CBC 75th birthday- Regions
In the sixth of the Rewind shows that celebrate the 75th birthday of the CBC, it's a look at regional programming. We might live in this great dominion called Canada, but we also live in our neighbourhoods and towns, cities and provinces. The stories that affect our lives in those places are at least as important as the bigger national stories- sometimes more so. Local stories might stay local, and other times they became stories that have an impact on other Canadians. On this episode you'll hear some of each from various parts of Canada. Michael Enright's co-host is Peter Brown. Peter hosts CBC Edmonton's afternoon show, Radio Active. He's also been on the national airwaves with programs like The Arts Tonight; he produces the sketch comedy program The Irrelevant Show and he's been a correspondent for Q, Sounds Like Canada, the Roundup and Morningside.
One of the great stories of Newfoundland is when it joined Canada in 1949. One of the driving forces behind the move to Confederation was the man who would become its first premier- Joey Smallwood. In the late 1930s, he was a broadcaster. As "Joe the Barrelman," he hosted a daily radio show about Newfoundland history and traditions. Our sample is from 1940.
The fishery has been at the heart of Newfoundland and Newfoundland radio for decades. 81-year- old Stella Bury in 1979 talked about growing up with the Atlantic cod.
In the late 1980s in Newfoundland, allegations of physical and sexual abuse at a St. John's orphanage called Mount Cashel began to emerge. For almost a century, the orphanage had been a symbol of Christian charity. But by 1989, it became synonymous with the abuse inflicted on its residents by members of the Christian Brothers, who ran it. In June 1990, the Winter Commission, which had been called to investigate some 300 allegations of abuse, released its findings. And an archbishop resigned.
Before there was a CBC, there was the CRBC- the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission. One of the most remarkable moments in the life of the CRBC was heard in April 1936 when J. Frank Willis did a series of reports about three men trapped underground in a gold mine in Moose River, Nova Scotia. For two minutes every half-hour Willis was live on air throughout North America. He continued for 56 hours straight. About 100 million people listened to North America's first live 24-hour news event.
In the late 1940s one of CBC Radio's most entertaining broadcasters was Max Ferguson. He got his start in Halifax. Max truly was one of a kind- he created characters, poked fun at everyone, and was never afraid to offend anyone- including the sponsors. We had a spoof of a commercial that accompanied a popular CBC Radio soap opera.
From Pictou and Naked Man Hill to Crapaud and Chocolate Cove, Atlantic Canada is a treasure trove of memorable place names. Our clip was from 1996 and Peter Gzowski's Morningside.
Prince Edward Island
For most of its history the way most people got to Prince Edward Island was via ferry. Nevertheless, pretty well since Confederation, Islanders dreamed of a bridge or tunnel that that would connect them to the rest of Canada. But would a fixed link sacrifice the island's charm? Although tourists loved the romance of the ferry, not all Islanders were as entranced. In 1988 they were asked to vote on the possibility of a link.
The link allowed even MORE tourists to buy objects bearing the likeness of Anne of Green Gables. The red-haired orphan girl has been synonymous with Prince Edward Island...and canny entrepreneurs have always found a way to cash in.
In the late 1940's people in the Maritimes found themselves exporting something else: seed potatoes. Thanks to a soaring global demand for Canada's seed potatoes, Maritime growers couldn't keep their spuds on Canadian shores for long. In our clip from 1948, the New Brunswick businessman Andrew Dean McCain... founder of the McCain potato empire... talked about shipping potatoes to South America.
Quebec might be home to the majority of French speaking Canadians, but many other provinces have vibrant Francophone communities. In the mid-1960s, singer Edith Butler traveled through New Brunswick's Acadian villages to collect folk songs. Butler is a francophone musician from Paquetville, New Brunswick who has made a name for herself on the world stage. Our clip was from 1980.
