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There was a time, in the 1960s and 1970s, where the man called Canada’s First Celebrity was so omnipresent, he got a second nickname… Mr. Television.
He was a reporter, war correspondent, an editor of a top Canadian magazine and newspaper of note and for 39 years, he was a guest on a panel game show about current affairs.
He had his own show where he interviewed some of the most famous people in the world.
Over his career, he wrote 50 books on a wide range of topics but to many he will always be known as Canada’s storyteller.
He was a best- selling author but to this podcaster the man whose story I’m sharing with you today is responsible for sparking my love for Canadian history Craig Baird, and this is Pierre Berton on Canadian History Ehx!
I have always loved history, and I did well in social studies, I was taught about Confederation, the Cold War, the North-West Rebellion, and the War of 1812, but Canadian history was typically presented to me in a rather boring manner.
Then one day I picked up a book by Pierre Berton.
I think it was The Promised Land, a book about the settling of the Canadian West at the turn of the 20th century.
Suddenly, my eyes opened to a whole new world.
It was history told through a story like a novel, not always focusing on the prominent people who made history, but the ordinary people who lived it.
I was hooked.
Pierre Berton’s story begins…in 1898 when Frank Berton, his father, arrived in Dawson City as the Klondike Gold Rush was at its height.
Pierre described him as eternally curious, and someone suited to be a university professor.
He had been offered a position at Queen’s University but by the time he heard he was hired he was already on his way to the Klondike.
His plan was to stay for two years.
Pierre said of his father,
“He was a jack of all trades and a master of most.”
Laura Beatrice Thompson arrived almost a decade later in 1907 to take on a job as a school teacher.
She was a gifted writer whose work was published in Family Herald and Weekly Star and Saturday Night, among other publications.
For a time, Frank taught French in the community and Laura attended his classes.
They soon fell in love and married in 1912.
Eight years later, their first child, Pierre, was born on July 12, 1920.
By then Dawson City’s heyday as the golden city of the Yukon had tarnished and many Klondikers who were driven to the north by gold fever went back to their lives in warmer climates.
Gone were the days of prospectors arriving by the hundreds each day, the population was a fraction of what it once was.
Pierre’s life began here and for the first eight years of his life this is where this curious and inquisitive nature developed.
He explored the empty buildings that had once housed people hoping to find their fortune.
He walked through the wilderness on hikes with his parents and took journeys on the river in a large boat his father had bought and rebuilt.
In 1932, his father was offered a job in Victoria, B.C., and under the shadow of The Great Depression the family made the move in search for a brighter financial future.
That same year, Pierre joined the Scouts, he had been running with a bad crowd and this helped him carve a new path.
. He said,
“One thing saved me and that was St. Mary’s Boy Scout Troop.”
According to Pierre, the troop filled a void and gave him an anchor that he didn’t have within the public school system.
He also first dipped his toes into journalism when he published his first article.
“The first newspaper I was ever associated with was a weekly typewritten publication issued by The Seagull Patrol of St. Mary’s Troop.”
He remained a Scout for seven years.
While in high school, he started his own newspaper which he sold for one dollar to fellow students.
Called Schoolboy, and it was written on his mother’s typewriter, and was filled with cartoons he drew.
After high school, Pierre attended the University of British Columbia, with the goal of getting a journalism degree.
During the summers, he returned to the Yukon to work in mining camps.
At the University, he wrote for two newspapers, the student run, The Ubyssey and the Vancouver News-Herald where he covered the campus beat.
You have to remember that during this time the Second World War was also happening so Pierre joined the Canadian Officers’ Training Corps and only took two weeks of training after graduation before he joined the staff of the News-Herald as a full-time journalist.
His job in 1941 was to report on guests coming and going from the hotels of Vancouver and he quickly proved himself to be highly adept.
. While covering one hotel convention in the city, he submitted seven different stories in one day.
One day after finishing his work he sat down to read some comics which his editor didn’t like so Pierre was fired on the spot.
When his editor found out that Pierre had scored a news scoop earlier that day, he hired him back immediately and was soon promoted to night editor at the newspaper.
As the Second World War raged on, many able-bodied reporters and editors were overseas with the Canadian Army.
With a lack of qualified individuals in newsrooms, Pierre was promoted to city editor, becoming the youngest Canadian daily newspaper editor.
“I had no business being city editor at that age, but I wasn’t going to argue.”
In February 1942, Pierre made the decision to go overseas with the army and proved he wasn’t just a great journalist he was also a great soldier.
