In June of 2015, after much discussion with Heather, I decided to retire from Canada AM. I had always told my boss, Lis Travers, that I would give her plenty of notice, and so on June 17th, 2015 I told her I would be retiring in June of 2016. I was comfortable with the year’s notice, realizing I still had a little left to give, but at the same time acknowledging the tank was running towards empty. I also wanted to avoid a long drawn out ‘goodbye’, so we told the staff of my decision right away and my family and friends were aware, but we didn’t announce it publicly until May 6th of 2016.
Back to June of 2015 when Heather told my step-daughter Jessie, who was 12 at the time, of my plans to retire. She wanted to know if that meant I would be living in PEI full time. “Of course” Heather replied, to which Jessie said, ” how’s ‘that’ going to work?” It was a very good question because we just didn’t know.
I’ve given you the stats in prior blogs, but to refresh, in the 12 years I had known Heather prior to retirement, we spent over 2500 nights apart. The longest amount of time we had spent together was 21 days. I had commuted back and forth to PEI for 11 years, every weekend,and that would finally come to an end. So, when retirement came, it was a question of ‘settling’ into full time life in PEI, and at the same time, getting used to not being on TV anymore, something I had done for 40 years.
On the first issue of settling into life in PEI there never was an issue. I think this was aided by the fact the move came at the beginning of summer, and Heather and I had a lot of things pre-planned in regards to what we would be doing in the ‘summer of my retirement’. I’m thrilled to finally get to spend all my time with my wife, it’s what I was aiming for all the time. Come the end of summer, one thing I admit I didn’t even think about was the fact Heather, who is a teacher and is still working, has a daily routine of her own when it comes to the work week. I knew all about ‘my’ routine when it came to the work week, but since I had been doing it alone for the past dozen years, I never even thought about hers.
Moving to PEI full time meant moving away from my kids and grandkids, and with the birth of Paisley last February, that brought the total to five. Along with Paisley, Mackenzie, Emily, Spencer and Charlotte are all wonderful, and I’ve been back to Ontario several times to visit and Paisley even paid us a visit here in PEI in August for a week.
I’m not busy every day by any means, and don’t want to be. We golfed and travelled in the summer and I finally joined some ‘guys’ golf trips to Ontario and BC. I worked three charity golf events and finally took my friends Paul and Susan up on their offer to come and visit them in Florida which I did in October and am doing again in February. ( they’d only been inviting me to come down since 2008, so I’ve got a lot of lost time to make up for!) What’s been really great about retirement is not having an agenda when it comes to time. I’ve got plently of it, and my ‘rat race’ mentality is firmly parked on the shelf.
Back in October, Heather, Jessie and I travelled to Ontario where we celebrated Thanksgiving with all my kids and grandkids, and in the highlight of my first year of retirement, all 15 of us, from Ontario and PEI, got together, in Ontario, to celebrate Christmas, and that was a first and something I will always treasure. The family photo around the tree is awesome.
On August 7th, 1979, a tornado struck parts of Southwestern Ontario including the town of Woodstock. The tornado was an F4, the second strongest on the tornado measuring Fujita scale, and the first of that strength in Ontario since 1953. I was working at CKCO-TV in Kitchener at the time, and when first reports came in shortly after 7pm of tornados in Stratford and Woodstock, a co-worker named Linda Richards headed down the 401 about 40 minutes to Woodstock to get the story and rushed back in time to get some footage on our 11.30 local newscast. As we were sitting in the newsroom watching her work, a call came into the newsroom from a producer at Canada AM. Could Linda come on the show the next morning and talk about what she saw in Woodstock? Linda agreed, got up early and made the trek to Toronto. I remember watching her on Canada AM thinking how. cool. is. that. The hosts at that time were Norm Perry and Gail Scott and I can’t remember who did the interview, but I remember how proud we all were of Linda for being on the ‘national’ stage. After that morning, I began to pay more attention to Canada AM. Not on a daily basis by any means, but certainly became more aware of the show and it’s content.
In 1988, I worked the Calgary Olympics and became great friends with Dan Matheson, who at the time was working on Canada AM, but was also one of the main broadcast hosts for CTV. After that, I would tune in to the show on a more regular basis before I went to work, because after all, I now ‘knew’ someone personally who was on a network show.
Despite becoming a more frequent viewer I don’t think I ever aspired to be on Canada AM because I didn’t think it would ever be attainable for me. I was in Kitchener, and despite having done a few odd jobs for Wide World of Sports back in the early to mid-1980’s, I was never really on the radar of the CTV News division. Dan Matheson changed all that. In early 1992, I got a call from the executive producer of Canada AM saying that Dan had recommended I fill in for him on Canada AM while he was off covering the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. I jumped at the chance. On Friday, July 10th, 1992 I appeared on Canada AM for the first time. That began what would be a 23 year stint on the show. I’ve outlined here how I worked part time for 5 years, had a ‘gap’ year in radio and then just shy of 18 full time years with AM. I was the longest serving full time host on the program, worked with 10 different co-hosts and 14 executive producers. And then it all ended, suddenly, on June 3rd of 2016.
On New Year’s Eve, when Heather and I were out seeing Haywire at the Delta Hotel here in Charlottetown, no fewer than a dozen people, and probably many more than that, came up, said hello, and that they miss the show. The number of people coming up to me since the show was cancelled is likely close to one thousand. It’s been like that for the past 7 months, and it doesn’t seem an end is in sight. This blog alone has over 1500 emails and comments about missing the show, and I miss it too.
It’s true, that when the show was suddenly cancelled, I was going to retire shortly anyway, but when a part of your life suddenly disppears after 23 years, it was, and yes, remains, a shock to the system. I’ve shared with you here my feelings about the things that happened leading up to the cancellation and am not going to rehash any of that again. Many of my co-workers found jobs with the replacement show, or within the news division at CTV and sadly, some very good people are not included on that list.
On June 3rd, the day of the last show, I didn’t know how I would feel about things on June 4th, or July 4th, or December 4th or even January 4th for that matter, but from a Canada AM stand point, it’s pretty much the same feeling. Disappointment.
From a retirement stand point, I couldn’t be happier, I’m looking forward to more travel in 2017, especially my three Scenic River cruises which is an opportunity I’m very grateful for, and quite frankly still pinch myself over everyday. I have time to visit family and friends, time to discover new things and time revisit old ones, yep, life is ‘normal’ or at least a definition of ‘normal’ that I love.
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Here’s a link to my Scenic Mekong River cruise next November
Representation: ( would love to come and talk to your group!)