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CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)
Stories from Harold Nelson


CBC is 75 years old as at 2011.

CBC/Radio-Canada is Canada's national public broadcaster and one of this country's largest cultural institutions. Through the delivery of a comprehensive range of radio, television, Internet, and satellite-based services, CBC-Radio/Canada is available how, where, and when Canadians want it.

I thought I'd give you some information on the CBC but writing to CBC didn't get me any information and so I thought I'd just write up a variety of stories about the CBC.

My information comes from Harold Nelson who was for some 33 years a news editor for them. Harold has now been retired for some 22 years from CBC so that must mean he started working for CBC in 1956.

Crewe-Nelson Family
Harold is sitting on the left front in this picture
showing a family gathering at Christmas 2009.


Politics and a family go together for Nola Sam Crewe, no ordinary housewife and mother. Mrs. Crewe's the Progressive Conservative candidate in Riverdale riding running against long-time incumbent, the NDP's Jim Renwick. Her husband, Harold Nelson, production editor for CBC-TV's national news is looking after children, Derby, 13, Kate, 11, Martha, 9, Verity, 4, Tory, 2, while she campaigns.


A Love Letter from Harold to Nola

Here is a selection of stories he's told me and I must add here that while the thrust of the stories is roughly accurate I didn't retain all the names he mentioned. I'd be more than happy to correct any information I provide here should someone have better information.

Guns in the Newsroom

The controller for BBC 2 in London came over for a visit and while visiting the newsroom he asked the chief news editor whether they were expecting trouble. "Trouble? What gives you that idea?" The Controller then pointed out all the rifles that the news team were handling. "Oh!" said the news editor... "guys what are all the rifles about?" They replied that there was a very good deal on rifles at an outlet in Toronto so many of them had taken advantage of the offer and were thus comparing notes.

It was pointed out that in those days many of the journalists where big time into hunting and shooting.

No Journalism school

Back in the early days there were no journalism schools and so people were selected for their knowledge of writing. This meant that many of the journalist in these days were often real characters and would certainly not get a job with the CBC in today's television. Some of these journalists would disappear on a project and then no-one could find them. It was often Harold that was contacted when someone needed to be found and he sure had a real knack of finding them.

Harold was once asked to give a talk to journalism students in the USA which he did. In his talk he mentioned that you take a local taxi to a dangerous area and when the taxi driver said time to go you left. At the time this item did not make much impression. BUT just a few weeks later a journalist was killed and it was later found out the taxi driver said time to go but the journalist ignored the advice and was killed as a result.

Likewise he mentioned that interviewers really needed to pay attention to their guests. He sited one time that Thomson the media mogul was being interviewed on a business program. When asked what his favourite reading was he replied "Financial Statements". The interviewer laughed and moved on. Harold notes that instead of moving on he should have asked why and could well have received some gems of advice from a very successful entrepreneur.

Ethics

In the old days many journalists knew about affairs that Members of Parliament were having but none of that was ever reported on the news. A major departure from today when every bit of scandal is eagerly reported.

A news item was released saying that one mining company had made a huge discovery and this was reported on the Saturday news. Harold wasn't convinced that this was an accurate story and as he knew the CEO of the company he made a call to him on the Saturday evening to clarify. It turned out that the story was not accurate so on the Sunday Harold made sure there was a news item refuting the previous item. The key to this is that if the story had not been corrected then share prices in that company would have risen sharply and thus insiders would make a killing. That also meant that the CBC would have been investigated for wrong doing. And so by publishing a rebuttal on the Sunday CBC avoided any action that would certainly have been taken.

Was Harold a crook?

A new chief news editor was appointed but there was no furniture in the office. So he asked to get some organised but was told that the furniture store was locked and they couldn't find the key. Someone mentioned this to Harold so he opened the door to let them in.

The chief editor wondered how Harold could get in whereas no-one else could. He thus phoned security to report the issue. Security tested this by asking for an item that was in the room and Harold then opened the door so the item could be found.

Security tried all kinds of keys and other means of opening the door but they simply could not get in and so came to the conclusion that Harold must have a key and so they asked him if he had a key to the store. He replied no he didn't. So in the end they just asked him how he could get in when no-one else could. He then walked up to the door and with the flat of his hand gave a sharp blow to the upper edge of the door and it sprung open!

A RCMP plant at the CBC

There was a person that suspected that there were traitors in the CBC and he sent lots of letters to all the members of the news staff accusing them. After this had been going on for a while it was noted that Harold was the only one in the building not to receive such letters. The reason for this was that his father was an old RCMP officer and he'd been invited to a special RCMP event. Harold was asked if he could drive his father to the event which he happily did. When they got to the RCMP car park he was saluted and guided to a Superintendants car parking space where the car was parked and then Harold took his father into the building.

Well it appears that this person was spying out the RCMP building at the time and had noted Harold being saluted and guided to the Superintendants spot. He thus concluded that Harold was actually an RCMP plant at the CBC and thus one of the "good" guys.

Good relations with the RCMP

Back in the good old days news staff would party and so from time to time they'd end up being picked up by the police for being drunk. Harold would get phone calls and he'd go down to get them out. In fact if he was going by the police station late on a Saturday night he'd often just pop in and ask if any of his guys were there and if they were he'd get them out.

He also had great relations with various other departments within the RCMP. He tells a story of how they got a new bomb disposal truck. They thought they'd take Harold for a ride in it so he could experience it for himself. They then dropped him off at the CBC. Within a very short space of time CBC security phoned him to see if there was a "problem".

Also one time a special forces car was passing by when they noticed Harold has been pulled over with several other cars in a police check point. They screeched to a halt and got out and told Harold to get out the car and they frisked him them shouted to the police that he was clear and that he could go. The police accepted that and they said to Harold they'd see him in the bar later. It appears they thought he might be in trouble and so figured they'd help him out.

Harold's father was actually a sergeant in the North West Mounted Police and then joined the RCMP after amalgamation.

Pierre Treadeau.

Harold got in the story that the Prime Minister was being driven to a cabinet meeting by a girl friend when she was pulled over for speeding. She was quite indignant about it and said to the police officer that she was driving the Prime Minister to a cabinet meeting. The police officer then replied that she should take better care of their Prime Minister and gave her a ticket. It was reported that the Prime Minister was convulsed with laughter at the event.

