Sudbury·Photos

5 things you learn about growing up in Sudbury from the new Alex Trebek memoir

80 years after he was born behind his grandparents house in Sudbury's Flour Mill neighbourhood, Alex Trebek has written a memoir about show business, cancer and his hometown.

Trebek was born in Sudbury in 1940

In his new memoir, Alex Trebek writes that he always enjoyed wearing suits, even as a teenager growing up in Sudbury. (Author's collection)

1. The importance of the Nickel Range

"What is... the Nickel Range" is the opening chapter of AlexTrebek's new memoir The Answer Is... but very little of it is about geology or mining. There is a lot more about the Nickel Range Hotel, which stood at the corner of Elm and Frood from 1914 to 1976. That's where his Ukrainian immigrant father George worked as a pastry chef and where young Alex learned about work ethic and punctuality, helping out in the kitchen and working as a bell hop in Grade 8.

Alex Trebek's father George was a Ukrainian immigrant who worked as a chef at Sudbury's Nickel Range Hotel. He's pictured behind the hotel in 1941, a year after Alex was born. (Alex Trebek collection )

2. The ups and downs of family

Trebek writes very lovingly about his father, who drank as much at the Nickel Range bar as he worked in the kitchen. But he doesn't say a lot about his French Canadian mother Lucille Lagace. After his parents split up, she took up with another man and had another son who Trebek didn't know about until decades later. His mother then moved to Detroit. "Because of the way things happened, I had kind of a resentment for my mother. But we settled all that before she died—long before she died," Trebek writes. Trebek's first marriage would also end in divorce, but very amicably. His mother even moved in with his ex-wife to look after her step-granddaughter. 

A young Alex Trebek with his mother Lucille Lagace and his younger sister Barbara. (Alex Trebek collection)

3. A love of learning

Trebek writes fondly of the boarding school he went to in Ottawa, but also of his time at Ecole Saint-Louis-De-Gonzague on MacKenzie Street in Sudbury and later at Sudbury High across the street. He names friends and classmates, teachers he had crushes on, nuns who he didn't get along with and how he found out that high school principal Joe Costigan could understand French. He also says he's never forgotten a Sudbury high teacher named Kenny Gardner who told him at graduation to "never lose your love of life."

4. How to get ahead by swearing

Unlike his father, Trebek says he has never been a big drinker. But when he first arrived in Hollywood in the early 1970s, he felt "becoming one of the guys" was important to getting ahead. So, he remembered his Sudbury school chum Maurice Rouleau (whose father Alvarez owned the Nickel Range) and how he used to curse a blue streak. "But it didn't help me become one of the guys. It just made me look like a jerk," Trebek writes. But he says it became a habit that he has only recently gotten away from. 

A young Alex Trebek during his school days in Sudbury. (Alex Trebek Collection)

5. Fixing things and trucks

Trebek writes about some of the fancy sports cars he drove as a younger man, including an enormous Cadillac convertible he used to haul lumber with when building a ski chalet on Georgian Bay in the 1960s. But these days, his main hobby is fixing things around the house, including a stubborn cover for a swing seat and remodelling his wife's bathroom. So that means these days he drives a Dodge Ram pick-up truck. How Sudbury is that?

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erik White

journalist

Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca

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