Just before the CKY reunion in Winnipeg I was thinking about some of the guys I used to work with so I got a hold of Warren Cosford and asked if he knew what had happened to Rick Hallson. I’d worked with Rick at CKY back when we were young board ops and knew at some point he had moved to Toronto and had worked with Warren at CHUM. All that Warren knew was that he had heard that Rick had some depression issues and had written a book about his unsuccessful attempt at suicide. Hearing about Rick’s situation got me thinking about one of the first times I’d ever even heard about depression.
When I was a kid I played for The Transcona Nationals and at this time was very excited about going back for our big 50th reunion and seeing all my team mates again. Back in those days I was into two things “Sports and Music” and each of them came with a different set of friends. One of my sports friends was Bill Wakeman or “Bomba” as we all affectionately called him. Bomba actually also crossed over to my music side being quite the dancer so we used to hang out a lot at dances together and later on he would be at all my gigs when I started playing with bands. Bill who lived just down the street from me at 14 was already into building his own cars by using the money he made as a pool shark to buy all the parts that he needed from the junkyards. Amazingly from all the junk he bought, a car appeared which we used to drive up and down all the back alleys in town keeping a sharp eye out for the cops. Hey but what could they do to us anyway, they couldn’t take our drivers licenses away we were only 14 year olds punks so we didn’t have any.
As time goes by you start drifting apart and because I’d turned into a radio gypsy and had moved all over the country I hadn’t been in touch with many of the old guys in a while so I was really looking forward to finding out what everyone had done with their lives. Bill surprisingly had become a teacher and I could hardly wait to see him again to find out how the hell that had happened. I got into town the day before the reunion and spent that evening hanging out with my longtime friend Jim Quail and Ermanno Barone who both looked great and appeared to be healthy enough to suit up again. Speaking of suiting up I was planning on doing a little of that myself by wearing my brand new Transcona Nationals jacket that Jim Quail had surprised me with as a gift a few years before. Wearing one of those at TCI back in the day was star status stuff when Bill Burdeyny was busy making us famous each week in the Transcona news. Somebody mentioned that they didn’t think Bomba was coming to the people because he wasn’t doing so well so I called him up to see what was wrong. He told me that he was depressed which I really hadn’t even heard about so I asked him what the hell was he depressed about and he said he didn’t know but he couldn’t even leave his house. earlier had told me that Bill wasn’t doing so well so I called to see if he was coming to the party. I had no idea what Bill was talking about and said … Bomba, you’re a National man, and The Transcona Nationals play hurt man so you get your ass to the reunion or I’ll come over there with a couple of the guys and drag you to it. The next night he actually showed up and I am so glad he did because he later told everyone that he had the time of his life. If Bill was depressed you sure couldn’t tell it that night because he was telling all the old stories, laughing, and hugging all the people he had lost contact with over the last couple of years. Unfortunately I wish this had a better ending but Bill died of a heart attack a few years ago year and his brother Fred who was with him on his last night told me that the last thing he was talking about before he passed was how special that night was to him. Bill (Bomba) Wakeman’s funeral was so big that you couldn’t get into the Church and a huge crowed was out in the street listening to the service on speakers. I just hope somehow Bill saw how many people loved him.
I only bring all this up now because a while ago now there was a reunion at a radio station in Winnipeg that my brother had worked at when he was a kid called CKRC. Billy whom I had met several times while visiting Reg was very bright and became one of the very few radio people who became successful without ever having to leave Winnipeg and ended up owning his own radio stations there. Reg had heard that Billy was having some issues but he was looking forward to seeing him again along with all the other “Guys and Gals” of CKRC but Billy never showed. He later claimed that he had been out in the parking lot for over an hour in his car trying to work up the courage to go in but just couldn’t bring himself to do it.
Not too long after the CKRC reunion I got an eloquently written e mail from him as did others. You began to realize though as you read along that you were actually reading his obituary which Billy wrote shortly before taking his own life.