A long-time employee of CKNX-TV in Wingham died on Friday. John “Duke” Day was 86. Oh, the stories he told!
John was a thin, pony-tailed television director with a kind heart and a wealth of knowledge. I worked closely with him in the mid-80’s on the game show, Reach for the Top, as the “girl” who introduced the high school students who were battling for supremacy and it was my role to get us into and out of commercial breaks. Part of my job was to interview those insufferable students before we started taping and every week a new crop of them would come in thinking, how can we mess with this woman? They would conspire to lob out words I likely didn’t know in hopes that I would squirm and they could feel superior. How I loathed their smug little games! But I digress.
John directed the show and he had a quiet confidence that commanded respect. And he was just such a darn nice guy that you wanted to please him. During one very weird taping session one of my less stable colleagues, a young cameraman, was threatening me with bodily harm. Seriously! He warned me that he planned to beat me up. Scared, naturally, I told John. I don’t know what John said or did but after their little talk, the young man didn’t do so much as make eye contact with me ever again.
John told stories about earlier days in television, when everything local was aired live. CKNX-TV used to produce a kids’ show and one day, when John was directing, the host asked a little boy, “What does Mommy do after you go off to school?” Without missing a beat the child piped up, “She gets back into bed with Uncle Danny!” Hee hee! John recalled giving tours of the TV studios to wide-eyed viewers who would ask such questions as, “Where do you keep the horses?” “Horses?”, John asked? “Yeah, the horses from Bonanza!” Ah, we were a simple people back then!
Many of us who worked at CKNX were just passing through on our way to bigger things. Some of the older guys on staff treated us like parasites, not worth taking seriously. Not John. He offered respect and was the kind of guy you could go to with a problem, knowing he would understand and keep your confidence. What a sweetheart. In lieu of flowers, his family has asked that donations go to a local pet rescue group. That’s the kind of guy we’re talking about. Rest in peace, Duke.