Mrs Pumpernickle and Singing Cats in the Morning

Stories and info about those no longer involved in the industry

Mrs Pumpernickle and Singing Cats in the Morning

Postby cart_machine » Mon Aug 05, 2019 11:01 am

Rock jocks weren’t the first to do character voices on radio. Announcers were doing it back in the ‘30s, too. Even in Vancouver.

Before Monty McFarlane, before John Barton, before Billy Browne, Jr. there was a morning guy at CJOR named Colin Fitzgerald. Actually his name wasn’t Colin Fitzgerald, but he unveiled a cast of oddballs—all voiced by him—on local airwaves until he retired in 1955. The story implies he was the station’s first morning man, but ‘OR was signing on at 7 a.m. even in the late ‘20s.

I wondered how he acquired the name Gee-Gee on the air and one of the stories below tells it. But it doesn’t reveal that Fitzgerald’s last name was actually Gorodiski. It also doesn’t reveal that his father shot himself in the head after the last chime of midnight on New Year’s Day 1913 while his sister played the piano. Fitzgerald was 11. (Dad had been told by his girl-friend’s family to leave her alone because he was divorced and, therefore, immoral).

The first story is from radio columnist Dick Diespecker from the Daily Province of January 9, 1950, while the other is from Jack Scott’s column in the Vancouver Sun of August 28, 1946. I don’t know where Scott was living but when was the last time a rooster was heard in the city limits? (I did hear a guy going through a dumpster at three this morning, though).

"GOOD OLD, HAPPY OLD ..." A number of years ago a boy baby was born in Java of English and Dutch parentage. He was educated in Europe, served a hitch in the RAF and after the First World War was for a time a pilot for KLM, the Royal Dutch Airlines. Then he piloted in the United States and was catapulted into radio by the depression. American airlines laid off pilots who were not U.S. citizens. These included British subjects, and one of them was Colin Fitzgerald.
He came to Canada, and as they say in the horse operas, he met up with Ken Soble of CHML, Hamilton, Ont. He did many things in radio including a spell as vice-president of the Metropolitan Broadcasting Service in Toronto. (I haven't the faintest idea what this organization did.) Then Mr. Fitzgerald headed west, as all sensible people do sooner or later. In Vancouver he entered the investment business and was highly successful.
But the radio bug, which had bitten him back in the Ontario mud flats, proved to have a solid virus.
One morning, very early, in the summer of 1937, Bernie Braden, who worked the early morning operating shift [on] CJOR, and the writer of this column, who did the 8 o'clock Texaco News, found we had a companion. He had a twinkle in his eyes, dressed like a Street banker, had a smile like a toothpaste ad and was as bald as an egg. He announced he was The Gee Gee Man. Somehow, after his first program, I managed to flounder through my news without fainting. Bernie had to go out for coffee and fresh air. The switchboard was jammed with calls. Half of them were from people who thought the Gee Gee Man was wonderful. The other half wanted to know could they come down to the studio with their shotguns and rid us of this pest.
This sort of thing has now been going on for over 12 years. People either love him or hate him, but more of them listen to him than any other early morning disc jockey. The Gee Gee Man is completely uninhibited. When he is on, the air the place is full of his weird friends . . . Miss Pumpernickel, Rastus, Fooey and Sebastian the Chick, to say nothing of the Cat Chorus, records that play backwards, go at twice their approved speed, or half their approved speed. He uses no mirrors. The Gee Gee Man does it all himself, completely unaided. When he first started, Bernie Braden used to be his operator. When Bernie left he had another . . . Dorwin Baird ... I think. When the war cut down the staff, Gee Gee learned to operate himself and ever since he has put the station on the air with his "Good old, happy old . . . morning" and done his show single handed.
If all this seems disconnected, don't worry too much. You see the young man who was born in Java . . . remember him . . . Colin Fitzgerald? Well, it's the same fella. From 6:30 to 8 a.m., he is The Gee Gee Man and for the rest of the day, he is the gentleman with the West Vancouver estate, the Packard and the private airplane, Colin Fitzgerald. Neat trick, eh?

