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After more than 60 years, golden-voiced Lyle Smordin still broadcasting

Lyle Smordin

By MYRON LOVE As Lyle Smordin tells it, when he was eight or nine years old, his mother Ida decided that he should learn to play the violin.
“At that time,” he recalls, “most Jewish mothers wanted their children to become musicians.”

So she took him to the old Peretz School on Aberdeen and Salter (where he was a student) and had him audition for Yasha Reznitsky, who was then head of the Winnipeg Jewish Orchestra. Reznitsky’s verdict was that a violinist the young Lyle was not going to be.
So his mother turned – you might say – to Plan B. She enrolled him in elocution lessons. With that foundation – including earning a designation as an Associate of the Royal Conservatory of Toronto when he was 15 – the now retired lawyer (as of 2018) and community leader has enjoyed a long and fulfilling side career in broadcasting – and, after more than 60 years since his first radio broadcast, he can still be heard on air weekly on Nostalgia Radio 93.7 CJNU, spinning golden oldies.
Smordin’s broadcasting career began in Saskatoon when he was 19. Although, he notes, he grew up in Winnipeg, in 1952, when he was 15, his father Harvey became manager of a garment factory in Saskatoon and the family moved to Saskatchewan’s largest city.
Smordin’s entry into the broadcasting field would seem to have been almost effortless. This was the 1950s when the medium was still relatively new and much easier to break into for someone with an eloquent voice.
“I had been involved with the campus radio station in Saskatoon,” he recounts. “At 19, I decided to take a year away from university. Since I had now had some radio experience, I contacted CKOM in Saskatoon and asked if I could audition. I was hired almost immediately.”
The next year (1959), back at school, he saw a CBC Regina ad for a summer position as an announcer. Once again, he phoned for an audition and was promptly hired.
The next year, he decided to move back to Winnipeg. (His parents, and younger brother Don moved back in 1965.) “I still had a lot of relatives (including his grandparents) and friends in Winnipeg and used to visit over the summers and Christmas holidays,” he notes. “I had also met Evita (Phomin, who was to become his wife) and we were serious about each other.”
Naturally, having worked for CBC in Regina, he successfully applied to CBC Radio in Winnipeg to work for the station for the summer.
That fall (November, 1960) though, he had the opportunity to become part of Winnipeg television history. He was hired as part of the first on-air team at CTV – Winnipeg’s new second English-language channel – working alongside such well-known personalities (at the time) as Al Johnson, Ray Torgrud, Bob Burns and the immortal sportscaster, Cactus Jack Wells.
“I worked for CTV for 18 months and had a great time,” he says. I did a little of everything – announcing, commercials and a lot of sports coverage, including Grey Cup games.”
After 18 months though, he decided that broadcasting was not what he wanted to do full time for the rest of his life. “I thought maybe I would try law school,” he recalls.

Smordin continued to work part time and over the holiday periods on air while attending law school and later articling. He was called to the Bar in 1965 and, for a time, put broadcasting on the back burner.
In a legal career that spanned 53 years – 20 of which he spent in partnership with Brian Pauls – he specialized in wrongful dismissal suits. He is a past president of the Manitoba Bar Association, as well as having served on the Mental Health Review Board, Chair of the Canada Pension Plan Tribunal and as an adjudicator for Human Rights Code cases. (He served as an administrative adjudicator in cases across the country for a number of years.) He also served as president of the Better Business Bureau and acted as the BBB’s counsel.
He also participated in numerous yearly Manitoba Bar Association fundraising theatrical productions – including playing the lead in “Inherit the Wind”. “I have always loved theatre,” he says. “In my younger days, I was on stage at the Hollow Mug and MTC.”

In the Jewish community, he is a past president of B’nai Brith Canada and served on the international board as vice-president.
Throughout the years of legal practice though, he kept returning from time to time to broadcasting. In the 1970s, he hosted an open-line TV show for Global TV based on legal issues.
“We started with four episodes, than were expanded to a year,” he recalls. “Overall, the show ran for ten years. For each episode, I would invite guest lawyers to join me. People would phone in with questions and those I couldn’t answer I would refer to my guests. It was a lot of fun.”
For the past 20 years, he notes, he has been doing retro radio. “For a time,” he recalls, “Jack Wells, Cliff Gardner and I operated our own radio station (CKJS, which hosts the Jewish radio hour Sundays). I would squeeze one or two shifts a week in hosting the morning program as well as occasionally hosting the weekly Jewish hour .”
The partners eventually sold the station but Smordin is still in some demand. The man with the golden chords invites readers who enjoy the music that CJNU offers to join him Tuesday afternoons from 3:30 to 6:00 while he spins your favourite music from years gone by.