French Station

It was an interesting time with the French stations that for some reason they were reluctant to give any of the powerful positions to French citizens and so a Greek was given overall top news position and various other countries provided other key positions.

For some reason the French station decided not to take non French newsfeeds. This gave the local journalists problems so Harold started to feed them some of the other feeds outside normal channels. This was very much appreciated by them and often resulted in Harold getting favoured access to French stories for his local news.

How to get things done at the CBC

Harold made a point of getting copies of the local newspapers to give to the engineers for free which was very much appreciated by them. As a result Harold could get things done "outside" the usual channels. Another example of good relations was that at Christmas he arranged to get all the engineers and local news staff a full turkey dinner delivered. Again this meant he got even more favoured services.

He quotes the many times when a director needed the media to go from quarter inch tape to half inch tape or something like that. Often this would means an extra weeks delay to reserve a slot when this could be done. On the odd occasion this was time critical so they would be directed to Harold where he could actually get around the red tape to get things done in a timely manner.

There was one time when Thompson was selling one of the major newspapers in the UK and the BBC needed to do a quick interview with him. Problem was that all the studios were being used. So again Harold was contacted to see what could be done. He arranged what he called a "Broom Cupboard" to be used to get the interview done. Thompson's wife asked Harold if they usually put important people into broom cupboards and Harold replied that no-one would know he was in a broom cupboard and it really was the only way the interview could be done to catch that days news in the UK. Mind you he was a friend of both of them so they did trust his judgment.

Another time one of the big American stations needed some news feeds on a particular topic for background for a news story they were running. They found out that only CBC had the footage they needed so they contacted Harold. There was no formal channels he could use to get them the feed they needed so he arranged to send the news footage to one of their stations in BC and gave them the address of the satellite feed so they could lift it as it was going out.

A month or so later the chief news editor got a feed from them of the Shuttle launch and they were 3rd in the queue whereas normally they'd have been 7th or greater in the queue. That meant they got the feed in time to hit the major news that day instead of having to report the next day. With the feed was a note "say thanks to Harold". And of course they all wondered how they'd jumped the normal queue and why Harold was being thanked.

You also had to know the mind set of the archivists. For example news footage was needed on the IRA but all searches came up blank. They knew there must be footage available so they contacted Harold. He told them to search under "personalites" for Ira. And there it was. Apparently the archivist at that time enjoyed a drink and towards the end of the day wasn't too careful about how she classified the various stories and hence the personalities and Ira.

Technical items

These were of course early days of broadcasting so various formats were used and various satellite feeds were used. There was time when one format was preferred but cost over $1 million. Harold found that for internal use a different format would make far more sense for his department and that format would only cost some $40,000. And so they got a demo model in to verify it would indeed do the job they needed and it did. This meant they had the best part of a million that they didn't actually need. One of the other departments at the CBC was desperate for this more expensive format so due to Harold's good work they were able to acquire that equipment from that pot of money.

As we all know various articles need to be of a certain length and at the time you simply couldn't cut into a conversation. You could edit out segments ok but not a conversation where there was no break. Harold came up with a way to actually cut out words or sentences from a conversation to make it fit the time slot.

Lloyd Robertson

As we all know Lloyd is a great broadcaster for CTV but he had his start at CBC. As it happened he had to conduct an interview with a leading figure in one of our industries. In those days the broadcaster didn't actually do interviews so as it happened Nola, Harold's wife, was one of the experts in Canada on this segment of the industry. Harold arranged to have her on the headphones while the interview was going on and so was able to prompt Lloyd to ask the right questions. It was apparently such a great success that he was offered the job at CTV and of course he went onto great things there.

Characters

There were many great characters in the old days of the CBC and many great tales could be told about them. For example some of the news folk were actually millionaires due to outside activity so in many cases they didn't need the job but as they enjoyed it they continued to work there. Many were from Eastern European backgrounds.

Apparently at that time the CBC restaurant served up some of the best food in Toronto so often Harold would be seen taking a Ballerina in there before going onto the ballet.

Apparently one of the staff there complained to the police about ladies sunbathing almost in the nude on the building opposite (As Nola relates it... It was the 21 McGill Club, a women's only place, and we did sunbathe on the roof with little (if anything) on. However, there were no windows that overlooked it that could see: except the chap from the Religion Programming, who had to stand on his desk to see anything! :-)

Overseas with the CBC

Harold used to travel to do some assignments overseas. One time he had to go to Russia so he borrowed a tape recorder from the BBC. He did wonder if he'd have any problems in getting it into Russia but he didn't have any problems. His only problem was when he got back to the UK. The customs officer asked if he was with the BBC and when he replied no the recorder was confiscated. He protested about that and told them he was with the CBC and the BBC had loaned him the unit but they were having nothing to do with it and still confiscated it.

One time Harold was working in London he was lent a flat in a road with just three houses. He did have a bit of a problem with one elderly lady saying he was too noisy in the flat. However one day he'd been take to the Duchess of Kent's home for a lunch and when the Duchess learnt that he was in a flat on his own she insisted he take some flowers back to make it look a bit more homey. Well the Assistant Police Commissioner ran him back and this elderly lady was there when they arrived. Of course she was impressed by his official car dropping Harold off and asked him about the flowers. The Assistant Commissioner informed the lady that the Duchess had given them to Harold. Her eyes went all round in amazement and Harold offered to give her some of them which she gratefully accepted. And you guessed it... no more complaints from the lady.

Fashion

The CBC were looking for models to help host a fashion show. Harold suggested that he could do five minute segments on the various models so the CBC could pick the best ones for TV coverage. Apparently Harold was extremely popular with all the top models in Toronto at the time when they learned they could get TV footage of themselves. However they were all very respectful of him as at the time he was going out with the editor of the largest fashion magazine in Canada and they sure didn't want to get on her wrong side.

Clubs and Pubs

In the old days most of the news reporters didn't have cars so they'd take the bus, tram, tube or a taxi to get to assignments. That meant that as they weren't driving they could go to the press club or other clubs, pubs and restaurants. I'm told in these days it was a very vibrant social scene. However as we can see since these days many of the great clubs in Toronto have closed their doors.

A lot of news stories were found at these events as many of the politicians were there also. While often they couldn't be quoted they would be able to give valuable background information which could then be developed into a story.

So these are just a few of the stories I got from Harold.  Hopefully the CBC or some of their employees might contribute some more for us to enjoy.

