Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Making History an enjoyable read

With over 50 books published to his credit, Pierre Berton must have had an idea or two on how to turn a phrase. The Canadian icon passed away on Tuesday at the age of 84. And with his passing a chapter of Canadianna has come to a close.

Berton became the National biographer of sorts, compiling stories from the Klondike Gold Rush, to the building of a railroad and over the falls at Niagara. He took us to Vimy Ridge and through the dustbowl years of the Great Depression. If there was an event in Canadian History chances are Pierre Berton has chronicled it for us. Bringing to life the characters and events that have moulded our persona, made our country larger than life at times and showing Canadians young and old that there is a fascinating history to this land, if only you find the time to look for it.

His Canadian epics have been turned into television mini series, his easily identified voice and larger than life persona requested for causes big and small. In the 60’s and 70’s when Canadian cultural nationalism began to find its feet, Pierre Berton seemed to be everywhere.

From The pages of Maclean’s, in major newspapers from coast to coast and on radio and television, Berton was media convergence before the term was even thought of.

While his books were his mainstay, He will no doubt be remembered for his work with the CBC’s Canadian mainstay, Front Page Challenge. Week after week, Canadians became more aware of themselves and the world around us. Pierre, Gordon, Betty and Fred explored the events of our times and asked the questions we would have asked had we been lucky enough to be an eyewitness to history. The longevity of that show and the outcry when it finally went off the air a huge testimony to the popularity of the panel, and none was more popular than Pierre Berton.

But by and large he always was and will always be known as an author. In bookstores everywhere from St. John’s to Victoria, Windsor to Whitehorse, his works would find a prominent place of honour. They would also in the words of the trade, “move” quite nicely providing a handsome reward for the author, who always believed he could make a decent living by staying in his own country.

For those that complain that they don’t know enough about their own country, or find our history “too boring” find a topic you would like to know about and then go find the book on it by Pierre Berton. Whether it’s the history of chasing invading American troops across the border, or trekking across the vast wilderness of the Arctic, the touchstone to your country is no farther away than a book by Pierre Berton!

May he find St. Peter an easy to work for Editor, but oh the tales he shall tell!

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