It was not uncommon for announcers to change their names for on air purposes, in my case I began my career as "Dan Trout". The Trout came from a well known newscaster in the U.S. by the name of Robert Trout. My boss thought it would be a good name for me. So a Fish became a Trout. And in 1957 I married my sweetheart Gwen Weatherley, who was a girl from "Carp" Ontario! Sounds fishy..but true.
Very early in my career at CHOV I fell victim to the demon "spoonerism" ~ transposing the first letters of words; in this case though, I transposed two words. It was a commercial for Robin Hood Cake Mix. The line read, "Robin Hood, The Can't Miss Cake Mix!" ~ so the live read came out of my mouth as, "Robin Hood, The Can't Mix Cake Miss."
After a few months at CHOV I was entrusted with the 4pm early news, sponsored by Lisks Bakery of Eaganville. The newscast began with the sound effect of an airplane passing overhead, as the announcer proclaimed, "It's Four O'Clock, And Lisks News Ace Is On The Air". Unfortunately one afternoon the operator cued up the wrong cut on the sound effect transcription, and instead of the plane passing overhead, we heard it crash into the ground. This was wildly amusing to me, Lisks News Ace, and I proceeded to laugh all through the news. Bill K the GM did not think it was funny!
I also got into trouble when I told a long story on air about getting a table cloth caught in my "fly" and standing up and pulling the cloth off the table. It was a long complicated story, and I thought it was quite funny. Again, Bill Kay disagreed. In those days one couldn't refer to a mans fly. My, how things have changed!
Those days at CHOV were wonderful. I had the opportunity to learn so much . We traveled to all the Ottawa Valley Fall Fairs and did interviews and reports, coming back to the station late in the evening, to edit the tapes and get the interviews ready for airing in the morning. Often I would be editing all night and going into the studio for the morning show without going home. I covered court cases, wrote news items, and learned to edit recorded items and news voice clips to get them ready for airing.. The years at CHOV were wonderful learning years.
In 1958 we decided to answer an ad in Broadcaster Magazine for a morning man. I was hired, and we were off to CFNB in Fredericton New Brunswick where I was to spend the next three and a half years as the morning man on this powerhouse 50,000 watt station. The dial position was 550 and we were heard all over the Maritimes, the U.K., Europe, and all the ships at sea. It was lonely in Fredericton, and Gwen and I really didn't like it there. I met a lot of great people there and worked with a crew of great guys. We had an odd shift setup, worked 14 days then had two days off. I was up at 4:30 each morning, and had to be at the station by 5am. to get the transmitter up and running. The station did not broadcast 24 hours a day at that time. My operators were female, a wonderful girl from Grand Manan Island who brought humongous bags of fresh dulse to me every time she went home for a weekend, and another great young girl who was a Captain in the Salvation Army. After the morning show was over at nine o'clock, I would become the hourly newscaster till one o'clock. The newsroom was a separate operation at CFNB, and the news writers didn't go on air. So we would get the newscasts about one or two minutes before air time and usually had to read them cold. This was really a task when you worked the weekends, there was an hour and half newscast every Sunday morning. It was a dangerous read cold, as you tip toed through all the regional native Canadian names in New Brunswick. Names like; Nepisiguit , Manawagonish, Pooksaak ,Tracadie, Kouchibouguac, Passamaquoddy, Nasshwaak, and Nashwaaksis, and a few hundred more that kept showing up to terrorize a news reader!
I gave my notice in early 1961, and we left New Brunswick for Ottawa and home. We stayed with my parents in Ottawa for three weeks until I was hired by Don Willcox as the mid-morning man on CKKW. I had really never heard of Kitchener, or so I thought, but then I remembered back at CHOV in Pembroke, several of the staff had family here in the K-W area and often spoke of them and the twin cities. Ed Schmidt, engineer, Linda Nixon, operator, Elroy, operator, Florence Burmm, accountant, Bill Kutschke, GM, all had relatives here, so maybe I was destined to eventually arrive here.
My introduction to Kitchener and CKKW was driving down King Street in my Volkswagen bug on a Saturday afternoon in June of 1961 listening to Hal Scholz doing the afternoon run. Hal was six three or four, blonde hair, thin, and had a voice that rattled the walls. As I drove along, the speakers in the bug fell off onto the floor, the windshield cracked and in my best soprano voice I said aloud, "Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?" I stayed at the Y.M.C.A, for a week or so, then moved into the Mayfair Hotel for a couple of weeks until I found an apartment, then moved Gwen and the kids here. Alan Hodge was the manager of the station, and he died very suddenly at a Rotary lunch just three months after I started at the station. I had a meeting with him to discuss my three month trial period at the station. He had to leave the meeting to attend the lunch, we were to meet again after he returned. Before he left he said that he was very pleased with my work and that I would be a permanent staffer as of that day.
