Chapter 8 – CJCH Mornings, and Running a Business = Disaster

Chapter 8 – CJCH Mornings, and Running a Business = Disaster

Postby Tom Jeffries » Mon May 06, 2013 6:43 am

I gave my notice at CFUN, after 11 wonderful years. I was wished well by Neil Gallagher, the PD, but Paul Ski, who had just completed his MBA, and was General Manager of CFUN, asked me to take a meeting with him, before I left for Nova Scotia.

Turned out that CHUM and 92 CJCH, in Halifax, hit an iceberg.

Brian Phillips, the ‘Morning Man’, at ‘CJ, had been accused of something to do with cocaine. (*I am not clear on the details) – but the Station in Halifax was doing a Titanic, and sinking like a stone.

Paul asked if I was interested in taking over the Morning show in Halifax.

“No thanks” – was my first response. I had filled in for Fred Latremouille so many times, that I realized that getting up at 4 in the morning was not my style. It was torture in fact. It was made worse, because I would get calls at midnight from Gallagher, begging me to suit up, because Fred was ‘not well’.

I am not about to use conjecture as to why Fred wasn’t making the show, so I would crawl out of bed, and drag myself to CFUN and do my best. (*Small sidebar) – Nelson Millman, who went on to run the FAN, in Toronto was the op. A funny guy – and a solid op – he at least made it palatable. JJ Richards, was doing the news and Morning shows flew by like greased lightning.

I learned a lot about Mornings, and I hated them. Try being social and sunny at 5 a.m.. It was a living hell.

As Red Robinson (Hall of Famer in both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Rockabilly Hall) says it best. “The hardest part of mornings is the 10 minutes between the time the alarm clock goes off and your feet hit the floor.”

I told Paul I was flattered, and I was sorry that CJCH was in a bind, but, I wasn’t interested. I had a an ok career – and now, I was charting a new course.

He wished me the best, and as I walked out of 1900 West Fourth for the last time, I was elated and also sad. CFUN held so many memories and in many ways were the best years of my broadcast career. I was very proud that I got to work there – THANK YOU, Chuck McCoy!

I wished my Parents well and left Vancouver; solo. With the U -Haul rumbling behind the Olds Cutlass I set off to cross this enormous land, with high hopes for a new life with Jo Ann, and a new challenge at running a Market. We planned to keep it open six months a year, and take six months to explore Mexico and other sunny climes, or so I thought.

Every night, at some seedy motel, I would call Nova Scotia, and Jo Ann said that Paul Ski had upped the offer on the Morning show.

It got silly. Every night, I would find out the offer got richer. Car, vacation money, a nice salary, and great vacation time – still I resisted.

By the time I arrived in Nova Scotia, I think Ski had offered me part of the Province, as compensation.

I just about didn’t make it to Mahone Bay. It’s 110 K south of Halifax off Highway 103 (*The Lighthouse Route) – and the afternoon I was making the last bit from Hammonds Plains Road, to connect with the 103, it started to rain like the dickens. It it was biblical.

I could barely see. I came close to wiping out near Tantallon, but luck was on my side. A trucker was just ahead of me, and I think he knew I was having trouble seeing. I flashed my lights and he flashed his – as in “follow me”. Wherever you are, my friend, it is because of YOU that I made it to Mahone Bay.

After arriving, I collapsed into my Wife’s arms, totally exhausted.

My new life had begun. Jo Ann had been learning the ropes at the Fruit and Veggie market from the previous owners, and it was a monumental task. The market was on the first floor, and the owners had roughed in living quarters above.

While I was getting my sea legs – the phone rang again, and this time it was Murray Brookshaw, the PD of CJCH, who asked if he could come to Mahone Bay to visit and try and convince me to take the Morning show.

Murray is currently the Honcho at CFUN (now called Sonic) in Vancouver – (*what irony).

I was an idiot. The offer was rich by any standard and I agreed to do the Morning show.

Now let’s stop and think about this. I am working at a Market all day – and to keep the produce topped up – that meant daily trips into Halifax, or across the Province to the Annapolis valley, to procure our goods.

That added to a 220 K round trip commute to Halifax, to do a 5:00-9:00 am shift was insane.

I was greedy. As I found out, I would pay one heck of a price, for trying to live on 4 hours sleep a night.

CJCH had been a powerhouse. Steve Murphy and the Hotline, which followed the Morning show, was huge. Halifax is a lovely city and a bonus for me, was one of my old pals, Jim Nunn, was the News Anchor for the CBC Six o’clock news; while Steve handled CTV news at six – and still does.

Jo Ann and I worked our face off. My Father in law, Fred Ramsey helped us build our new place, and I made fast friends – including two of the finest people I have ever met –Martha and Peter Kinley. Peter ran The Lunenburg Foundry and holds a Masters in Engineering from the University of Michigan. He is a stone cold genius and a delightful man. Martha, and her family, the Ritchies, were well known on the South Shore. A large family, they all adopted me, like I was one of theirs. I am still close to the Kinley’s –they are wonderful folks.