Pierre quickly moved up the ranks. Promoted to lance corporal, he attended non-commissioned officer training and was made a basic training instructor and eventually promoted to corporal.
Hoping to learn as much as he could, Pierre attended every training course offered.
He wanted to be the best trained soldier in the entire army and when he was made captain, he went on to train as an intelligence officer.
Training was supposed to be an eight-week course that before the war was spread out over two years.
He said of that time,
“Our nights were spent at our desks. Our days in lecture halls, or in the open country on military exercises.”
He trained from 1942-1945 when he finally arrived in England and despite his hopes, he never saw combat.
While in England, he fathered a child with a British woman named Frances.
According to volume one of his biography, Starting Out, she told him she was going to marry a British man she knew, and Pierre would have no part in the raising of his child.
“I didn’t know her full name and I don’t know it to this day.”
Soon after, the war ended, and Pierre returned home to Canada.
Pierre returned to Canada and his journalism career.
In 1947, he married his wife Janet, with whom he had eight children.
That same year the newlywed left his wife to go on an expedition to the Nahanni River with pilot Russ Baker.
Located in the Nahanni National Park Reserve in the Northwest Territories, the area is beautiful, yet it is said to be haunted and cursed.
There are stories of mysterious disappearances, and a few gold prospectors have turned up dead with their heads missing.
This has given the area the nickname The Headless Valley. It is in the territory of the Dene people, but there are stories of another Indigenous Nation that once lived there but they suddenly disappeared.
It is theorized that they moved south and eventually became the Navajo.
Legends also speak of creatures of white that lurk in the caves located in the valley.
Pierre wrote as he left on his trip,
“I am off on the first leg of the adventure assignment of the year. An airborne dash to the South Nahanni’s legendary headless valley.”
Pierre headed into this journey, and they didn’t come out Scot free… Russ and Pierre were snowed in for four days, dealing with temperatures so cold that the keys on his typewriter froze.
Upon his safe return the account of the trip was published in the Vancouver Sun and picked up by the International News Service, giving Pierre his first taste of fame on a wider scale.
Later that year, he moved to Toronto and began to work for Macleans.
Founded in 1905, the Canadian news magazine reports on Canadian issues such as politics, pop culture, and current events.
Before I continue… a quick warning… the next part of the story uses racist language but I’m sharing it for historical purposes
One of his first columns was printed in the magazine was titled, “They’re Only Japs”.
Published on Feb. 1, 1948, the article was the first account of what Japanese Canadians went through during their forced internment during the war.
Pierre interviewed Marie Suzuki, a school teacher whose career was ruined by the internment camp and was highly critical of then Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King’s government, citing greed as a major deciding factor in the creation of the camps.
His friend and colleague June Callwood, said,
“Berton would have 10 ideas and two of them would be brilliant but that didn’t bother Pierre. He would have another 10 the next morning.”
In 1950, Pierre was anxious to see action in the Korean War. He regretted missing out during the Second World War.
To get things moving, he wrote two profiles in late-1950 about Brigadier John Meredith Rockingham and Colonel Jacques Dextraze.
Both profiles were flattering of the men.
The Canadian Army believed Pierre would have a pro-war if sent to Korea.
They would be surprised by what Pierre went on to write.
In February 1951, Pierre was sent overseas as a war correspondent for Macleans.
Almost as soon as he arrived, he was critical of the war and wrote of the suffering of the South Koreans calling Seoul the saddest city in the world.
He reported that Canadian soldiers were frustrated by the hilly terrain and how they felt like pawns.
“Can you win a war in this tragic year of 1951 as you win a prize fight? By brute force and in the 15th round?”
The harshest criticisms were levied at the American army stating that the white middle-class officers were callous towards their own soldiers, especially if they were Black or Hispanic.
Due to his criticism of the army, his work was censored several times by the Canadian government.
He complained that his work was turned into lies and half-truths.
For the rest of his life, he felt that Canada’s involvement in Korea had been a mistake.
At the end of 1951, he returned to Canada and was made the managing editor of Macleans.
Soon after he got his first taste of television. On Sept. 9, 1952, he appeared on a news program the name of which is lost to history.
He said the experience was equal to a drowning man in a sea of lights and cables. He admitted later that he did not see its potential or that he would ever have a role to play in Canadian television history. He would be wrong.
In 1953, he published his first book, The Royal Family, which covered the history of the British monarch from Victoria to Elizabeth II. It sold well but was far from the sensation his later books would become.
