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"APT" 2003 Obituary


APTED o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-12-26 published
He was the voice of the land
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation broadcaster oversaw radio programming that connected the country's isolated agricultural and fishing communities
By Carol COOPER, Special to The Globe and Mail Friday, December 26, 2003 - Page R15
It wasn't a great beginning. Racked with nerves during his first on-air stint for a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation-Winnipeg radio agricultural show in 1944, Bob KNOWLES gabbled the market reports in a record three minutes, instead of the scheduled 10, with the result that his boss had to spend the next seven minutes rereading them.
"I don't suppose anyone made any sense out of anything I'd read," Mr. KNOWLES told the Regina Leader Post in 1981.
Many voice and elocution lessons later, Mr. KNOWLES became an accomplished and well-loved farm broadcaster, who won the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation farm department's Cowhide Trophy for proficiency in broadcasting in 1951 and then rose through the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation ranks to become the national supervisor of farm and fisheries broadcasts.
Mr. KNOWLES, who in that capacity, oversaw programs such as Country Calendar, Country Magazine, Summer Fallow and the daily agricultural noon-hour shows, died in his sleep recently. He was 83.
Farm shows on radio and television offer up-to-date market information, advice on growing crops and raising animals, and news on the latest agricultural research from the universities to their busy and isolated rural audience. In days gone by, when many more Canadians made their living from the land without modern communication methods, radio farm shows were particularly important.
As national supervisor of farm and fisheries broadcasts, and chair of National Farm Radio Forum's executive committee for a number of years, Mr. KNOWLES contributed to one ground-breaking Canadian show. Launched in the early forties as an adult-education program for farmers, Farm Radio Forum brought farmers, their wives and often their children together in an early version of interactive radio. Gathering weekly throughout the winter in living rooms, kitchens and community halls across the country, they listened to the show's broadcasts.
After hearing a panel discussion, the group discussed questions presented in study guides. A secretary recorded answers, which were sent back to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, some to be aired the following week. Their responses helped shape agricultural policy across the country and initiated several projects, said Rodger Schwass, a former national secretary of Farm Radio Forum and professor emeritus from York University.
As its chair during the late fifties and early sixties, Mr. KNOWLES helped choose show topics and panelists and became involved in one of its projects, Radios for India.
Forums across Canada raised money to help start a radio forum in India, one of several countries, including Jamaica, Belize, Ghana and Nigeria that adopted the Canadian idea. When the head of Indian radio came to Canada for three months to study radio forums, Mr. KNOWLES shepherded him around the country. In turn, Mr. KNOWLES participated in a training program in India. Radio forums became the chief means of disseminating information during India's Green Revolution, which ended up doubling the country's food production.
Robert Gordon KNOWLES was born on February 5, 1920 to Gordon and Catherine Finn KNOWLES on the family's homestead in Rutland, Saskatchewan. The family had settled there from Ontario in 1907, in the town that no longer exists, roughly 160 kilometres west of Saskatoon. Affected by mild cerebral palsy resulting from a difficult birth, Mr. KNOWLES walked with a mild limp and was unable to use his right hand.
Although Mr. KNOWLES wanted nothing more than to become a farmer, his father feared his son's disability would make that difficult. Instead, he encouraged Mr. KNOWLES to continue his education. Upon completing his B.Sc. in agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan in 1942, and with a low service rating because of his disability, Mr. KNOWLES did not enlist during the Second World War. Instead, he completed his master's degree in agriculture at the university in 1944, where he had met Pat APTED, an honours graduate in arts and biology, whom he married in 1943.
With so many men overseas, Mr. KNOWLES had three job offers upon graduation: as a district agriculturalist in Alberta, as a land inspector for the Canadian Pacific Railway, or as a western farm commentator with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He chose the people's network. "At that time, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was only eight-years-old and it seemed like a very glamorous position," Mr. KNOWLES told the Vernon Daily News in After his first position in Winnipeg, he transferred to Edmonton for a similar job, staying nine months, before returning to Winnipeg as regional farm-broadcast commentator in 1950.
Of his early days in broadcasting, Mr. KNOWLES told the Vernon paper, "I made my work pass the following test: Is it of interest and value to the farmer to know about this and why? I think I did all right because I've been criticized equally by all farm organizations at one time or another."
In 1954, Mr. KNOWLES and his family packed up and moved to Toronto, where he became the assistant supervisor of farm and fisheries broadcasts and 19 months later, the supervisor.
Not only did he manage the section's budget, set its policy and advise regional announcers across the country, but at least once provided the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation with a breaking story.
In 1963, Mr. KNOWLES and most of the network's farm department were on a flight that crashed during landing at Toronto International Airport.
Uninjured, Mr. KNOWLES left the plane to be put into a holding room with fellow passengers. Once there, he demanded to call home to reassure his wife and young family. Granted the privilege, he immediately called the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's newsroom.
In 1967, with a major network restructuring under way, Mr. KNOWLES took a three-year leave of absence to work for the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome on the development of farm broadcasts.
Upon returning to Canada, he found his job had disappeared. Mr. KNOWLES took the only Canadian Broadcasting Corporation-Radio farm commentator's job available, where he reported, wrote and delivered approximately 6,000 broadcasts for Radio Noon in Regina, until his retirement in 1980.
Said Bonnie DONISON, producer of Radio Noon. "Because he was so friendly and warm, people really liked to talk to him and And he held some interesting interviews, once with a trouserless federal minister of agriculture, Otto LANG. Mr. LANG had ripped his pants getting out of a taxi, so he removed them, sent them aside for mending and carried on, recalled Gerry WADE, a fellow farm-broadcaster who worked with Mr. KNOWLES in Regina.
Of his broadcasting career, Mr. KNOWLES told the Vernon Daily News, "I can honestly say that during all of my time as a journalist, there never was a day I didn't want to go into work."
Mr. KNOWLES also helped create the Canadian Farm Writers Federation and was inducted into the Saskatchewan Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1990.
He died on November 5 in Ottawa. His first wife Pat, predeceased him in 1997. He leaves his second wife Marney, children Tony, Laura, Alan and Janet, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

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