OUR TOWN by Jack Scott
Early Bird
While the town goes through the agony of waking up each workaday morning, yawning, scratching its head, peering at itself in the bathroom mirror, wishing it were dead or Sunday, there is one dapper, wide-awake man who is being a life of the party, laughing, joking and just generally knocking himself out.
There is one or more in every city. The one I am thinking about in our town is known as "The Gee-Gee Man." This gent has been killing himself on the air in the early dawn nigh on ten years, six days a week, a record which might cause a lesser man to end up plucking viciously at his lower lip.
I am able to report that Gee-Gee is as sane as anyone could expect under the circumstances. Fact is, I have just endured one of his sunrise sessions, attending the broadcast itself, and I have not felt such awe toward a person since I met the man who lifts anvils with his ears.
Gee-Gee was to pick me up at a quarter to six and I was waiting for him on the corner, leaning weakly against a telephone pole and listening to the roosters serenade the grey dawn. A milk truck went tinkling by. A cat minced across the dark road, presumably returning to his base from some successful mission. A square of light appeared in a house down the street. The rest of the world was decently asleep and I was an eyelash away from joining it.
Getting Up
Gee-Gee arrived exactly on schedule. I retain a sluggish impression of a brand-new straw hat rakishly tilted on balding dome, an alert, excessively-cheerful face with pencil-line, blond moustache and a general aura of incredible heartiness.
While we drove through the deserted streets to the radio studio we got the business of Gee-Gee's name cleared up. His name used to be H. Gordon Gordon, but last March, at the request of his step-father, he changed it to Colin Fitzgerald. Most people call him "Jack." (I may be just a tiny bit confused about this.)
He has no trouble at all getting up in the morning, waking exactly two minutes before his first alarm clock explodes. He has two alarm clocks, one set for 15 minutes after the first in the event of emergency. Mrs. Gee-Gee (and this will come as a shock to several housewives of my acquaintance) gets up at this ghastly hour of the morning, a time usually known only to condemned murderers and departing airline passengers. She cooks breakfast while Gee-Gee showers. Then she goes back to bed, even as you or I.
Gee-Gee himself has missed only one broadcast, a Christmas morning some six years ago when he slept happily through both alarm clocks. Hardly anybody was listening that morning, anyway, so it didn't matter.
So to Work
Once in the studio Gee-Gee peeled off to his white silk shirt, donned a small, black cotton skullcap which he wears as part of the whole cockeyed ritual, selected the morning's recordings and hummed happily to himself. I had been making some feeble notes about all this, and now find that I have described this period with a single entry in my notebook. "Acts a little drunk," it says.
Then, flanked by turn-tables, Gee-Gee grasped a microphone with a swan's neck. "Hello, folks, this is good old happy old CJOR, and this is good old happy old Wednesday! Good yawnin' to you all." and he was on the unsuspecting air.
I thought of all those innocent people with their radios on, heavy-lidded people cutting themselves shaving, good old, happy old people with hangovers, people living through the gentle terror of another new dawn. It suddenly occurred to me that Gee-Gee's gaiety must be received with love or loathing.
Gee-Gee himself was reciting a running stream of commercials, imitating machine guns and taking the parts of several outlandish characters, Including Lord Hee-Hee, Mrs. Pumpernickle, Rastuhs and "The Duke."
To do this he backs away from the microphone with a hand over his mouth. Thus to "interview" himself he must bob back and forth in front of the microphone. Must and does in an agonizing display of calisthenics that left me panting for breath.
Gee-Gee's humor is like the constant drip of water on rock. It wears you down. As I climbed the studio stairs back to the street level I found myself laughing. It was the first time this had happened before lunch in several weeks and not an unpleasant sensation. From the stairs I could still hear Gee-Gee's voice. "Now we will hear from Adolf and his 55 singing cats ..." it was saying.
It was exactly 7:23 a.m. on good old happy old Wednesday.
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