tp-cgy-jeff-collins

Jeff Collins and Cathy Little spent their last day before retiring from CBC Radio at a special outdoor broadcast on Friday afternoon in Calgary. ((CBC))

CBC Calgary said goodbye to two familiar radio voices on Friday: Jeff Collins, host of The Homestretch, and afternoon news announcer Cathy Little both retired after more than 30 years with the corporation.

The radio broadcast in Calgary was a special outdoor affair on Friday afternoon, with a live audience sitting in folding chairs under the shade outside the CBC building off Memorial Drive.

"I have been telling people for north of 30 years now, I have the best job on the planet, I get paid to have interesting conversations," said Collins, who began his career with the CBC in 1976 in Toronto and moved to Calgary in the late '80s.

"To my mom who talked me out of a career as an actor and into a career as a broadcaster: Good move, Mom!"

Collins said his most difficult interview was with former prime minister Brian Mulroney, but one of his fondest memories came as a guest host on CBC Radio's As It Happens.

"I learned to yodel live, coast to coast from [country singer] LeAnne Rimes' yodelling teacher," recalled Collins to laughter from the audience.

'People are being nice to me and I'm not used to that in a newsroom.' —Cathy Little

In the midst of job reductions by the CBC earlier this year, Collins and Little chose to retire.

"People are being nice to me and I'm not used to that in a newsroom," joked Little, who started her career with the CBC in Saskatoon in 1975, and moved to Calgary in 1993 after a short stint in Edmonton.

Little, who produced and hosted the afternoon news, said she will not be missing the small announcer booth that was her workspace.

"It's dark. You're all alone all day. It's going to be nice to be outside in the light," she laughed.

Among the guests on The Homestretch on Friday were local a cappella group the Heebee-jeebies and wine columnist Laurie MacKay, who toasted: "To a long life, and a fun one; a quick death, and a painless one; and a great glass of wine and another one! Cheers to Cathy and Jeff!"

Former CBC Newsworld anchor David Gray will be replacing Collins as host of The Homestretch, starting on Monday. "I get that it's a big responsibility but I've always wanted to play more on radio and this is a real opportunity so I think it's going to be really exciting," said Gray.