George Salverson (1916-2005)

Year Born: 
1916
Year Died: 
2005

Pioneer

Salverson, George (1916-2005)

By the time George Salverson became television drama editor for the CBC in  1952, he had written over one thousand radio plays for the Corporation.  Yet initially he had set out to be an on-air broadcaster, and it was not until he was in his late twenties that his dramatic writing skills came to the fore.

George was born in St. Catharines in 1916, but his father's job with Canadian National Railroads had the family moving to various cities in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.  George completed high school in Port Arthur (now part of Thunder Bay), but it was in Flin Flon, Manitoba in 1940 that he got his first job in broadcasting. There he was hired as an announcer, news writer and operator, and his was the voice that brought the population of Flin Flon many major wartime news stories, including the announcement of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7th 1941.

In 1942 he moved to join CKRC (now CFWM) Winnipeg, first as a continuity writer, and later as newscaster and then as writer-producer, where he began honing the drama writing skills which were to propel him to a distinguished career in this field.  Producer Esse Ljungh took note of his burgeoning talents, and commissioned several plays from George for the CBC.  This eventually prompted a move to Toronto in 1948, and when television came along in 1952, the CBC's Andrew Allan was quick to snare George to work with him in drama with pictures.

Notable among his many radio successes were his 1949 radio version of Dracula, which starred Lorne Green, Alan King and Lister Sinclair; Return Journey, about a prisoner's life on the outside after being released from jail, and Paper Railroad, which contained many biographical elements from his father's life with CNR.  His television credits, while not as numerous, were much more high profile.   They included many series, among them Royal Suite, Forest Rangers, Strange Paradise, Hatches Mill, Littlest Hobo and The Beachcombers.  One-off dramas included The Discoverers, the story of Banting and Best's discovery of insulin, which starred John Drainie, and The Write-Off, about a man who was made redundant but tried to keep it a secret, which starred Cec Linder, Gerard Parkes and Sandra Scott, who was George's wife.

In addition to his fictional dramas, George was also capable of top quality work in the field of documentaries, of which he wrote many for the CBC. Most famous of these was his 1967 documentary, Air of Death, which dealt with the problem of air pollution and was produced and directed by Larry Gosnell. The CBC won the ensuing lawsuit that had been brought by companies claiming they had been libeled, and the documentary was the precursor of many similar hard-hitting documentaries to be broadcast in Canada.

George wrote one stage production, a musical titled The Legend of the Dumbells, which recounted the history of a Canadian Army concert party formed to entertain the troops during World War I, and which played originally at the Charlottetown Festival in 1977 before touring across Canada. It was revived at Charlottetown in 2002.

He taught writing to students at Toronto's Ryerson Polytechnic University for several years, and was the author of a book, Around the World in 80 Limericks.  He enjoyed his later years in the company of many of his broadcasting friends and associates, as a resident of the Performing Arts Lodge in Toronto.
He won a Canadian Radio Award in 1948, and an award from Ohio State University in 1949.

George Salverson died in Toronto in April 2005 at the age of 89.

Written by Pip Wedge - May, 2005

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