Which Way Ya Going Billy. (part 1) a repost

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.



15 thoughts on “Which Way Ya Going Billy. (part 1) a repost

  1. Sorry about your friends, George. Depression’s a bitch.

    I think Sir Harrison was right:
    “Daylight is good at arriving at the right time;
    It’s not always going to be this grey.
    All things must pass; all things must pass away.”

    • Thanks Woody, I have anger but I don’t think I am depressed so I cant relate. Something that powerful that can make you take your own life is too powerful for me to even think about.

  2. As someone who has struggled with chronic depression to some degree or another most of my life since college, while the story is a downer, I can testify about how paralyzing the lowest lows on one’s measure of self-worth can be. Before T. J. Byers took his life in the early 1990s, I remember the few conversations with him about his desperation to find a job in the only industry he ever really knew or believed himself to be proficient, broadcasting. In retrospect, while I did make some phone calls on his behalf, I could have done more. And, there are, sadly, a few other late colleagues that could have received more support from me. I made it (and still do)through the challenges of my professional career because of the support of my friends and colleagues, even if they did not know of my personal demons. I was fortunate that the few times I was medicated, the medication and bouts of therapy were temporary because the side effects were worse than the sadness in my soul, so I learned to cope without medication and the mindnumbing sessions of trying to fit others’ (and my own) expectations. Yes, there were occasions when I cancelled outside meetings because I could not face contact with people I did not know or trust. And, in retrospect, I likely hobbled my career because of my affliction. I know I never fully felt worthy of any respect or authority over those I managed, and I was in constant fear of being found out to be even less than how I felt about myself. I resisted many opportunities for fear of losing control over what I had, which in retrospect was a massive error in judgement, because you only get back what you give. There is a stigma about what people call “mental illness”. Even out of broadcasting, selling life, accident and health insurance, there are special categorizations for the many, many, many people in this country suffering from chronic depression. The only truth about all of the advertising concerning medications for depression is the one for Lilly’s Cymbalta: Depression hurts. For those who suffer, even temporarily such as in post-partum depression, the pain in one’s soul is profound and paralyzing. It takes support, structure, prodding, and sometimes an occasional firm hand to help someone pull themselves out of the very dark unfathomable place. There are more of us in the broadcasting / media business than we wish to acknowledge, and if we stop to think about it, many of the greatest talents fought these invisible demons. Thank you to those whom try to help their fellow men and women out of their abyss.

    • Jed, this is all so strange to me. I’m sure a lot of people I worked with to some degree had some form of this. Im just becoming aware of it now because it has finally come out of the darkness into the light. Maybe now some of us can finally see it and try to figure out what to do.

  3. Comment: Hello George,

    I think the last time we talked was 1963 when Sandy Koufax won the MVP award in that years’ World Series. Maybe that’s going back a little far but it’s in the ballpark.

    I was directed to your website last night by Ken Porteous, an old CHUMer and lifelong friend. He found news of the death of Bill Gorrie. I am shocked and saddened to hear about Bill’s demise by suicide. Bill, Ken, and I were just three on a long list of Silver Heights Collegiate grads who were drawn to radio in the early sixties, primarily by the dynamic CKY talent with jocks such as Jimmy Darrin, J. Robert Wood, Chuck Dann and the amazing on-air execution. ‘KY was huge and working at the station for me, being barely 17, was a gift.

    Bill Gorrie was kind, gentle, supportive, humorous, upbeat, flexible, honest, to name a few. That was my experience with him during the time I worked at CKRC. I guess that’s why I was so shocked at leaning about his suicide. That just doesn’t fit with what I knew of him, his character, his comfortable drive and his kindness toward others. But then, someone who lives with chronic depression lives two lives. One is hidden deep within while the other part struggles to live with a sense of normalcy. I know because I have lived that. I attempted suicide three years ago. I don’t know what Bill’s issues were but in my case, I carried my issues as far as I could–until August 28, 2008. My demons had won. I was completely surprised when I woke up 26 hours later and it was shortly after waking up, when I became somewhat lucid that I realized I was getting a second chance at life. Since then, I have used my experience and skills as a two-decade professional speaker to advocate for mental wellness and the rights of those who are affected by mental illness. (That’s a long way from executing a dynamic intro sitting on the edge of the jock chair in front of a mic in the control room.)

    Could Bill have been swayed in the parking lot the night of the CKRC reunion party? No one will!
    ever kn
    ow. A couple of months after my suicide attempt and release from the psych ward, I became certified in suicide intervention so that I could better understand suicide and perhaps help others in crisis. One who deals with chronic depression feels shame and a sense of hopelessness, every day. It never leaves. There is no relief. Stigma is a huge issue. Stigma is embedded in our health care system—even within the silo of mental health. I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it. It’s there in all its ugliness. Bill’s pain is gone. May he rest in peace. What a shame. What a loss.

    I did write a book about my experience with my suicide attempt. It sits in a folder on my computer. I’ve never sent it to a publisher for consideration. I’m not sure why but I had to write it for the sake of writing it. Please let me share a few lines from the book with you and your readers. “Within weeks of my release from the hospital after my suicide attempt, I attended a suicide survivors gathering. It’s an annual event staged for family and friends who have lost a loved one to suicide. Speakers addressed an audience of about 150, relating their personal stories: anguish, guilt, fear, hurt, anger, frustration, pain; stories that rang so loud it was deafening; Oh how they wish they could turn back the clock and perhaps change an outcome. As the ceremony continued, I became so profoundly aware of what I had done, as never before, and even in my survival, how I had hurt the people who loved and cared for me. I stood in a back corner of the room watching and listening to the stories one after another, trying to keep my crumbling composure in check. It was so hard to be there. As I walked away after the final prayer from the podium, I came to a decision to write my book. I need to write it for my own sake: fifty years of dealing with my personal demons had almost cost me my existence. It had to end. If telling my story helps even a single human being from taking that final step—suicide, then it is worth every word.”

    e so man
    y others, I will remember Bill Gorrie.

    Take care George.

    Rick Hallson

    • Great to hear from you Rick and glad to hear you are doing fine. What you are doing now makes creating a one liner for a record intro sound even more trivial than it already is. See you in May at the KY reunion. Your e mail and many others like it has made me decide to revisit this subject again soon.

  4. i met bill at pirates community club dances when we were about 15 years old.
    bill became a car guy and a winning dragracer.
    we met again when keystone dragways opened back in 1964.
    we competed for many years me with my fords and later my hurst amx.
    bill ran mostly dodges and plymouths.he was a tremendous driver with quick reflexes.
    bill was an excellent welder and manufactured parts for many of us on his lathe in the shop behind his house.
    i spent many days and nights with bill and he was a real gentleman.
    i think of bill everytime i drive into transcona.

  5. George I to sat at the CKRC reunion looking forward to seeing Bill. Bill hired me from CKDR radio in Dryden, Ontario and I will never forget getting the chance to work at CKRC with some true legends like Boyd Kozak and Bob Washington. Bill made my day when during one of my air check sessions he told me I reminded him of Buster Beau Dean. I only wish I was as good as Buster. He was a great boss.

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