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‘To be first, to be accurate’: Iconic voices of CKNW reflect on 75 years on the air

As CKNW marked a milestone with its 75th anniversary Thursday, some of the station’s most iconic voices joined a live broadcast at New Westminster’s Anvil Centre to share stories of their time on the air.

Among the best-known names to grace the airwaves for the station is George Garrett, known to many as “the intrepid reporter.”

Garrett first joined the station in 1954, and said Thursday it wasn’t long before the newsroom culture made an impression on him.

READ MORE: ‘The gold standard’: CKNW’s iconic Canucks play-by-play voices reflect on anniversary

“It was the willingness and the desire to be first, to be accurate, and to be fast,” Garrett said.

“One of the first things I learned form Jim Cox, our first news director, was get out there, get the story and move on while the other guy is still sitting there,” he said.

LISTEN: George Garrett, the intrepid reporter, joins Lynda Steele

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Garrett said his next news director, Warren Barker, was the one who gave him the push to become the dogged, scoop-generating journalist he would develop into.

“He decided, ‘I’m going to make you an investigative reporter,'” he said.

“And that means [I didn’t] have to follow the assignment list like other reporters, just go out and dig up stories.”

Sometimes that paid off with major scoops — like when Garrett caught Supreme Court Justice Davie Fulton drunk behind the wheel.

On other occasions, his reputation got in the way, like when he tried to get hired undercover as a tow truck driver as a part of a sting on unethical practices — only to get recognized.

“[The boss] said, ‘You. You want a job towing trucks?’ I said, ‘Am I too old?’ And he said, ‘No, you’re George Garrett of CKNW.'”

READ MORE: ‘I have a job to do’: Women of CKNW discuss breaking broadcasting’s glass ceiling

Garrett wasn’t the only big name reflecting on their time with the station at Thursday’s anniversary celebration.

CKNW legend Bill Good, who spent 26 years on the airwaves delivering news and opinion, estimated he conducted about 40,000 interviews in that time.

He said the thing that sticks with him was the chance to talk to people from all walks of life.

“The wide variety of people, from homeless people to hookers to nurses to politicians, premiers, prime ministers, entertainers, just the gamut of people,” said Good.

Some of those politicians were even former colleagues, like former B.C. premier Christy Clark — herself a former CKNW talk show host.

“She was mad at all of us, she was mad at ‘NW, I think, because she felt we were harder on her,” Good said.

“I loved working with Christy, she was great fun, good sport, great sense of humour … but I told a listener one day I didn’t know if she would make a good premier. And when she confronted me with that I said, ‘How would I know, you haven’t done the job yet.'”

LISTEN: Bill Good reflects on 26 years at CKNW

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Legendary CKNW host Bryan “Frosty” Forst, who spent 40 years as Western Canada’s top rated radio broadcaster, also joined the festivities on Thursday.

Forst recounted how he was poached from local rock station CFUN at age 26.

“Hal Davis [who] was one of the originators of the CKNW sound figured he’d take a chance on me … and he took a big chance, as I was considerably younger than everyone else,” he said.

That kicked off three decades of success leading the station’s flagship morning drive program, with a format that included news and talk with a little bit of comedy.

READ MORE: Widow of broadcaster Neil Macrae opens up about husband’s battle with breast cancer

It also relied on a solid team, including Norm Grohmann, and late sports broadcaster — and sparring partner — Neil Macrae.

“Neil was exhausting. And I don’t mean that in a bad way necessarily, because caustic was his shtick, and he did it really well,” said Forst.

LISTEN: Neil Macrae spars with Brian Burke

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Forst pointed to Macrae’s legendary one-on-one with former Canucks GM Brian Burke as a highlight.

“Burke is no dummie, he’s a lawyer, and he’s smart and he’s fast and he’s nasty…. That was a classic on ‘NW, when Macrae went toe-to-toe with Brian Burke on the radio, and in my opinion beat him.”

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