Reminiscences about The Gazoo

I was the junior police desk reporter (7 p.m. to about 2 a.m. shift) at The Gazette, whose poorly-paid newsroom staff called The Gazoo (used as in zoo), in the early 1960s.

On an average night I did two rounds of police phone checks where I manually dialed more than 25 Montreal city police stations and other such places to ask whether there was “anything special” to report. All of this effort would end up, usually, as an inside-page, no-byline roundup story of the day’s police events; minor hold-ups, minor road fatalities, minor everything else.

A big story would be passed to a senior police reporter, if possible.

All the time I made the phone checks, I had to listen to the mostly French-speaking police radio to see if anything was developing that required a photographer. One night there was a biggish fire somewhere and we had no photographer around.

So the City Desk sent me to report on the blaze. They gave me a bus ticket to get there and another one to get back. This was the big time.

Doing obituaries, of sometimes important personages, was also part of the job. I handled the “kook calls” in which a typical caller tried to get coverage of the fact his bathroom mirror was showing him color radar images of the main runway at G-X-4 Airport on Neptune. Once in a very, very blue moon, such calls would produce something – on Earth -- worth checking. Note that Armstrong’s giant leap on the Moon was a few years away.

Hugh Doherty has wonderful recollections and photos of the late 1950s at the paper at the following  link:

Bottles of gin to keep pace with the city

Al Palmer was the senior police-beat reporter:

Palmer biographical sketch (at Concordia U.)

A copyright byline happens once in a career, if ever any more. Everybody the next day was reporting “the Gazette said today in a copyright story that . . . .” Pretty heady stuff for a new kid in the newsroom. Wow!