I was doing my usual summer evening thing last Wednesday — relaxing in my La-Z-Boy, enjoying the Toronto Blue Jays.
Just then I noticed a new email in my inbox. It appeared to be from an Advocate reader so I opened it post-haste.
It was from a reader, Nancy Montgomery.
“You always write very interesting and informative columns and I always enjoy reading them,” she wrote. “I read today’s (Aug. 19), not just because I learned something new, but because I kept looking for Frank’s last name. Please let your readers know Frank, the mystery man’s last name.”
Oh oh. What did I do this time?
It took only seconds to open my edited version of the column. I wanted to locate the information she couldn’t find.
I read the column, then re-read it.
In the 1,004 words, I referred to my long-time friend seven times as “Frank.” No last name. Just Frank.
I thought I was going to have the big one right there in the sixth inning with the Jays at bat.
Frank, who I’ve known since our early school days together in New Glasgow, was simply referred to by his given name.
If you read that column, you may remember how I traced our parallel media careers from their start in 1954 to the present where we’re both still doing what we always loved to do — Frank in radio, myself in newspapers.
But no last name.
Before I forget to include it again, my life-long shadow has been Frank Cameron, who started at CKEC, worked in Truro, then had his biggest years at CHNS and CBC Halifax, doing programs like Frank’s Bandstand and the late news.
I explained how both of us have somehow become 82 years old, still loving our careers after 66 years. Together, that’s 132 years.
My secret: He’s forever been Frank Cameron.
I wonder, how did I get into this corner? Why did I have to revisit last week’s column?
I may never know.
But it underlines a fact of life in the media, as in any business I guess. It proves, no matter how long you’ve been doing something, embarrassments can happen.
Yes, I was embarrassed when I realized reader Nancy Montgomery was right.
I admit something else. This wasn’t the first time I found myself in unusual circumstances.
Just the night before Nancy’s email, I insisted to a friend that the Blue Jays had recalled a new pitcher by the name of Merry Weather. We joked about the name — until I heard it’s really Julian Merryweather.
That’s nothing compared to some situations I wrote myself into.
There was the column I did in The Chronicle Herald in 1992, paying tribute to Cape Breton boxer Rocky MacDougall who died the previous day.
I was satisfied with the column — until I got an early morning call as I arrived at the office. I was floored when the voice on the line began, “Hello, Hugh, this is Rocky MacDougall.”
Long story short: There were two Rocky MacDougalls who were fighters. I wrote my column on the wrong Rocky. Four decades later, in my first book, I admitted it was the biggest blooper of my career.
The Rocky who phoned was a teacher at an elementary school in Guysborough. He wasn’t having a good day.
One student arrived, saw MacDougall standing outside his classroom and quipped, “You look okay to me, Mr. MacDougall. But I think you better read Hugh Townsend’s column.”
Then there was a winter evening in 1996. My wife Jane and I began watching This Hour Has 22 Minutes. We were interrupted by the phone.
“Hello, Hugh,” the voice on the line started. “This is Glen Sather (president and general manager of the Edmonton Oilers).” I thought someone was pulling a joke on me. I responded, “Yeah, right, and I’m NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. You better tell me another one.”
In my Herald column two days earlier, I predicted Sather and the Oilers were about to pull their AHL farm team out of Cape Breton. It really was Sather on the phone, calling to deny what I had written. He was furious.
Three months to the day later, Sather held a press conference in Hamilton, Ont., where he announced the Cape Breton Oilers were moving to the Ontario city.
Then there was my horrific experience back in 1976 when I was assigned to cover the World Series between the Cincinnati Reds and New York Yankees.
Arriving in Cincinnati late on a dark night, I grabbed a cab to take me to the hotel where the Herald had obtained a last-minute reservation. The cabbie drove through the city’s downtown, continued on and on as the streets grew darker and the buildings looked like bombed-out neighbourhoods.
Suddenly the cabbie pulled to the side of the street, telling me that’s as far as he goes, that my hotel was the dark building further down the street. So I walked, heavy suitcase in hand, to the building with no outside lights, just one bulb lit inside the lobby.
Further details on how I got out of there and found a decent room closer to downtown will remain in my memories of unexplained embarrassments.
I’ll just say how, upon my return to Dartmouth a week later, my dear Jane looked me straight in the eye and told me what she truly felt: “That was the stupidest thing you ever did. I hope you don’t mention it in your column.” I didn’t, not until I wrote my first book 40 years later.
I could continue, recalling lots of weird experiences, lots of embarrassments, but some are better confined to myself.
I’m just hoping, as I conclude these confessions, that I didn’t forget to mention that it was Frank Cameron I talked about in last week’s Advocate.
They simply don’t make radio personalities any better than him.