Saturday, February 27, 2016

"Mr. Fix-It": Peter Whittall

(The photographer for the book, Geoffrey Frazer, was an interesting character in his own right.  I can't find any information on "Hollett.")

With "Miss Formica", 1960's
Whittall at his home in Richmond Hill, Ontario.

Peter Whittall was born in Toronto in 1907, but moved to rural Manitoba with his family.  There, he got a job with the CBC writing a daily soap opera and reporting on farm issues.  In 1950, he was transferred to Toronto, where he continued to be assigned the farm beat.  His hobby of fixing things got him noticed by one of the producers of Living, which aired on CBLT, the new CBC TV station on Channel 9.  On that program, he demonstrated crafts and simple home repairs. When Living was rolled up, Whittall was offered his own 15-minute time slot as "Mr. Fix-It" alongside Rex Loring as the show's host. (Loring went on to spend two decades as the co-host of CBC's early morning radio program, World Report.) Whittall broke the mold of TV personality dress by wearing plaid shirts and dungarees. Given the short length of each episode, Whittall was restricted to demonstrating basic home construction and repair tasks that could be accomplished with simple tools.  The show first aired in October 1955 and ran until June 1965.  For the first five seasons, it was broadcast on Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. (Eastern) but then the episodes were moved to Wednesdays at 7:45 p.m.  This was the age of TV makes like Silvertone, Sparton, Phillips, Electrohome, Marconi, RCA, Admiral, GE, Philco, Emerson and Zenith and the show ran alongside such others as Razzle Dazzle, Chez Helene, Red Skelton, Front Page Challenge, Peter Gunn, 77 Sunset Strip, Perry Mason, Country Hoedown, Sea Hunt, Juliette, Ed Sullivan, Don Messer and Bonanza.  In addition to his first Handyman's Manual which he self-published in 1958.  He was a big fan of the radial arm saw, and I've uploaded his 4-page chapter on this power tool: The Radial Arm Power Workshop.  He added two additional Handyman Manuals in 1959 and 1960. He also had a radio show, "Whittall's Workshop."  Peter Whittall passed away in 1974 at the relatively young age of 67.

The only video I can find of Mr. Whittall is from CBC Archives from 1962.


Vincent Sullivan said...

Regarding the television station that "Mr. Fixit" aired on in Toronto... It was indeed broadcast on CBLT and it is true that when CBLT signed on the air for the first time on September 8 of 1952 it was assigned to VHF channel 9, but in 1956 CBLT was reassigned to VHF channel 6. This means that most of the seasons of Mr. Fixit were broadcast of VHF channel 6. Channel 9 was subsequently assigned to station CFTO which was the flagship station of the CTV network. CFTO's first official day on the air was January 1, 1961. How do I know all this??? Well I watched Mr. Fixit as a child when it was first broadcast and own a copy of the book that you have excerpted pages from. Perhaps part of my interest in fixing everything in sight started with this program... I never really thought of it that way before!

Mister G said...

Thanks for the comment and the additional info. These days, he'd probably have his own Youtube channel.