John Hartig | Great Canadian Memories


Note: John Hartig is retired, and this tribute to Great Canadians is a hobby for him. If there are any photos which have copyright issues, let me know and I will promptly remove them. This website intends to promote Canadians of all sorts, some of whom are famous, and many of whom are not famous. Ordinary and average Canadians make up the better part of our society. Let's praise famous people, certainly, but also the ordinary ones for being great Canadians!

P.S. You can e-mail John for Corrections or Removals: John Hartig



John Hartig | Great Canadian Memories


Thanks for the Memories


John Hartig Memories :
*My Opinion: Canada is one of the few countries that can laugh at itself. Other countries might just get insulted. - John Hartig


Lorne Greene! I almost met him once. Well, I didn't exactly meet him but I came close, or caught his attention anyway. When I was 13 in 1959, Lorne Greene came to the Kitchener-Memorial Auditorium to publicize his new TV series, "Bonanza". I remember being hooked on the show. which opened with that famous musical theme with the four stars riding into your living room on the black and white TV screen. It came on every Sunday evening at 9 p.m. after the Ed Sullivan Show. Anyway, I got into the Aud [maybe snuck in] and saw my hero there on stage dressed up in his cowboy regalia, big as life, "Ben Cartwright!" He was spinning his gun around doing tricks. Can't remember if he shot off a few rounds or not. I was at the foot of the stage and yelled up at him: "Hey, are those bullets real?" He looked down at me with a certain irritation flashing from his eyes. I was interrupting his act! A brief pause, and then he went on with the show. I'm sure he might have wished the bullets were real for a moment, or at least, that this pesky kid would just get out of his sight.

So that's my claim to fame. He went off to become even more famous and I went on to go to high-school. [John Hartig's note]



Donald Jackson: I actually met him once in an interview at the Grande Prairie Recplex after his performance in the Ice Capades, I think it was. I was the sports and feature writer for the Grande Prairie Booster, later renamed Grande Prairie This Week, for which I became editor. Donald was impressive; I couldn't believe how quickly he skated and how quickly he made his twists and turns. He wore what looked like a Canadian military uniform, tight fitting for his speed in skating. We had a coffee outside in the foyer afterwards. A pleasant gentleman to talk to. I took quick notes and later produced a nice article on him.

Another claim to fame by yours truly.



Ron Lancaster: I interviewed the former quarterback for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and later coach for the Edmonton Eskimos. He came to Grande Prairie for a fundraiser. Lancaster showed his athletic prowess on the squash court for a charity event held in the city. He was very kind and co-operative during the interview, willing to answer my [at that time] naive questions. I got a feature story out of it though for the Grande Prairie Booster. Ron Lancaster died in 2008 at the age of 69 in Hamilton, Ontario.

So, there's another claim to fame.



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Slim Pickens: There are a lot of famous people one gets to meet in the newspaper trade, and there's always lots of cups of coffee. Slim Pickens came to Grande Prairie around 1980 to host the first ever Chuck wagon race there. Grande Prairie was in the throws of an economic boom then. The town was trying to compete with its big brother a bit, down south, Calgary. Calgary had its Stampede, Grande Prairie decided to have a "Stompede." This meant chuck wagon races, horse races, hot-dogs, and rides like a carnival. I can't remember if beer was sold. Anyway, Slim Pickens agreed to meet the local representative for the paper, namely me, for a public relations interview. We had a coffee and sit-down in the lobby of the local hotel. Slim was not slim when I met him. He was a tall with a barrel chest, and spoke in a marked southern drawl, I mean Californian accent. He was pleasant to chat with as we sipped our coffees sitting at two stools in the hotel's restaurant. I was pleased with how my photograph of him turned out, as well as the personable interview we had. Unfortunately, I did not keep a copy of that photo which was filed somewhere in the Booster's archives.

This was at a time when Grande Prairie was building like gangbusters. The town had grandiose plans. It build up publcity with a twin city, another Grande Prairie in Texas. Al Romanchuck was the Mayor of our burgeoning city. He wore a pastel blue cowboy suit with fancy sequins on it. Paid $10,000 for his suit, getting it especially made in California from the same person who made Roy Rogers' cowboy suit. Grande Prairie hosted the First ever International Balloon Race in about 1979 or 1980. Mayor Al went up in one of those balloons safe and secure in the basket, waving at the crowd with his Stetson and enoying being noticed in his blue cowboy suit. I also went up that week, but not in a balloon. The newspaper arranged for me to be a passenger in a Piper Cub [anyway a small airplane] so I could snag lots of photographs as we buzzed near the many and myriad coloured balloons which floated in a blue Grande Prairie sky. I think the doors of the plane were not that secure since I could feel a cold draft in the plane. Anyway I was buckled in and had to squirm around left and right to get the various angles of the colourful balloons floating in the sky.

