme played but just rush in and scoff like everyone else. I remember the great surprise one day when I realized Romney Grant (executive producer) was not permanently pregnant, that Glenn Weston was not only a good cameraman but also didn’t shave his legs out of vanity. I remember my opinion of the post office going up when I had to work with Bill Morris (our Postman) and above all else, I remember the great pleasure that came from the crew saying “Hey, I’m going to make that tonight” and the next morning saying “We did that salmon thing and it was just great.” That seemed to confirm that it was OUR show, and belonged to all of us, upstairs, downstairs and in my lady’s chamber."

Chyron’s Liz Horner offers a sample of words and phrases used in the show by James:
BUNG IT IN :  To chuck food, dishes, etc into proper receptacles.
BLONKING:  Patting your fruit into submission
HOCK IT IN: Throwing of oysters into a pan. Also see Bung.
HOIK IT UP: Lift stuff with handiest kitchen tools
MRS. M:   Mrs Moscoviz is a nosey old bat.
SCARF IT DOWN:   Bung it down the gullet.
SCRUNGE IT UP: Scrunch food to chop
SPAM: Unidentified meat source!
TART IT UP: Make bad food look good
WANG IT IN: A version of Bung.
WHIZ:  Mash or mix smart food

And a final word from Il Postino Bill Morris (camera) with the skinny legs:
"Working on the Urban Peasant is not so much about doing the show as it is like being in a second family. We have fun, sometimes we pick on each other, but most of the time we are spoiled rotten. I guess in the end it’s like coming home to mom’s home-made spam soup." 


A TASTE FROM THE EARLY EDITION.

Two ladies met on the street and were updating each other on the latest news. The one lady said “Did you hear that I got a Labrador puppy for my husband?”
To which the other lady replied, “OH, GOOD TRADE!!!”

Why is Cinderella such a poor soccer player?
Because she has a pumpkin for a coach!

What did the Buddhist say to the pizza maker?
Make me one with everything! 

Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, but when they lit a fire in the craft, it sank, proving once and for all you can't have your kayak and heat it too.

There was a man who entered a local paper's pun contest. He sent in ten different puns, in the hopes that at least one of the puns would win. Unfortunately, no pun in ten did.


Les Wedman Looks At … WHAT MAKES OUR VIEWING  The Vancouver Sun Jan 29 1965. 

CBUT began with about 5 hours on the air and by now beams an average of 13 hours and 35 minutes per day – not counting the late night movies. When it went on the air, CBUT had five producers under program chief Bill Inglis. The CBC regional director is Ken Caple, who’d held the job since 1947 and before that was a school teacher, principal, and then director of schools broadcasts for the B.C. government. According to Caple’s figures, CBUT during 1964 produced 163 hours of national shows and 609 hours of local and regional shows – a total of 772 hours. CBUT now has a program committee.  On it are Caple, Hugh Palmer, director of television operations, and program chief Bill Inglis. Marce Munro was on it till he left for Toronto amd will be replaced by Ray Whitehouse, our regional program director. The walls of CBUT’s studios are covered with awards for international shows done out of Vancouver. “Vancouver is not just a branch office of Toronto, but an integral part of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. We are getting away from the east-west conception,“ said Caple, “We make a big contribution to the Canadian scene.” He feels this contribution will be much greater once CBUT has better production facilities.



AULD ACQUAINTANCES by Peggy Oldfield 
 Excerpts from December 2000

Grandparents! Bill and Lorraine Reimer became first time grandparents on Sept 30 with the birth of Aidan William to daughter Lisa and son-in-law Rob Scotland,  Bob and Audrey Service announced the arrival of newest grandchild, Catherine Elizabeth, of son John and wife Debbie, first time parents, The Services’ daughter Joanne has three children. Speaking of grandchildren, Andy Martens has 17- including two sets of twins- and they and their parents live in close proximity to Andy and Agnes. Some years ago Andy developed a 72 lot subdivision in Abbotsford and he and his family all bought lots in the same block!  9 years ago Andy bought a small hotel in Abbotsford and 2 years ago had it demolished and rebuilt the newest Travelodge in that community. Denis Abramsen said “I do” on December 19th in Las Vegas when he and fiancée Janice tied the knot. Congratulations to all!  Denis and Dan Tohill are the founders of the only film-technical training school in the Okanagan Valley, Interior Film and Television Training Centre operating out of Kelowna. Mary Szigety reports that Stephanie Nolan is hard at work again on “Outer Limits.” Alan Walker cruised his way around two continents in November, first with a trip to Panama and then another traveling through the Suez Canal. Marv Coulthard spent 7 weeks in his vintage Morgan driving the highways and byways of North America with 25 other Morgans from all over the world. Ray Waines has packed not just his suitcase but his entire home in the Okanagan, moving from Summerland to the sunny south, Oliver. Maggie Davis is recovering at home in Toronto from an operation, and is planning a visit to England later in the year. Claire Firth is making good progress in her recovery from surgery to correct collapsing leg veins and was well enough to navigate a trip to the Circle Craft Fair at Canada Place with Carmel Goulden, Sharon Spruston and yours truly a month ago, Jacquie Fitzgerald has undertaken a temporary stint with the Operations Centre of the District of North Vancouver in the Parks Department. Jacquie says the job in not unlike being a Unit Manager. Marguerite Callegari and daughter Dana spent a couple of weeks in Washington State and more recently visited family in Montreal. She spent an evening with Marilyn Brown who was in B.C. from Ottawa for a two week visit. Congratulations to Peter Haworth and John Juliani who were recent inductees in the B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame.  