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Features

“Ain’t No Grave” – new novel set in Deep South in early 20th century combines interracial love story with searing description of the Leo Frank trial and lynching

Book cover/author Mary Glickman

Reviewed by BERNIE BELLAN In 1975, American novelist E. L. Doctorow made waves with “Ragtime,” a novel that interspersed true historical American figures from the first part of the 20th century with fictitious characters. The novel explored the overt racism faced by Blacks in America at that time, along with the antisemitism that was also prevalent.
Now, with a new novel by Mary Glickman, who has specialized in writing historical fiction centering around Jewish characters in the Deep South of the U.S., the themes of anti-Black and antisemitic prejudice in the South reach a traumatic apex, culminating with the lynching of New York-born Leo Frank in Georgia, in 1915.
But – since I don’t like to read too much about what a novel is about before I delve into it, I really didn’t know to what extent the Leo Frank case was going to play a role in this particular book. I prefer to be surprised. Unfortunately, if you’re also of a similar mind, I’m afraid I’ve already let the cat out of the bag.
The story opens, however, not in Atlanta, which is where Leo Frank was framed for the murder of 13-year-old Mary Phagan, but in a part of backwoods Georgia known as Heard County, where we meet the two central characters of the book: Young Max Sassaport, the son of the only Jewish couple in his small rural village, and Max’s best friend, an equally young Ruby Johnson, the Black daughter of a sharecropper.
The two children – though from totally dissimilar backgrounds, share a deep bond – which they keep hidden from all around them. Glickman’s lilting prose and her depiction of rural Georgia life reminded me of another wonderful novel, also set in the Deep South: “Where the Crawdads Sing.”
Of course, a relationship between a Black girl and a White boy (and a Jew no less) is bound to come asunder – and even as youngsters, Ruby and Max are aware that they are fated to be split apart. Yet, with the introduction of a fascinating character known as Mayhayley Lancaster, who is described as a “witch,” but who later turns out to be a real person who actually played somewhat of a role in the Leo Frank trial, the children’s fate is foretold. (Again, I don’t want to give too much of the story away, but Mayhayley Lancaster’s transformation later in the novel turned out to be one of the biggest surprises of the book.)
As the first part of the story develops – and it becomes apparent that Ruby and Max are destined to take different roads in their lives, one of the interesting aspects of the story for Jewish readers will be what life would have been like for the only Jewish family in a small Southern town. The Sassaports operate a general dry goods store – as did many Jews in rural locations throughout the U.S. and Canada, but their connection to Judaism is tenuous at best.
In time, both Max and Ruby make their way to Atlanta, but with Ruby leaving when she is only 12 years old and Max waiting another six years before he ends up in Atlanta, neither one of them holds much hope that they will ever see each other again.
Max, however, meets up with a reporter for the Atlanta Journal known as Harold Ross (who would later go on, in real life, to found The New Yorker). Ross takes Max under his wing as a cub reporter and it’s in Max’s capacity as a reporter that he finds himself enmeshed in the Leo Frank trial.
As a press release for the novel explains: “1913. The year heart-sick Max travels to Atlanta to find Ruby, his lost love and childhood friend. And the year New York Jew, Leo Frank, is charged with the murder of a child laborer at the National Pencil Factory. Max is Jewish and Ruby’s Black. Their reunion takes place just as Frank is arrested, a racially charged event that sparks an explosion of antisemitism across the city of Atlanta.”
Although I had somewhat of a recollection of reading about the Leo Frank trial, reading about the events surrounding that trial and its aftermath comes as somewhat of a shock. Leo Frank was framed for the murder of a 13-year-old White girl but the degree to which the police and the prosecutor were determined to pursue a totally made-up case against an innocent Jewish businessman is still jarring to read. As well, when one contemplates how comfortable Donald Trump is with telling one lie after another to suit his agenda, it becomes much easier to understand how so many White authority figures in “Ain’t No Grave” were willing to engage in a total frame-up so as to enrage their White base. The role that many newspapers at the time played in stoking antisemitism also provides a salutary experience in how easy it has always been to dupe a huge proportion of the American public though fictitious media reporting. In 1915 it was through newspapers; today, it’s through the internet.
As the book’s press release notes the parallels between what was happening in the early years of the 20th century and what we are seeing playing out around the world today, “With global antisemitism on the rise, “Ain’t No Grave” draws attention to the fact that garden variety antisemitism can be stoked by bad actors and quickly explode into violence. Sometimes, the media play a role.”
The Jewish community of Atlanta in 1915 was so terrified by what was happening to Leo Frank that events at the time led to the creation of B’nai Brith’s Anti-Defamation League.
The juxtaposition of vicious antisemitism and anti-Black hatred in the Deep South with a love story between a White Jew and a Black woman makes for a compelling read. As a member of the Southeast ADL by the name of Sandra Brett noted after reading “Ain’t No Grave,” “Mary Glickman vividly captures milestones in the Leo Frank saga through sympathetic characters as real as the events surrounding them. She deftly intertwines Leo Frank’s trial and lynching with the founding of the ADL, the rebirth of a moribund KKK, and an interracial love story. Meticulously researched, fast-paced, and thoroughly original, Ain’t No Grave is a moving, satisfying read.”
And, as Pat Conroy, author of another best selling novel set in the Deep South – “Prince of Tides”, wrote about Mary Glickman: “Mary Glickman is a wonder.”

