About Dick Drew
speak from personal experience when I say repeatedly that Canada is the best
country in the entire world for anyone wishing to achieve.
Canada is the one country where it doesn't matter what you're born with, it's
what you do with what you're born with!
I was large for my age; I thought I knew everything there was to know. So in
1949, at age 14, I dropped out of grade eight, lied about my age, and ran away
to sea on an oil tanker. It was a great life, seeing the world, meeting
interesting people. Five years and thousands of miles slipped by quickly.
My life took a change one night while we were unloading crude oil in Buenos
Aires, Argentina. It was 2 a.m., January 20, 1954. I was standing deck watch.
When I suddenly realized I was 19 years old and although I had been traveling
all over, my life was going nowhere. We were sailing the next day for Puerto La
Cruz, Venezuela, to load crude oil for Portland. Maine. I decided this would be
my last voyage. When my ship, the S.S. Esso Knoxville reached Portland six weeks
later, I quit and headed for Montreal to what I thought would be a new career as
the president of a large multi-national corporation. To my surprise the only job
I was qualified for was pumping gas at the Shell gas station at Decarie and
Sherbrooke earning 60 cents an hour plus tips.
I soon left to sell shoes at Eaton's on St. Catherine's St., where I learned
undying respect for shoe sales personnel, and met my future bride, the lovely
My next job was Mappins Jewellers, but I was quickly coming to the conclusion
that what I really wanted to do was to get into radio. I had always been
fascinated by radio and felt I had to get into it somehow. I knew you couldn't
just walk into a radio station and ask for a job. Or maybe you could. But I
didn't have the confidence. I needed knowledge. I enrolled at Sir George Williams
College night school and also began taking voice and elocution lessons from
well-known voice teacher Dorothy Danford. The trouble was, Dorothy charged $10.
an hour. I could only afford half an hour a week. I've often wondered how much
faster my career in radio would have advanced had I been able to afford the
other half hour weekly.
Finally in 1959, I got a job at CJQC, Quebec City, where I worked for one
exciting year. Shortly after I left CJQC it ceased broadcasting. I've often
wondered whether it was because of me or in spite of me.
I left CJQC for a job way out on the west coast at CJAV, Port Alberni. It was a
chance to return to Vancouver and show off Aline to my family. Aline encouraged
our move to British Columbia even though she, an Acadian from New Brunswick, did
not at the time speak English.
We were young and foolish and full of confidence. In other words, we didn't know
any better. We sold all of our furniture to Don McGowan for $200. and jammed the
rest of our belongings into our aging Pontiac Coupe and headed west.
Imagine our shock when we arrived at Port Alberni to find there was no job.
Economics had taken a down turn, station owner Ken Hutchison was cutting staff.
We were desperate. We had no money. We were broke. In fact, we were beyond
broke. I convinced Ken to let me work as a commission salesman as well as doing
the morning show. Somehow, we survived, and formed warm friendships there that
My big break came in October 1961 when I was offered a job at CHML in Hamilton.
That changed my life. That is, an incident there put my life on a whole new
course. You see, I worked at that station for 17 years. It began like this...I
met station manager Tommy Darling in Vancouver. His proposition to me was this:
CHML had a dynamic salesman named Vic Copps. Copps was also a Hamilton City
Alderman. Tommy felt he would lose Vic eventually because he was sure Vic would
run for mayor in the up-coming election. And if successful, leave the station.
Tommy liked to have backup for every situation. So he hired me as an
announcer/salesman with the understanding that if Vic Copps won the election I
had a permanent job. If Copps lost, I would be out of a job because Vic would
remain at the station and I would be toast. I feverishly went to work on Copps
campaign. I had never worked so feverishly in my life. On December 5, 1962, Vic
Copps won, became mayor, and I had his job. (Incidentally, Vic Copps was The
Hon. Sheila Copps father.)
My tenure came to an abrupt end on May 11, 1977. By that time I was General
Manager. of both CHML-AM & CKDS-FM. Tommy and I had a falling out and I was
fired. I resolved then and there that I would never place myself in a position
where I could be fired again. By 5 p.m. that night I had formed my own company,
Drew Marketing Ltd., www.dickdrew.com and acquired my first client, St. Clair
Productions, a radio syndication company managed by a good friend Pat Hurley.
That set the mold for me and my life ahead.
I should say that although Tommy Darling fired me in 1977. To this day I still
hold him in the highest esteem. Tommy was my mentor, he made a bigger mark on my
life and many other people's lives than anyone else. He passed away in 1983. And
even today when faced with a personal or business decision I always wonder how
Tommy would have handled it.
My life's ambition since starting in radio was to someday own my own radio
station. Be my own boss. [that's a laugh eh] My dream came true in 1979 when I
bought radio station CKAY in Duncan, British Columbia. Aline, our three
children; Louise, Mitchell and Cameron, packed up and headed west.
I have always believed in Canada and Canadians. I wanted to somehow get the
message across to everyone that Canada is a country of unlimited opportunity.
Here was I, a 14 year old oil tanker deckhand from Morinville, Alberta owner of
a radio station in British Columbia. at age 42. Don't ever tell me that Canada
is not the land of opportunity.
So, I began interviewing Canadians who had made a mark in life through their own
enthusiasm and determination. I couldn't believe how many there were. The idea
for my series on "Canadian Achievers" arrived about four years later. It
launched in February 1984 on radio stations coast to coast and continued until
It was an immediate success. Letters began pouring in from people from every
walk of life. Members of parliament commented on the series in the House of
Commons. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney wrote congratulating the series and its
value to Canadians.
Speaking engagements, TV interviews and two books followed
In life all good things must come to an end. After 15 years, over 3000 episodes,
several hundred speaking occasions , airplanes, hotel rooms, and father time
reminding me and my bones that I was not getting any younger.. I retired the
series and for the next six years I became very involved in Rotary. It ended
June 06 just in time to launch this newspaper column in September 06. and return
to my. first real love [other than my wife Aline and our family] " Canadian
Achievers' Through the help of some very fine people in the newspaper business I
was encouraged to pursue my dream of launching " Canadian Achievers" as a once
per week newspaper column.
There will certainly be a special place in heaven reserved for the newspaper
publishers and editors as well as the radio station managers and program
directors. who have each made space in the paper or cleared time on the radio.
They have made it possible for me to carry forth the message of " Canadian
Achievers" They have the same belief in Canada and Canadians that you, I , and
millions of Canadians do. We believe that Canadians can be as good as or better
than anyone else.
Clip out these columns and show them to young people. Phone the school board and
nearby schools, ask them to show these columns to their students.
Every day thousands of Canadians become achievers through believing in
themselves and in Canada.
I know from my own personal experience that anyone who truly wants to can
achieve. I've done it myself. Believe in yourself. Because in Canada you can
achieve whatever goal you set for yourself.
If your mind will conceive it, and your heart will believe it, you will achieve