storyteller, broadcaster

Posts tagged ‘Kelvin High school’

Moments of inspiration .. with microphones

Less than three weeks now until I close the book on my second Regina life and return to Winnipeg. It is a move being made for very personal and positive reasons, and the timing is proving to be very interesting.

The weekend of May 25th and 26th will mark the 100th anniversary of Winnipeg’s Kelvin High School from which I graduated Magna Cum Nothing in 1965. I am very honoured to have been asked to co-EMCEE the gala dinner, along with Fiona Odlum, CJOB’s Eye in the morning sky, who graduated in 1990.

Kelvin Reunion, latest info

This past Saturday I was asked to help promote the event by appearing on CJNU, Winnipeg’s home of Nostalgia Radio

Nostalgia Radio

This intriguing operation has been around for more than a decade in a few different forms, and it has proven to remarkably popular. Programs are hosted by a variety of people, including a number of veteran broadcasters like myself. In May of 2005 I was part of the group that did programming from Winnipeg’s Deer Lodge Centre, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of VE Day.

I did the morning show for a whole week, reuniting for a couple of days with my old CBC partner Lesley Hughes.

This month, CJNU is broadcasting from the 13th floor of Winnipeg’s tallest skyscraper, the Richardson Building. You gotta love a wealthy clan who thumb their noses at superstition, less than a week before Friday the 13th no less.

This one hour broadcast allowed me the privilege and pleasure of meeting a most remarkable fellow Kelvinite named Scott Best.

Scott graduated from Kelvin in 2007 and he’s now taking Creative Communications, a program which is shared by Red River College and the University of Winnipeg.

Did I mention that Scott is blind, mostly likely from birth it appears? Not surprisingly, he has always felt a very strong connection to the realm of radio, and CJNU in particular. He tells the story himself on the their website.

Since the age of four, I have loved Nostalgia music. Every day, my grandparents would bring me home from school, and on the way, they would entertain me with the music of Patsy Cline, Dean Martin, or Max Bygraves. While I enjoyed the normal children’s fare from Fred Penner and Raffi, there seemed to be something special about that Frank Sinatra guy my parents always listened to.

Radio was a large part of my life as well. I would wake up to Don Percy, Cliff Gardner or Jack Wells every morning and imagine what it would be like to be a broadcaster. My favourite spot on the dial was a little Nostalgia station called CKVN. I had been a loyal listener since I was seven, so I was somewhat disheartened when they went off the air.

In December 2006, I was thrilled to hear about the launch of CJNU. I noticed that they were looking for members to be a part of their cooperative. Sadly, I couldn’t be one, as I was not 18 yet. I had done some work for Kelvin High’s in-school radio station, but I never thought I had enough experience for them to give me a second look – or should that be listen. Thankfully, they did, and I am proud to be an announcer, board member, and member of the cooperative.

CJNU has given me the opportunity to combine my two passions – the magic of radio and the most magical music I’ve found anywhere. I have learned a lot from some top-notch broadcasters and met a lot of top-notch people too.

I quickly tossed aside any notion that Scott was somehow handicapped Without missing a beat he rattled off live commercials and weathercasts, reading them in braille.

I talked about my Kelvin years which coincided with the construction of the new building that replaced the original Kelvin, which opened in 1965. I told him how had the good fortune to be in the same room in grade 11 with this guy whom you might recognize.

With one of the most heartwarming smiles I’ve ever seen, and a splendid radio voice, Scott said “I hear that you are in the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland” !

I replied “This is a story I’ve been dining out on for years. Neil’s display in Cleveland includes his 1964 Kelvin yearbook, and my picture is on the same page.

Then Scott played ” The Sultan” which Neil recorded with his band the Squires in 1963. I had not listened to that rare recording in more than 45 years. How sweet it was.

info about "The Sultan"

Lots more to says about those Kelvin years in the days to come.

How I glad I am to have met Scott Best. How I wish he had been born a few decades earlier, before the world of radio became so totally corporate More on that to come in the days ahead also.

Roger Currie is a Regina writer, broadcaster and blogger.


He currently hosts Talk of the Town every weekday at Noon, 4pm and 10pm on Access channel 7. He will be relocating to Winnipeg at the end of April. He can be reached at rogerc@mymts.net

My Famous Classmate

originally appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press in late March 2005

by Roger Currie, a Winnipeg writer + broadcaster
………………………………………………………………………..