It was an exciting day when the news came that CKCO-TV had purchased the station, and we were moving down the street into the TV building across from the K-W Hospital... 864 King Street West was my new home as of 1962. We were told there wouldn't be many changes in staff, but after just a few months there was only 5 or 6 staff left out of the 15 or so at the time of the purchase. I was fortunate to be one of only two announcers retained by the "new broom." John DeLazzer was the other..
The staff at CKKW when I started in June 1961, as far as I remember; Don Willcox was the PD, John Wood was Sales Manager, Gord Hatton and Floyd Cummings were sales staff. Sports Director was Hugh Bownan, Ross Marshall was News Director, on air was John DeLazzer mornings, Me as midmorning, Hal Schols weekends, Mike Marshall doing afternoon drive, and the rest is deep in my memory, but I just can't bring those names up. I know Ron Reusch did sports for a period of time, Don Willcox will have to help me out here.
Donkey baseball was a popular fund raiser among service clubs in the 60's and 70's, and it was a popular thing to have radio stations play each other, or the club members, or the newspaper teams. The game was played while the players sat on donkeys that were trained to do the exact opposite to what you wanted them to do. A batter hit the ball, jumped on a donkey for the run down to first base, then mounted a donkey trained to run the bases. Everyone had to have hold of a donkey, so when the ball was hit to the outfield, the fielders had to drag their donkeys over to get the ball and throw to guys on the bases. The donkeys were also trained to buck off the riders. People paid to see this... but there were a lot of injuries as guys were tossed of the beasts. After a few of the on air guys from stations around the region broke legs and arms in these falls, the word went out, "No more Donkey Baseball"
Another dangerous media event was the Demolition Derby, with real cars, as a featured event at local fall fairs. We all hopped into running wrecks and driving only backwards crashed into each other to eliminate the rest of the pack. Last car running was the winner. Whiplash injuries were quite common, and again the word went out, "No more Demolition Derby's" These events were fun, but looking back, were quite dangerous.
The most nerve wracking event I was asked to take part in was an act at the Kitchener Auditorium. It was during a show sponsored by a service club, they called the station on a Saturday afternoon when I was on the air and asked as a favor if I would take part in a stage show during the event. I said "Sure" and took Gwen and the kids and off we went to the big show. The act I was to take part in was a knife throwing act, where the thrower was blindfolded and threw bayonets at his partner as she stood up against a sheet of plywood. He would throw 6 knives, and outline her . I was a local "celebrity", and the was thought it would be neat to have me up there as the target. I remember I was quite nervous, and the young lady told me just close my eyes, so I wouldn't duck or flinch, and that everything would be ok. I couldn't have moved if you paid me, I was petrified. And I did close my eyes, so in reality I missed the whole thing. Stupid? You bet!
Everyone on air in radio has had to take part in promotional events that were "safety challenged", back in those early days, nobody seemed to care if the staff got hurt, it was only when someone did, and couldn't work that management started to scratch their heads and say, "Hey, maybe this isn't such a great idea after all". Pretty soon the dangerous stuff was kaput, and we were relegated to fluffy promotions, riding bikes, wee cars, all terrain vehicles, etc, in parades and flipping' burgers at charity cook off's, hosting celebrity auctions, taking part in fashion shows, getting involved in cooking demonstrations, and a myriad of public events designed to promote the station and the announcers in the community.
On a sad note, one day I was reading the 11am news on CFNB and there was a story about a young skier who had been killed in a skiing race in Europe. His name was Jon Semmelink. I had worked two summers with him in Knob Lake Labrador, [ now Shefferville ] His father was a VP at KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. It was quite a shock, as I was reading the news cold , and had no time to prepare for the item. Apparently he had fallen while skiing down a hill, and his head struck an exposed rock. I was in Knob Lake driving a dump truck hauling fill to fill in swampy areas so the town of Shefferville could be expanded.
Who remembers Ron Roberts, "The Round Mound Of Sound". Ron weighed in at about 350 pounds plus. He was quite a sight in the red MacGregor Plaid jackets we wore on location! Ron did the 6 till midnight shift on CKKW for a few years before moving on, eventually wound up in Halifax and kinda faded out of the picture. He wrote a song for the Nova Scotia Tourist Association that was quite a hit. He was accompanied all the time by "Nanette" a white miniature poodle. She slept on the back turntable of the McCurdy package we had in AM control while Ron did his shift.
