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 ARCHIVES FOR ALAN WALKER'S OLD TIME CBC TV

5. ALAN WALKER'S OLD TIME CBC TV December 22 2019

First up this time is a recollection from Taylor Ogston on one of the sad events of the 1960's.

June 5, 1968: A Night to Remember

I was a summer relief audio operator, working in the Transmitter Booth (also called "Studio 50). At around 11.45 pm on this night, CBUT was presenting its regular local newscast with Dan MacAfee being the newscaster.

The newscast location in our old premises at 1200 West Georgia Street had just recently been relocated from Studio 49, at the opposite end of the hallway, to our Studio 50, and the very small announce booth attached. An old studio camera was set up beside the audio operator in the control room, shooting through the glass into a ‘phone booth’ sized studio.

Following that regular newscast, Dan McAfee returned to the newsroom, filed his script away, and was about to go home when he heard the various news teletype machines all chiming continuously with their news alert bells*. Thankfully, Dan looked into the teletype room (actually an air conditioning/furnace duct ‘closet’) and saw the enormous quantity of wire copy spewing out of the machines. A quick scan of the stories revealed the tragic news of the shooting just minutes earlier of Senator Robert Kennedy, just after he gave an election speech at a hotel in Los Angeles.

Grabbing an armload of teletype copy, Dan ran back to the announce booth, told the Presentation Co-ordinator, Tom Dodd, and the Technical Supervisor, Dave Sharp, what had just happened in L.A. Quickly it was decided to get Dan back on the air with this breaking news while some quick phone calls were made to enable CBUT to carry live coverage coming from Los Angeles.
CBUT was the first Vancouver station to have live coverage just minutes after the shooting.

Yes, a night to remember.

*Both wire-service and private teleprinters had bells to signal important incoming messages and could ring 24/7 while the power was turned on. For example, ringing 4 bells on UPI wire-service machines meant an "Urgent" message; 5 bells was a "Bulletin"; and 10 bells was a FLASH, used only for very important news, such as the assassination of President Kennedy.

 

Taylor (Ogston) has had an interesting career having been, among other things, a "Boss Jock" at CKLG, an associate producer/director for CBC's Hourglass, and Canadian Vice-President of Fuji Film Motion Picture Sales.

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This month's sports trivia question:

What sport is at least 5000 years old? Answer at the end of the column.

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Meeting Lorraine


In 1958, Lorraine McAllister was a beautiful 34 year-old entertainer who already had a career on radio and at concerts as a singer with big bands across Canada, and as a solo vocalist. At the same time, I was a callow 19 year-old, working as the most junior technician at CBC Television in Vancouver.
Ms McAllister was starring in her own TV show "Meet Lorraine", a weekly nighttime presentation on CBUT. Lorraine's musical accompaniment was by the Chris Gage Trio, featuring the amazing keyboard talents of Chris Gage, with Stan Johnson on bass, and Jim Wightman on drums.                                          


In our crowded main Studio 41 at CBUT, the show's technical staff would likely have consisted of three cameramen, Harry Hooper, Jim Currie, Bob McQuay, Harold Haug or Max Albrechtson. Our switcher was probably Art Doig, video control Andy Martens, our audio operator Dave Liddell (who was known for making the funniest comments over the talkback mike listened to by the boom operators), and perhaps Bob McFarlane and Bill Kyashko on boom. (Bill Kyashko was perhaps the friendliest technician you could ever meet, and I was very sad to hear of Bill's recent passing.)


The producer of the whole musical extravaganza was Jörn Winther, a Danish ex-patriate who went on to a brilliant career in the U.S., directing among other things, many of the "Sonny and Cher" shows, and the interview series with David Frost and the disgraced President, Richard Nixon.
And then there was me – totally in awe of the whole process, especially looking at the gorgeous star. My job on Lorraine's show included pushing the boom men around on their boom dollies, pulling the heavy camera cables out of the way of other equipment and people, and incidental tasks like the one I am about to describe, the highlight of my whole existence!
On this particular show, the esteemed director decided that he wanted some "wide" shots of Lorraine singing with the band in the background, which would have been a problem creating without the boom equipment showing. "I have the answer" said director Jörn, "we'll have one of those small microphones concealed in Lorraine's cleavage!"
Guess whose job it was to install it? The microphone was called a "BK6", and it was the size of a short, fat cigar. I approached Lorraine with the mike and the cable, and asked her to pull the mike and cable up inside her dress to her "front". Lorraine asked me to help, and I was doing my nervous best when she said to me, "Haven't you ever touched a woman's breast before?" And I said to myself as I blushed, "Not as much as I'd like to."


Lorraine continued her most successful career at CBC TV and elsewhere, but passed away at the relatively early age of 62. By contrast, Lorraine's husband, Dal Richards ("Vancouver's King of Swing") survived to age 97, and just passed away in 2015.


During the same time period, I occasionally worked on CBC TV shows starring the incredible Eleanor Collins, "Vancouver's first lady of jazz", who just turned 100 years old last month. I was never asked to help put on her microphone.

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For those few following my attempts to get $10,000,000.00 US from Nigeria, I can now advise I am negotiating with the Nigerian FBI as to how much I need to send them before they begin their investigation.

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SURELY, I CAN'T LOOK THAT OLD

A story from a former CBCer.  She does not wish to be identified.