In 1956, he published The Mysterious North: Encounters With The Canadian Frontier. This book covered his travel columns for Macleans from 1947 to 1954. Once again, it sold well and slowly solidified his role as one of Canada’s top intellectuals. The book earned him his first Governor General’s award for Non-Fiction.
The next year, 1957, was a landmark year for him and his growing celebrity.
First, he joined Close-Up, a current affairs program on CBC, which is mostly forgotten today.
Then he joined a new show called Front Page Challenge.
This Canadian panel game show about current events and history became a landmark show. Airing weekly from 1957 to 1995, it featured notable journalists attempting to guess a recent or old news story linked to a hidden guest.
Contestants would ask the guest questions until they solved it.
It featured nearly every Canadian prime minister from the 1950s to the 1980s, as well notable people like Ed Sullivan, Boris Karloff, Maurice Richard, and Malcolm X.
Pierre often did well in the show, except when the guest was a sports star. He failed to identify Gordie Howe, Mr. Hockey himself, on five different appearances on the show.
Although he did guess the identity of this man
In case you need help…that’s Quebec’s most famous hockey player, and the inspiration for the book The Hockey Sweater, Maurice “The Rocket” Richard.
Meanwhile Pierre was becoming a staple in Canadian TV screens and with that he added a little something to his wardrobe that became a trademark the bowtie.
For the rest of his life, on every television or public appearance, Pierre wore a bowtie.
“What was good enough for Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Harry Truman was good enough for me.”
By the end of his life, he had over 200 bowties to choose from. 1957 proved to be a busy one for Pierre, not only did he premiere on Front Page Challenge he also narrated the National Film Board documentary City of Gold.
This short film depicted the Klondike gold rush at its peak, when would-be prospectors struggled through harsh conditions to reach the fabled gold fields over 3000 km north of civilization.
Using a collection of animated still photographs, the film juxtaposes the Dawson City at the height of the gold rush with its bustling taverns and dance halls with the more tranquil Dawson City of the present. Documentarian Ken Burns has cited this documentary as inspiration for his own films and style.
City of Gold was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short Subject Documentary.
It is available to watch for free on the NFB website and app… I will add a link to it in my show notes.
The documentary also inspired Parks Canada to get involved in preserving Dawson City and Pierre suddenly found a rising star, but this was only the beginning.
The Klondike had always been a part of Pierre’s life.
It’s where his parents met, where he was born and where he spent part of his childhood.
In 1958, he decided to tell its story and wrote Klondike: The Last Great Gold Rush.
He spent his evenings and weekends working on the book, he became obsessed with the history and putting it on paper.
And it paid off…
Klondike became a big seller and established the style of historical writing Pierre would become known for.
The style appealed to readers raised on boring books written by dry academics.
The book had a transformative effect on his writing and taught him he could write narrative history which was more like a novel than an essay.
The Whitehorse Daily Star said of the book,
“This thrilling story is at once first-rate history and first-rate entertainment.”
The book also earned him his second Governor General’s Award for Non-Fiction.
The same year he published one of his most famous books, Pierre joined the staff of the Toronto Star as a columnist where he wrote whatever came to his mind.
His column began in 1958 and became known for tackling many social issues including the criticism of apartheid in South Africa.
In 1960, he wrote one of his most famous columns which exposed antisemitism in Ontario’s resort industry,
To do so he conducted an experiment.
He sent letters to 106 resorts under the name of Sol Cohen, requesting a room for two weeks.
The next day, he sent letters to those same 106 resorts under the name of D.M. Douglas.
Although letters from Sol Cohen arrived earlier at the resorts the replies typically stated the resort was fully booked, were somewhat rude in that is if the resort even replied.
Only one resort, the Green Gables Lodge in Muskoka, was willing to give him a room as Sol.
Meanwhile replies from the resorts to the requests from D.M. Douglas mostly said they had a room available for the same weeks Sol Cohen had requested. To make sure no resort was off the hook, Pierre published the names of all the resorts that refused service to Sol Cohen.
The column had a huge response, both positive and negative, regardless it led to change and resorts in Ontario could no longer discriminate in the future.
Pierre was a prolific writer, and his appearances on TV made him a hot commodity.
Mamie Maloney of the Vancouver Sun wrote.
“I’ve reviewed so many Pierre Berton books these past few years I get dizzy wondering how he manages to toss them off in between columning, TVing and radioing. But that is Pierre.”
In 1961, his family became the inspiration for his most beloved books …The Secret World of Og.