And then there was Dick Austin, a dwarf who was a local guy, he had worked on the old CKCR for a number of years doing a country show so I hired him to take on CKKW's all nighter, which was a country format. He was a gentleman, and a great guy to work with. He stood on a Coke case to reach the mic and the controls of the board. Stu Kenny used to say, "Je--- Ch---t, we look like a freak show when we go out on location!! He was right, all of us dressed in those plaid jackets. Barnum & Bailey Circus would have been proud of us.
Reflecting on stations lost, or gone... I only worked at four stations in my career, and all of them are gone! Was it something I said? CHOV in Pembroke is no more, it changed hands a few times and then the call letters were retired I guess. And where there was only the one radio station in my day there, Pembroke now has 4 radio stations. CFNB in Fredericton has also passed into history, at least as I knew it, it was the only radio voice in that city when I was there, now there are 9 stations serving the folks. of Fred town. Locally, CKKW and CFCA have both been replaced by Oldies 1090, and KOOL-FM ~ although I believe they have to ident themselves by the old call letters once an hour. I often wonder how things would have worked out if I had never left Pembroke. For years I had a recurring dream for years that I went back there. It is a lovely little town in the Ottawa Valley, only an hour or so from Ottawa, a few from Toronto, and a friendly, quiet place, a great spot to bring up kids and put down those roots that are so important to many of us in this broadcast business. I used to attend Billboard Conventions in the States, and would meet so many DJ's and announcers that had worked at 8 or 10 stations, or more, sometimes several stations in the same city under different names. Moving frequently for just a few dollars a week more would be their idea of getting ahead in the business.
The spirit of "Christmas Giving" was alive and well in April 1977 ~ that was the year we has a doozie of a blizzard and by the time 5 o'clock rolled around it was obvious that not many of the staff were going to make it home, so we decided to weather it out at the station. As I remember it we didn't get much sleep that night, the atmosphere was certainly at the grade five level! The next morning we soldiered on as the storm blew itself out, and the clean up crews hit the streets to get things moving again. About ten o'clock or so, there was a surprise arrival at the back door. Kitchener Dairies, run by Bingemans dropped off three very large trays of food for the stranded troops. One was a variety of marvelous sandwiches, one was fruit and deserts and the third was an assortment of veggies. Well, we thanked the deliverer and chowed down on a most magnificent feast. We even invited the crew from TV downstairs to join in the festivities, all the while singing the praises of Kitchener Dairies, a good sponsor for providing all these goodies. Around noon I received a call from CHYM, the competition in town asking if we had received three trays of food by any chance; they said they had ordered the food, and Kitchener Dairies swore that they had delivered said food, and "where the hell is our food?" I thanked them for their generous gift and wished them all the best. And even though it was April, I knew in my heart that there really was a Santa Claus, or should I say "CHYM-ter-claus!
Strange Bedfellows at CFNB. There were two kind of strange announcers hired at CFNB while I was there. Firstly the station hired a Gordie Know ~ at least that's what he said his name was. He came to the station after working in Bermuda for a couple of years. This time frame was when there was a serial killer loose on the island, who struck every full moon, thus being labelled "the full moon killer". Gordie was an odd bird and it wasn't long until the staff were convinced that he was indeed the moonlight murder. On air, he talked constantly in rhyme, "60 degrees in the city of trees, "number four knocking at your door", "let's get together and look at the weather" ..stuff like that. He didn't last long and one day just didn't show up for his shift. I think it was his way of saying good bye.
The second odd character was a Wally (can't remember his name) who arrived on the scene straight from England where he had moved to try to become a radio star in the UK. Wally was a nice type, he and his family were from Western Canada, and when they arrived in Fredericton didn't have much of anything except the clothes on their backs. The staff all pitched in and collected money and furniture and clothes for them, seeing to it that they were set up comfortably in their apartment. After a few months, Wally and the family disappeared, just didn't show up for work one day, and it was a mystery how they slipped out of town. Years later I read in some broadcast journal that Wally was a very popular morning host on some station out West. I can't remember where though. Later I'll tell you about some of the other "interesting" people who crossed my path through the 38 years in the business.
The horse story. I attended the International Plowing Match several times for CFCA, living on site for the week in a mobile trailer and filing three of four reports per day. These stories were of a hunan interest variety, and most were slanted to the funney happenings at the show. One match was held near Stratford, and on one of the days, all the local kids were bussed into the match to see the show. I happened to be in a large tent admiring the big draught horses that were stabled there. when a mob of these kids came into the tent. The horses were head first in their stalls, and that meant that their rear ends were towards the alley way down the middle of the barn, where we folks wandered. As the kids were passing one of the horses, he lifted his tail and let fly with a blast of gas that would have knocked your hat off. Well, the kids went wild, laughing and hooting loudly, the horse swung its head around and looked back to see what all the fuss was about, then as if to please the crowd, let fly with an encore! I remember it as if it were yesterday...and the aroma that went with the gas! I submitted this story to Readers Digest, but I guess they thought it was maybe too graphic for their readers, as it never got publshed!