Harold passed away

Sad to say that Harold passed away on Friday 3rd February 2012. He had an astonishing knowledge of Toronto and Canada and you could listen to his stories all day long.  You couldn't drive with him through Toronto without him telling you who used to inhabit various buildings.  He had been a writer for the Globe and Mail and also did radio plays. He also worked as a buyer for Sears for some 5 years which also involved travelling around Europe on buying projects.

He once told the story of getting a great deal on bicycles and as a result he sent a container load to BC.  The store complained that they couldn't sell that many so Sears sent Harold out to BC to sell them.  He arranged to have the container put out into the parking lot outside the Sears store and advertised them at a great price.  Within a day he'd sold them all.  The follow up was that other stores in the area took Sears to court for selling these bicycles as a loss leader.  A famous sports personality who worked for Sears as a lawyer used Harold's phrase... "We're just bringing the prices in the East of Canada to the people of Western Canada" and that brought them superb publicity with newspaper headlines.  In actual fact Harold had purchased the bicycles from Europe direct from the manufacturer whereas the others had bought them through a number of agents in Europe and North America so with all the markups taken by the different agents they ended up paying way more for them.

Harold was also a great dog lover and it was also well known in the family that if you wanted him to display a picture of the children and grand children then there had to be a dog in the picture. When talking with someone you could see him reaching for his wallet and of course everyone thought he was going to show a picture of his family but he was reaching for the picture of his dogs! <grin>


Here is Harold in his home office. He always kept up with the news from all over the world through the web sites.


And Nola and Harold at a Baby shower given for one of their grandchildren


Harold at the Scottish First Ministers event in Toronto in 2005


And here are Harold's last two dogs, Pisca and Innis. He liked the beer Innis and Gunn as Innis was his bulldogs name and he was connected to the Gunn Clan. He was able to trace his roots back to Ayrshire in Scotland through the Scotch American Land Company.


And still looking very much the news editor

It's related that when he met Nola they had an argument and as a result Nola poured her drink over him. The manager raced up to throw Nola out when Harold is reported to have said.  Please get Miss Crewe another drink.

Harold was also a "Veteran".  Apparently when he was 16 he worked on a fishing vessel on the Great Lakes during WWII and when he went back to school after the holidays he was told that he'd been rated as a Veteran.  That also meant he was exempted from attending one of the school courses.

I will say that Harold was most generous with his time. When I first stayed with them on coming to Canada to settle here Harold would run me to the various offices to get my health card, social security card, driving licence, etc.  He took me around the place and told many stories about Canada and Canadians which all made me feel quite at home. Although he wasn't in the best of health in these last years he still managed to get around quite well.  I think all the family and his many friends wished he'd write a book of his experiences but that wasn't to be and so hopefully this wee page will tell something of his story.

And so with Harold's passing Canada has lost a great character that did much for Canada and Canadians and he'll be greatly missed by his many family and friends.

Here is the funeral notice...

Harold James NELSON, KCTJ

5 July 1929 – 3 February 2012

Husband of Nola Crewe, and the great joy of his life -- being father of Derbyshire (Vitorhya Shields); Kate - who predeceased him (Robin Young); Morgana (Michael Kozurok); Verity (Alex Austriaco) and Victoria (Craig Moore) and delighted Papa to nine grandchildren, Grant & Devon; Savannah & Dylan; Isabella, Olivia & Ava; Graeme & Onora.

Harold lived his life with gusto enjoying sailing, telling tales, shooting, telling tales, news, telling tales, travelling, telling tales, eating, telling tales, drinking, telling tales and offering up social commentary on everything else . . . He was the recipient of the UofT Gold Key in his graduating year. [Where it was said of him that  "He was an astute observer of the University way of life".] Two organizations were the bookends of his life: a King’s Scout in his youth and a Knight Commandeur of the Knight Templar, Priory of St James in the years of gold.

He worked as the Sporting Goods Manger for Sears as it started up in Canada, was a partner in The Small-But-Honest Advertising Agency and for over 30 years was with CBC-TV’s News Department.

Harold will be at home to family and friends on Sunday from 2:00 to 8:00 p.m. and on Monday from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. at 74 Riverdale Avenue. The Church service will take place at St Paul’s Anglican Church, 227 Bloor Street West on Tuesday, 7 February 2012 at 2:00 p.m.

Templars are requested to be mantled and wear their decorations.

For those who wish to contribute to a cause close to his heart, “St Monica’s Anglican Church & Food Bank”, (1324 Gerrard Street East, Toronto M4L 1X1) or the Templars in their support of Arab Christian Churches in the Holy Lands “The Knights Templar” (74 Riverdale Avenue, Toronto M4K 1C3).

Here is a small video of Harold reporting at Toronto University in his younger days...

Here is a letter that came into Nola after the funeral from Bob Taylor...

29 February 12

Dear Nola,

I was one lucky immigrant lad who got off the boat from England in 1954. Within weeks, I had been befriended by Harold and his family. No newcomer could have had better guides to Canada.

I was musing about this yet again at Harold's funeral, which incidentally I felt he would have loved, it being so apt in every detail, from a reading in French to bagpipes.

I'm sending you a few pages of a memoir I wrote at the reguest - insistence - of nieces in England, who complained they knew little about me. I thought the pages in which Harold appears might interest you, as perhaps giving you another insight into this wonderful, lovable, complex man.

Chapters 15 and 16 are not about Harold, but they involve people he knew and perhaps told you about.

At St. Paul's, I let my thoughts drift back five decades and reflected again how blessed I was to have had such a friend to boast about.

Sincerely yours,

Bob Taylor


There were three of us in our cubbyhole in the advertising department at Simpson-Sears. As ad rep, Harold Nelson was the boss. I did the writing, he fixed it. The secretary, Barbara Lewis, typed his letters and did her nails. Except on deadline, we enjoyed an easygoing existence.

I was Barbara's first Englishman and I was so guaint she couldn't get over me. Her husband was a steady sort of chap in the insurance game, and she kept him amused at the dinner table with accounts of how I blew smoke rings and how I'd presented her with three shiny chestnuts I'd found and how I'd called pancakes flapjacks. She was blond, cute and loved gossip, especially the stuff Harold and I made up about one of the buyers being a bigamist. We were sorry when she left to have the first of six kids, all girls.

