Kelly, Michael Aloysius (Earle) (1879-1946)
Earle Kelly was widely known as “Canada’s first personality broadcaster.” Born in Australia to Irish parents, he had been a major in the Intelligence Corps of the Australian Army and prior to coming to Canada had worked as a journalist in several Commonwealth countries. On his way to an eastern Canadian newspaper in 1925, he stopped in Vancouver, where he joined the Daily Province, later progressing to the position of night editor.
Starting in 1929, Kelly’s “good evening” on the Province’s own station CKCD distinctively boomed forth in what was to become a 17-year tradition of nightly newscasts, seven days a week in British Columbia. Later heard on CNRV and CKWX, he became a news legend east to Alberta and Saskatchewan via the CRBC Network and south to the states of Washington, Oregon, and even California. He received monumental amounts of correspondence from wherever his broadcasts could be received.
He had a passion for anonymity, insisting that his name not be used on air or in the paper. As a result, all his listeners knew him as “Mr. Good-Evening”, with newscasts introduced only as “the nightly news service of The Vancouver Province”. He read his 15-minute newscasts standing up. Heard nightly at 9 p.m., his script was on a long roll of paper, consisting of local, prairie and world news. At times, his news “magazine” could be as long as ninety items, even though his delivery was slow and articulate. Earl had an uncanny sense of timing, never more than ten seconds off the allotted 15 minutes. He had a distinctive Australian accent, with a touch of western Canadian dialect thrown in.
Mr. Good-Evening was a dashing and debonair bachelor, well over six feet tall, who lived at an exclusive businessman’s club on the Vancouver waterfront. On Saturday nights he always delivered his newscasts wearing impeccable evening dress, his white mustache bristling and his hair brushed sleekly back. On his own time, he was often seen playing strenuous games of tennis in nearby Stanley Park or dancing in white tie and tails at the elegant downtown Commodore Ballroom.
He used the editorial “we” or “us” in most of his broadcasts, to the extent that it crept into his private life and he almost became a plural entity. “Excuse us,” he would say if he coughed on the air. Every night he wound down his newscast with good wishes to the elderly, but only those celebrating birthdays over 90 or anniversaries over 50. Finally, he would, “Wish all our listeners, on land, on the water, in the air, in the woods, in the mines, in lighthouses, and especially (a salute to different groups each evening), a restful evening. Good night.” One night he wished a good night to “the Ladies of the Evening” which brought him a great deal of critical mail from his more sedate audience.
Mr. Good-Evening, Earle Kelly acknowledged most of his listeners in his 17 years of broadcasting, which ended when he passed away at the Tranquille Sanatorium in Kamloops on April 14, 1946 at age 66.
Written by Gord Lansdell – May, 2002