Have you ever been guilty of looking at others your own age and thinking, “surely I can't look that old?”
I was sitting in the waiting room for my first appointment with a new dentist.
I noticed his diploma on the wall, which bore his full name. Suddenly, I remembered that a tall, handsome, dark-haired boy with the same name had been in my high school class some 30-odd years ago.
Could he be the same guy that I had a secret crush on, way back then?
Upon seeing him, however, I quickly discarded any such thought.
This balding, gray-haired man with the deeply lined face was way too old to have been my classmate.
After he examined my teeth, I asked him if he had attended Delbrook High School.
"Yes, yes, I did. I was a football and hockey star" he gleamed with pride.
"When did you graduate?" I asked.
He answered, "In 1975. Why do you ask?"
"You were in my class!" I exclaimed.
He looked at me closely, and then, that ugly, old, bald, wrinkled- faced,
fat-ass, grey-haired, decrepit, s.o.b. asked,
"What subject did you teach?"


 

Yesterday's Bad News:  First day of Winter.  Yesterday's Good News:  The days are starting to get longer.

Trivia Answer:

In the 1930's, a British anthropologist discovered a child's grave in Egypt more than 5000 years old which appeared to also contain a crude form of bowling paraphernalia. Underneath the bowling stuff was a Stationbreak flyer from Peggy urging attendance at the next scheduled get together at the Giza pyramid lanes.

 

4.  ALAN WALKER'S OLD TIME CBC TV NOVEMBER 25 2019

Hello Everyone and welcome back!


First up this month is a fascinating history from Al Vitols about Jack ("Wass") Wasserman's time with CBC TV.
Jack Wasserman, after whom a block of Hornby Street was named “Wasserman’s Beat” in the wake of his untimely death, used to write negative columns for The Vancouver Sun about the CBC based on information being fed to him by someone on staff. It got to the point where the Program Director issued a ‘top secret’ memo threatening the ‘leaker’ that when discovered he or she would be dealt with severely, possibly fired. In the next day’s column Jack was quoting from the memo.
Eventually he told me who the ‘leak’ was. It was… well, perhaps it better remain a secret.
Wass first appeared on CBUT during some sort of telethon-like money raiser to present something to be auctioned. I no longer recall what it was, but he sat on the set in Studio 42 scared out of his wits. Not at all like his print life where he could hold his own against anyone and do so with impunity.
He felt quite comfortable while searching for items for his column in various clubs and eateries snatching forkfuls from the plates of his column fodder to the extent that he became known as The Fastest Fork in the West.
Len Lauk, who knew Wasserman professionally, eventually convinced Jack that he should do some work for the CBC while still a columnist in the Vancouver Sun, and Jack bought the idea. After I took over Hourglass, Len told me that the only reason he got Jack to be on the show was to stop his constant knocking of the CBC. It worked.
At the beginning Jack was terrible, but Len persevered and Wass became a very good interviewer as well as a source of program ideas. It wasn’t easy for him because he seldom finished his column before three in the morning in his Gastown office and didn’t get to sleep in his West Vancouver bed until somewhat later. We held program meetings at ten o’clock and he was expected to attend. He was forever sleep-deprived.
Much later, when he was already established as an ongoing member of Hourglass and was scheduled to interview Al Johnson, the big CBC boss at the time, Al told Jack in the pre-interview specifically not to ask a certain question. On the show, when the camera red tally light went on, the first question Jack posed was that a very one. As it turned out, Johnson managed to answer it so eloquently that he forgave him and even bought us dinner.
After dinner we wound up drilling and rehearsing him for his scheduled meeting with the pushy Vancouver branch of, I think, Friends of the CBC, or Friends of Broadcasting, or some such organization, the actual reason for his trip out west. Apparently our practice session was helpful as most of the questions he faced had already been posed by Jack and me.
Although there was supposed to be great rivalry between the Mouth that Roared - Webster, and The Fastest Fork in the West - Wasserman, that was mostly a promotion by the Vancouver Sun publicity department. There is a picture of Wasserman threatening Webster with a typewriter, all part of promoting both of them as being the Sun’s stars. In real life they trod different boards and in doing so had very little reason to be jealous of each other. Publicly, of course, they bristled at the mention of the other Jack.
Wass was developing a balding pate. He didn’t care, but it was gleaming in over-the-shoulder shots. At first we used spray to minimize the problem, but eventually that was not enough and I had him get a hairpiece. For a while he only used it when he was on camera and it was kept in makeup. Then filming (yes, there was this medium that used rolls of acetate with holes down the side to capture pictures and sound) also saw the need to hide the shine and Jack kept the ‘rug’ in his care. Eventually the on-again off-again of the hairpiece became a nuisance and Jack started to wear it all the time.
One such occasion provided much laughter for the Hourglass staff. To do a political summary the director, and I don’t recall who it was, had Jack emerge from Lake Okanagan like a surfacing Ogopogo and while doing so his rug slipped off and floated out of camera shot. As I remember it, the director let Jack carry on for a bit as obviously he was not aware of his hair departing.
Actually there were very few things that he refused to do. During yet another election campaign I had him chopper around the northern communities, including the Cariboo, and find out how ranchers and others living in remote communities felt about the candidates. He spotted what looked like a setting for a Currier and Ives painting and the chopper landed as close to the ranch house as the pilot dared, but still some distance away. Jack jumped out into the snow and his city shoes plowed his way to the ranch and wound up with a very interesting item.
He and I used to grab a post-show, mid-evening bite at a steakhouse on Seymour St. We used to go there mainly because they set a bowl of the best chopped liver, Jack’s favourite nosh, on the tables as kind of a gigantic amuse-bouche. We would practically lick the bowl clean and sometimes ask for another. Keeping in mind that Jack would get ‘comped’ in the place, as he did in most eateries that were hoping for a positive mention in his column, we were constantly trying for something inexpensive and we'd order hamburgers.
One evening the owner came by and asked if we would please have steaks because his kitchen didn’t stock cheap meat and for our burgers they had to use their steak tartare, the house specialty, and the most expensive kind of beef.
Even after years on Hourglass he had very little savvy about how things worked. After we did a special program about the similarities and differences of two native settlements, both within the shadow of a metropolis, the stand-up recorded at the intersection of Marine Drive and Taylor Way in West Vancouver was unusable because of heavy traffic noise. Not too heavy per se, but did not go with the serenity of the Cocknawaga community.
I brought him in to lip-sync the piece and Jack was sweating blood about having to do this. The way it worked was that the original audio was fed into a headset and all he had to do is repeat himself. When Wass found out he didn’t have to remember every word of his intro he was so relieved that he almost kissed the sound technician.
He became very ill for a couple of days while we were in Montréal on the shoot, but his own doctor back in West Vancouver pronounced him in perfect health.
Some weeks later during an amusing speech as he was ‘roasting’ Gordon Gibson at the Hotel Vancouver he collapsed at the lectern. The audience laughed thinking it was part of his speech about the collapse of the Liberal Party. Not so.
Jack died while he was the centre of attraction, his ongoing aspiration. He was aged fifty, plus seven days.
There could be more, particularly about the people who used to drop in late at night, early morning really, for a chat and a nightcap. Politicians, union leaders, and just folk who had something to say and were hoping, perhaps, to make it into print. The downstairs gate was locked at midnight, but a few pebbles thrown at Jack's office window, providing one knew which was his, would have Wass throw down the key.
Not all chats were identified as ‘off the record’, some tipsy politicians blurted out state secrets, but Jack always used his own sense of what could or should not be in his column.
He was very possessive of his spot in the paper. As I recall, it was below the fold on the back page. The time he had a fight with the publisher and got moved to inside the paper hurt his pride quite badly. Eventually he got his spot back.
And so it goes.....-30-
Thanks Al