Harold and I came fully alive at 5 o'clock and on weekends when he became my Fodor to the city.

"Let's go and see Morley," he said one evening. Morley Callaghan looked amused when we dropped in unannounced - Harold's visits, I was to learn, were always unannounced and sat smoking his pipe and telling us how his new novel was going. Mrs. Callaghan poured coffee and pressed us to try her scones. I was embarrassed afterwards to learn that the Callaghans weren't really friends of Harold's, "just someone I thought you might like to meet."

"They work in here," he said at another time. "They" were two eminent sculptors, Frances Loring and Florence Wyle, and "here" was a rundown chapel, its stained glass still intact, which they had converted into a studio.

"How's tricks?" asked Harold, giving two frozen-faced women his usual greeting. "This is Bob, a guy I work with." He looked around. "So what are you working on?"

Harold was six-foot-one and, unlike his father, solidly built. He had a boyish grin, as if he found life a delightful joke. When he was being serious, like when we disagreed over how best to promote the Syl Apps brand of skates, he testily swept his hair off his brow. He could be outrageous, but disarmingly so, like a puppy caught chewing a slipper.

Ray, too, was a good shot, but he admitted it was a fluke when he picked off a pigeon in mid-air. He was fed up with pigeons fouling his backyard. So, one sunny afternoon, when those pesky pigeons were wheeling overhead, he loaded a .22, aimed at a particular bird and, in defiance of the bylaws, fired and actually hit it. Minutes later, the doorbell chimed and in trooped guests for dinner, all excited. They'd been looking up at the sky and saying what a lovely day it was when a pigeon must have had a heart attack or a stroke or something, because it suddenly stopped flying and fell to the ground. It was simply unbelievable. Ray had to agree.

After a career as a Mountie, Ray had tales of all kinds to tell, some round a campfire, others in the kitchen while Mrs. Nelson heated another can of Campbell's chicken soup. In retirement, he ran a small agency that investigated suspicious insurance claims, for a restaurant fire, for instance. After an on-the-spot check, he might come home with a smoke-damaged box of canned goods he had bought cheap. The Nelsons ate a lot of soup.

But it was while we were trekking through a wilderness of birches and boulders on the way to his cabin that Ray told the story of the stranger. It was dusk and he was driving down a lonely road in British Columbia when he saw a man ambling along ahead of him and decided to give him a lift. He stopped, opened the door, the man got in and sat saying not a word, not even when Ray asked him a question. To break the silence, Ray switched on the radio in time to hear a newscast warning that a patient had escaped from the local mental hospital and that he was dangerous. The stranger sitting a couple of feet away appeared not to have heard. But to be safe, Ray thought he'd better put the man out of action. He stepped on the gas, slammed on the brakes and the stranger was flung against the dashboard. Whereupon he opened the door, got out and resumed his evening outing.

Ray loved animals, but not mice after he stayed one night at a Hudson's Bay post, also in B.C. At bedtime when he pulled back the blankets, he found the mattress covered with mice. "They're only field mice," said his host. "They're clean." Ray bedded down on the sofa. But when he turned down the lamp, mice poked their heads out of floor. With a frying pan from the kitchen, he hit out whenever a head popped up. He woke up in the morning stretched full-length on the floor, still clasping the frying pan.

One person we dropped in on from time to time was Hugh Hood, who taught at the University of Toronto and was making a name as a short story writer. He rented a house on the edge of the campus with half a dozen undergrads. One of these was Harold's friend Dave Quantz, whom I was to work with in the same newsroom. Dave was alone in the house having a bath when the phone beside the window rang. Before answering it, he wrapped himself modestly in one of the full-length drapes. As he talked, he twisted and twirled, unaware he was committing a series of wardrobe malfunctions. He was dressed and opening the front door when a policeman arrived wanting to know who was in the house. No one, said Dave. Why? Some old dame across the street had complained that a man in this house kept exposing himself to her. Man to man, the cop made a slighting comment about goofy old dames and drove off.

In the sailing season, we crewed a 42-foot Baltic cruiser, the Aguila, owned by Bill Moran, a middle-aged wool broker. It was only when we were becalmed on foggy Lake Ontario that I realized how small and fragile she was. That was when a lake freighter, its fog horn moaning and a lookout staring, rushed past, leaving us bucketing in a wake that took all of Bill's skill to deal with.

It was an eccentricity of Bill's that when he was dropping Harold and me off after an outing that he never drove his car at over 25 miles an hour, not when we were with him, anyway, to the displeasure of other drivers. The Aguila didn't share her skipper's regard for a slow, steady speed. In rough weather, she didn't ride gracefully over the waves but charged through them. In a race held in a thunderstorm, we cut so many minutes off the record that the judges wouldn't believe we hadn't cheated.

If Harold was my guide to the city, his father, Ray Nelson, was my guide to the great outdoors. He was a slender six-footer with strong Indian features: skin stretched tight over high cheekbones and an acguiline nose. He had been a Mountie and knew Canada intimately.

Mrs. Nelson, an American, made up with sparkle, charm and good humour what she lacked in looks. She adored her husband and their only child, Harold. A woman of many talents, she was egually adept at paddling a canoe in the wilderness as she was at wielding a skillet in the kitchen. She was also head of the university women's shooting team.

I was clearing out some old papers when I came across a note from my favourite managing editor, Charlie Edwards. He was a delightful man despite his maudlin tendency to warble hymns after his fourth shot of rotgut. He it was who gave me a job as an editor-writer, albeit reluctantly and with deep misgivings, for he suffered from advanced anglophobia.

Charlie Edwards had a bass voice He used to moan, not rejoice.

He was suspicious of love,

Feared Father above And thought things could hardly be woice.

I met Charlie when I dropped in at Broadcast News at the suggestion of Harold Nelson to ask for a job. Charlie, who looked like the twin brother of Colonel Sanders but without the goatee, finished typing a sentence, put a hand to his ear and said, "What's that funny accent I hear?"

"Broken English," I said. "I was born in England but spent my first years speaking Australian."

"English, eh? Then I can't hire you, my lad."

"Why not?"

"Because Englishmen never work out."

"Is that so? And what's your background?"

"Welsh."

"Welsh, eh? That's why you're so biased. You Welsh have had a lot to put up with from the English, haven't you?"