The children’s novel told the story of Penny, Pamela, Peter, Patsy, and Paul all named after his own children… and if you’re noticing a pattern in the names… you’re not mistaken.
In the fantasy adventure, four children — Penny, the leader; Pamela, her common-sense sister; Peter, whose life’s ambition is to become a garbageman; and Patsy, who collects frogs in her pockets — set out in search of their baby brother, Paul, better known as “The Pollywog,” who has vanished mysteriously from their playhouse.
The Secret World Of Og was based on the whimsical stories he told his daughters a decade earlier and the book really was a family venture. The words were Pierre’s, and the illustrations were by his daughter Patsy.
Although Pierre’s publisher was skeptical about the book prior to publishing, it became a massive hit, selling out its first run.
It also received rave reviews.
The Vancouver Sun wrote,
“The Secret World of Og is an absolute delight and may just be the best thing he has ever done.”
Of all his books, this was Pierre’s favorite and for the rest of his life, he typically received dozens of letters a week from children across Canada who also loved it.
Since its publication, it has sold 200,000 copies in four editions.
And if you thought Pierre was about to rest on the laurels of his success let me dissuade you of that notion.
He was just 42 years old, and he had already achieved so much but in 1962, he launched The Pierre Berton Hour.
It was talk show where he interviewed famous individuals, while also tackling controversial topics.
Pierre seemed unstoppable… or was he?
In May 1963, Pierre wrote a column in Maclean’s magazine called “Let’s stop hoaxing kids about sex.”
where he argued that premarital sex was a fact of life and that he would not object to his daughter being sexually active before marriage. He wrote that he hoped she would have the good sense to have sex in a bed and not in the back of a dirty automobile.
This was very much against the notion of the time which placed premarital sex as a sin or taboo, so the blowback to the column was immense.
Outrage and boycotts were called for by many readers of Macleans and the publication was inundated with angry letters.
“I was called more nasty names than anyone else in Canada.”
Macleans responded by firing Pierre.
He was fired by the publisher and not the editor, and Macleans worried over lost ad sales, rather than the response from readers.
“The arguments I had were not with the editorial side. They were with the business side.”
His show also suffered in the ratings and was panned by critics who called Pierre wooden on screen.
In the first season, the show broadcasted 195 hours of TV with 406 different guests.
Pierre stated in his autobiography that critics hated the show and the network refused to renew it.
But Pierre was not about to let any of that keep him down.
He rebranded it as The Pierre Berton Show, switched to a half hour format and worked on improving his on-screen performance.
He also looked for new guests that could boost ratings. The new show was sold to six TV stations.
In 1963, he did an episode about the Front de liberation du Quebec, a militant Quebec separatist group that aimed to establish an independent Quebec through violent means, including bombings and the future October Crisis.
The FLQ episode featured an interview with a little-known law professor named Pierre Trudeau. This interview introduced Trudeau to English Canada and Pierre became an ardent supporter. In 1968, he signed a petition urging Trudeau to run for the Liberal leadership.
“Trudeau is the guy who really excites me. Trudeau represents a new look at politics in this country. He is the swinging young man I think the country needs.”
It was a bit ironic Pierre Berton called Pierre Trudeau a young man when he was just a year older.
Meanwhile in 1964, he interviewed homosexuals about their lives.
The network airing his show, CBC, never re-aired the episode because of complaints from viewers, but this episode cemented Pierre as a man ahead of his time on many social issues.
He was not afraid to speak his mind.
Pierre would go on to interview many other famous individuals over the next decade including Malcolm X in 1965, comedian Lenny Bruce in 1966 and Bruce Lee in 1971.
The blowback at Macleans, the controversy at CBC, didn’t stop Pierre from pushing for social reform.
In 1965, he wrote The Comfortable Pew, which was critical of the Anglican Church.
In the book he stated that church leaders needed to accept birth control, premarital sex, and homosexuality.
It was an immediate sensation.
The Anglican Church bought 7,000 copies to give out to its ministers so they could read it and preach against it, which many did.
An estimated 600 articles were written about the book in its first months of publication.
The Regina Leader-Post alone did eight different reviews of the book which greatly raised his profile but also made him enemy number one for many who read it.
“I was called all sorts of names…devil, saint, heretic, prophet.”
By the mid-1960s, it seemed as though Pierre Berton was everywhere.
Globe and Mail columnist Denis Braithwaite said Canada was now living in the Berton Era. He said quote,
“He is on every television program, on every Canadian TV channel…our children lisp his name, our teenagers take his advice on sex, our wives curtsy his image.”