No Icing on This Cake


Before I begin my story, a little trivia:
What is Canada's official sport? See answer at the end of this article. No Googling, please.
One of the tasks of the Coordinating Producers at CBC Vancouver in the '60's and '70's was to be in charge of the Control Room at 1200 West Georgia when a live hockey game was being telecast from the Forum (later the Pacific Coliseum).
Although all the main action of the telecast was handled through the CBC's TV mobile vehicle, some aspects of the telecast such as commercial inserts could only be carried out at the downtown studios. And thus the output from the mobile truck was fed to 1200 West Georgia for appropriate inserts, and from there went out to the cross-Canada TV network, as well as to the local CBUT transmitter.
A few days before I had my first scheduled time in the Studio 50 control room for an upcoming network hockey game, I was required to have a meeting with the hotshot producer/director of network hockey games from Toronto. "Al", he said, "I want you to know that our hockey sponsors, Imperial Oil and Esso, pay big bucks to put their commercials into our hockey games, and it's therefore important that you don't screw up when inserting commercials into the game." "Okay", I said to myself, "Rule one is that there isn't to be any screw-ups." Hotshot went onto say, "We're not allowed to cut away from the game when in progress to put in the commercials. We can easily stick the commercials at the beginning or end of the game, and between periods, but all other commercials have to be inserted on the fly, without interrupting the game, and that's why a lot of commercials are "supers", ones that we can superimpose over the game. I'll tell you when to insert them. And", he added, "Never ever insert a commercial during a fight on the ice. Hockey fans want to see those fights. It's the same thing as auto racing fans want to see a giant smash-up between cars, but they never admit it." "Rule 2", I said to myself "no commercials during fights". On the day of the game, I was sitting nervously in the Studio 50 control room, and the hotshot director is loud in my headset. I kept thinking of the rules, "no screw-ups and no fights in the commercials, oops, no commercials in the fights".
The first commercial I inserted before the play started went without a hitch. Then the game started, and after a while, Hotshot calls through to me and says, "Ok, Al, stick in that Esso super after the next icing". "Icing!", I say to myself, "What the hell is an icing?" (Did I mention I'm from Australia?) I looked around the control room to see which technician I would be the least embarrassed to ask what was an icing, and then I noticed a kind of pause in the hockey action so I yelled "roll film" and an Esso super appeared over the rink. Nobody had detected my ignorance of hockey terminology, or indeed of the whole game. 