He glowered, then shrugged. "Who sent you here, anyway?"

"Harold Nelson. He worked for you as a summer student."

"Good old Harold, eh? Well, if Harold says so, I'll take you on. But it's a tough job and you'll soon find you're wasting your time and quit."

Indeed the job was tough, writing hourly newscasts round the clock for radio and TV stations. It wasn't made any easier by the fact that my colleagues were a bunch of oddballs. But that's a story for another day. I toiled and moiled and sweated blood until one day, seven months later, Charlie, who was usually referred to by his initials, C.B.E., sent for me.

"Congratulations!" he said, slapping me on my sweaty back and pouring me about three fingers of something (see footnote) from a bottle he kept in his desk. "Cheers." He took a slug and wiped his mouth. "Yes, you've done well, young fella. So drink up." I drank and gagged. He arched a bushy eyebrow. "Another?" I coughed, shook my head and stumbled back to the newsroom and my typewriter.

And that's the story of how I broke into journalism. So a belated hanks, C.B.E, wherever you are.

A Taffy exec, C.B.E.,
Was averse to hiring poor me.
Most English, he said,
Just made him see red.
"But not you," he said finally.

Footnote: As a warning for nondrinkers like me, the bottle should have been marked POISON and labelled with a skull and crossbones. The stuff tasted like rust solvent or something for removing stubborn oil stains from overalls. Whatever it was, it had pickled Charlie's vocal cords, giving his voice a mellow, smoky timbre when he sang a tear-stained "Abide with me, fast falls the eventide," "Lead, kindly Light! amid the encircling gloom" or some other hit from the Rhondda Valley Top 10.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

With my new boss's prediction that I would mess up ringinging in my ears, I opened the door to the newsroom and was hit with a blast of noise.

Teleprinters clattered, bulletin bells clamoured, cigar-chomping editors cursed, the switchboard girl shouted into her mike. Blue smoke lay in layers on the hot, stagnant air. Here and there on a battered desk stood a bottle for editors, writers and teletypists in need of a jolt of rye or vodka.

This was the headquarters of The Canadian Press (CP), the national news service owned by Canada's daily papers. The ruler of this outpost of hell was Ab Fulford, a sallow, round-faced guy with a harelip. He wore an old-fashioned green eyeshade and steel armbands to hold his shirtsleeves just so. A row of White Owl stogies poked out of his vest pocket. A garish tie was caught with a silver clip.

My entrance went unremarked except by Ab and an Airedale, which flashed its fangs, barked once and resumed foraging in a wastebasket for half-eaten hamburger buns.

I asked Ab, who had just set fire to a stogie with a kitchen match, where Broadcast News (BN) was. This was the CP division that relayed news to broadcasters and to which I had been assigned. Ab shook out the match and pointed. "Over there. Tommy Kerr will put you right."

BN had no Airedale to announce my arrival, so I introduced myself to Tommy, the main BN editor, who nodded, shouted, "Hey, Peter, find this guy a typewriter," glanced at the clock, called on the Saviour and resumed hammering out the next newscast on his Underwood.

Peter was Peter Mellors, a looker with an Oxford accent. I asked him why the boss, Charlie Edwards, had given him a job, seeing that he obviously was, gasp, an Englishman. Apparently Charlie, when he heard that Peter had worked for the BBC in London, snapped him up, an act he was to regret whenever broadcasters complained that Peter's summaries lacked enough Canadian news. Which proved that Englishmen never worked out.

As the days and nights flitted by like a kitten chasing its tail, I began to get the hang of the job and make friends with the other men, as fine a collection of oddballs as never brightened the pages of Psychology Today.

Tommy Kerr, the main editor, had a second income as a house painter. In fine weather especially, he might or might not show up at BN, except on Thursdays, when he invariably dropped by, often in paint-streaked clothes, to pick up his pay cheque. Charlie Edwards would nail Tommy and wring a hand-on-heart promise from him to mend his ways, whereupon Tommy would hop into his van, zip back to the work site and conscientiously finish painting the house by the deadline. In the newsroom we coped as best we could.

Peter Mellors, who was as gay as a cruise ship dressed overall, went on to become a professor in Lebanon.

Gavin "Colly" Collier, a Scotsman whose accent became broader with time, was a drunkard who, when he was fu', insisted on tipping bus drivers, slipping the tip into the fare box with a gracious "Tha's for you, ma guid man."

Colly wore tailored suits and sportswear. As a result, he was mired in debt. On the occasion when a collection agent caught him at the office, Colly took him to a pub, drank him under the table and came back with the agent's briefcase crammed with the files of delinquent borrowers, which he dropped into a trash bin. Afterwards he wondered wistfully if his beneficiaries, had they known the name of their Good Samaritan, would remember him in their prayers.

When fu' wi' wusky, young Colly
Would commit every kind of folly.
His wife he'd deprive her
To tip their bus driver,
Like a laird who'd gone off his trolley.

Jack Haney, another candidate for Alcoholics Anonymous, was the father of two of the future creators of Trivial Pursuit. Occasionally he would skip work, and the rest of us would cover for him. But when he didn't show for a third day in a row, we asked the cops to check his house. They reported back that the back door was open but guarded by a famished German shepherd. With the help of a couple of sandwiches, they got past the dog and into the kitchen, where they found Jack lying three days dead.

Dieter Shaefer, an office boy with a knack for reeling off one-liners he sold to comedians, announced one day that he was leaving for Hollywood, where he had signed on with Jack Benny's team of writers.

Dieter Shaefer thought up a joke
As easily as some roll a toke.
One buyer, Jack Benny,
Was one such of many.
"I am," Dieter laughed, "never broke."

Jim Horodinchuk, an incredibly fast and accurate teletypist, was set up by a gang of crooked poker players, who filled him with liquor, relieved him of his pay cheque, his car and finally his bank balance. When Jim stumbled out into the night, he realized he had been robbed. Passing a sporting goods store, he broke in to borrow a shotgun. The cops flushed him out with tear gas. At his trial he was advised by a neophyte lawyer to plead guilty and throw himself on the mercy of the court. The judge, a second George Jeffreys, "the hanging judge" (1645-1689) didn't hesitate. "Seven years. Next case."

Sam Solomon, my best friend, decided, without consulting me, to sign me up for the local chapter of B'nai B'rith, the organization that protects the rights of Jews. Asked at the next meeting for the name of the friend he was nominating, Sam said, "Bob Taylor." The chairman said,

"What kind of name is that?" "OK," said Sam, "he's a goy.