By the way, one year at the Match, I was the winner of the media plowing competition... I drove a great big John Deer tractor and plowed the straightest furrow in the land! Well, that's what they said, and who was I to argue the fact!
Remembering "HOPPY" ( John Hogben, Hodges ) John Hodges "Hoppy" was a memorable character in
K-W radio. When Hoppy was on remote, you just knew that he would draw a crowd. He always did. His fans loved the guy, and when he was on location they showed up to visit him.. He ran talent contests locally, promoting regional talent, and some have gone on to become stars in the country field. Jamie Warren, was the winner of one of the searches, and went on to a very successful career in country music.And who will ever forget "Diane, and the Country Cavaliers" Hoppy's stage band. He was famous for lines like "You Betcha Neighbor"... with the YOU drawn out sometimes for nearly twenty seconds or more, and on special occasions he would throw in a bit of vibrato for good measure. Yoooooooooooooooooou, betcha! and I can still hear his pitch for Hadco well diggers.. "Get a well in a day, the Hadco way!" When he was on remore, he drove me crazy as a PD, the theme for show would start right on the dot of nine on Saturday mornings, and it would go on, and on and on and on...sometimes right to the end! And I would say to myself, "Where the hell is the little bugger" Then he'd appear, "Howdy neighbor, welcome to the K-W Jamboree" And we'd be off for another few hours of his brand of hokey humour and unique presentation. There was only one Hoppy, and I feel so glad that I knew him, and worked with him. The station purchased a silver suit for Hoppy, from Nudie's of Nashville. He looked magnificent in it I'll tell ya!
Drinking On Air?? There were always stories going around about announcers / DJ's drinking on air while doing their shifts, but I doubt it happened as frequently as stories would have us believe. It happened to me a couple of times, once unintentionaly, and I take full responsability for the second. The first time happened while CKKW was in the Dunker building in downtown Kitchener. V8 Vegetable Juice was a big sponsor on the mid-morning show I was doing, "The Housewives Club". The station arranged with Tubby Helm, manager of the Mayfair Hotel, just a block up the street to send over a chilled glass of V8 every morning. It was delivered by a crusty old gentleman, Claude by name, in full waiter uniform,.The glass was in an ice bucket on a silver tray. This guy would leave the hotel, walk up King Street and into the Dunker building, up to the second floor, and into the studio. I would accept the chilled glass of V8, read the commercial, down the drink in one fell swoop, and remark "Boy, it sure doesn't taste like tomatoe juice" ~ which was the product slogan. One morning Tubby thought it would be a great idea to fill the glass three quarters full of Jack Daniels. Well, I fell for it, read the commercial, downed the drink and uttered the tag line about not tasting like tomatoe juice! I guess the guys at the hotel were howling with glee. Anyway, Jack kicked in a few moments later, and about fifteen minutes after that Don Willcox, the PD, sent me home. Poor ol' Dan had a melt down and began speaking in tongues, or at least that's what they tell me. The second occasion??? Well. that's a story for another day
The end of the world? For many years CKKW worked closely with Union Gas doing remote broadcasts from various homes and apartment buildings on weelends. These broadcasts promoted the convenience and affordability of natural gas as a heating source. One weekend I was working a very large apartment complex with the Union Gas rep. Jim ( forget last name) and we were in a sort of crawl space that required us to hunch down, as there was no standing room. This space housed the gas furnaces, and I believe there were several units in this space. I was interviewing Jim and he was telling the listeners how wonderful these furnaces were, how small they were, how safe Natural Gas was, and why everyone should have it in their homes. Suddenly the furnaces kicked in, there was this great loud WHUUUMMMP, which in this small space seemed like the end of the world to me, I was really startled by noise, and I'm sure the listeners hear this loud "whump" and ol' Dan saying "Jesus Christ, what was that??" Jim started to laugh, and we went quickly to music!
Scuppered Myself: I don't remember the year, but I remember the incident. One day while doing my talk show "OPINION" from 1pm ~ 2pm. there was a nasty thunderstorm raging over the twin cities, and suddenly the power went out, throwing us off the air. The power was cut for several hours while the hydro folks rerouted the power around some power lines that had been taken out by a billboard that had been trorn loose by the wind and went swirling and crashing into a hydro pole, thus terminating the power to several hundred homes, including CKKW. The billboard was one advertising DAN FISHER's OPINION SHOW on CKKW,
stories to be contd.........................