Radio news reporter George Garrett earned a reputation as the best in the business during his long career with powerhouse Vancouver stations CKNW and CFMI. But in 1976, he left to become general manager of CJAT Trail, then owned by Lloyd and David Hoole.
“They must have given Garrett a large chunk of the action because he’s so good at his trade that the next guy comes third,” Vancouver Sun social columnist Jack Wasserman wrote at the time. “George started out chasing fire engines for NW’s news department. He was one of the best and the classiest of the legion of radio reporters. He stayed classy, even as a salesman.”
His appointment, which took effect June 1, 1976, was announced in an item in the Trail Daily Times, which spoke of his long experience in broadcasting and indicated his wife Joan and daughters would move to Trail at the end of the school year.
In his new autobiography, Intrepid Reporter, Garrett summarizes his time in Trail in one paragraph: “I lasted just five months there and was fired. Ownership of CJAT felt I was not doing a good job.”
At least some of his co-workers disagreed.
“The months working with him in Trail ended far too soon,” former announcer Ken McKim wrote in an online post in 2015. “The amazing job he did putting together a radiothon for Italian disaster relief in what seemed to be mere hours still echoes.”
After CJAT showed Garrett the door, Wasserman wrote: “A few months ago, we reported that George Garrett, one of the nice guys of local broadcasting, had moved to Trail to manage the smelter-city radio station, owned by the Hoole family. But nice guys apparently finish last in that league. Garrett, who moved lock, stock and sales-book, is back in Vancouver.”
Garrett recalls in his book that getting the axe “was a blow to my ego and very difficult for my wife and children. I was lucky to get back to CKNW.”
In an interview upon his retirement, he added: “I came back with my tail between my legs and went to see [news director] Warren [Barker], whom I idolized. He said ‘You have a job and I’ll pay you the highest that I can for a newsman.’ It meant so much.”
CJAT’s crew missed Garrett, McKim wrote, and were “overjoyed” to hear he’d landed on his feet.
Garrett’s career was just taking off. A few years later, he became an investigative reporter whose audacious undercover missions saw him pose as a tow truck driver, an accident victim, and a government attache, among other things.
His extensive network of sources and the trust they placed in him were unmatched. Garrett retired in 1999 at the top of his game, even breaking a major story on his last day.
While his time in Trail was short, there’s another local connection in Garrett’s book: the foreword is by Trail native Steve Lus, who worked with Garrett at CKNW in the late ‘90s and is now executive producer of news for CBC British Columbia.
“I’ve worked with many intrepid reporters over the years,” he writes. “I haven’t, however, worked with anyone else like George. Someone feared by ne’er do wells and liked and respected in equal measure by colleagues, competitors, newsmakers and his audience.”