Feb 10, 2004: The Pensioners Association sent us invitations and we came in droves. It was a Salute to CBUT Pioneers, commemorating the 50th anniversary of CBUT Channel 2. The location was the Beatty Street Drill Hall and for three hours guests mingled and reminisced, watched shows from the '50s and '60s, looked at old cameras and photos, and heard speeches from guests including Carole Taylor, Tom Robinson, Colin Preston, Red Robinson and Association president Cam Cathcart.  If you were invited and weren't there, you missed the best party of the year!


SO “YOU THINK YOU KNOW CANADA” QUIZ?

Those applying for Canadian citizenship are required to answer a questionnaire in Canada. A booklet is provided to each applicant and the questions asked in the citizen test are based on information published in that publication.  Since you are all good Canadians and most of you have been since birth, you should be able to answer these questions without hesitation.

1. Where does the name Canada come from?
2. What are the 3 main groups of Aboriginal people?
3. Who are the Arcadian people?
4. What are the 3 major mountain ranges in B.C?
5. Which province is known as the Land of 100,000 lakes?
6.  Which first 4 provinces formed the Confederation?
7.  When did B.C.join Confederation?  1870, 1871 or 1873?
8.  What are the 3 regions of Canada?
9.  How are senators chosen?
10. “O Canada, our home and native land.” What are the next 2 lines?

Answers after the following items:


NOTES from 30 YEARS AGO  - 1989

TV WEEK MAGAZINE AWARDS
There were 27 Radio and Television awards and CBC was nominated in most of them and won 11 including:
BEST ENTERTAINMENT PROGRAM: THE IRISH ROVERS SILVER ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL. Ken Gibson Producer.
BEST SPORTS PROGRAM. BREAKAWAY.  Host Steve Armitage. Brian Schecter Producer.
BEAT YOUTH PROGRAM: SWITCHBACK. Host Stu Jeffries. Herb Baring Producer.
BEST DOCUMENTARY: I CALLED HER LOOTAS. Host Bill Reid. Nina Wiznicki Producer.
BEST AFTERNOON DRIVE RADIO: DISC DRIVE Host Jurgen Gothe. Ed Norman Producer.
FAVOURITE VANCOUVER RADIO PERSONALITY: VICKI GABEREAU.
BEST ACTOR- LOCAL SERIES: ROBERT CLOTHIER Beachcombers
BEST ACTRESS LOCAL SERIES: JANET LAINE-GREEN Beachcombers.

Hester Riches, Television critic for the Vancouver Sun.
"NO TURNABOUT. I never wrote a review of Talkabout, the CBC’s first entry into the frenzied frontier of TV game shows. But I did write a feature story interview with the Canadian producer in which I refrained from expressing my judgment of the show. Later, I received a faxed “thank you” note for the presumably favourable coverage from the head of Variety at CBC (Carol Reynolds). Let it be stated here. I don’t know why CBC is in the game show business, especially with such a pedestrian concept. This is no unique game show, like the successful board game Trivial Pursuit. Talkabout is a step down from many American shows, even – only slightly more intelligent than Wheel of Fortune, say. and a heck of a lot sillier than Jeopardy."


ANSWERS TO KNOW CANADA QUIZ.

1. In the early 1500s, Jacques Cartier used a First Nation word for village “kanata” to refer to the whole country.
2. First Nations, the Inuit and the Metis.
3. French settlers who in the 1600s were the first Europeans to settle permanently in Canada.
4. Rocky Mountains, Columbia Mountains and the Coast Mountains.
5. Manitoba, which has the most important source of hydroelectric power in the Prairie region.
6. On July 1st 1867 the provinces we now know as Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia joined together in Confederation to create the new country of Canada.
7. 1871.
8. Atlantic Region, Central Canada, the Prairie Provinces, the West Coast and the North.
9. People who serve in the Senate are chosen by the Prime Minister and appointed by the Governor General.
10. “True patriot love in all thy sons command,
With glowing hearts we see thee rise, the true North strong and free!”

THE NEXT STATIONBREAK MAGAZINE WILL BE AVAILABLE ON MARCH 1st 2020.