In 1965 alone, Pierre published, The Comfortable Pew, My War With the Twentieth Century and Remember Yesterday.
The next year he published a cookbook called Pierre and Janet Berton’s Canadian Food Guide and along with another book, The Cool, Crazy, Committed World of the Sixties.
Between 1953 and 1966, he published an astounding 15 books.
In 1967, the Canadian Authors Association named him the Man of the Century. Rather than the 20th century, the association was likely referring to Canada’s first century of 1867 to 1967.
With his success in Canada, offers began to pour in from the United States but Pierre had no plans to ever leave the country he loved.
As the 1970s dawned, Pierre Berton was Canada’s best-known intellectual.
He had published The Smug Minority in 1968, which dealt with the lack of freedom in some aspects of Canadian life and had several best-selling books, his own show and was a panelist on the always-popular Front-Page Challenge.
For two years leading up to 1970, he had been researching a new book on the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1870s and 1880s.
The ideas had been in his mind for the previous 12 years, but he hadn’t quite put pen to paper.
He invested countless hours and money in research some sentences in the book would cost $100 just in research alone.
Sitting down in his home office in 1969, he took the phone off the hook and told everyone he was in Mexico.
Over the course of one month, he pounded away on his typewriter, and wrote The National Dream. This book, spread over two volumes, covered the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway from 1871 to 1881.
He worked from dawn to dusk, doing nothing but writing and revising.
One four-page section of the book was rewritten 14 times.
“I do not need or even want alcohol or sex.”
The second volume, The Last Spike, was published the following year, covering the railroad’s construction from 1881 to 1885.
The book earned him his third Governor General’s Award for Non-Fiction.
Both books were massive hits, becoming instant best-sellers and sparking a new interest in Canada’s history as a result.
Throughout the 1970s, Pierre focused on Canadian history.
In 1972 alone he published an updated version of his 1958 Klondike book, a picture book about the Canadian Pacific Railway and by October of that year he had four different books on the best-seller list, including The National Dream and The Last Spike.
In 1973, he co-founded the Writers’ Union of Canada to advocate for the rights, freedoms, and economic well-being of Canada’s writers.
That same year he got personal with a book about his father called Drifting Home.
His books on the CPR were then turned into a CBC miniseries in 1974 called The National Dream, which Pierre narrated.
A year later he explored the influence of American culture in 1975’s Hollywood’s Canada.
In 1976, he wrote My Country: The Remarkable Past. This book covered Canada’s history, focusing on stories of obscure individuals. It is one of my favourite books.
In 1977, he wrote The Dionne Years about the Dionne Quintuplets, and in 1978 published The Wild Frontier, which told more stories from Canada’s past.
Throughout 1979, Pierre worked on his next great book, which became another two-volume set about The War of 1812. The Invasion of Canada, covering 1812 to 1813 was published in 1980.
Then he wrote Flames Across The Border, covering 1813 to 1814, which was published in 1981.
Both books were massive commercial successes.
From 1970 to 1981, he published 11 books, an average of one per year… Pierre had no plans of slowing down.
He started the 1980s with the two volume hit series on the War of 1812.
He followed it up with The Promised Land: Setting Of The West in 1984, Vimy in 1986 and The Arctic Grail in 1988.
In between all the history he shared the first volume of his own in the autobiography called Starting Out in 1987.
That book and its sequel, My Times, published in 1995, were both very helpful in crafting this episode.
While he wasn’t busy writing he served as the Chancellor of Yukon College from 1989 to 1993.
By the start of the 90s, Pierre was synonymous with history, t. He said,
“I never set out to be a patriot or popular historian. I just liked story telling.”
After publishing The Great Depression in 1990, he followed it up with Niagara: A History of the Falls in 1992 which he had been wanting to write for three decades. He said quote.
“I have had it on my mind for 30 years and it was on my list to do.”
But…for the first time the book sold poorly and marked a decline in Pierre’s career.
But not by much…
In 1994, he was presented with a new award created by Canada’s National Historic Society. This annual award became known as the Governor General’s History Award for Popular Media: The Pierre Berton Award.
It is the highest award for a historian in Canada, and the recipient is flown to Ottawa to receive it from the Governor General of Canada.
As a personal side note, I was nominated for that award this year, but unfortunately, I didn’t win.
Pierre Berton continued to write throughout the 1990s, publishing 12 books over the decade.
