After the CTV fire, one last reunion at Merivale Road
Elizabeth Howell, ctvottawa.ca
Published Saturday, April 24, 2010 6:20PM EDT
It was nothing short of a family reunion -- an overdue get-together of those who helped CTV Ottawa go to air, decade after decade.
On a beautiful Saturday afternoon, they gathered at the fire-damaged facility on Merivale Road for the last time to pay tribute to the years of broadcasts done there.
"Having worked in this building and actually probably grown up in this building over the course of 25 years, it's kind of sad to see it come this end," said Al MacKay, who worked at the station before when it went under the call sign of CJOH.
Merivale Road was host to a number of landmark shows over the years, including Newsline and You Can't Do That on Television.
Eastern Ontario celebrities such as Alanis Morissette also got their start putting forth their talents on CTV Ottawa's airwaves in past years.
Smitty's tree transplanted to new home
Part of the day's remembrances turned to a darker day in the station's history, when sportscaster Brian "Smitty" Smith was gunned down just outside the front door of the facility on a summer day in 1995.
A tree was planted in his memory just beside where he fell; the Manotick Tree Movers uprooted it Saturday to take it to its new home, Camp Smitty in Eganville.
"We've lived as a family," said Max Keeping, the long-time anchor of CTV Ottawa who just recently retired and now serves as the station's community ambassador.
"We went through a horrendous layoff. We went through an even more horrendous assassination. And then a fire."
Jim Cain, Smith's cousin, was on hand to observe the tree's move to its new home.
"The thing that people would know from his TV career is he was also the most courteous camper, which he gets from his mother," Cain said.
"So that was the style that Brian had all the years that he worked here."
Fallout from the fire
The Februrary fire tore through the newsroom in the hours after the 11:00 p.m. show finished, melting computers on to desks, destroying decades' worth of tapes and also putting up in flames countless personal mementoes held by staff who worked there.
The cause of the blaze is still unknown, although fire officials say it is not considered suspicious.
Damage was too great to return to the old newsroom, so staffers now work out of the A Channel building on George Street. This barbecue put an official end to the Merivale Road chapter.
"Just being here and being together, it's important that we have this closure as a group," said station manager Louis Douville.
With a report from CTV Ottawa's Stefan Keyes