"A Picture by Christmas."



The history of CBC television in the Maritimes is described in detail in Bill Harper's book, “A Picture by Christmas.” The year is 1954 and the CBC is struggling to get into the television business in Halifax. With rented space in an abandoned school on College Street, they were rushing to meet their promise to be on the air before Christmas. Bill Harper was one of the eager, new staffers who reported for work on that first day of November, 1954, and he outlines in detail the primitive conditions they worked in until their new studios were built on Bell Road two years later.
But that's only the beginning as Bill describes the growth of the industry, and the various programs and personalities who filled our screens over the years. It was a challenge just to meet the program demands of the daily schedule in the days before videotape, satellite feeds or even a network hookup. Things got really hairy when emergencies popped up and the staff was barely settled in the new building when the 1956 Springhill Mine disaster struck. Two years later there was an even more serious “bump” in the Springhill Mines.
Bill outlines all this plus the development and growth of many familiar programs such as Don Messer, Singalong Jubilee, and local shows such as Gazette, Fishermen's Log and the Maritime Gardener.
They're all covered in this 185 page that is generously illustrated with about 150 pictures.
The idea originated with the CBC Pensioner's Association in Halifax. A committee was formed to gather information on the early years of TV with Bill Harper as chair. It soon became obvious that a committee was not the best way to proceed so Bill took over the project. As work progressed he found that he had more than enough material for a book. Nimbus agreed to publish it and the first copies arrived in Halifax in late October and volunteers from the Pensioners Association were at the station selling books when the CBC TV train was open to the public. Eighty-five copies were sold that day, and orders were coming in from other CBC people across the country. The association is not equipped to deal with shipping and handling so our president, Jack Brownell, offered to take on the project through his business, Frame Plus Art.
Jack offers a 20% discount on everything he sells to CBC staff or pensioners and that applies to the book as well.
The retail price is $18.95 plus GST and postage is $4.00. After deducting the discount and adding the GST and postage, the price comes to $20.22, which Jack is rounding down to $20. All copies are signed by the author and can be personalized if requested. Walk in customers in Halifax, of course, avoid the shipping charge.
To place an order, Jack can be reached by email at brownell@netcom.ca or by Phone      902- 455-9762    or    
    Fax          902- 455-2764        Mailing address:

Frame Plus Art,
2705 Agricola Street
Halifax, N.S.
B3K 4C7

The book is no longer available from the above source. It is listed however under Google books and in the Halifax Public and other libraries.


Ivan is quite correct in mentioning that our Association began collecting material and that eventually I pulled it together; however, for the ommissions and errors, I take full blame. Had I not misplaced or lost completely valuable information given me by members, I'd not have missed several programs which are absent from the book. The best example is Countrytime....which vied with the Don Messer Jubilee for the greatest viewership. There are others. Another Halifax produced series, Switchback, which gave way to Streetcents, is barely mentioned. I accept the slaps on the wrist!

What is included is something of the strength of Regional television which contributed so much to each area of the country, but also fostered so much talent and resulted in Network series coming from all of our production points. We all did docs for Network series...along with Royal visits, etc. Most of the Departments under whose aegis many of these shows were done, no longer exist....and more's the pity!

What's in the book is the feeling that we were there in the best of times. What's not there is a raft of stories too self incriminating to print.

We'd gathered hundreds of interesting images which were reduced to slightly over three hundred. The publisher was reminded, constantly, that in a book about a visual medium, there should be plenty of pictures. Our total submitted (complete with captions) was 242. 156 were used...and that's 6 more than is usual "for this type of book." If you read disappointment....you're quite right; but despite that, there's a fair representation of people, equipment, events and programs......which could be duplicated in all of our production centres.

A Picture By Christmas is a fast read and may remind you of many similar people and happenings where you worked in those days.