Some weeks later I got around to asking one of my fellow workers, "Is there a hockey rule called frosting?" He looked confused for a minute and then said, "Do you mean icing?". When I said "Yes", he started to laugh so hard he couldn't answer my question. Duh!
Later that same year I had my first opportunity to insert commercials into a CFL game being played at Empire Stadium, and sent out to the CBC network. Once again I met with a hotshot producer/director from Toronto who specialized in network football games. By now, being somewhat cocky because of my hockey experience, I said to him, "You'll tell me when to insert the commercials, right? And there are to be no commercials during fights." He looked at me like I was crazy and said "What are you talking about? We don't have fights in football games and, you tell me when you want to insert a commercial and I call through to the referee on my headset and tell him to stop the game. Then you'll hear Ted Reynolds say "There's a time-out on the field", and after that, you stick in the commercial." My breast billowed with the knowledge of my power over the CFL.


Thinking back on my dumbness about hockey rules, I had this daydream about a Vancouver cameraman (who looked like Ray Waines) who was asked for some strange reason to travel to Australia to be one of the cameramen on an international cricket game. Ray arrives in Sydney, and the first day just about kills himself crossing the road because he was looking to his left for traffic instead of the right (Australians drive on the left). Ray sets up his camera, and then hears on his headset the director say "Ray" (it sounded more like "Ry" because of the director's Australian accent), "swing your camera around and get a medium close-up of the fielder at silly mid on". Ray says to himself, "What the hell is "silly mid on?" Of course, there's no point my telling Stationbreak readers where this cricket position is located, but you might be interested to know that the fielding position is so close to the batsman that the word "silly" is meaningful.
Footnote:
Years later when I was training a new coordinator on inserting commercials into a baseball game (which was a slam dunk because you simply inserted commercials after every half inning or complete inning), my trainee said to me "What period are we in?" I smiled to myself. I won't mention my trainee's name, but he became famous at CBC later on as a studio director because of his habit of wearing white gloves.
Hockey trivia:
In 1931 in the pre-icing days, the Boston Bruins and the New York Americans played a game that resulted in a scoreless tie, possibly because the Bruins iced the puck 87 times.
Answer To Trivia Question:
I know that hundreds of thousands of Stationbreak's readers answered "hockey". A few thousand, fearing a trick, put "lacrosse". The correct answer however is…the question is wrong, it should be "what ARE Canada's official sports", and the answer to that question is hockey as a winter sport, and lacrosse as a summer sport and synchronized swimming as a spring sport (I lied about synchronized swimming). If you answered correctly, you are entitled to join the Stationbreak Hall of Fame, with its numerous non-financial and intangible benefits.
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My ability to remember song lyrics from the 60's far exceeds my ability to remember why I walked into the kitchen.
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For those few readers who are following my saga of obtaining Ten Million ($10,000,000.00) U.S. dollars from various persons in Nigeria, I can report that my bank has advised that all the money orders I mailed to cover initial expenses have been cashed. I am beginning to think this is a scam. I may shortly contact the Nigerian FBI.


The success of this column's future lies in your hands. Comments would be welcome, and your contributions would be greatly appreciated. If you have an item to add to a future column, please email me at alangwalker@gmail.com . If you require any assistance in writing, I am happy to help. Alan

Be sure to read Alan Walker's Old Time CBC column coming up on December 22nd when Taylor Ogston tells a sad story about an assassination in the 60's, and Alan reports on getting up close and personal with a CBC musical star.

3.  ALAN WALKER'S OLD TIME CBC TV OCTOBER 25 2019

Last month's column on a Royal Tour brought back these memories of royal visits to Al Vitols:

The Queen Mum and the Brownie caper

Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon, Empress consort of India, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, but known to one and all as Queen Mum, visited Victoria on March 19, 1966. She was in Victoria to lay the cornerstone for the new Royal British Columbia Museum, an event being covered by the CBC with Len Lauk in charge. While in Victoria she was also reviewing a batch of Brownies. I was to blame if things went south at that location. Mum, as befits royalty and government appointees, was staying at Government House and the Brownie event was to take place in front of the main entrance. While the crew was busy setting up I wandered around the mansion and wound up in the kitchen where, having explained to him what I was doing there, the chef invited, nay - insisted, that I sample the breakfast he was providing for Her Highness. It turned out to be a British kind of breakfast, kippers and all. I still don't see the Brit's love for smoked herring at the crack of dawn. I suppose I'd be correct in saying I shared Queen Mum's breakfast. If I recall correctly, the event was scheduled for ten o'clock to be telecast across the CBC network as well as fed to CTV, the only other Canadian network at the time. By nine-thirty, we were all set and ready for the ten o'clock appearance of Her Highness. At nine thirty-five it started to drizzle. By nine forty the event was moved indoors into the Government House ballroom without consulting me regarding what the move would do to the nation-wide telecast. But move we had to.
Not only was the location changed, but because the ballroom stage featured a grand piano, a short recital was added to the ceremony by the local Brownie leaders. I don't recall how and why we had enough camera cable to reach all the new camera positions, but we did. There certainly wasn't enough time to fetch any from the old mobile in downtown Victoria. There was one camera up on the ballroom balcony, a place shared with a few light standards to add some extra illumination to the otherwise candelabra-lit parquet floor and whatever light seeped in through the windows. Another camera was at floor-level inside the ballroom and the third covered Her Highness while she chatted with invited guests in the lobby. We were not allowed to actually hear what Her Highness was saying and had to 'bury' her comments into the general hubbub. When the time came for her to move into the ballroom, cameraman Bruce McDonald outdid Bannister* and Landy in getting his camera from the foyer through a short hallway into the ballroom to see her disappear through one door and watch her arrive through the other. No mean trick with a top-heavy, tiny-wheel, hard to steer tripod.  From there on all went boringly as planned and I hope people in Punkeydoodles Corners, ON and Spread Eagle Bay, NL enjoyed our seamless on-air effort.


