The end of an era for The Beachcombers

On the last day of filming in the summer of 1990, the cast and crew of the long-running CBC-TV series wrapped production with hugs, laughter and sadness.

Death of actor Pat John, 69, stirred up memories of the long-running CBC show and his role in it

Robert Clothier, left, Bruno Gerussi, centre, and Pat John pose on the set of The Beachcombers, which aired on CBC-TV from 1972 to 1991. (David Gray/CBC Still Photo Collection)

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. 


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

The last Beachcombers

32 years ago
Duration 3:33
The cast and crew of CBC's long-running series wrap up filming with hugs, laughter and a party in Gibson's Landing, B.C. Aired Aug. 3, 1990 on CBC's Midday.

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."

Gordon Pinsent and Bruno Gerussi
Actor Gordon Pinsent guest-starred on The Beachcombers in 1975 as a demonic Newfoundland wizard known as the Hexman. He returned as the same character for a special one-hour, two-part episode in 1978. (CBC Still Photo Collection)

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.

Man getting his hair and makeup touched up
Robert Clothier, as Relic on CBC's The Beachcombers, with a makeup artist on the set of Molly's Reach. (CBC Still Photo Collection)

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. 

Man on ladder and TV crew outside a building on the set of TV's The Beachcombers
The crew of The Beachcombers sets up the exterior of Molly's Reach in June 1985. (CBC Still Photo Collection/Roy Luckow)

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