How dumb was I? Did I think I could work all day at the market, drive to Halifax and back to stock the place, get some brief rest, and then climb into the station provided Taurus, and head back to Halifax at 3:45 in the morning, with no consequences?

Bill Bodnarchuk, the GM, and Brookshaw were pleased, initially – as the ratings were even better than those of Brian Phillips.

That would not last. I was totally exhausted all the time (DOH!).

It wasn’t helping that my alcoholism was really heading down a gory path. I used to be a beer drinker. Now I had added Mont Gay Rum to the mix. I never got on my Mountain Bike, I never exercised and I developed crippling depression. The Doctors put me on an SSI called Effexor, and I gained 50 pounds.

My marriage started to unravel. We made it through a winter – keeping the Market open (although that was not the original plan).

Our living quarters were still unfinished, so I was staying with Jo Ann’s folks. That doesn’t make for much of a solid marriage.

I tried to assuage the travel, by subletting an Apartment, on Summer Street, across from the Public Gardens in Downtown Halifax. So – I wouldn’t even venture back to Mahone Bay on many days when the weather was inclement.

There was no alternative. I nearly died in snowstorms, in the middle of the night, slogging that highway, into Halifax.

In a nonce, I knew in my heart of hearts, that I had made a dreadful mistake. In the end, it nearly cost me my life and destroyed my relationship with Ms. Ramsey.

I always had a nagging feeling about CJCH that something smelled about the Brian Phillip’s bust.

My suspicions were realized when I was called into Bodnarchuk’s office and given three months notice. Ah – I get it. Phillip’s is getting out of Jail.
Hmmmmm. Could it be, that I had been duped? I will never know for sure, and I don’t want to get sued, but I have a feeling I wasn’t getting the whole story on the Phillip’s coke bust.

Frankly, I was elated. I would just do the Market and Jo Ann and I could travel in the winter, and all was going to be great.

Boy, was I wrong.

It quickly became apparent, that Ms. Ramsey and I should never have hooked up.

I had a nagging feeling a cliff was rapidly approaching.

We closed the Market after Pumpkin Season in 1988, and headed for Mexico, with only 7 grand to last us the winter. We travelled by Bus all over Mexico. We holed up in Zihuatanejo and spent three months on Playa de la Madera, in a small apartment. We also spent a month in the glorious Colonial City of San Cristobal de Las Casas. Unbelievably historic and beautiful, I highly recommend you go there. We saw Palenque, and even made it as far south as Puerto Arista, at the end of one of the scariest bus rides in my life. Puerto Arista and neighboring town Arriaga were like the end of the earth.

I was drinking like John Barrymore and I was not well. I couldn’t eat, and I was becoming surly and withdrawn. In hindsight – I do not blame Jo Ann for becoming sick and tired of my antics. I became nervous and argumentative. We headed back to Nova Scotia, for the Spring reopening of the Market.

I celebrated my 40th birthday with Jo Ann, and three months later, to the day – she asked me to leave.

I was not in good shape. I even left my beloved cat, Tash, at the Market, packed my Mountain bike on the back of the nearly dead Olds, and started to drive home to B.C.

At this point I was very ill. Drinking every day will do that to you.

Arriving in Vancouver – I was a mess.

Ramsey cleverly got me to sign a ‘quit claim deed’. My share of the Market, I helped build, I just gave to her. She had everything. I got NOTHING.

No Money, no home. No NOTHING.

I wound up sleeping next to my old friend Alan Mann’s furnace in his basement in East Vancouver. I still didn’t quit booze. Matter of fact it was getting worse. I had discovered Vodka. I won’t get into a ‘drunk a log’ here, but you get the idea.

I went to my Doctor – who had previously been my physician when I lived in Vancouver.

She told me that my liver was still “okay” – but I had to get swept for parasites. Mexican water will do that to you.

How insane was I?

I decided to go back to Zihuatanejo for the next winter. When I arrived, guess who was there? My ex. She was hanging with a coterie of suitors and I would keep running into her on Playa La Ropa. It was very painful.

I got a gig, taking care of a friends Yacht. Jim Thompson was a timeshare salesman, who worked in Ixtapa. The instant vacation paradise was a front for the outgoing El Presidente and his crooked amigos.

In corrupt old Mexico – each outgoing PRI President, would wind up with huge Vacation areas. It started way back when with Acapulco and continued right up to Huatulco, in the 90’s. Mexico is both a beautiful and cursed Country. Everything was crooked. I could get into some really ugly stories about how I found out drugs were smuggled into the States. I learned that a bribe, or mordida, opened doors.

I learned too much, in fact. In the end, I hated the place and came home to Vancouver.

I had inherited some money from my beloved Grandfather, and was also lucky to get enough money to live on, without working.

Like an idiot – I decided to take my, then friend, Kirk Wilson, to Asia, and agreed to would show me around Thailand and Hong Kong and Malaysia.

In truth – I was lucky to make it out of Asia alive.
Tom Jeffries
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