CBC Digital Archives

Canadian Snapshots: The glories of Niagara

Just three years after the debut of CBC Radio, Canadian Snapshots "turned the lens of the radio camera" to the wonders and oddities of Canada in half-hour episodes airing weekly on the national network. Chock full of skits and short dramatic pieces, and augmented with actualities (the relatively new phenomena of onsite reporting), Canadian Snapshots brought the "vast panorama" of the country to the airwaves to tempt the tourist's taste. Unabashed in their boosterism, several programs also featured Canadian composers and highlighted their original works with a performance by the CBC Orchestra led by Samuel Hersenhoren. Although the program aired in 1939 and 1940, only six episodes of Canadian Snapshots survive in the CBC archives. All six are presented here; they were broadcast between January and June of 1940. The announcers are renowned CBC personalities Lorne Greene and J. Frank Willis.

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With 10,000 orchards in flower, the apple, cherry and peach blossoms bring heaven to earth on the Niagara Peninsula. In this episode featuring the many splendours of the area, CBC Radio's Canadian Snapshots tours the attractions and even travels back in time, to the day ice stopped the cascade over Niagara Falls. Today's show also recalls the bygone era when swarms of peddlers, side shows and snake oil salesmen clustered along banks of the Niagara Rivers, charging a different price for every vantage point of the majestic Falls. Finally, from the deep recesses of history, Canadian Snapshots recreates the adventures of 17th-century French explorer René-Robert Cavelier de La Salle and his loss of the first Great Lakes ship, the Griffon, in 1679.
• The water has only stopped flowing over Niagara Falls once. On March 29, 1848, the mighty Horseshoe Falls fell silent for nearly 30 hours when millions of tonnes of ice from Lake Erie damned the source of the Niagara River. During the brief period when the riverbed was dry, some daring townspeople even ventured out on foot and horseback.

• The Niagara Peninsula remains a thriving agricultural area. Soft fruit orchards, including apricots, peaches, pears and cherries, still supply much of the Canadian market today. A rapid expansion of vineyards and wineries in the Niagara region in the last few decades has also made it one of Canada's foremost wine producing regions, famed especially for its award-winning icewines. You can listen to a clip on the crowning of the the 1966 Niagara Grape and Wine Festival king and queen in our topic Canada's Wine Renaissance.

• René-Robert Cavelier de La Salle, born in Normandy in 1643, hoped to plot a course from Montreal to China, but instead made his way to Louisiana and claimed the land for France in 1682. He made several expeditions in search of the mighty Mississippi River, the last of which cost him his life as his crew mutinied in 1687 in what is now Texas. His ship the Griffon, discussed in the clip, is generally viewed as the first full-sized sailing vessel to ply the waters of the Great Lakes. It did not, however, last long: launched in August 1679, it's believed to have sunk during a violent storm on its second voyage just a month later. As of 2008, the wreck of the Griffon had not been positively identified, although there are ongoing efforts to locate the ship.

Medium: Radio
Program: Canadian Snapshots
Broadcast Date: May 28, 1940
Announcer: Lorne Greene, J. Frank Willis
Duration: 29:56
Photo: William James Topley/Library and Archives Canada/PA-009658

Last updated: October 9, 2013

Page consulted on May 29, 2014

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