‘No female news announcers’: Letter from a Calgary radio trailblazer
The Herald wouldn’t hire Donoghue — so she crossed the street.
Every so often, The Sprawl gets mail. I'm not talking about email—I mean snail mail. The slow kind.
Awhile back, for example, I received a white box from New Hampshire. This struck me as odd. Who in the world was sending a package from New Hampshire to a local news outlet in Calgary?
It turns out it was a box of CDs from an old-time western folk singer, Skip Gorman, who had read my tribute to Ian Tyson.
I read your excellent article on Ian Tyson that I saw online posted by my friend Charlie Seemann of the Western Folklife Center.
I was intrigued as I met Ian at, I think, it was the Gaslight or The Bitter End coffeehouse in Greenwich Village in 1969. I was introduced to him by a friend whose bluegrass band I was playing in when I was 19.
Ian seemed like a really accomplished and kind fellow.
I went on to play very traditional music of the American West pretty much remaining out of the limelight due to my Luddite views on playing very all acoustic old-time sounding ballads and tunes.
Thanks so much for your great writing.
I thought you might enjoy some of this music that I began recording in 1977.
A lovely gesture! For months I have been listening to "Mandolin in the Cow Camp" and whatnot in the car, and enjoying it very much. (Fun fact: Gorman's music has been featured in various Ken Burns documentaries over the years, including Baseball.)
More recently, I got a letter in the mail from Jacqueline Donoghue in response to my Sprawlcast on the Calgary Herald.
I'd like to share it with you in full as it is quite a yarn.
Imagine! Correspondence by snail mail! The writer must be from a lost generation.
You are right. I am 92, fast approaching 93. I was introduced to The Sprawl by a much younger friend of 70. I do not Twitter nor tweet and my cell phone is safely out of reach, hidden under my bikini which I haven't worn since 1962.
I write to you prompted by reading the article on the Calgary Herald. When I graduated from university in 1952, I sought employment at the Herald where I was turned down by pipe-smoking Jerry Brawn, father of Bob Brawn. Mr. Brawn dismissed me by saying, "There will be no female news reporters at the Herald."
So I walked across the street to the Greyhound building where I got a job as continuity and commercial writer at CFAC radio which had a similar policy as the Herald; no female news announcers.
Mr. Brawn dismissed me by saying, ‘There will be no female news reporters at the Herald.’
CFAC was Calgary's primo radio station because it was affiliated with the CBC. Clarence Mack, who later became a Calgary alderman, dominated the airwaves with his morning program, Toast and Marmalade, and directed CFAC-produced plays for CBC Wednesday Night.
CFAC had a huge main studio with a grand piano and an organ which were both played by Bruce Bristow who conducted the Palliser Hotel orchestra. The Stampede Parade was described by CFAC radio personalities from the roof of the Greyhound building as it wended its way east down 7th Avenue. The horse manure scoopers always got the most applause from the sidewalk parade watchers.
By 1954, I had a Saturday morning children's program sponsored by Sunny Boy Cereal and a daily woman's program which I named "It's A Woman's World." I didn't know how to cook and hated housework so my program was different from the norm of other programs for women which concentrated on cooking, cleaning and rummage sales.
I shared an office with sports announcer Eric Bishop. My office looked directly across at the office of the editor-in-chief of the Calgary Herald. I had the vantage point to see the "all male" staff take leave of the premises every afternoon to walk down the alley to the Empress Hotel.
One day, while admiring the gargoyles on the Herald building, announcer Jim Kunkel and I observed a Herald editor making clearly unwanted passes at his secretary. Jim quickly phoned the editor whom we could see stop mid-pass and answer the phone. Jim had a voice like Lorne Green (Pa Cartwright on Bonanza).
In answer to the editor's "Hello," Jim said, "This is God. I see you. Stop what you are doing right now!" The editor nearly dropped the phone. The secretary escaped.
Jim went on, "If I ever see you carrying on like that again you will know the wrath of God," and hung up. The editor shakily hung up his phone, came to the window and looked up to the sky while Jim and I laughed and laughed.
One day, announcer Jim Kunkel and I observed a Herald editor making clearly unwanted passes at his secretary.
I often had lunch at the Tea Kettle Inn with Herald newsmen Tommy Primrose and Ken Liddell. We were joined by Art Evans from The Albertan. The clientele at the Tea Kettle was mostly women out for a day's shopping at The Bay, Eaton's or the newly-opened Holt Renfrew on 7th Avenue.
Tommy was the agriculture reporter, but often did live concert reviews. He dressed all in black and looked like a villain from any Saturday afternoon western. Ken Liddell, who had a human interest column, roamed Southern Alberta small towns creating goodwill for the paper. He looked a great deal like actor Edward G. Robinson.
Art Evans, who had a broken nose, wore a fedora with the front brim turned up. He looked like a gunsel from Chicago.
And I? In my hat from Lacy's Hat Shop, gloves, business suit and high heels? Hopefully, Rosalind Russell from "His Girl Friday."
These men were my mentors. But my greatest mentor was one of the first newswomen in Calgary: Eva Reid.
Eva had attended business school and had boarded at the home of William Aberhart, principal of Crescent Heights High School. Like Aberhart, Eva was a strong Baptist. Eva became secretary to Aberhart when he became Premier of Alberta.
Later, she joined the staff of the Calgary Albertan, first as a secretary then as an unlikely court reporter.
When I met her she had her own column slanted toward women but not solely because Eva had an ear for politics, local and provincial.
Eva was a self-taught, by the book, journalist. She checked her facts. She checked her "quotes." She made no judgements despite her own religious views.
Underpaid and overworked, she set the bar high at the Albertan, which had a tabloid reputation.
It was a sad day for me when the old Herald building imploded and only some of my beloved gargoyles were rescued from the rubble and sadder still when the Greyhound building, hub for Greyhound buses, home of Barney Gelfand's coffee shop and CFAC followed suit.
I write this letter to add some names to your Herald story and to share some of my own memories. In addition I want to thank you for your collaboration and continuing respect for lan Tyson.
I will now put -30- to this story and sign off.
Well, there you have it. I enjoyed digging up a few archival bits for Donoghue's letter.
Thanks for reading!
Jeremy Klaszus is editor-in-chief of The Sprawl.
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