EPISODE 104 WE DO NOT NEED YOU ANYMORE
John Myers, a friend, has asked me several times to
tell him about my radio career … with CBC radio. I have not
answered because the story is long with many twists and
turns. You may not want the full story because there is no
high drama. Maybe I can tell the story in point form best.
1) At the Thompson auction sale near Kitchener, Ontario around 1980, I bid
and bought four threshing machines. Beautiful things as big as
five ton trucks. Historic machines doomed to be burned by
scrap dealers seeking cast iron. How could I explain this purchase
to Marjorie? She is long suffering and never crushes my enthusiasm.
What could I do with 4 huge dinosaurs of the
harvest fields. ?
MY radio career began with this threshing machine …. believe it or not.
I bought quite a few of them at auction sales…Was I insane? No, I managed
to turn them into an 300 page M.A. thesis at U. of T. Three departments…history, engineering
and fine arts. Loved it. The engineering department shared my enthusiasm the most.
Where did I keep them? Gave the best to museums. Others are still in the barn.
2) The biggest was made in New Hamberg, Ontario about 1890.
It was in great shape. Wooden construction, wood wheels, lavish
folk art painting done by professional stripers. And alligator for
instance was added to accent the sharp teeth of the thresher when
it tore grain sheaves to bits.
3) I donated the machine to Riverdale Farm, a kind of
salue to Ontario farm history located in the heart of the
City of Toronto. To get the machine to its new barn I
hired Gordon Hume and his flat bed truck. It was quits a sight
rolling up Parliament Street. Heart of the largest city in Canada.
A nostalgic farm! A few years later Riverdale Farm
gave it back to me. Imagine that. The nerve! So I regave the machine to
Doon Pioneer village where it remains.
4) As chance would have it a CBC radio producer was having
a coffee break as the thresher came by. Parliament Street studio.
Or Perhaps it was noticed
by the host of Radio Noon, then David Shatsky. Someone followed
the truck to the farm museum and asked “What is it?” “Who donated it?”
So my name reached decision makers at CBC/
5) “Would you drop by for an interview?” I did and that interview
went so well that I was asked to be a regular radio journalist with
a 5 to 10 minjute slot each Friday on Radio Noon.
6) I must have done about 100 shows. My 5 minute special reached
beyond Toronto. Some covered Ontario. Some were national. One
even reached an Inuit village in the Northwest Territories. He was being
hounded by the local priest. Scared. Not much I could do.
I know the phone call makes not sense but it was memorable.
me eventually. Around $100 a show. Not big. The cost of parking
took a big slice of the money. Then the research and Union dues took some as well. I did
not care. It was a joy to do the programs. I learned a lot about
7) On my third or fourth show, my produce, Doug Coupar spoke to me
privately “Alan, your shows are terrific….”
When someone says that to you be prepared for the follow up word which
is ‘BUT’. To repeat “Alan, our shows are terrific BUT you must remember
that the radio audience attention span is one minute at the most. Get your
big idea into that first few seconds or you will have lost them.” What
grest advice. Cut the bull shit…get to the point right away. That advice
changed my whole approach to teaching. For the better. I began each
lesson with a big question. Often a questions to which I did not know the answer.
Kids really got involved. They often took over the discussion.
(i.e. Why did John A. Macdonald allow Louis Riel to be executed? Why?)
8) So I would race down to CBC on my lunch hours every Friday
to trigger ideas in a public forum. My personal ego trip some must
have thought. I loved it. Then race back to class. On one of these trips I was
startled as I opened the truck door. A tall thin man in running shoes had
jumped on the back bumper and then blocked my exit. “I am going to
fucking kill you,” he said. Made no sense. I had not hit him. What should
I do. I looked at my watch hand and said, “Sorry, I don’t have time for that
…I am late for class.” to which the deranged mind said “OK!” and wandered
off. Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital had recently been closed. I do not
have a watch.
9) My tenure at CBC radio was quite long…maybe 3years or longer.
That is an eternity for a radio host and also for radio journalists.
One of the CBC personalities took me aside early in my career.
He gave me some great advice as well. “Alan, remember this…we
all have a shelf life.” WE ALL HAVE A SHELF LIFE. Just like hamburger
and cheese. Being an on air personality was not a lifetime job. At some
point a CBC exec that I would never meet would decide to change the
format. Get rid of that Skeoch guy…we need a new direction.”
One of my best stories dealt with our grest dog Daisy.
She died and I grieved her on the radio. One man phoned to say.
“I had to put over on 401. I was crying.” The studio was empty
as I spoke because all involved got emotional. As did I.
10) So one New Years Day, I phoned the CBC to outline my special
program for the new year. I had a new producer by then.
He was a hatchet man The conversation was short.
“Just to let you know my plan for next week. I think…”
The hatchet man cut in fast.
“We do not need you any more.”
That was it. The kiss off. The guillotine blade was falling. My shelf life
with CBC radio was over. “Sorry, we do not need you any more.”
P>S> Not quite over. I did occasional programs when they needed
someone to cover a dead air space. My second last program was such a shock
to CBC decision makers that they never let it go on air. So when
I tell you that story it will be fresh. First time ever. Next episode.