This is the tale of two kids born in New Glasgow in 1938 who began school during the last days of the Second World War. They weren’t in the same neighbourhood but they were linked in many ways.
Their lives — later their careers — parallelled one another, move by move, like combatants in a serious game of chess.
When they were 12, one loved to stand up in class and read loudly and distinctly, sounding like a news reader on radio, and dreaming of being an announcer. The other owned a typewriter and was publishing a weekly family newspaper while fantasizing a life as a reporter.
By the time they reached New Glasgow High — Grade 9 was part of high school then — they were classmates, ready to tackle life in their desired occupations.
New Glasgow had a brand new radio station — CKEC in the old Eastern Chronicle building by the railway crossing near the bridge.
In the evenings, one of the young guys sneaked into the radio facilities on the second floor to chat with real announcers. The other guy pussyfooted up the stairs to the noisy teletype to check the night’s sports scores.
More than once, station owner Jim Cameron caught them and chased them out of the building. They wouldn’t return until the next evening.
Another year passed — it was 1954 — and both became connected to CKEC. One began getting air time, alongside the regular announcers. The other started writing sports for sports director John (Brother) MacDonald.
That confirmed to them both what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives. They had reached the door to the media world.
So let’s jump ahead 66 years — to the summer of 2020 — and see what has happened to these two 82-year-olds.
Neither has bid the media goodbye.
The first, semi-retired, is working three days a week at a private radio station — Seaside FM — in Eastern Passage, still turning out the most enjoyable music in Nova Scotia. The other, semi-retired, is writing weekly sports columns for the Pictou Advocate.
Yes, for Frank and myself, we’re still doing what we love doing more than anything else. It’s never work. It’s always fun.
Frank, whose career took him from CKEC to CKCL in Truro, to CHNS in Halifax and, primarily to the CBC in the provincial capital, was a star whether on Frank’s Bandstand or reading the late night news. He’s been on Seaside since the station opened.
As for myself, my career included 48 years with The Chronicle Herald, retiring from the provincial daily in 2007. But, with some overlap years, I’ve been writing columns for The Advocate for over 16 years. Including news review columns I did at the start, this is my 965th submission to the Pictou weekly. Just 35 shy of 1,000.
Now, for a shocking achievement — Frank and I together have been in the media for 132 years.
We’re getting up there.
We had something else in common. We both had opportunities to take jobs outside our beloved province. Was it time to sing Farewell to Nova Scotia? No way. Neither of us ever wanted to depart Canada’s ocean playground.
In the last few years, we both did something else. We wrote our memoirs. That talented radio and television voice called his book “I Owe It All to Rock & Roll.” I countered with “I’ve Lived My Dream” and “Remembering Pictou County.”
The two of us have lived on the Dartmouth side of the harbour since the late 1960s, yet both of us still proudly tell people we’re Pictonians. We knew we would always share that one.
Looking back once again, we were both inspired to pursue our media dreams by our high school athletic director, John (Brother) MacDonald. Neither of us has forgotten that.
Brother got both of us involved in minor hockey at the Stadium that would later be named in his honour. He got me to cover school and minor sports for CKEC, and he convinced Frank to referee hockey.
Frank admits to being proud that he officiated games in which Lowell MacDonald played on his way to the pros. And me? I was Lowell’s first “coach” — when Brother assigned me to Lowell’s novice team’s bench to open and close the gate.
Nowadays the two old New Glasgow natives meet up occasionally as we steer our grocery carts through the aisles at the same Sobeys. And there have been pleasant chats at Tim Hortons a stone’s throw from Seaside.
But I confess — and Frank doesn’t know this — a couple times a week I take my two Shih Tzu pals to the boardwalk at the Passage, directly across the street from Seaside, and listen to Frank while the dogs bark at other dogs. That’s when I still learn from my favourite voice.
The other afternoon – hot as blazes with high humidity — Frank was giving the weather. “It’s sure hot out there,” he was saying, “but tonight there will be snow.” Huh? His explanation flowed just as easily. “I did that just to make sure you’re listening.”
People are listening alright. You learn important facts — like his wish that the government would legislate humidity out of town; how his mother taught him if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute; and, oh yes, his definite dislike of eggplant.
When he signed off one day last week, he cracked, “I’ll be back tomorrow, same time, same station, same jokes.”
With the magic of social media, his voice is heard anywhere. He’s heard from listeners in just about any town near or far.
So let’s check the arithmetic. From 1954 to 2020, that’s 66 years of radio for Frank, 66 years of newspapers for me.
The final thought?
We’re two old Pictonians who wouldn’t have traded our professions for anything else.