Lew Roskin - A Life in Words

Stories and info about those no longer involved in the industry

Lew Roskin - A Life in Words

Postby jon » Sun Jun 06, 2010 9:09 am

Tuning in to Dad's wordplay and upbeat attitude
By Deborah Gray, Craig Roskin, Edmonton Journal, p. E-7
June 6, 2010 7:33 AM


Father, broadcaster, punster and positive thinker. Born July 16, 1920, in Moose Jaw, Sask. Died Dec. 26, 2009 in Edmonton, of complications from a fall at his home

It remains surreal. Dad said, "I'm going to live to 100!" and we certainly believed him.

Dad, a first-generation Canadian, developed a love for all people. He never passed by a man who was down on his luck. It is this compassion that would earn him the title 'Uncle.'

He learned to say, "Hello," "Goodbye" and "What time is it in Timbuktu?" in a multitude of languages. At any function, a broadcasting event or otherwise, "Uncle Lew" could be found outside having a "likely borrowed" cigarette and practising his Spanish with, say, the waiter from Barcelona. He could also be found down the street at a greengrocer's, trying to speak Cantonese ... to a Korean.

Garry Gaudet, one of Dad's first announcers at CHQT in Edmonton, said Uncle Lew either borrowed a cigarette or offered to buy one for a nickel.

Garry said, "I always seemed to have a pocket full of nickels!"

Dad was known to drop in to small-town radio stations just to say hello, and, as his many tributes attest, he always made time -- as he did with his children -- to answer questions, particularly from the young.

He would also impart wisdom just before he left. "It's NU-CLE-AR, not NU-CUE-LAR and NONE is singular." As Dad neared the exit he would turn and continue, "and remember, none of us is perfect!"

Our Dad's humour often carried over to the dinner table, beginning the meal with a pun -- and reliably, a very bad pun -- and always followed with "yuk, yuk, yuk," just in case he thought we didn't get it.

He also enjoyed assigning co-workers nicknames. Newsman Ed Mason said, "Lew always called me, Shriner ... Mason ... get it? Yuk, yuk, yuk."

Some of us often referred to our father as Lew because there were occasions when he was more a brother than a father. Every Christmas there was the Battle of the Japanese Oranges -- Mother bought them by the caseload. One year, in order to prevent the annual argument of "Who got more than I?" Mother would have all five children line up so she could distribute the oranges equally. We recall a huge ruckus at the back of the line. Someone was arguing about where he should be in the lineup. It was Lew.

When Dad finished school at 17, he began his career in Lethbridge and, with the exception of military service during the Second World War, he worked at radio stations in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Dawson Creek, Calgary, Vancouver and back to Edmonton, culminating as co-founder, president and general manager of CHQT.

Dad was not a religious man, however, he was very spiritual and espoused the philosophy of positive thinking well before it was in vogue.

At the age of 16, in the fall of 1936, Dad entered an amateur radio broadcasting announcing contest, sponsored by local radio station CJOC in Lethbridge. Judges would award the grand prize of $15 for " ... a voice of high calibre and very promising for future radio."

It would take several months for the judges to listen to the 150 entrants. Dad won the much-needed $15, and his future. If you were to ask Dad if he was surprised by his win, he would look directly at you and say, "I always believed I would."

A Life in Words is an opportunity for you to share, remember and write about the life of someone special — a parent, a child, a sibling, an aunt, an uncle or a friend. This article on Lew Roskin by two of his children marks the debut of this new feature in the Edmonton Journal.
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