Year Born: 1913
Year Died: 2011
Tilden, Lamont (1913-2011)
Neil Lamont (Monty) Tilden was raised in rural Ontario – specifically in Harriston, a village half-way between Kitchener and Owen Sound, that by 1990, had swelled to 1,872 inhabitants. However, in 1929, it was large enough to accommodate a 75.watt AM radio transmitter that a resident had built principally for his own amusement and anyone nearby who chose to listen. In his teens, Monty worked for a barber across the street in downtown Harriston, and he would never turn down an invitation to play his guitar and sing on the radio.
A new job as a spice miller’s apprentice took Monty to Hamilton which boasted two conventional radio stations – CKOC and CHML. In the early 30s, CKOC distinguished itself in producing two live dramatic programs written and performed by Hamilton-area talent – Black Horse Tavern (sponsored by Molson’s), which was succeeded by What Price Loyalty, both networked to stations in Toronto, Montreal and London. Monty set aside his guitar and became a radio actor in both programs, and as a fledgling announcer on CKOC, began a successful career in radio.
With the creation of the CBC network in 1936, CKOC began to carry several CBC programs, and from time to time was called upon to originate special programs to the network. It was while announcing one of these programs that Monty was “discovered” by T. O. Wicklund, the CBC’s national director of outside broadcasts. Hired on the spot, Monty joined the English announcing staff of CBM in Montreal February 12, 1939, and he remained there until 1951, working his way up from Junior Announcer to Supervisor of English Language Announcers. These were exciting times, especially during the war years. Monty was the announcer who first announced to Canadians the outbreak of WW2. When Winston Churchill made his famous address to Canadians from the Citadel in Quebec City, Monty and the French-language announcer were the only two other people with him.
In Montreal, Monty shared with Toronto announcers, the unique role of replacing the American commercial announcers on NBC’s top shows imported into Canada. CBC regulations required that all food and drug advertising had to be approved by the Department of National Health and Welfare. This meant that advertising agencies handling these products had to submit commercials often weeks in advance of the broadcasting date for the stamp of approval. Since the American agencies could not meet these deadlines and because the standards in the States were not identical to Canada’s, the Canadian approved commercials had to be inserted in place of the U.S announcer as he performed “live” on the American network.
Exact timing was essential and Monty had become adept in the art. Thus, while Ken Carpenter read the Kraft commercials on Bing Crosby’s Thursday show, Monty Tilden was his counterpart in Canada. Similarly, he was chosen for other U.S programs routed through Montreal. Monty’s voice was heard by Canadians on the Texaco Star Theatre, the Sunday Chase and Sanborn Hour (Charlie McCarthy), and the Gillette Cavalcade of Sports. In 1938, when Imperial Tobacco’s Light Up and Listen Club became a Canadian network show, Monty replaced American actor Peter Donald as Master of Ceremonies.
In 1951, Monty moved to Toronto, and along with other CBC announcers, read the National News on radio. He also came to be seen on TV, and in the 60s, did the evening TV news, moving in ’67 to the National Late News.
Some of his happy memories from his long career include:
* winning “The LaFleche Trophy for Canadian Radio in 1946;
* as Chief Announcer for CBM, being chosen as the first Canadian to visit Britain under the auspices of the Imperial Relations Trust, which issued travel bursaries to broadcasters of Commonwealth countries (to quote from the official letter recommending him to Sir William Haley of the BBC, Lamont Tilden was chosen “because he is intelligent, a hard worker, has had valuable experiences in radio and is particularly anxious to perfect himself by further studies”);
* fulfilling a lifetime passion for studying the English language, being appointed the CBC’s “Broadcast Language Counselor” and coaching the announcing staff in “Appropriate Colloquial”, his definition, among other things for breathing, etc. One of his students, Adrienne Clarkson, went on to use his counsel to good advantage in reading the Speech from the Throne.
Monty Tilden retired from the CBC with hundreds of happy memories, certainly the highlight of which was being presented a number of times to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.
Monty Tilden died on August 8th 2011 in Toronto, shortly after marking his 98th birthday.
Written by J. Lyman Potts – March, 2004