From the late 1930s to the late fifties, Maurice Duplessis ruled Quebec with an iron fist. His two terms in office have been labelled "la grande noirceur"- the great darkness. His detractors point to his close ties to the Catholic Church, his meagre investment in social services, and his anti union activities. But supporters recall the tight ship Duplessis ran -- Quebec had no debt, minimal unemployment and a booming construction industry. In 1974 on the program This Country in the Morning, Michael Enright discussed Duplessis' legacy with historian and publisher Conrad Black. Michael asked Mr. Black whether he considered Duplessis a dictator.
In 1977, when the Parti Québécois first introduced Bill 101, critics compared it to "lunatics taking over the asylum." Under Bill 101, even the apostrophe 's' in Eaton's became illegal. The bill's defenders said such measures were necessary to protect a dwindling French culture and language from English dominance.
In 1934 five identical girls called Annette, Emilie, Yvonne, Cecile and Marie became instantly famous. They were the Dionne Quintuplets and shortly after their birth in Callender Ontario they were taken from their parents and made wards of the province. For the first nine years of their lives, they lived at a converted hospital called Quintland. On the occasion of their second birthday, CBC Radio recalled their first two years.
The year was 1950 and Toronto was digging the tunnel for a subway. The noise and mess seemed interminable and so the TTC decided to lighten things up with a song.
The Cree called it Miscousipi, Red Water River, and warned early settlers about its hidden capacity for destruction. We know it as the RED River now and we're now well acquainted with the destruction it can wreak. Our report was from 1950.
Until well into the 20th century Metis leader Louis Riel was regarded as misguided and impetuous at best, and a psychotic traitor at worst. But more than 100 years after a Tory government hanged Riel for treason, Brian Mulroney's government said Canada had matured as a nation and called for official recognition of Riel's, "unique and historic role as a founder of Manitoba and for his contribution in the development of Confederation." Our clip was from 1992- former Prime Minister Joe Clark.
The song Saskatchewan was written during the 1930s, when Westerners suffered almost a decade of severe drought conditions. By the end of 1937, it was estimated that two out of every three farmers in the wheat belt of Saskatchewan was destitute.
The writer W.O. Mitchell is best known for his novel Who Has Seen the Wind, and for his CBC drama series Jake and the Kid. Both Saskatchewan and Alberta can lay claim to him- he was born in Saskatchewan, but lived for many years in High River, Alberta, which he credits for inspiring many of his characters. Our clip was from 1973.
In 1947 something happened in Leduc, Alberta that changed the province's future profoundly. Alberta was a have-not province, until drillers struck oil at Leduc Number One. It was Imperial Oil's 134th attempt and the company had spent $23 million on 133 dry holes. We aired a report that recalled that first strike.
In the late 1940s, Kate Aitken was a powerhouse broadcaster for CBC Radio. She was the women's editor and her programs covered cooking, child care and fashion but also offered a perspective on the wider world of politics and society. And in 1949 she went to Vancouver.
Moving further west... and ahead a few decades to 1993- the place is Clayoquot Sound- an area of rainforest on Vancouver Island. B.C.'s premier Mike Harcourt announced that logging would be allowed in the old growth forest- which launched a string of protests. We played some of an interview Michael Enright did in 1993 with Vicky Husband, chair of the Sierra Club of Western Canada in Victoria.
In the 1930s, in the days before satellite communication, the CBC's Northern Messenger radio service was a vital link to the Arctic. It was one of the only ways to reach RCMP officers, missionaries and scientific researchers in remote places. Relatives and friends would send messages to the service and every weekend... they'd be broadcast all over the North.
In the mid 1970s, the Berger Inquiry began its examination of a proposed pipeline in the Arctic. The hearings proved to be dramatic and empowering. Hundreds of aboriginal people testified before the commission in their own languages. One of the long lasting impacts of the Berger commission was that CBC Northern Services started to broadcast in aboriginal languages. And now CBC North carries daily programming in Dene, Tlicho, North Slavey, South Slavey, Gwich'in, Inuvialuktun and Inuktitut.