This was the most commented-upon post on my old blog. Spammers trashed the comments.
When I was about seven or eight, I had my first hero. He was an unlikely hero for a kid of seven or eight, but that’s the way it was.
It was in the late fifties. We had just moved back to the Detroit Area, and we listened to CBE, the CBC Radio station in Windsor, Ontario. The morning presenter was a man named Alex Pavlini. Alex, as we referred to him around the house, was a zany character who played everything from classical music to pipe bands (at six-thirty AM, obviously, Alex was of the opinion that if he was up, we should be, too), to the Weavers (banned in the United States) to rather formal arrangements of folk songs. Although he was in his twenties, one could be forgiven listening to him for thinking that he was much older. He had a decidedly British accent.
Alex did truly zany things on air. He would sometimes pick up and strum an out-of-tune banjo (not trying to play anything) and once, he produced a piece of radio drama about the first Canadian satellite, which was launched from Windsor and orbited the globe on the top of Detroit’s Penobscot Building (then the tallest building in Detroit). He would juxtapose seemingly unrelated pieces of music.
Alex had other shows on the radio throughout the day. On one, he’d often read a book aloud. One of his favourites to read was The Wind in the Willows which, to this day, is my favourite book. I remember being sick one time and hearing part of it read over the course of my illness. I think it was things like that that made me hate going to school, which was far less interesting that what I heard on the radio.
Alex Pavlini, then, introduced me to music, and my favourite book. I enjoyed his antics all the way up until we moved away, to San Francisco, and then to Chicago. I didn’t hear him after we moved.
When I was contemplating going to university, I considered Canadian institutions. One was the University of Windsor. I wrote for their calendar, and leafing through it, found a mention of an “Alex Pavlini Memorial Bursary”. So, Alex had died. My many efforts have never led me to finding out what happened to him. Indeed, in looking at the online calendar for University of Windsor a few years ago, I discovered that they no longer have such a bursary. I expect that they consolidated a lot of smaller bursaries or something like that.