1968 – Vancouver – The Two Jacks
Anyone of my vintage will remember Jack Wasserman and Jack Webster. They were fierce but friendly rivals although the reality was that Wasserman was really a celebrity columnist and Webster was an investigative reporter. Their real competition in later years was not in the print medium but as talk show hosts on competing radio stations. Both appeared many times on CBC TV in Vancouver both as guests, and sometimes as hosts. Wasserman became a regular host on CBC's Hourglass, and Webster had five years as a panelist on CBC's Front Page Challenge. The royal connection? When the Queen Mother visited Vancouver on the royal yacht Britannia, a few "important" people were invited to dinner aboard the royal yacht. One of those individuals was Jack Webster and not even on his deathbed did he divulge what took place during that dinner or what they talked about. Wasserman was quite jealous that he was not invited.

Editor's Note:
In next month's column we'll be featuring some more stories from Al Vitols about Jack ("Wass") Wasserman.

* Many will remember the great rivalry between the two long distance runners, Englishman Roger (later Sir Roger) Bannister and Australian John Landy. Both had broken the 4-minute mile barrier in separate meets earlier in 1954. The first time they competed with each other was in the 1954 British & Commonwealth Games held at Empire Stadium in Vancouver in August, 1954 in which both men broke the 4 minute mile barrier, but Bannister won. The press called it "The Miracle Mile". You can see the whole race on film in CBC's archives.


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For readers of last month's column, I can report that I have not yet received the first of the anticipated TEN MILLION ($10,000,000.00) Dollars U.S., likely as a result of postal delays.

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My column this month is a little personal – I hope you won't mind.


I Travelled Halfway Around the World to be an Office Boy at CBC


Part I
When I was a teenager living in a dusty, small town in south-east Australia, I came upon a travel magazine which dedicated a whole issue to travelling by train across Canada. There were CP trains and CN trains dashing hither and dither through and around mountainsides, across rivers, through forests and wheat fields, around and across lakes, and occasionally stopping at some obviously historic railway stations. What a vision! I determined there and then to go to Canada as soon as I was old enough, and had enough money.
My school friends scoffed at my plans – why don't you do what we're all going to do, and go straight to England – see Big Ben, buy a ticket to the Folies Bergère, and drink beer at the Oktoberfest in Munich? They also pointed out that you could enter England without a visa, and get a job almost immediately. I wasn't dissuaded then, but when I applied for a Canadian visa at the Canadian High Commissioner's Office (the name for a Canadian embassy in a Commonwealth country) I almost changed my mind.
It took me a year to comply with the various visa requirements. (Many years later, a Canadian immigration official explained to me that in those days when I applied to emigrate to Canada, there was an unwritten policy among some Commonwealth countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, not to "poach" immigrants from each other's country, but rather to concentrate on getting English and European immigrants to their respective countries. Presumably, a Canadian in those days would have had as much trouble getting an Australian visa as I had getting a Canadian one.)
When I thought I had completed everything, the junior Canadian consular officer said to me, "Just one more thing, Mr. Walker, we need you to provide us with a TB x-ray, certified by two Canadian doctors". I was stunned! Where would a teenager living in a dusty, small Australian town find two Canadian doctors? But then I thought, my dusty small town is Canberra, the capital of Australia, and Canberra has a national university. Maybe they have The Canadian flag in 1957
graduate medical students? And they did, and I got my X-ray and then my Canadian visa after proving that I had the minimum necessary finances of $300 Canadian dollars!
After stops in New Zealand, Fiji and Hawaii, and many nights and days of partying, my P&O ship and I arrived in Vancouver in late October, 1957. As the Lions Gate Bridge came into view, I said to myself, "Holy wombats, I thought we were going to Vancouver first, that's the Golden Gate Bridge!" This was the tip of the iceberg of my ignorance of Canada and Vancouver.
As we were approaching the ship's berth at CPR's pier B/C (now Canada Place), I saw this giant lighted tower with a large "W" on top (it was the Woodward's sign). I nudged my new shipmate friend, and said, "Look at that – they put up that sign just to welcome me to Vancouver, "W" for "Walker"!". My friend said, "Not funny." He was eastern European.
After establishing my residence ashore at a rooming house at a giant $7.00 per week, I walked up and down Granville Street and went into every store and asked if they had any jobs. I was a bit surprised when everybody said, "No", and some even seemed to be laughing at my audacity in even asking for a job. Of course, if they told me that 1957 was a recessionary year in Canada, or even told me that Fall/Winter wasn't a good time to find a job (hence all those ads by Manpower Canada re "Why Wait for Spring, Do It Now"), I might have understood.