I loved the high pressure of newspaper work. I wrote, I did page layout, darkroom work, and photography. I interviewed and made myself available both Saturday and Sunday for sports photos and coverage. When I started at the newspaper, I made all of $12,000 per year as a reporter, and then graduated to $15,000 as an editor. Even in those days, that was not a high salary. I kept myself going, barely breaking even in rent, food and keeping my rusty car on the road. I put my foot down with the publisher though about spending my own money on gas and risking my camera on the job. The situation improved but only slightly when the publisher conceded to pay for the insurance on my own camera and also gave me a gas allowance of $75 per month for driving expenses.

I was promoted to editor when Jack, the former editor went on a bender and ended up in the hospital to dry out. Brian, the publisher asked me if I could take over the job as editor to which I replied, "yes". My pay increased by $3,000. When Brian went on holidays he left me a note of thanks which read, "I'm secure now leaving he paper in good hands."

I would have stayed at the job had the offer been more substantial. The sales guy was making twice my salary, while I was putting in 60 hours per week! When I quiit, I became an electrical apprentice for a year, and when my back gave out. I became a high-school teacher. I had the qualifications for that, in case I needed to fall back on some other kind of profession. My salary doubled from what I was getting at the newspaper. But how I loved the newspaper work! I missed the interviews and meeting very famous people! Getting back to Slim Pickens, he was such a nice man! When I moved to teaching, I missed interviewing people like him and taking pictures.



Frank Augustyn: I met him once at a party in Grande Prairie, when I lived there in Alberta in or abound 1980 or 1981. I remember he was built like a hockey player, and unfortunately, I don't think we had much to say to each other while schouzing around at the fingerfoods. Maybe he was shy, and at the time, maybe I was more interested in the rock lyrics of Gerry Rafferty, rather than the art of ballet. So that brief passing is yet another little claim to fame. Augustyn went on to dance to further acclaim in the National Ballet of Canada. I went on to write more editorials for Grande Prairie This Week, our local newspaper, and of course, participate in The Grande Prairie Community Symphony as a violinist. Maybe the orchestra got me into the party graced by Frank Augustyn's presence. Maybe Frank Augustyn also liked Gerry Rafferty, "City to City" came out about that time. I'll never know because I didn't ask him.




Ronnie Prophet: Another guy I met, and a nice guy at that. After the show in the gym of the Sexsmith High-school, a little town outside of Grande Prairie, Ronnie Prophet invited me into his fancy travelling bus and offered me a whiskey. I said sure. He was an easy interview. I was impressed with his quick prestidigitation on the guitar and also his funny comedy routine about Harold, the horny Toad. I asked Ronnie if he could read musical notes. He replied, "Not enough to hurt my music any." I thought that was a smart line.

So there's another fleeting claim to fame, but not enough to rub off on me any.



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Al Cherney: was something else. Prestidigitation was an apt word to describe his fast fingers when he played "Orange Blossom Special" on the fiddle. He performed in the theatre of the Grande Prairie Regional College that year, somewhere in the early 1980s. Actually, the community orchestra was supposed to play the first half ot the program that year, and then Al was supposed to come on after the intermission. Before the show began, I was in the washroom washing my hands at the sink. Al came in. At first, I didn't know who it was carrying a hanger of clothes. He asked me where the dressing room was. I said I didn't know. "I guess this is it." He looked at me quizzically and said, "I guess this is a real hick town, isn't it? " I said, "yes," and walked out the door.

Al must have managed his change, not finding a phone-booth or a dressing room nearby, because he came out after the intermission dressed in his fiddler's regalia, and when he struck up "Orange Blossom Special" he sounded fantastic. Man, could that boy play! Too bad we had such a mundane washroom exchange. Perhaps I missed my chance at saying something deeper or more meaningful. Where are the words when you need them. But like ships passing in the night, I guess any deeper exchange was not meant to be. I used to watch Al Cherney perform on the "Tommy Hunter Show," and was always amazed at how he could play the fiddle and smile at the same time.