Buy this book on Amazon

Ain’t No Grave
By Mary Glickman
280 Pages,
Publication Date: July 2024
Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.


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Features

The environmental benefits of lawn care

(NC) Caring for your lawn isn’t just about aesthetics – it’s about nurturing a healthy ecosystem right in your own backyard. A well-maintained lawn not only adds charm to your property, it also plays a crucial role in supporting a healthier environment. Here are some of the ways that taking care of your lawn can benefit our surroundings.

Enhancing air quality: Your lawn acts as a natural air purifier, capturing dust, pollen and other airborne particles, making the air cleaner. Through photosynthesis, grass absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2) and releases oxygen, helping to reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

Preventing soil erosion: Healthy lawns are crucial to preventing soil erosion. The dense grassroot keeps the soil in place, minimizing the risk of decay caused by water or wind. Soil erosion not only strips away valuable topsoil, it can also pollute nearby water bodies.

Cooling outdoor spaces: Compared to urban areas filled with buildings and concrete, places with more grass and trees are noticeably cooler. Additionally, it requires less energy to cool a building surrounded by grass than one surrounded by concrete. A lush lawn not only keeps your outdoor area cooler but could also lower air conditioning bills.

Ensuring clean water: Maintaining a healthy lawn contributes to better water quality. The thick grass cover is a natural filter for rainwater, cutting down on runoff and stopping pollutants from reaching waterways.

How to keep your lawn healthy

To keep your lawn healthy, it’s important to focus on three areas: fertilizing, watering and cutting.

Fertilize: Plants need the proper balance of nutrients to grow and stay healthy. Fertilizer ensures your lawn has all the nutrients it needs in the proper amounts to grow. Fertilize your lawn every other month, beginning in the spring when it starts to turn green, and continue until just before the ground freezes to promote thick, healthy growth that can fight off weeds.

Water: Regular watering is essential to maintaining a healthy lawn. Water your lawn early in the morning to reduce evaporation and fungal growth.

Cut: Mowing your lawn correctly can greatly influence its health. Keep your mower blades sharp and set your mower to the correct height for your grass type.

When fall begins, it’s important to continue caring for your lawn to ensure it remains healthy. Fertilizing in the fall helps strengthen roots and provides essential nutrients for the colder months. Additionally, keep up with watering if there is insufficient rainfall and continue mowing until the cold weather hits.

A vibrant lawn isn’t just a patch of green – it’s a miniature ecosystem that offers a variety of environmental benefits. By taking care of your lawn, you’re enhancing your property’s appeal and playing a vital role in preserving our planet’s health.

Find more information on lawn care and environmental benefits at fertilizercanada.ca/lawncare.

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Features

4 things to know about the Canadian Dental Care Plan

(NC) Have you heard about the Canadian Dental Care Plan (CDCP)? It’s a federal government program that helps reduce the cost of dental care for Canadian residents with a family income under $90,000 who do not have access to dental insurance.

Here are four things you should know about the plan.

What does it cover?
The plan helps cover a wide range of oral health services for eligible Canadians, such as examinations, teeth cleaning, X-rays, fillings, dentures, root canals and oral surgeries. Some services may only be available as of November 2024 and will require prior approval on the recommendation of an oral health provider.

When can I apply?
The application process began in stages, starting with seniors. As of June 27, 2024, two more groups can sign up for the plan: children under the age of 18 and adults with a valid Disability Tax Credit certificate.

When will other adults be able to apply?
All other eligible Canadian residents will be able to apply in 2025. Once fully rolled out, the plan aims to help reduce the cost of dental care for up to 9 million Canadians.

Does it fully cover all dental expenses?
The CDCP will reimburse a portion of the cost, based on established plan fees and your annual family income. There are three tiers of coverage that are based on household income.

  • If you have a family income lower than $70,000, 100 per cent of the plan’s established fee for eligible services will be covered;
  • If your family income is between $70,000 and $79,999, 60 per cent of the plan’s established fee for eligible services will be covered;
  • If your family income is between $80,000 and $89,999, 40 per cent of the plan’s established fee for eligible services will be covered.

The plan may not cover the full cost of your treatment, even if you have a family income lower than $70,000. You may have to pay a portion of the cost if the plan’s established fees are lower than what your provider normally charges. Additionally, you may agree to receive treatment that is not covered by the plan.

Before receiving oral health-care, you should always confirm that your provider is accepting CDCP members, that they will bill Sun Life for direct payment and ask about any costs that won’t be covered by the plan.

Learn more about the plan at canada.ca/dental.

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