Year Born: 1915
Year Died: 2005
Cameron, Earl (1915-2005)
They used to introduce Earl Cameron as Mr. CBC. He was described at various times as unaffected, robust, having an air of integrity, unruffled and unflappable. When the studio lights failed once when he was reading a radio newscast, he flipped open his cigarette lighter and continued to read, losing just seconds. One-time CBC director Ira Dilworth called him “as Canadian as a field of wheat or a gopher on a hill” and told CBC producers not to monkey about with his screen personality.
Earl was born in Moose Jaw, one of five children, and inherited his voice from his father, Ernest, who was described by British composer Sir Arthur Benjamin as one of the finest undiscovered bass-baritones in North America.
His father wanted Earl to be a teacher like his older brother and two sisters and he finished two years of university, completed a two-year business course, then earned a teaching certificate. He was hired to teach in the community of Kildare but quit after only three days. After jobs such as coal heaver, railroad section hand, undertaker’s assistant and wholesale grocer, he auditioned at CHAB Moose Jaw, got a summer relief job in 1939, and went on to become chief announcer and commercial manager. It was in Moose Jaw that he met and married Adelaide Paine.
In 1943, Earl was hired by the Manitoba government station in Winnipeg later dubbed CBW, which was becoming a busy production centre for the CBC. On joining the CBC staff in 1944, Earl was transferred to the Toronto studios, capturing the prized assignment of reading the CBC National News on the Trans-Canada Network five-nights-a-week. He quickly became one of the best known radio personalities from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
After five years, at his own request, Earl took on a day job in a supervisory role, but continued on the air, reading the 1:00 p.m. Eastern time news.
In 1959, Earl switched back to nights, this time as anchor of the CBC television news at 11:00 p.m. A seven-year stint ended on December 2, 1966 with Earl taking on the supper-hour TV report, then switching to radio to deliver the national news at 10:00 p.m. to the Maritimes and to Ontario and Quebec.
It was common at the time for announcers to take on commercial accounts and Earl took on two. In 1965, Liberal MLA Elmer Sopha accused Earl in the Ontario legislature of telling lies on behalf of toothpaste. The CBC defended Earl but later had him sign a new five-year contract to concentrate on the national news and not earn extra money doing commercials. A year into that contract, he was replaced by Stanley Burke. He didn’t complain but the story goes he was busy in a radio studio when a recorded commercial was mislaid. In such an emergency, the announcer would normally fill in. Cameron smiled and told the technicians that his contract said no commercials, and no commercials means no commercials.
He later did early evening newscasts, and hosted the Viewpoint series.
Earl retired in 1976 after 32 years with CBC. He died on January 13th 2005, at the age of 89.
Written by Jerry Fairbridge – May, 2002