By CAM TAIT
To pinpoint a specific Vern Traill story, which always turns into an adventure with a laugh track from the start, doesn’t do the man justice. Because there are so many to be told.Moreover, it makes a profound statement of how a generation of true characters — men and women who marched to their own tune, their own drum and their own expressive creativity — is, sadly, a closing chapter in time.And, so, it’s important to pay tribute to Vern, who passed away last week in Moose Jaw after 92 years of pure fun.
Vern had an Edmonton connection. Along with his wife Lois, he moved here in 1980 to slide into the general manager’s chair of 630 CHED, after the legendary Jerry Forbes retired.
I first met Vern at Molson House — the log cabin located at the former brewery just north of 104 Ave.“How ya doin, Tiger?” he said in his friendly gruff voice. Vern called guys “Tigers” and ladies “Dears.”
He, however, had the nickname that described him to a T: The Cowboy.Vern not only ran CHAB radio in Moose Jaw – he ran the town. His sales manager complained about the area of the city he lived in before he went for a vacation. Vern called a house moving company, had the manager’s house dug up from its foundation and moved to another part of the city. When the sales manager returned from his vacation, he couldn’t believe his eyes when he drove up to an empty lot.
Before he lived in Edmonton, he had his entire radio station staff from Moose Jaw come to Edmonton on a bus a few hours before the CHED Christmas party. They took all the tables, so when the Edmonton staff showed up at the Hotel MacDonald, there wasn’t any more seats, causing the banquet staff to scramble.Vern liked to golf. In 1984 at the Wayne Gretzky Golf Classic, Vern got hit on the head by a ball on the Edmonton Country Club’s 11th tee. He showed up at the tournament the following year wearing a hockey helmet and full mask.
Vern invited Oilers Mark Messier, Craig MacTavish, Grant Fuhr and Dave Semenko to play golf in Moose Jaw a year later. The Edmonton contingent flew to Moose Jaw in a Lear jet and Vern met them with several horse-drawn chuck wagons.They ran into a little hiccup riding into town: one of the horses broke in a parking lot, creating a mini stampede.
“Messier had the reins of the horse that broke and Vern was riding side saddle,” recalls Bill Penny, a Moose Jaw native also on the trip. “All of a sudden Vern comes out of nowhere, jumps in front of Messier and calms the horse down.“It was just like the wild, wild west.”
Vern returned to Moose Jaw in 1988 to manage CHAB and have more fun. He filled up one of the hotel pools with lake water one day for a charity fishing derby.
Vern had a glass eye. He was known to walk up to a bus driver, and place something on the dash.“Just in case you need another eye on the road,” he’d say. If Vern was with you at a party and you weren’t carefully guarding your drink, he would slip his glass eye into it.
There are so many Vern Traill tales. If you have one, please add it to camtait.comThe Cowboy has trotted off into the sunset for the last time. But his love of life, love of people and love of making others laugh will only enrich his legacy.