By Craig Oliver

ISBN-10: 0670065226

ISBN-13: 9780670065226

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The Lairds brought me to the altar, hoping to secure a cure for my poor eyesight. The spirit did not enter, unfortunately, despite healing hands on my eyes and fervent shouts from the crowd. I felt obliged to feign better vision so the Lairds would not feel they had failed me. The family did their best to rescue me from a sinful life generally, but I was not persuaded. Too much untried temptation lay ahead, and I was willing also to give the devil a chance to convert me. My chief joy on Sundays were the evenings, when we were allowed to gather around the radio, Coca-Cola bottles in hand, and listen to the golden age of pre-television radio.

The pungent odour of stale beer and wet cigarette butts tossed outside still lingers in my nostrils. My habit was to ask an entering patron to call out for Murray Oliver. If Murray did not emerge, it was on to the next watering hole until I tracked him down. He wasn’t always pleased to be so summoned. When the war ended in 1945, all the soldiers left and the town’s kids played in empty barracks and gun emplacements until the government demolished them. We collected army badges and parts of uniforms—hats were big trade items.

The control room also housed the transmitter—all 250 watts’ worth and about as powerful as three lightbulbs. I presented myself for the audition with genuine excitement and not the slightest mike fright, thanks to prior experience with the high school PA system and as a fill-in dispatcher at Mom’s taxi company. To get the job I had to pass the CBC’s standard announcer’s test: a competent reading of an old classical music program script, complete with correct pronunciation of all proper names. “Good evening from Massey Hall,” I intoned, not knowing what or where Massey Hall might be.

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Oliver's Twist by Craig Oliver

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