The end of an era for The Beachcombers
Death of actor Pat John, 69, stirred up memories of the long-running CBC show and his role in it
Actor Pat John, a cast member on the long-running CBC-TV drama The Beachcombers, died earlier this month. He was 69.
Starting with the first episode of the show in October 1972, John portrayed Jesse Jim, a young Indigenous man who sets off to see the world in a Ford Model A. According to a description of the debut episode in the CBC-TV catalogue, his plans change in the coastal community of Gibsons, B.C., where he is drawn into the log-salvage business.
John's death evoked fond memories of his work and The Beachcombers for several Canadians, including writer Drew Hayden Taylor, First Nations advocate Celeste George and John's friend and fellow actor Jackson Davies.
"On a full moon day, July 13, 2022, at noon, Pat John passed away, in a chair in the backyard looking more peaceful than he has in a long time. <br>The Full Buck Moon rises Wednesday night, the closest, <a href="https://t.co/0RsCkSRbTG">https://t.co/0RsCkSRbTG</a> <a href="https://t.co/zI1RSOtd8f">pic.twitter.com/zI1RSOtd8f</a>—@cie1947
Just saw a posting saying that Pat John, Jesse Jim from the Beachcombers, has passed away. I never met him but he was definitely one of the first Indigenous faces I ever saw when I watched television.—@TheDHTaylor
Actor Bruno Gerussi played Greek immigrant Nick Adonidas, and Robert Clothier was his nemesis, the curmudgeonly Relic.
When the last episode was recorded on July 30, 1990, reporter Michelle Gibson was there. She captured the moments when filming wrapped on the series and the cast and crew held an impromptu gathering.
Farewell to a pioneering program
Producer Derek Gardner told Gibson he'd been with The Beachcombers since its start.
"We felt like we were, you know, pioneers," he said in a report for CBC's Midday (seen above), which aired on Aug. 3, 1990. "Nobody had ever worked continually on the water like we had before."
He recalled the "family feeling" among those who worked on the show.
"I think there were probably times when I felt closer to the people that I was working with than I ever had with my family," he said.
A Canadian Press story about the last shoot referred to the "angry spirit" that pervaded the set and "bitter" off-set comments from the cast that day.
The anger stemmed from CBC's decision that spring to cancel the show and a more recent move to keep it off the broadcast schedule of summer reruns
"We haven't been on for 20 weeks and we won't be on for another five weeks," said Davies. "You can't build an audience if you get pre-empted for 20-odd weeks of the year."
At the wrap party at Molly's Reach, the show's fictional café, Clothier seemed determined to move on.
"Don't look back. You look there," he said, pointing ahead. "And that's what I'm going to be doing."
In 2002, viewers got to revisit Molly's Reach in a two-hour made-for-TV movie, The New Beachcombers. John reprised his role as Jesse, but neither Nick nor Relic appeared: Gerussi died in 1995 and Clothier, in 1999.