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2004: Goodbye, Pierre Berton

The Story


With his booming voice, towering stature and trademark bow tie, Pierre Berton was one of Canada's best-known personalities. The prolific author, who died at age 84 on Nov. 30, 2004, wrote bestsellers about Canadian history, from The Mysterious North in 1956 to Prisoners of the North in 2004. He was also a journalist, broadcaster and panellist on CBC's long-running news quiz show Front Page Challenge. In this CBC-TV clip, reporter Dan Bjarnason looks back on Berton's life and career.

Medium: Television
Program: Canada Now
Broadcast Date: Nov. 30, 2004
Guest(s): Pierre Berton
Host: Diana Swain
Reporter: Dan Bjarnason
Duration: 5:13
Rick Mercer's Monday Report produced by Island Edge Inc.

Did You know?


• Pierre Berton got his start in both broadcasting and newspaper writing at the same place: the University of British Columbia. He was editor of the campus newspaper The Ubyssey, and was also the campus correspondent for a Vancouver daily. UBC had no radio station of its own at the time, but as a member of the school's radio society, Berton hosted school-themed programs on local Vancouver stations.

• Berton began wearing his signature bow tie in the early 1950s. In his 1995 book My Times, he recalled commenting on the bow tie of Hal Straight, his former editor. Straight dashed into a haberdashery, bought one for Berton, and showed him how to tie it. "From that moment I was hooked on bow ties," Berton wrote. "What was good enough for Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Harry Truman was good enough for me."

• Berton was an outspoken opponent of South Africa's policy of apartheid. In 1961, he compared apartheid South Africa with Nazi Germany and challenged Prime Minister John Diefenbaker to lead a Commonwealth revolt against apartheid.

• He also participated in anti-apartheid rallies, which prompted the RCMP to keep a file on him. They suspected him of communist sympathies.

• In 1984 Berton and fellow radio personality Charles Templeton developed a Canadian trivia game called Tour de Force. The game sold well and the pair made about $100,000.

• Canada's top history award is the Pierre Berton Award. It was established by the National History Society in 1994 and is awarded to people or organizations for "distinguished achievement in popularizing Canadian history."


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