The classic elevated sign "W" for Woodwards,
Vancouver's own department store chain, much
beloved by locals and much missed on its demise


I gave up on Vancouver, but on the day my bus was scheduled to leave for Toronto, I received a call from CBC Personnel, to come for an interview for the position of an office boy as a result of an application I had made several weeks earlier. I survived three interviews, including one by legendary Personnel Director, Cal Pepper, and joined a group of six other office boys who were bossed around by Brian O'Dowd and Jack Hundley. My salary was $160 a month, but then a case of beer only cost $2.52, and my rent, in a shared West End apartment, was only $40 a month.


Part II


Location, Location, Location!
When I arrived for my first day's work as an office boy at CBC's "office" location in the Day Building on Burrard Street (then between Christchurch Cathedral and what would later become the Park Place high-rise), I found out that that CBC was spread out! CBC Radio alone had three locations, (including the station itself), all in the Hotel Vancouver on the 16th Floor, the First Mezzanine, and the basement. Just visiting CBC Radio's location to distribute and pick up mail kept an office boy busy. CBC TV was just as bad with its sprawling Georgia Street location, which needed two of us office boys to service. Later the office staff would move from the Day Building to an office building at the corner of Burrard and Davie. The TV program staff later moved to the upper floor of a small office building at the southeast corner of Alberni and Bute, and subsequently moved to a floor of a brand new building at the southwest corner of Alberni and Bute, part of the Pacific Palisades complex.


Only 6 weeks after my start as an office boy, a vacancy came up
for a junior (very junior) TV technical position, and relying on my
teenage hobby of electronics, I applied, and was accepted.
My boss' boss at the time, Betty Rollins, said to me "I'm Competition to my arrival in Vancouver in 1957.
recommending you for the promotion, not because I think you Can't remember the singer's name. Enos?
have any talent, but because you're one of the worst office boys
we've ever had. On the average, an office boy takes 20 minutes to do the rounds at TV, but you take 2 hours. I know you are watching shows in the TV studios". (Many, many years later when I had a different career and Betty became one of my clients, I reminded her of this conversation, and she said "I wasn't wrong, was I?")
Although CBUT was only 4 years old when I joined it, it was already a very sophisticated television production centre, and I had a lot to learn. More later on my initiation into show business.


Vancouver downtown when I arrived in 1957.

Since then:
- The ugly Shell sign on the top of the Vancouver Block building has gone, but the historic building itself and its clock remain;
- The black shadow to the right was the Courthouse, and is now the Art Gallery;
- The beautiful old Birks Building at the corner of Georgia and Granville has gone, replaced by the uninteresting Scotiabank tower;
- across from Birks on Granville Street was a large parking lot, the former home of the second Hotel Vancouver (demolished in 1948) , and subsequently became part of Pacific Centre with the Eaton's Building (later becoming Sears and then Nordstrom's);
- the large fountain in the middle of the grassy area, courtesy of Premier W.A.C. Bennett, came, and went;
- Opposite the Bay and kitty corner to the Birks Building was a series of low rise offices, subsequently becoming the tip of the iceberg for the underground Pacific Centre Mall.
The West End still had a multitude of classic houses from the 1920's and 30's, and earlier

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Breaking News!
CBC Toronto has announced an upcoming one-hour special on women's underwear to be called "The Nature of Thongs". =================================================================================

An Abbotsford couple were treated for injuries yesterday after their Smart Car hit a squirrel on the trans-Canada highway near Langley. The squirrel refused treatment, and left the scene.

The success of this column's future lies entirely in your hands. Comments would be welcome, and your contributions would be greatly appreciated. If you have an item to add to a future column, please email me at alangwalker@gmail.com . If you require any assistance in editing, I would be happy to help. Alan

2. ALAN WALKER'S OLD TIME CBC TV Sept 22, 2019

Hello Everyone and welcome back!

In my last Stationbreak Magazine article, I invited those readers who did remember me from CBC TV early days but I had neglected to mention their name in my article, should write to me and tell me I'm "old and stupid". Well, I've had hundreds of replies, although, strangely, all of them were from people whose names I really didn't remember, and they all lived in Nigeria. "Perhaps the CBC pension goes further in Nigeria", I thought. Each email offered me the opportunity to join with the email sender in a scheme where I would get TEN MILLION US DOLLARS ($10,000,000.00 U.S.), with just a little assistance from me. Well, I've written back to them all, and most have replied that I just need to send them ONE THOUSAND US DOLLARS ($1,000.00 U.S.) to cover initial expenses, and the game will be afoot (not quite sure what that means).I'm getting the money orders together now for mailing. Readers will be excited to know that when I receive the first lot of TEN MILLION US DOLLARS ($10,000,000.00 U.S.), I plan to give it to Stationbreak so that the editors can enhance the website, or perhaps pay Peggy an honorarium. Stay tuned!

And now for something completely different.

You've Lost the Queen!

Almost every July since 1959 I've has this recurring dream. In my dream I'm a cameraman working on the televised Gay Pride Parade, and the show's technical producer yells at me through my headset over and over again "Alan, Alan, you've lost the queen!" It has been suggested to me by paid professionals that my dream is likely a kind of ongoing trauma brought about by a real life incident that occurred during a visit to Victoria by the Queen and Prince Phillip. The following is the story of what happened.

It was a hot July in 1959 when Vancouver technical producer John Christensen called a group of us technicians together to give us details of our roles in what he described as "an overseas live telecast". I was slightly less excited when I realized that "overseas" meant Victoria, but then I was the most junior technician in the group, and thrilled to be going on a special assignment.

