Confederation TV College Control Room Class

Radio and Television Arts The Class of 1975

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Sharon Graham

 

 

 

 

“Write a bio”, they said; “It will be easy”, they said!! Ok, let’s see if I can put forty years in the proverbial nutshell.

After having completed one year of the Radio & Television Arts course at Confederation College in 1974 I applied for a job as a radio announcer in my home town of Kenora Ontario. My audition was awful but I got the job. In the twenty some years that followed I worked as a broadcaster, commercial writer, news reporter, news announcer, program director, and assistant manager at various radio stations in Grande Prairie, Calgary, Winnipeg, Edmonton and area. In that time I was privileged to work with some awesome people, met a lot of very interesting personalities and was blind-sided by some horrendous assholes - but such is the world of radio.

My sole claim to fame was being the first female DJ at a top 40 radio station in western Canada – according to the KY Radio network I beat Lorraine Mansbridge out of the title by going on air in Calgary 2 weeks before she started in Winnipeg. Eventually she married Don Percy, they moved to Edmonton (with Don at CFRN and Lorraine on ITV), and she ended up interviewing me on her TV show when I worked at CISN – broadcasting could be a small circle at times.

In the first five years or so of my career I reconnected with some of my college classmates. While working in Winnipeg Deanna and I spent a lot of time together and I enjoyed visiting with Roxanne and Bonnie during that time as well. While working at CKXL in Calgary I went out for drinks with Brian and Gord and it was great to see them and do some reminiscing. I have kept in touch with Don Percy over the years since my family lives in Winnipeg and go back regularly to visit. Sometimes we have chatted on the phone and other times got together for lunch – he has always been the same warm and welcoming person that I knew from college.

I have wonderful memories of promotions, contests, on location broadcasts, playing on media baseball teams, playing the Harlem Globetrotters, being in an all-you-can-eat spaghetti eating contest with several players from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (I lost but the winner chucked his cookies in the alleys so I didn’t feel bad about it), doing a three storey free-fall with the Hollywood stunt team, winning a yodelling contest (with help from Uschi Bauer) at Oktoberfest, sinking in the lake during the bathtub races, and many others. I reported from every small town rodeo and fair in rural Alberta, I broke down laughing in production studios with some of the best of them, and along the way helped raise money and awareness for some very worthy causes.

Over the years I met a number of sports, music and broadcast personalities and here are some impressions:

Ian Tyson making it his mission side-stage to crack me in an attempt to ease my nerves before I went onstage to introduce the acts at a concert at the Jubilee Auditorium in Edmonton.

Bobby Bare surprising me with a “dip and kiss” when I was walking onto the stage at Cook County Saloon to introduce the next act (it came off as playful, not icky).

Charlie Pride signing autographs after his concert for every fan who wanted one and then still sitting for an interview with a smile on his face and a pleasant attitude.

Ricky Skaggs in his first blush of popularity – so shy I had to draw him out with questions during an interview.

The Bay City Rollers being interviewed by another announcer – all I remember is brightly colored clothing and boundless energy!

The date that sticks out the most from my days in broadcasting was August 16, 1977. I was working the midnight shift at CKXL in Calgary. I had just gotten home after finishing my shift when I got a phone call from the station asking me to come in and work through my days off. Elvis Presley had died and CKXL had been tasked with dubbing the series of tapes that were his life story and sending copies to all of the radio stations in the CHUM network. There were no shortcuts for accomplishing this - I think the production was 4 hours long on 30 minute reels. What struck me at the time was that the entire production had to have been ready to go – with just the information about his death filled in - when it occurred. That was the saddest part to me – that Elvis’ death, at only 42 years of age, had been so expected.

The experience that shook me to my roots was being stalked by a guy who listened to me on the all-night show at CISN and who decided that we belonged together. Suffice it to say that eventually the police were involved and it was three months of fearful living in a fishbowl. I was fortunate that the individual involved was not psychotic – just slightly delusional.

On a happier note, one of my fondest memories from broadcasting was helping to set up Don Percy’s farewell to Winnipeg broadcast on CFRW when he gave his notice at CKY and they wouldn’t let him back on air for even one show just to say goodbye. There were mimosas in the control room, guests coming in to do their last schtick with Don on-air, and a party atmosphere had taken over the station. It was the only opportunity I had to work with my former teacher so I soaked up every minute of it. Watching him “do his thing” I could truly see how he had earned the nickname “Master of the Morning”.

During the twenty some years of what I call my “first career” I had brief flirtations with other jobs but always returned to radio. Eventually the politics of major market drove me back to the smaller markets and when rural radio made the shift to satellite stations I decided to leave broadcasting for good. While in small town Alberta I got married and had two sons. I fell into financial services and worked as a financial planner for the next ten years. In the middle of that I fell out of the marriage and moved back to Edmonton with my youngest son (15) while my older son (17) decided to stay in the rural area with his dad. It was for the best in the end but it broke my heart at the time.

When I moved back to Edmonton I needed to transition from self-employed contract work to something with a guaranteed income so I hired on with a group of Financial Planners as their Executive Assistant. After three years I made the move to the organization I now work for – the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) - as the Executive Assistant to the CEO. I have been there for almost eight years and will probably retire there as the work is varied and keeps me on my toes – and the pension is awesome.

In July 2008 I started my life-long love story with Dennis. For the past seven years we have travelled, enjoyed time with awesome friends, stayed connected with family and watched them grow. I can only hope that we are privileged to spend many more years together to make up for the fact that it took so long for us to find each other! Oh, and I am a grandma now – to the smartest, most gorgeous wee girl on the planet.

And, as Forrest Gump would say, “That’s all I have to say about that”.

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