So what?" The idea of having a gentile member was tossed around, and it was decided that though Bob Taylor was no doubt a wonderful mensch, being a goy made him ineligible. "Discrimation!" said Sam and complained to B'nai B'rith headquarters in New York, where it was agreed that Bob Taylor would be eligible only if he converted to Judaism. Sam replied, "I resign." Only then did he tell me about the wonderful surprise he had planned for me. "Sam," I said, "you may be a Solomon, but you're nuts."

To Sam it obviously was news B'nai B'rith is strictly for Jews.

He strove to the end To sign up his friend.

"You bigots," he cried, "j ' accuse'."

These were some of my oddball colleagues. I'm saving the biggest for next time.

Easily the oddest of my oddball colleagues was Milt McPhail, who, when he wasn't in the newsroom, was at the track urging longshot cripples home by word and gesture. Or else he was busy fighting off yet another woman eager to reform him with her pure, disinterested love.

Milt made rather more than I did but, like the rest of the crew, was usually broke or hard up. I started at $42 a week when - I checked later - the average salaried worker in Toronto got $70. Milt blew most of his $50 on horses that sat down at the start or developed glanders at the turn.

On one occasion, a delegation of Milt, Tommy Kerr and Gavin Collier pleaded with The Canadian Press's supremo, Gil Purcell, for more money. Gil was sympathetic, explained that things were tight right now, but that next year blah, blah, blah. When Gil, who had lost a leg while a Second World War correspondent, limped to the parking lot at 5 o'clock, he passed the three suppliants, each clutching a fistful of office pencils and begging passers-by, "Please buy a pencil and help the poor."

On another occasion, the three of them went to Eaton's to try out one of a new shipment of card tables. Tommy was dealing a hand of seven-card stud when a floor walker came charging up shouting "Hey!" Tommy stayed his hand and asked, "A fourth for bridge?"

When I was introduced to him, Milt was living in the Canadian Press basement, which was conveniently equipped with a shower, toilet and paper towels. He slept on the Ping-Pong table, lying on, and wrapped in, the final editions of the Toronto Star and the Telegram. Officially, the boss was unaware of Milt's domestic arrangements. Canadians are a tolerant lot.

Milt seemed to live on air. Poor as I was, I would stand him a fried egg or a toasted cheese sandwich with the crusts cut off, for he had no teeth. He claimed he had owned false teeth once upon a time, but had pawned them when the sure-things were pulling up lame, suffering from the heaves or breaking the occasional cannon bone.

On pay day, a Salvation Army volunteer who patrolled the bars would enter and make straight for Milt, ostensibly to ask for a subscription ("Whatever you can afford, sir"), but in reality, I suspect, ready to give a hand to this wretch. Milt, though an atheist, admired the Sally Ann for its work among the needy and would fish a few coins out of the pool of beer on the table and hand them over.

In appearance, Milt was thin and wiry, an advantage when fleeing from creditors. He stood about five foot 10, topped with mousy hair, slightly waved, which Tommy Kerr cut for him monthly between writing news summaries. His eyes, his best feature, were green and dreamy, as if admiring the sunset or the Rockies from far away. His upper lip hung slightly over the lower one, so that he seemed to be coping, just, with some sorrow. The lack of teeth gave him a hollow-cheeked, ascetic look. He wore jeans year-round and in summer went without socks. All in all, you would have said he was a nondescript fellow, one you would pass unnoticed on the street. Yet he was like catnip to some women.

I taxed him once about this appeal. "It's not as if you have movie star looks or money. You're not a merry old soul or a fascinating conversationalist. And you're certainly not my idea of a Don Juan. But women are all over you."

"Only some women," he said. "But it's true I can go into a crowded room, glance around and see a woman giving me the eye."

"But what's the explanation?"

He shrugged.

Some time later, the newsroom was agog over the latest McPhail woman trouble. Or rather, women trouble, for he had impregnated two girls, daughters of two prominent local families, at about the same time.

What happened next was farcical.

Our office boy, who was new that day, looked up from sharpening pencils to see a tall, white-mustachioed man standing over him, dressed in tweeds and regimental tie and carrying a blackthorn walking stick.

"Which one of them," asked the stranger, shooting his shirt cuff and peering at a name scribbled there, "is Milt - or possibly Milton - McPhail?"

"I don't know, sir," began the boy. "I just started - "

"Listen, young man, if you don't tell me .    . ." He brandished his stick.

"I'm not sure," quavered the boy, "but I think it may be that one." He pointed to the inoffensive Dave Quantz. Dave, who was sitting at his typewriter trying to think of a synonym, became aware of someone looming over him, someone he had never seen before. "Can I help you?"

"I'll be waiting outside for you at 5 o'clock," the mystery man said, did a smart about-turn and marched out.

Dave paled. "Who was that?"

"That?" laughed Milt. "That was the father of one of my girlfriends." And the story of the double pregnancy came pouring out. No, Milt said, he wasn't going to get married. Neither girl wanted him as a husband.

The shift ended and from the window the colonel could be seen still doing sentry go on the sidewalk, his stick shouldered at the ready.

Dave was anxious to get home, so Milt kindly phoned for a taxi to pick up a fare at The Canadian Press. At the back door, please. Yes, in the alleyway. That's right, among the bins. For the rest of the week, this was the procedure for slipping Dave through the blockade, until the colonel unaccountably gave up.

In the meantime, Milt would pass the time of day when going in or out the front door. "Now that," the colonel no doubt thought, "is a charming young man."

When Milt died at age 60, the Fort Erie track, where he had spent many happy afternoons, named a race after him, the McPhail stakes.

Harold Nelson, long-time fixture at CBC's The National, dies at 82
Harold Nelson, a behind-the scenes figure at The Natinal during the 1960s and 1970s, has died at age 82. Harold was known for his encyclopedic memory of film footage and could retrieve needed shots from archives in a hurry. It was an invaluable skill in the days before computers. He retired from CBC several years ago.

The Morley Bedford funeral home says that the Church service will take place at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, 227 Bloor Street East on Tuesday, 7 February 2012 at 2:00 p.m. A private interment will be held from Port Crewe late in the week.