The Queen and Prince Philip were on a royal tour of Canada, and our TP explained that CBC would provide live coverage of the arrival of the Royal couple in Victoria's harbour from Nanaimo on a Canadian naval ship. "Your job, Alan", said the TP, "is to operate a microwave dish near the edge of the harbour so that your dish tracks the ship which is hosting the Queen and Prince Philip. We will have cameras aboard the ship, but we won't be able to get the signal out to the network without firing the signal from a fixed microwave dish on the ship out to your dish on shore, and then your dish will the shoot the signal to the mobile truck, and then onto the network". "Wow", I thought.

After being dumped at a very hot former quarry on Victoria's harbour edge with nobody there except me and my dish, I waited eagerly for something to happen. I had no monitor to see what was up. I did have a headset, and could hear the TP who said he would help me aim my dish by telling me continually the signal strength, like a game of "hotter/colder", except he said "good, better, worse" and sometimes "gooder and worser".

I proudly pointed my microwave dish at their Majesties' ship in the middle of the flotilla as they cruised into the harbour, reveling in the thought that all Canadians watching this program were relying on my stalwart hands moving the microwave dish to stay aligned with the Royal couple's moving headquarters.

And then, the TP screamed into my ear "Alan, Alan, you've lost the Queen!" (Afterwards I thought, "You don't hear those words every day!") I was confused – I hadn't done anything differently. I furiously swung my dish back and forth and up and down, and finally after 20 seconds (it felt like 20 minutes) the TP said in my ear "Great Alan, the signal is even better than it was before!" I was surprised because my dish was pointing in quite a different direction from earlier. Later it was determined that my dish had been pointing all along at the wrong ship in the flotilla, but by a fluke chance the signal from the Queen's ship was reflected by the superstructure of an escorting ship, right into my microwave dish. I was embarrassed of course, especially when I heard an ethnic slur on my headset from some unknown technician as to "that dumb Australian". (Did I mention I was from Australia?)

I somewhat redeemed myself the next day when the Queen and Prince Philip arrived in Vancouver – again by way of a flotilla of Royal Canadian Navy ships. This time my microwave dish and I were stationed on top of the mini lighthouse at Brockton Point in Stanley Park. This time, being more experienced and much closer to the action, I could identify the appropriate ship, and the viewers across Canada had the benefit of my dish-tracking skills. The Queen obviously forgave my error in Victoria, and instructed CBC to send me this certificate. I understand that no more than 6,500 certificates were issued. I have been resisting the temptation to put mine up for sale on e-Bay.
Alan

1. ALAN WALKER'S OLD TIME CBC TV Sept 1 2019

Hello everyone. The editors of Stationbreak Magazine have kindly allowed me to write a column to be called"Alan Walker's Old Time CBC TV". (It took us a long time to come up with that catchy title). Part of the column will be my reminiscences of working at CBC Televisionn Vancouver from 1958 to 1973. The other part of the column will be, hopefully, your reminiscences of working at CBC Vancouver, whether during or after my years. The Stationbreak editors and I believe there are lots of readers out there who could contribute shortitems about something funny or interesting that happened during their time on the job. As our technical editor Bill Morris says, it's not necessary to write "War & Peace", in fact an item could be as short as a couple of sentences.

I think of my decade and a half at CBC as the "Happening Age" because so many things happened during that time that changed television, or in some cases changed the world. Those events included the completion of the television network across Canada, TV competition in Vancouver, the coming of videotape and color to CBC, television via satellite and sending men to the moon. There were also international emergencies including the FLQ crisis and the Cuban Missile Crisis, local tragedies such as the Second Narrows bridge disaster and Hurricane Freda, and three world-shaking assassinations, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

Before getting to my first reminiscence, I'd like to acknowledge, in the list below, the staff at CBC who I recall. Certain departments of CBC TV are not well reflected in my list because most of my time at CBC I was hidden away in the master control area – so apologies to some in staging, props, graphics, carpenter shop, costumes, makeup, design and stores. If I did know you back then and failed to mention your name below, please email me and advise that I'm old and stupid.


And now, to reminisce:

The Rabbit Warren – 1200 West Georgia
Ottawa, 1952: An imagined conversation between the Head of Plant & Engineering, CBC Ottawa (the "Boss"), and various employees of his department (the "Team").

The Boss, addressing the Team: "I need you guys to go out to Vancouver, and find a place to house the offices and studios for when CBC Vancouver goes on the air next year with the first television broadcasting station in British Colombia."
Team Member: "Will we get hardship pay?"
The Boss: "Don't be a wiseass. We only have a limited budget, but you will need to find a downtown Vancouver building that is big enough to hold a large TV studio, a medium size studio, and a utility studio – as well as space for 100 or so employees".
Team Member: "What about utilizing some space in the existing CBC Radio location?"
The Boss: "Dummkopf – the CBC Radio studios are in a hotel. Do you think we can take over the hotel's ballroom and make it our Studio 41!?
The Boss: "And the building must have a microwave direct line of sight to a nearby mountain called "Mount Seymour", because that's where the transmitter is going to be".

........Two months later, the search team returns to Ottawa to report to the Boss......

