Matchett, Art

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                                           ART MATCHETT
                                     Matchett recalls CKMR radio
                                             By Wayne Curtis

“This is CKMR Newcastle, the community voice of the Miramichi.”

Those were the words used for station identification at the old radio station on Castle Street when Announcer Art Matchett first started to work there in 1956.

In the 10 years that followed, the name Art Matchett became a household word along the Miramichi. The river people relaxed in confidence with Matchett’s down-home personality as he brought their favorite programs from early morning well into the night. He became a friend to CMKR listeners, personifying the station with his charm.

When Matchett started to work at CMKR, he took over the slot vacated by Doaktown’s Bill Murray, who left for CKCW in Moncton.

Matchett was anything but colorless. He told anecdotes and sometimes even sang along with the performers. If a certain piece of music was not well received by his audience, Art pretended to break the record on the air.

On certain shows, such as the early morning show (6:30 a.m.) when only the woodsmen, truck drivers or farmers were out of bed, Matchett became more vocal, singing along with recordings. In fact, it was said that on certain farms, Matchett’s voice was piped into cow stables and the cows loved his singing and they gave more milk.

On the program Hay-Shakers Hoe-Down, which was at seven in the evening on week nights, Matchett pretended to talk to the performers as if they were in the studio beside him. The two-way conversation would go something like this.

“Well, an old friend to everyone just came in and he would like to play us a tune on the fiddle. What would you like to play, Mr. Messer?”

Don Messer says, “I think I’ll try the high level horn pipe on B flat.”

Okay Mr. Messer take her away.” And Art would put on the record.

                             Escuminac Disaster most memorable story

There is one story he covered in radio that will always stick in his mind, says Art Matchett. “The most difficult story I had to cover was the great Escuminac Disaster of 1959. There were so many people lost at Sea. Relatives and friends from away kept calling the station to see if their loved ones were on a long list I had of the dead and missing.”

Matchett grew up in North West Bridge and lived for many years with Mr. and Mrs. Allen Keating of Strahadam. He graduated from Harkins Academy with honours in 1953 and was the valedictorian. Following the graduation, he travelled extensively throughout Europe and spent some time at the Canadian College in Rome.

It was there he became acquainted with three Cardinals from Canada: Cardinal Leger and Cardinal Roy, both of Quebec, and Cardinal Flohifs, from Western Canada. Matchett recalled those men were very good to him. Being a devout Roman Catholic himself, one of the highlights of his colourful past was being in the public audience with the Cardinals and dining with Pope Pius.

Since his retirement from the radio station in 1966, Art Matchett has been employed with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans as a protection officer.

He lives in Williamstown with his wife and two daughters.

                            Variety of shows kept Matchett busy

He had many jobs while at CKMR, says Art Matchett. They included editing and telling the news, hosting shows by local musicians and singers, giving interviews and hosting the many quiz programs so popular in those days. These were mostly sponsored by tea companies like Salada or King Cole.

Sometimes Art would have to fill in for friend and fellow announcer Phillis Sweezey on her Good Morning Mrs. Housewife program. This was a housekeeping, cooking type show that always gave Matchett problems as he tried to interpret the long recipes over the air.

Another show hosted by Matchett during the late 1950s was Meet the Artist which aired at 7:45 p.m. He would have to read about a certain musician and play their records.

The Sunshine Package was a program where people wrote in to the studio and requested a song or tune for a sick or shut-in friend or relative. “This program got out of hand,” said Matchett. “Toward the end, we had to censor everything and check out the authenticity of each request.”

Matchett also hosted the live performances by people like Donna and Jerry Fitzpatrick, the singing duet from Nelson.

The hit parade, Coles Western Wagon, was at two p.m. on Saturdays. When big name performers came to town, they automatically went to the nearest radio station for interviews. Some of the people Art Matchett interviewed in those years were; singer Kitty Wells, Doc Williams, Wilf Carter and Lee Moore, the Singing Nighthawk from Wheeling West Virginia.

When Matchett was in Wheeling himself sometime after that, he visited the WWVA Radio there and was, in turn, interviewed by Lee Moore.

Matchett said, “Lyman Ward from Saint John was teaching school in Millerton. He used to drop in to the station all the time. He loved the studio. Ward is now a successful TV actor in Toronto and Los Angeles. I saw him recently on Murder, She Wrote and Street Legal.”

Art was also called upon to be master of ceremonies at local functions such as the Miramichi Folksong Festival under Director Louise Manny.

“After Phillis Sweezey went to Moncton to work on CKCW, she hosted a show called Reach for the Sky. Along with Phillis Sweezey, fellow announcers on CKMR then were: Ralph Hansen, Paul Hansen, Fred Haining and Dan Leaman.

The station was managed by Bob Wallace of King George Highway in Newcastle.

Source: Miramichi Leader – April 28, 1993

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