John Hartig Photo
Terry Fox: There's a guy I never met, and regretfully so. I remember sitting in the trailer just outside of Grande Prairie in 1980 when I heard the news on TV that Terry Fox had passed away. It was a sad day. I was already feeling low living in my claustrophobic domicile. I sold that trailer for $14,000 when I moved out of Grande Prairie and it burned down wtihin two weeks right to the flatbed with the other people collecting big insurance money. This was in the transition when I quit my newspaper job and became a high-school teacher. Years later, when I moved back to Ontario, I drove passed Thunder Bay in the evening. I stopped to take a photograph of the Terry Fox statue, with the moon fortunately high above the statue's head. I angled my camera just right. I've got that picture somewhere in > Creative > My Travels > 3rd picture in my travels slideshow. How time flies! Eventually we all go the way of Terry Fox, and he was just a young guy, 22 years old!

But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near,
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity
-- Andrew Marvell d.1678



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Bobby Hull: There's another guy I never met. I was so close, but that only counts in horseshoes, and not hockey or newspaper reporting. Jack was editor of the Booster then, and didn't lose his job until later when he drank himself silly and ended up in an emergecy bed drying out. Jack was very jealous of his territory as editor of the paper. Sports, however, was my beat, but he made an executive decision to take the interview from me when Bobby Hull came to town for some event. "I'll take this one John," he said, "You take town council." I didn't like the trade-off, but then what could I do, say no to my boss? So Jack got the interview which didn't result in a very good article and a so-so picture of Bobby Hull. Indeed the one with his teeth missing [to the left here] was a real winner taken by somebody who was a pro at capturing the moment. Bobby Hull was famous for the curved stick and the slapshot which had most goalies trembling in their pads. Bobby Hull was also the first hockey player who signed a million dollar contract when he moved over to the WHA to play for the Winnipeg Jets. in 1972. So, my editor Jack took the story and soon after lost his job for alcoholism. I went on to become editor, missed the chance to interview Bobby Hull, but got a lot of other good interviews, including the one with Slim Pickens and Ronnie Prophet. After I quit the paper for more salary as a teacher, I heard Grande Prairie This Week folded, going broke like so many small-town papers who pay their staff minimal salaries, for a by-line which never won them fame or fortune.



Kerry Stratton: What's a classical orchestra conductor doing here? Well, when I was a young man, and Kerry was indeed a younger man, he came to Grande Prairie, Alberta, in around 1980 to be conductor of the Grande Prairie Community Symphony Orchestra. I played first violin in that association of amateur musicians.

Kerry went on to become a professional conductor with world-renown. He currently [2017] leads the Toronto Concert Orchestra and has a very popular radio show on Classical 96.3 FM, "Conductor's Choice." His specialty is Dvorak, music from whom he has recorded with the Prague Radio Orchestra.

Well, Kerry was always an exuberantly gifted conductor with a rich basso voice that commanded the attention of his orchestra members. I remember him for his wit, and his dry sense of humour, as well as his kindness in dealing with amateur musicians. I'm sure his wit, commanding presence and his talent as a conductor has likewise earned him the respect of all the professional musicians with whom he has ever dealt. I have fond memories of Kerry when he was in Grande Prairie. I looked forward to his orchestra practices. When I lived there, it was a reviving breath of fresh air, away from my busy job as a newspaper editor. Thank you Kerry for coming to Grande Prairie and thank you for the existence of that community orchestra so long ago, in 1980.
-- John Hartig


John Hartig | Great Canadian Memories



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Some Trivia


How many Canadians does it take to change a light bulb?
None. They don't change light bulbs. They accept them the way they are.

How many Torontonians does it take to change a light bulb?
Just One. They hold the light bulb to the socket while the world revolves around them.

How do you get 20 Canadians to get out of the swimming pool?
Please, get out of the swimming pool.





Famous Canadian Quotes:
My dream is for people around the world to look up and to see Canada like a little jewel sitting at the top of the continent. - Tommy Douglas

Canada has always been there to help people who need it. - Justin Trudeau

Canada is the only country in the world that knows how to live without an identity. - Marshall McLuhan

I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given to participate in that work as a representative of my country, Canada, whose people have, I think, shown their devotion to peace. - Lester B. Pearson

I grew up on the edge of a national park in Canada - timberwolves, creeks, snow drifts. I really did have to walk home six miles through the snow, like your grandparents used to complain. - Dan Aykroyd

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John Hartig | Great Canadian Memories

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