St. James Priory newsletter got in some contributions from Harold and here are a few of his contributions from 2010 onwards...

Turkey & A Clash of Faiths
By Chev. Harold Nelson

With modern globe-trotting, many Christians now are making a pilgrimage to Turkey and the province of Anatolia to the numerous sites where Christianity’s roots were planted by St Paul. They are travelling in the footsteps of Paul and pilgrims of many centuries.

The historic role reflected in the sites include Tarsus where Saint Peter was born, Ephesus where the apostle John and the Virgin Mary lived after Christ’s death and Antioch, where the first Christian church was carved from a cave. Indeed, the first time the followers of Jesus were called Christians was in Anatolia.

Times though are changing and events of the past weeks reflect that. The recent murder of the Roman Catholic bishop of Anatolia shocked most Turks and was quickly called the action of a mad man with no political or religious ties. However, the victim, Bishop Padovese had warned that the toleration of Christians was being weakened because of antipathy among the general population over Turkey’s military and commercial ties with Israel.

For ninety years Turkey has been a democratic, secular, unitary and constitutional republic increasingly integrated with the West. In recent years the secular government has been challenged by the increasing strength of religious parties, Islam being the faith of the vast majority of the population.. With Christians making up a mere one percent of the population they have little influence, being mainly bystanders to the passions of others.

Turkey's location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia makes it a country of significant geostrategic importance. The politicians of Turkey have, of recent years, been orienting their country toward Europe, rather than the middle East, as they seek to be part of the European Economic Union and of NATO.

In the military realm, the United States has vital bases in Turkey where supplies for Iraq and Afghanistan are trans-shipped. Turkey has proven a valued ally of the West since the start of the Cold War: a Muslim country that was friendly to Israel and did not allow the training of terrorists within its borders.

However, the recent attempt by six Turkish ships to break the embargo of Gaza poses a major problem for the Turkish government, even though they had nothing to do with the flotilla. The mobs in the street reflect a major change in Turkey. And politicians in a democracy who ignore rioting people in their streets do not tend to be long-serving. That this nation with a long history of tolerance and inclusion of those of other faiths is now teetering on the edge of political and religious intolerance is a frightening facet in the ever-increasing tensions of the Middle East.


This is a picture of our Prior at the well in St Peter's Church in the countryside of Anitoch, Turkey. This church/cave was built into the rocky hillside no later than the 4th century (tile dating) but could have been considerably earlier. St Peter was the first missionary in the area. The walls of the church and the garden outside just reeked with the prayers of the ages. It is a truly wondrous site to visit.

And he also sent in this one...

Toronto: the faithful . . . then and now
By Chev. Harold Nelson



The 191st Annual Toronto Orange Parade marched along downtown streets on Saturday. (JENNY YUEN/Toronto Sun)

As they have done for decades, the Orange Lodge had their annual parade in July with a small number of marchers compared to their hay-day fifty years ago when they controlled City Hall and had their own newspaper: The Telegram.

When I was quite young, my Father introduced me to the one Roman Catholic Officer on the Toronto Police Force. Another one of my Father’s friends had read law in Scotland but couldn’t become an RCMP officer because the French Canadians used up the Catholic quota. That was Toronto in the 1960’s.

Nathan Philips was Toronto’s first Jewish mayor but even he had the backing of the Orange Lodge. Fred Beavis was the first Roman Catholic mayor, a member of the Knights Columbus and as an Alderman had represented the same East End Ward as Tom Clifford, an Orangeman and member of the United Church. This was the old Toronto where Fred and Tom worked together and were supported by both religious groups In 1970, the Orange Lodge sold its building on Queen street and lost the huge murals that portrayed its history and beliefs. Those years represented the high point of the troubles in Ireland and yet one of the Grand Masters in Toronto said he understood the problem and didn’t blame the Roman Catholics for wanting their share of the housing and jobs. And Mayor Leslie Saunders, staunch Orangeman, explained the drop in numbers of Lodge members on Television one evening. It was “ . . . a problem affecting all of the service clubs”.

That and changes in the Liquor laws are what spelled the end for even press clubs, the epitome of drink and debate. The clubs, once social centres, faced changing times and to survive had to change. And just as service clubs lost members to changing times so did churches and other organizations dependant on volunteers as women joined the workforce and television and computers came to dominate spare time: instead of service, companionship, a bowling alley or a beer at the Legion.

Toronto is a different place. Jews, Anglicans, Muslims and Buddhists share subway seats. Restaurants of every culture and ethnicity fill our streets. Toronto is now the most multicultural city in the world. . . and the divisions seen in the Orange and St Patrick’s Day parades are an amusing relic of a day long past: but the tolerance each had for the other, presaging Toronto to-day.

December 2010

Christians under Threat
By Chev. Harold Nelson

[Editor's Note: Two articles from Harold in this issue and they have to make us think about what we as Templar's might do to help our Christian brothers and sisters. We have already seen a previous article on the plight of Christians in Turkey and in fact there was a BBC documentary about them. I would guess there is not too much we as a Priory can do, although we should certainly consider what we might do, but perhaps this might be a call to action to the Templars of the world? Might this not be something we could raise at the United Nations? Alastair]

Baghdad Christians
The recent massacre of Christians in Baghdad is expected to result in the exodus of even more Christians from an area which has some of the oldest churches in the world. Our Lady of salvation, a Syrian Catholic church, had been bombed before, yet on November 10th, 2010 a brave congregation of over one hundred people were attending mass when the terrorists struck. They held the congregation hostage for over four hours. When the soldiers attacked some of the terrorists set off bombs and sixty people including two priests died in this action.

Baghdad is a city of violence: just as many people were killed by other bombs on the same day. What makes these attacks on Christians different from other sectarian violence is that the Christians do not have a militia, do not bomb their enemies and continue to try to live in peace with all their neighbours.

The British carved Iraq out of the Ottoman Empire following World War I. The land contained Christians, Kurds and several Islamic groups: none of whom got along well at that time. Violence was avoided then, and after Iraq got its independence, by strong rulers.

Following the most recent incident, a Christian woman pointed out that they were safer under Saddam Hussein, with a Christian Deputy Prime Minister and the Baath socialist party than they have been ever since. When the allies invaded Iraq they disbanded the army and outlawed the Baath party: thereby removing the two groups that could control the country and prevent sectarian fighting and the slaughter of those weak in numbers and peaceful in their adherence to their faith.