I’ll bet you did not know that I am in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland? This is a fun little story which I have been dining out on for years. You see there’s this fellow who really IS in the Hall of Fame, and we were in the same room at Kelvin High School in grade 11 way back in 1963-64. You might have heard of him. His name is Neil Young. Part of Neil’s exhibit in Cleveland is his grade 11 yearbook .. and my picture is on the same page. Pretty lame, huh? Told you it was a little story.
2005 was a difficult year for Neil. He promised that if the Junos ever came to Winnipeg, he would be here and would perform on the show. So plans were made to give him a very prominent spot on the program when the big show took place at the brand new MTS Centre. But less than a week before, Neil had to cancel. He had surgery to repair a brain aneurysm. It was not something to fool around with, but Neil managed to finish an outstanding new album called Prairie Wind before going under the knife. Then in mid-June Neil lost his dad. 87 year old Scott Young was a well known Canadian writer, author of several books including Neil and Me which he wrote about his famous son in 1984.
Neil and I were not what you would call close at all. Truth is Neil didn’t have that many close friends at Kelvin, unless they were into music. Academic studies certainly took a back seat to playing his guitar and writing songs. Neil spent two years in grade ten and was starting his second attempt at grade eleven when he dropped out of school for good in the fall of 1964.
He was tall and skinny and without much physical strength. He had polio as a youngster. His somewhat frail health was largely unknown to our phys ed teacher, Mike Kachmar. Mike was also the football coach, and in gym class he could have been mistaken for a military drill sergeant as he whipped us through sit-ups, pushups and other such torture. I recall more than one occasion when Neil was in agony and Kachmar spared him no quarter. Many years later, Neil made a triumphant return to Winnipeg performing a sold out concert at the Arena. During a quiet moment about halfway through the evening, Neil recalled his ordeal in gym class and unloaded on Coach Kachmar in colourful language which I won’t repeat here since it might scorch the page. Kachmar gleefully recalled it as “my five minutes of fame”.
I remember Neil as a fairly shy loner, an introvert even. But like many a successful performer he came alive in the spotlight, on the stage. At Kelvin, he gave a number of memorable impromptu performances in the gym and the cafeteria, and I remember them as being very funny. One song in particular called A Letter to Freddie stands out. Freddie was Fred Hodgkinson, the vice principal of Kelvin, who gave Neil more than a few detentions for his various antics.
By 1963, when we both reported to Mrs. Mollard’s grade eleven class in room 34, Neil Young had already formed his most notable Winnipeg band called The Squires (see photo). Being a painfully shy guy who wasn’t much for those community club dances that Winnipeg was famous for in the 1960’s, I don’t believe I ever saw the band perform. They made one notable 45 rpm recording featuring two of the first songs Neil ever wrote, The Sultan and Aurora on the flip side. It was recorded by engineer Harry Taylor at CKRC in the late summer of 1963. It certainly got played to death in the Kelvin cafeteria, and on the local airwaves of CKRC. All of the fellows who worked at CKRC then have memories of Neil hanging around the station, but not one of them had any inkling that he might become a superstar in the music world. Boyd Kozak had just started at CKRC in 1963. “I was working 8 to midnight, and Neil would come in and sit at the back of the studio when he got tired of his band mates. He was very much a loner and could not be described as a sparkling personality. He sure smoked a lot of cigarettes”, Kozak recalled in an interview.
In more recent times Neil Young has turned to a much more wholesome lifestyle. He once turned down a very lucrative tour of central and South America when he learned that a major sponsor of the tour was a tobacco company. He has been a tireless proponent of Willie Nelson’s Farm Aid efforts, and a quiet supporter of many other causes.
Let me end this reminiscence with a few thoughts about that darkest Friday so long ago, November 22nd 1963. Neil and I sat about three seats apart writing a major chemistry test for Dr. Golubchuk that afternoon. Just after the test papers were handed out, the P A system interrupted with confirmation of the news that changed the world. U.S. President John F. Kennedy had been killed by an assassin’s bullets in Dallas Texas. At that moment, I looked up and gazed around the room. Some of the girls were crying. Neil and I looked at each other with expressions that spoke volumes without any words. Why on earth were we trying to do this stupid test? I’m sure we both failed that day, but what did it really matter?

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