LOOK: Paul Reid added to CJAD 800 Wall of Fame
Nearly 35 years after his death and four decades after he last signed off the air on CJAD 800, Paul Reid has joined the pantheon of greats on the CJAD 800 Wall of Fame.
"Radio announcers like this do not exist anymore—and even when he was on the air they were extremely rare," CJAD 800 morning show host Andrew Carter told the audience, packed into the Bell Media Studio on Rene-Levesque St. E. for an open house and ceremony Wednesday night. "He was the best not only the best in Montreal but the best in the country and one of the best anywhere."
Paul Reid was born August 11, 1927. He was the oldest surviving boy in a family of 16 children, and came to be known as a young lad who could fix anything—a trait put to good use building toys for his brothers and sisters at Christmas during the trying years of the Great Depression.
He left school only finishing Grade 6. As a teenager he got his first radio job in Peterborough, Ont., at CHEX AM. According to his son Mike Reid, he pestered the station manager until he finally got an audition. It didn't go so well, and Reid says his dad was told to come back when he had learned how to read.
"My dad basically read the newspaper out loud every day for a period of about six months, he basically educated himself and went back, auditioned again, and he got the job," Mike Reid said.
He also met his wife June at age 18; they were married in 1947.
Reid made his mark in radio at CHML in Hamilton, a hotbed for talent at the time, before arriving in Montreal late in the fall of 1963.
His night-time show became an instant success with radio listeners. Long-time CJAD 800 newsman Tom Armour recalled Reid having a special connection with his audience.
"Paul worked in an era of personality-driven radio, and in that he excelled—he was unique in fact," he recalled.
For decades Rick Leckner was the go-to traffic reporter at CJAD 800, but in the late 1960s he was just starting out in radio.
"He basically took me [and my future wife] under his wing. I remember many, many nights [...] many untold stories, spending time in the studio with Paul watching him do his thing," he told CJAD 800 News. "His recipe was a cigar and a bottle of Ballantine's [Scotch], and it worked. It used to kill me, though, that Paul only smoked half the cigar."
Reid spent 14 years behind the microphone on Mountain St., becoming in that time one of the biggest names in Canadian radio.
It was during his tenure as CJAD 800's evening host that Reid's legendary Christmas show took on a life of his own.
"Christmas was extremely special for Paul and Paul made it extremely special for Montrealers of all faiths, and all religions—as a Jew, I loved Christmas thanks to Paul Reid," Leckner admitted.
It remains a staple on CJAD 800 every Christmas season to this day.
"Here we are 34 years after my dad passed away, and it's still the most requested show on CJAD every year," Mike Reid said. "People look forward to it; people do their Christmas baking to it," he added with a chuckle.
After being lured back to Hamilton for a few short years in the late 1970s, Reid returned to the Montreal airwaves to start the next decade, but the time would be marked with bouts of sickness and generally declining health.
Reid died in January of 1983, the same week he was due to return to his radio show after his sick leave.
He is remembered fondly by many, from family and friends, to those whose lives he touched during the twilight hours on the back of an AM signal for so many years.
"In Yiddish you'd call him a mensch, a fine human being," said former colleague and friend Sidney Margles. His only fault, Margles would add with a laugh, was Reid's fear of dentists.
Mike Reid continues to keep his father's legacy from fading, having released several albums of his father's more fabled poetry readings—the proceeds being donated to hospitals and other charities–as well as licensing the Paul Reid Christmas show to CJAD 800 every year.
"He was a kind of a guy that could move you to tears just by looking at you, he had an extremely powerful presence," the younger Reid said about his late father. "When he was on the air and you were listening to him, he was only talking to you."
"He was the best one-on-one communicator in radio; I can't say I've heard anybody that even comes close."
He also made a lasting impression on his colleagues.
"If there is one thing that a lot of us learned from Paul Reid it was that he was the consummate professional broadcaster, and he was a great example to all of us," said long-time CJAD weekend morning host, and friend, Dave Fisher.
"Paul Reid is an incredible memory to CJAD and was an incredible announcer and professional," echoed Leckner. "He has lasted in the minds of people today because of the tremendous professional that he was—still to this day, unequaled—and it is perfectly fitting that Paul Reid is honoured by CJAD in this fashion."
Reid joined fellow broadcasting legends George Balcan, Ted Blackman, Gord Sinclair and Dave Fisher on the CJAD 800 Wall of Fame—his likeness commemorated in cartoon form by famed Gazette cartoonist Aislin.