Twenty years ago there were strong Christian communities in the Mideast, with roughly 800,000 in Iraq alone. The numbers today show only a shadow of the past populations and the only country to show an increase in the Christian population is Israel: largely because of Russian immigrants.

Although the Iraqi government has condemned the violence, the exodus of Christians fleeing and seeking safety in exile from the lands they have occupied for two millennia will continue. Given the events of 10 November, more Christians in Iraq will see the only way to provide safety for their families and themselves will be as refugees on distant shores.

Templars are called upon to defend the rights of all faiths to peacefully follow the traditions of their faiths, live in harmony with those of other beliefs and to be free to live and worship in the Holy Land. How we are to do this presents a challenge we should all be prepared to explore.

[And it's not only in the Holy Land that Christians are under threat as Harold brings us this next article]

Christians in North Korea
Most sources agree that North Korea has the largest number of persecuted Christians but Christians are only 3 – 10% of those being persecuted: where the numbers could exceed 100,000. President George W. Bush claimed that the prison camps are the size of cities.

Religious groups are able to exist only if they practice juche, the cult of the country’s leaders which places them above Christ. This is similar to Nazi Germany in the 1930’s where Lutheran ministers were sent to concentration camps for opposing the Nazi’s control of the churches.

Before the Second World War, Christians made up a sixth of the population of Pyongyang, after 160 years of missions. There were several hundred churches at that time, now there are four: two Protestant, one priestless Roman Catholic and a new Orthodox center of worship.

The pastor of a protestant church in Pyongyang says there are now 10,000 Protestants and 1,000 Roman Catholics in North Korea. However, in being able to speak publicly would suggest that he has submitted to the juche expectations. This would be in line with the government’s desire to give an illusion of religious freedom for foreign consumption: rather than disclosing the reality of the faithful of North Korea.

The indigenous native Shamanists and Buddhists are subject to the same discrimination and persecution as the Christians in a country where all religions are suspect of disloyalty to the Supreme Ruler, Kim Jung-Il.

February 2011

Persecuted Christians = Egypt
By Chev. Harold Nelson

The media has been dominated by Egyptian news recently as President Mubarak is challenged. But we have heard or seen virtually nothing about the Christians in Egypt since the brief flurry of news when one of the bombing of Saints Church in Alexandria on New Year’s Day 2011, killing 30 persons and wounding 80.

Christianity was brought to Egypt by Saint Mark and Alexandria became one of the four main centers for Christianity. By the third century, a majority of Egyptians were Christian but after the spread of Islam they became a minority, now making up about 10 per cent of the 80 million population or approximately 8 million.

The Copts consider themselves to be the original Egyptians. It was not until the last century that other Egyptians began calling themselves Arab. Modern Egypt has had a secular government largely run by the army (the eighth largest in the world). However the Muslim Brotherhood, which until now has been kept officially out of politics (since religiously identified groups could not register as parties), could become that largest party because of its grass root programs. It has a solid reputation because of its schools and medical centers in rural areas ignored by the government. And in the last election a large number of its supporters were elected as independents.

Many of the Coptic churches are in bad condition lacking the money for new roofs and other repairs. But the Copts are experts at surviving and continue to have a moral voice that cannot be silenced and deserve the sympathy and support of their fellow Christians.

Perhaps the St James Priory could consider the plight of the Coptic Churches when decisions are made as to where to direct our Churches of the Holy Lands charitable monies this year.

April 2011

Christians at Risk
Chev. Harold Nelson, KTJ

It would be lovely to have a Newsletter in which there were no atrocities to report. This month isn’t going to be one of them. On March 20th in Jos, Nigeria, a bomb exploded prematurely, killing three men who were carrying it toward two churches: the intended targets were worshippers at the Evangelical Church Winning All (EDWA) and the nearby Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN). The same day, a bomb planted at the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church in the same city failed to detonate.

In neighbouring Bauchi state, more than 4,000 people were displaced in a series of night attacks by Muslim Fulani tribesmen. 463 homes, 11 shops and 13 churches were burned.

Anti-Christian violence has increased in northern Nigeria since January of this year, when 200 armed Fulani youths attacked churches and Christian homes. Sectarian violence between Churches and Muslims in Nigeria began in 2001 with a large-scale riot in the city of Kaduna.

If you have the stomach for it, there is a site that keeps track of Islamic Terror Attacks on Christians since 9/11. It goes on for 28 pages. http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/Pages/ChristianAttacks.htm

Newsletter March 2012
This was the St James Newsletter that announced Harold's death...

Prior's Letter

Greetings Templars:

On February 3rd, my husband, Chev Harold Nelson KCTJ died and we are dedicating this issue to him and to his most cherished cause: the persecuted Christians on whom he wrote in every newsletter. But it is also about the work of our priory in supporting the Arab Christians in the Holy Land: one of the most persecuted groups of Christians.

Chev Nick Migliore, as Dinner Chair, has just seen successfully concluded the first fund raising Benevolent Ball of our Priory. A grand night that brought in over $10,000 for the cause! It was an incredibly proud night for the Priory and the team that made it all happen.

There is also a number of other items that I hope you will enjoy and there is a list of upcoming UN Events and Templar Events in other jurisdictions that I hope you will consider adding to your schedule. If you have a talent to offer to the UN Events, please get in touch with me.

I extend my personal thanks to all the members who turned out in their mantles as Honourary Pall Bearers at Chev Harold’s funeral and all those who have in so many ways offered encouragement and support. May God bless you all.

Pax
Nola Crewe
Prior

Husband of The Reverend Dame Nola Crewe, and the great joy of his life -- being father of Derbyshire, Kate, Morgana, Verity and Victoria and grandfather of Savannah, Dylan, Grant, Devonshire, Isabella, Olivia, Ava, Graeme and Onora. Harold lived his life with gusto, enjoying sailing, telling tales, shooting, news, travelling, eating, drinking and offering up social commentary on everything else. He was the recipient of the UofT Gold Key in his graduating year. Two organizations were the bookends of his life: a King's Scout in his youth and as a Knight Commandeur of the Knights Templar, Priory of St James in the years of gold. He worked as the Sporting Goods Manager for Sears as it started up in Canada, was a partner in The Small-But-Honest Advertising Agency and for over 30 years was with CBC-TV's News Department.


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