Team Leader: "We have good news and we have bad news".
The Boss: "What is the good news?"
Team Leader: "We have found a location in downtown Vancouver that is within the budget, and has a direct view of Mount Seymour".
The Boss: "And what is the bad news?
Team Leader: "It's a two-story building on a corner....
"And, it's connected to an ugly one-story building....
"And the ugly one-story building is connected to an ugly three-story building.
"And the space where Studio 41will go does not have a very high ceiling, so the boom operators will need to be midgets.
"And, they'll need signs throughout the buildings as there are so many entrances, exits and staircases.
"And the teletypes for the newsroom will need to fit under the equipment in the air-conditioning room.
"And there's no room for the office staff.
"And we will need to pray that someone doesn't build a tall building kitty-corner because if they do we will never see that mountain called "Mount Seymour" again (they'll be calling it "Mount See-Less").
The Boss: "Well, it may not be a great location but we only need to use it for a little while because a brand new complex for all of CBC is planned to be built in Vancouver within the next five years."

Actually, it was 22 years before the new building.

                         Home of the future studios                                          1200 West Georgia Street circa 1974
                 1200 West Georgia Street circa 1931

It's interesting to compare the two photos. You can see how much the contractors had to do to the exterior to turn the Willy's buildings into studios and offices. I don't know when the later picture was taken, but the butterfly on the corner shows that it was after color TV arrived in Vancouver, and after the Pacific Palisades complex and the Empire Landmark Hotel in the background were built (the Landmark in 1973). Time marches on: one of the Palisades building in the background was demolished by imploding more than 25 years ago, the brown building partially seen above CBC to the left was a 5 story office building, once partly occupied by CBC Program staff and torn down 25 years ago, and the Empire Landmark hotel on the right was recently demolished, floor by floor.

For all the jokes about the rabbit warren studios of CBC TV in those days, it was the home for an amazing amount of television production of huge quality and great quantity, and everybody who worked there was proud of what we accomplished.


                    =================================================================

From the staff magazine Intercom, February 1961:
Dear Mr. Editor,
Listening to the program "Cornucopia" on Saturday, January 21st, I was overjoyed with Greg Barnes' suggestion that Gerard Hoffnung be invited to the Vancouver International Festival this year. Splendid idea Mr. Barnes – should the authorities sanction exhumation since Hoffnung having ceased composing, is now rapidly decomposing.
Bill Terry, TV Tech

Alvin Armstrong was the still photographer at CBC TV for umpteen years. He was always busy shooting stills of productions for record purposes, shooting stills of sets to assist set designers, creating scenic and graphic slides for station breaks and commercials, and a million other projects. Not everybody was aware of his sense of humour unless they tried to phone him, or read this letter in the staff magazine Intercom in February, 1961:

Dear Mr. Editor,
Try phoning Alvin Armstrong on local 297 when he's not in the back room. A voice says "Just a moment"; you hear 4 gun shots fired in succession; there's a long pause and the dull throated voice at the other end says "he's no longer here".

Memories from Hugh Beard.
Practical jokes were an accepted fact of life at CBC Vancouver in the 60's. Some elaborate classics included a goldfish swimming inside an electronic scope. This took days to prepare allowing the perpetrators to witness a brief moment of surprise on the intended victim's face. Or the master control supervisor's desk lamp that was wired to turn off ten minutes after the supervisor sat in his chair in the darkened room. Thinking it was a burned-out bulb he got up to get a new one. When he returned with the new bulb the desk light was back on. A few minutes later, after he sat down, it turned off. So, he thought it must be a faulty lamp. He plugged in a replacement lamp, but after a short while it also turned off.

This frustrating event went on for hours much to the delight of the master control technicians who had rigged his chair with a contact switch that activated a timer to turn off the power to the electrical outlet that his lamp was plugged into. Hours of prep to pull off a practical joke.

For a brief part of my CBC career, I worked in studio 42 as a switcher. Doug Haskins was the host of a live 15-minute program titled "Scan" that showcased upcoming CBC programs. He was good at his job, but very nervous. Before going on air, as the switcher, I would cut between the two studio camera shots of Doug allowing Harry Taylor, the video tech to match the cameras. Then I would leave up a close-up shot of Doug as we waited to go on air. I noticed that Doug always checked himself out in the studio monitor. He'd adjust his tie, and then he would take out his comb and run it through his Brylcreem greased hair. This was his nightly ritual before going to air.

So, I got an idea. I would stay on the close-up of Doug until he just started to run his comb through his hair, then quickly cut to colour bars. Doug would be frozen with his comb partway in his hair waiting for me to cut back to his close-up so he could finish adjusting his hair.

I started to play this game every evening for months. Sometimes I would keep Doug frozen with his comb partway through his hair with only seconds until air time — much to the delight of my friends Harry Taylor and audio mixer Bob Hepworth, who shared in my practical joke. I was careful to vary the timing, and not to do it every day, so Doug never found out that I was playing a game with him.

That also reminds me of a practical joke played on Len Lauk who thought he was 10 minutes late for the evening news broadcast ... but that's a story for another edition

The success of this column's future lies entirely in your hands. We would greatly appreciate your contributions. If you have an item to add to a future column, please email me at alangwalker@gmail.com. If you require any assistance in writing, I am at your service.
A