Which Way Ya Going Billy (Part One)

Just before the CKY reunion a few years ago 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.
945120_10151896005134307_1362671201_n954610_10151925238754307_1056458042_nWhen I was a kid I played football for The Transcona Nationals and was very excited about going back for our big 50th reunion where I would get to see all my old team mates again and find out what they all had been up to. Growing up in Transcona I was into two things, “Sports and Music” and each came with a completely different set of friends.
One of my real good friends was Bill Wakeman or “Bomba” as we all affectionately called him. (pictured beside me with some of our team mates at the TCI reunion in ’81 at Torrey Pines near La Jolla) Bomba actually was a friend on both on my sports side and my music side him being quite the dancer and all so we used to hang at dances and at all my gigs when I started playing with bands. Bill lived just down the street from me and at 14 was already into building his own cars. He bought all the parts he needed from junkyards using all the money he made as a pool shark and amazingly out of all that junk a car appeared. We used to drive that car up and down all the alleys keeping a sharp eye out of course for the cops but what could they do, they couldn’t take our drivers licenses away we didn’t have any.
As time goes by you start drifting apart from some of the guys you grew up with and because I’d turned into a radio gypsy and had moved all over the country I’d hardly been in touch with anybody so as I said I was really looking forward to catching up with them all. Bill surprisingly had become a teacher and I could hardly wait to hear 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 knew how many people loved him.

I only bring all this up because once again depression raised its ugly head a while ago when there was a reunion at CKRC in Winnipeg. My brother Reg had worked there when he was a kid and the GM Gary Miles had kinda made him and Billy Gorrie Co-PD’s because he wanted to start transitioning from the old “Guys And Gals” image to a much younger one. 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 even ended up owning his own radio stations there. Reg had heard that Billy was having some sort of issues but Billy claimed he was very excited about seeing Reg again as he was all the other CKRC “Guys and Gals” so he would see him at the reunion. 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.


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