However, five of those books were picture books, and three were anthologies based on columns he had written.
He was in his 70s now and he was FINALLY slowing down.
In 1998, he was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in Toronto.
The life of Pierre Berton nearly came to an end in 1999, when he had a series of strokes and nearly died from congestive heart failure.
Death wasn’t going to take him yet though, and Pierre still had a few more books to write.
As a new century dawned, Pierre published Marching As To War: Canada’s Turbulent Years in 2001, Cats I Have Known and Loved in 2002 and The Joy of Writing in 2003.
He followed those with Prisoners of the North, which profiled five people whose lives were intertwined with the Arctic, in 2004.
Even in his 80s, he was writing 2,000 words per day.
During that year, a CBC poll listed Pierre as the 31st Greatest Canadian.
With his literary career winding down and his position as one of Canada’s greatest storyteller-historians firmly established, he said,
“We need our heroes. We need our legends. We don’t think we have much history in Canada, but we do. I hope I’ve proven it can be given in an interesting way.”
In October 2004, he appeared on The Rick Mercer Report where he gave celebrity tips on the best way to roll a joint using his books as surface.
Many did not realize that for the previous four decades, Pierre had enjoyed cannabis recreationally and as he reached his 84th year, he openly criticized Canada’s laws regarding marijuana.
He said of his appearance,
“I’ve reached the stage in life where I don’t give a damn what I say or what people think.”
He added there were worst things in life than smoking a joint.
As for the book he rolled his joints on in that segment, Prisoners of the North, it proved to be his last.
Throughout 2004, he dealt with ill health and had trouble walking.
He told his long-time agent and friend Elsa Franklin,
“When I feel a bit better, I’ll get the typewriter and write some poetry.”
Throughout his life, Pierre had a cavalier attitude towards his own death in the 1990s he said,
“I could go tomorrow, and I don’t care. I’ve had a good life.”
On Nov. 30, 2004, shortly after the publication of Prisoners of the North, Pierre Berton died of congestive heart failure.
Then Prime Minister Paul Martin said of Pierre,
“His passing silences a great Canadian voice but his work will live on to enrich the lives of Canadians for generations to come.”
Rick Mercer said,
“He chronicled the history of Canada, and he made history exciting.”
In his final message to Canadians, Pierre wrote,
“I’m so proud of the fact that my books of Canadian history have given the reading public some idea of where we have come from as Canadians.”
There was no funeral; he did not want one.
Nonetheless, a celebration of his life was held a few days after his death.
Over 500 people including former prime minister John Turner, Rick Mercer, Margaret Atwood, and June Callwood attended.
His friend, Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, said,
“He gave us our story. He gave us our narrative.”
Prior to his death, his childhood home in Dawson City was turned into a writers retreat in 1996. Each year, it provided funds and a two month stay for writers to work on their manuscript in peace. Over 100 writers have used it so far and published dozens of manuscripts that they wrote in the home. It has been one of his greatest legacies.
Comedian, Mike Myers summed up Pierre Berton’s impact in his own book on Canada, stating,
“Pierre Berton was the Ken Burns of his time. Pierre Berton is a hero to me. He taught us that we do have stories to tell.”
I couldn’t agree more and there’s still one more story about the fascinating man that was Pierre Berton.
In 1978, Pierre Berton appeared on 90 Minutes Live, a show hosted by his friend Peter Gzowski. Gzowski was well-known to Canadians as a radio personality on CBC, but his TV show was not doing well in the ratings.
To help Pierre came on the show to demonstrate a food processor.
While talking about the efficiency of the food processor, he opened the processor and stuck his hand in to stop the blade that wasn’t quite done spinning.
Not the brightest move from Canada’s Intellectual as the blade cut his finger down to the bone.
Rather than panic, Pierre simply pulled his hand out and hid it behind his back and continued talking.
Peter Gzowski looked and saw drops of blood the size of quarters falling on the studio floor.
He quickly went to commercials.
Luckily for Pierre, the next guest was a doctor who stopped the bleeding and Pierre was rushed to the ER for stitches.
Pierre wrote of the incident,
“The affair even made the pages of the National Lampoon, which I believe, thoughtfully presented me as a typical Canadian bungler.”
Information from Penguin Randomhouse, Canadian Encyclopedia, Canadas Walk of Fame, The Tyee, Wikipedia, Vancouver Sun, Whitehorse Daily Star, Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Star, National Post, Windsor Star, Citizen of the World, Living With History, Starting Out,