Arthur Black was born in Toronto, but began his CBC career right here in Thunder Bay, about 46 years ago.
In 1972, Arthur brought local listeners the Farm Report. In 1976, he began writing a humour column in a small local magazine called Lakehead Living.
I love the above picture. I sent it to Arthur along with a side-by-side of my then-husband because when I first saw this, honestly thought it WAS my husband! I had to look close and realize the hair was longer and he’s smoking a pipe. Imagine smoking a pipe while on the radio, right in the booth!
Arthur said he appreciated me sending the picture as it brought back memories from his time in Thunder Bay. We had a nice correspondence that lasted from my mid-teens until a few years ago. The last letter we exchanged was after his 70th birthday, which also happened to be my oldest son’s 5th birthday.
I thought that shared birthday was a fun commonality. Another interesting bit was that Arthur’s mother had the same maiden name that I did. But the best, of course, was that Arthur spent some of his years here living with my Great Aunt Lempi and Great Uncle Charlie in Nolalu. He mentions them in some of his books. My heart nearly burst when I came across those excerpts during my reading.
The Farm Report in 1972 lead into being a weekend contributor to the Fresh Air program, and eventually, to hosting his own program, Basic Black.
Basic Black was broadcast nationwide from 1983 – 2002. Later years saw Black as the host of two television shows called Weird Wheels and Weird Homes on the Life Network.
The tiny little humour column in Lakehead Living lead to syndication in 50 Canadian newspapers, 19 published books, three Stephen Leacock Humour Awards, and of course, a blog!
A few years after launching Basic Black in Thunder Bay, Arthur relocated to Toronto and then eventually settled in Salt Spring Islands, British Columbia. In June 2002, Arthur Black returned to Thunder Bay (where it all started) to do his final show live at the community auditorium. I remember Lisa Laco (Number 245 ) was on stage with him for part of the show. If I remember correctly, she gave him a persian to eat on stage. It was awesome.
Arthur was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer in early January of this year. He blogged about his final few weeks before choosing to die with medical assistance on February 21st.
Much respect to him for a difficult and brave decision. Only love.
I heard an interview with Arthur after his diagnosis and read the few entries in his “cancer journey” blog. You can see those blog entries here.
He handles everything with such grace and humour. From the ordinary people he interviewed on Basic Black, to discussing the continual budget slashing at the CBC, to his diagnosis.
He treated everything with respect but is quoted as saying, “Everything is funny; everything can be funny!”
I’ve been trying to think about why I love Arthur Black so much. Did I perceive him as a weird pseudo father figure? Or maybe…Santa?
He’s been described thusly: “With his firm round belly, white beard and ruddy cheeks, he sort of looks like a funky Santa Claus on vacation.”
It’s more than Santa though. Of course it is.
It’s an entire childhood spent listening to a friendly voice on CBC radio. Every single Saturday morning.
On his show and in his writing, Arthur did what I’m trying to do now, here on this blog: ordinary people with extraordinary stories.
Everybody has a story and nobody is boring.
Everything can be funny.
Thank you for so much, Arthur.
“I was really a smart-ass when I started out. I’m a dumb-ass now.”
Me too man, me too.