Chapter 3 – “Friends – You Gotta Have Friends”

Chapter 3 – “Friends – You Gotta Have Friends”

Postby Tom Jeffries » Mon May 06, 2013 7:27 am

Wow- I was a roaring success as a Broadcaster. Here it was coming on the and of winter 1971, and I was staying with my Girlfriend, a Single Mom, and her Mom, in a cramped basement in Revelstoke.

I had no job, no money and no prospects. That’s “Oh poor me” – it was the truth. Oh, that didn’t keep me from drinking when ever I got the chance, and of course, there was plenty of pub time. I was not only a drunk, I was starting to become a mooch.

One morning I woke up, sick, as usual – from the night before – and I had, what AA refers to a moment of clarity – as in “OH MAN, I AM IN TROUBLE”.

After barely getting through a cup of Maxwell House, I let my inamorata know that I needed to borrow a hundred bucks – and I would pay it back in two weeks.

To my eternal gratitude, my gal’s Mom came through (a real sweetie – and we liked each other – which is amazing considering I wasn’t exactly a “catch”).

I had decided to go to Vancouver and see what my friends were up to (the ones that actually moved up, instead of OUT of radio) – and also check in with my Family, in Victoria.

I took the 12-hour bus trip to Vancouver.

I never made it over to Victoria. I wound up staying with my Grandparents, in the West End, until I realized that drinking beer all day, probably sent out the wrong message – and I was at my wit’s end.

(*To show the insanity of a drinkers thought process – “HELLO – do you think the beer might be a problem, bud”?).

I found myself wandering around, aimlessly, feeling rather low. I was shuffling down Granville Street – and was passing the Kelly’s store on Robson and Granville, when I was just about knocked flat by a guy hurrying out of the store.

Talk about a small work. It was Larry Mittermuller – the ex- manager of the Kelly’s record store in Prince George. He and I had killed a few brain cells together – “Tommy – what the hell are you doing here”, Larry said as he gingerly helped me up. “ I am looking for a job, know of any?”.

My luck just changed. Larry took me into the store and introduced me to Danny Forget the Uber manager and sang my praises – (ex-music director, etc.). Forget said he had a spot in the Warehouse on Broadway. Thank GOD. I think the pay was a massive $1.79 an hour, or some princely sum.

My job was to pick records to replaced sold items at every store. Days spent sweating, walking through stacks of Neil Young and the Beatles, got really old fast. I asked Larry if there were any retail jobs open. I had worked at Eaton’s, while in University (in the Record Department in Victoria) – so I knew the drill.

The Kelly’s store in New Westminister at 6th and Columbia – had an opening – and I was hired.

I was still staying with my Grandparents – who were getting antsy.

I had to find a cheap apartment and fast.

I called a buddy of mine from Victoria days – Don Ramsden. Don is a quiet and unassuming newsman that carved out a stellar career because of his multi talents.

It turned out Don was looking for a new apartment. He asked whether I wanted to share. Sure, why not?

At the time I called him – he was working at CKVN, 1410 (It used to be called CFUN – until a format change in 1969 to CKVN – The Voice of News).

Don was working evenings – a real haul on a news station. I arranged to meet him on his one day off. It was fun renewing old times.

Although Kelly’s’ was OK - I was blunt in my misery and he suggested that maybe I should make a DEMO tape, and give it to the Station’s PD, Simon Ginsberg. Ramsden said he would make me sound like The Real Don Steele, on the tape.

We were all set. Tape into Ginsberg, and lo and behold – I wind up getting all night weekends.

See ‘ya later Kelly’s!

I could hardly believe it.

Problem. The Apartment Don and I “lived in” - was in Port Coquitlam, in the eastern part of the Lower Mainland and the Radio station, was on 1900 West Fourth, in the heart of far west Kitsilano.

Hitchhiking became one of my new talents and Don and I spent three months happily getting wasted, when we weren’t working – and I figured I was ‘on my way’.

Uh, not really.

The Program Director for CKVN, Simon Ginsberg, was a Tee Shirt salesman at his shop in Gastown PLUS, the PD of a new station that was like a Meccano set, falling down a hill.

It was a mess.

I didn’t care. I did my midnight to six am – six days a week for $560 a month.

At 14 minutes to every hour – we had a newscast – sports and detailed weather. So, besides juggling 45’s and cartridges, I would Rip and Read the news summaries from BN.

I was TERRIBLE. The first night I was shown the board on CKVN – I was being baby sat by the master = J. Lee Smith. Opped at the Big 8 (CKLW) and was the best in the business. He taught me more in 6 hours than I had learned in all my years at UVic and CKPG put together.

Running a Broadcast Board is like keeping a bunch of spinning plates in the air. You have the function that is on now (commercial, song, news, whatever) you have to be ready with the next element. Soon as the record, commercial cartridge or news was finished, it was filed and on to the next function. We also had to log everything – to prove we played commercials and did the news etc. Then to add to that – you have to keep the show moving and talk on the phone with listeners, and call the cops, if you need any info on accidents etc. Plus you have to time it out to exactly the right start to the news. (*It's called back timing).

Hardly any stress at all. In fact, it was addictive.

Things have sure changed. We had an ashtray the size of Pittsburgh in the Control room. We all smoked like bog fires. It was amazing any of us lived past 25.

Talk about being frazzled. I couldn’t take the uncertainty of Port Coquitlam anymore.

The Port Coquitlam experiment came to a quick end – because, for no other reason than logistics – and I hooked up with an old acquaintance from Victoria days, Mike Friedman. Mike is a brilliant comic, writer and all round swell guy. He and his roomie, Neil Loomer, had a lovely old apartment at 13th and Hemlock – walking distance to CKVN.

It was quite a summer. Living on the main floor was the clothier David Goldman. (*This is just as David opened his first shop under his label – on Granville). I loved his stuff. I couldn’t afford much than a multi colored shirt.

So – now I am starting to see the light – CKVN all nights – and as the days flew by – I had no idea how much my life would change in the space of just 18 months.

The first of those changes occurred when I finally got to meet my Radio hero.

Fred Latremouille – was hired to do mornings , at CKVN. It sure was convenient for this legend. He lived, with his late wife Blanche, and his two beautiful German Shepard’s, plus his cat, Clouseau, right behind CKVN.

I was about to wrap up a show when the door to the studio swung open – and there he was, larger than life – and we have been friends ever since.

I said my life was changing fast! Coming up – CKVN becomes CFUN, I get married and my life as a Radio gypsy would be taking me back to the City where I spent much of my childhood.
Tom Jeffries
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