Percy P. Saltzman (1915-2007)

Percy P. Saltzman

Year Born: 1915

Year Died: 2007

Year of Induction: 2004

Pioneer – Member of CAB Hall of Fame

Saltzman, Percy P. (1915-2007)

When Percy Saltzman pitched a weather show to CBC-TV, he was told it would be too dull – just as news on TV would be too dull. Who would want to watch a talking head? Nevertheless, Percy was the first live person to be seen on CBC-TV’s English broadcasts when they started Sept. 8, 1952. That made him the first weatherman in Canada and for the next 30 years he did his enthusiastic best to ensure any show he appeared in was not dull. In his early weather shows, he had no technical gadgetry. He used only a chalk board and joked that his shtick was a stick of chalk. To signify the end of each performance, he’d toss the chalk into the air and catch it.

Soon weather shows in much of the world had become as entertaining as they were instructional.

Percy became the first Canadian weatherman to use radar and satellite, the first to give road reports and the first to give forest fire reports.

Percy was born in Winnipeg to Solomon and Elizabeth Saltzman but his family moved soon afterwards to Neudorf, Sask., and to British Columbia in 1925. A childhood fascination with radio was followed by a music show put on by his friends and him in Vancouver in 1930 on a local station. He was the announcer.

He graduated in 1934 from the University of British Columbia with a B.A. and attended McGill School of Medicine in 1934-35. He married Rose Kogan in 1935 and they had two sons, Earl and Paul. After Rose died in 1988, he married Audrey Ford in 1990.

After trying his hand at joblessness and as a printer, he became a meteorologist with the federal government in 1943 and continued in that position until 1968, at the same time as he was becoming one of Canada’s best-known broadcasters. During the Second World War, he served as a meteorologist in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.

In 1947, he helped arrange weather programs for CBC radio. In 1948-49, he was part of the CKEY Toronto radio magazine show Focus on 48. One of the documentaries he wrote and narrated was a review of Dr. Alfred Kinsey’s first book, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. “I used all the polysyllabic provocative porno phraseology I could get away with,” he said. It won the Ohio State University Award for a radio documentary.

When CBC-TV’s Tabloid started in June, 1953, with Dick MacDougal as host, Percy became part of the half-hour of news, public affairs, and interviews.

From 1960-70 he did daily weather forecasts for the Bill Deegan Show on CFRB Toronto.

In 1969, Percy and announcer Bill Kehoe hosted a five-week CBC-TV program on space and space travel called Conquest Of Space and that same year he hosted with Lloyd Robertson CBC-TV’s 10-day coverage of the first moon walk. He slept in a motel across the street from the studios so he could be called at any hour. In 1972 he moved to CTV to host with Carole Taylor Canada’s first national morning news and public affairs program, Canada AM. In 1974-75 he was an interviewer on Free for All on CITY-TV Toronto. In 1980-82, he forecast the weather for Global-TV. He calculated that he did 6,000 shows during his career for CBC-TV, CTV, Global-TV, CITY-TV and others. These included weather shows, political shows, evening shows, morning shows, news and interview programs and all manner and types of special TV shows. Included was a 26-show series on Canadian history.

He was also involved in charity work.

In 1960 he won the TV Guide award as the first Canadian TV star. In 2002, seventeen years after his brother Maurice received the honour, Percy Saltzman was invested with the Order of Canada, and was the recipient of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal.

In 2004, Percy Saltzman was inducted into the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

Percy Saltzman died at his home in Toronto on January 15th 2007, at the age of 91.

Written by Jerry Fairbridge – November, 2002