A captivating television show: CF-RCK, Part 2

An image from the credits of CF-RCK.

Good morning, my reading friend. Yours truly is pleased to see that your interest in the CF-RCK television series remains. I assume you want to know more about it. Let us therefore begin this overview without any further ado.

Produced in 2 distinct sets of episodes, CF-RCK looked at the adventures and mishaps of the owners of a Cessna Model 180 registered as, you guessed it, CF-RCK. And no, my reading friend, I can not confirm that this registration was chosen because the show was broadcasted by the Société Radio-Canada. And no again, I do not wish to pontificate on the Model 180, one of the most successful light / private airplanes of the 20th century. I realize how disappointed you are, but my decision is irrevocable. I will be steadfast, unassailable and unperturbed. Unless, of course, you’re paying the cognac, if I may paraphrase a few words from Rideau, a rather scatological 1974 French language song by a well-known Québec singer, Michel “Plume” Latraverse. My apologies, I digress.

The first owner of the Model 180 which bore the registration CF-RCK, in the television series of the same name of course, was a businessman and former Second World War pilot who lived on the edge of a lake in the Laurentian region of Québec, with his wife, daughter and son. Mr. Belhumeur often travelled to Montréal, Québec, for his work. He bought this aircraft, then fitted with floats, to facilitate his movements. This acquisition gave rise to various adventures and mishaps involving the Belhumeur family as a whole.

The Model 180 used during the shooting of the television series was unfortunately damaged after the production of the first 2 episodes. The Radio-Canada team almost immediately found an identical aircraft, owned by Brochu Industries Limited of Montréal, and applied on it the letters CF-RCK. This Model 180 was thus flying with a fictitious registration. The Department of Transport, which had not been informed, demanded that this thoroughly illegal practice be stopped immediately. When asked by Radio-Canada, it accepted that the Model 180 receive the registration letters CF-RCK during filming. Because Brochu Industries did not always have the time to remove them, the Model 180 apparently made commercial flights on more than one occasion with its fictitious registration. One could easily imagine the reaction of the Department of Transport.

Towards the end of the winter of 1959-60, Brochu Industries asked said department to give its Model 180 the registration CF-RCK. The CF-R registration series being reserved for amateur-built aircraft, then known as ultralight aircraft, the Department of Transport politely rejected this request. While information on what happened in the following days is quite incomplete, Radio-Canada may have contacted the department to move the file forward. Be that as it may, the Department of Transport contacted the inspector of the Montréal region and offered him 2 options. He might approve the re-registration of the Model 180, or its use with the fictitious registration CF-RCK when shooting episodes of the eponymous television series. The department launched the re-registration process of the Model 180 in late March, early April 1960. This brief digression being over, we can move on to the next phase in CF-RCK’s history.

The second group of episodes, aired from December 1959 onward, portrayed the adventures and misadventures of Louis Corbin and Victor Gendron, the founding pilot and mechanic of a small fictitious air carrier, Air Nord (Enregistrée? Incorporée? Limitée?). Corbin was a former police officer without fear or reproach who was clever like a fox. Air Nord’s Model 180 transported prospectors and hunters / fishermen, as well as relatively light and compact cargo. The friendly but not particularly brilliant inspector Taupin, from a seemingly unidentified police force, often called on Corbin and Gendron during his investigations.

This second part of CF-RCK, apparently developed in haste, starred Yves Létourneau (Corbin) and René Caron (Gendron), 2 Québec actors among the best known of their generation. Over the years, Létourneau also worked as a sports commentator in the press, as well as on radio and television. Émile Genest, on the other hand, lent his face to Taupin. This well-known Québec actor spent several years in the United States. He worked for Walt Disney Productions Limited, for example. And no, he had nothing to do with the ping pong ball demonstration mentioned in the first part of this article.

CF-RCK was the first television series broadcasted by Radio-Canada that drew on a host of screenwriters, an approach widely used in the United States. A partial list of the people involved in its second part included names that were well-known in Québec, at that time and / or afterwards:
- Gilles Carle, director, editor, graphic designer, producer and scriptwriter;
- Marcel Dubé, playwright and screenwriter;
- Claude Fournier, composer, director, editor, producer, screenwriter and writer; and
- Guy Fournier, author, filmmaker and screenwriter.
It should be noted that Claude and Guy Fournier were twins.

A director involved in the production of the series certainly deserves to be mentioned. Pierre Gauvreau was a renowned Québec writer, screenwriter, producer, painter and director. In fact, he was among the signatories of one of the most important texts in the history of contemporary Québec, Le refus global. This artistic manifesto was mentioned in a September 2018 issue of our blog / bulletin / thingee.

Several more or less well-known Québec actors appeared in one or more CF-RCK episodes. One only needs to think of Yvon Thiboutot. Around 1971-72, this individual lent his voice to an iconic character of Patrouille du cosmos, a French language dubbed version made in Québec of the equally iconic Star Trek television series. This character was, you guessed it, none other than James Tiberius “Jim” Kirk, played by William “Bill” Shatner, a comedian originally from Montréal.

Patrouille du cosmos was one of the first television series dubbed in French in Canada. Its dialogues were a little more amusing than those of Star Trek. Kirk also seemed more sexist and less polite. For a long time, or even still in 2018, Patrouille du cosmos remained a cultural reference that inspired some well-known Québec humorists, but let’s go back to our history.

The last of 108 episodes of CF-RCK was broadcasted in May 1962. The series was seemingly rebroadcasted at least once during the 1960s. Indeed, yours truly remembers watching some episodes, and I’m not that old. Télé Luxembourg or, more precisely, the Compagnie luxembourgeoise de télédiffusion also introduced CF-RCK to its viewers during the 1960s. Better still, CF-RCK was seemingly transmitted, from September 1966, through one of the West Berlin channels of the association of public broadcasters of the Federal Republic of Germany, or Arbeitsgemeinschaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. This West German version was entitled, you guessed it, CF-RCK. Interestingly, Télé Luxembourg may have broadcasted Patrouille du cosmos during the 1970s or 1980s.

If yours truly still does not intend to pontificate on the Model 180 and its fabulous history, I would like to point out, however, that the aircraft of this type bearing the registration CF-RCK entered service in May 1954. It carried a totally different registration, of course. Its owner, the aforementioned Brochu Industries, used it until August 1974. The Model 180 was then destroyed in an accident. Early in his career, this aircraft was used by Brochu Industries’ Division de l’air. It was subsequently part of the fleet of Brochu Air Service Limited, a subsidiary of the former.

Over the course of his career, the Model 180 which carried the registration CF-RCK flew in the region of Clova, Québec. This final stop on a railway line of the Canadian National Railway Company, far north of Montréal and Québec, linked this logging post created by Canadian International Paper Company (CIP) to the rest of the world. In fact, the isolated village of Clova was 13 hours by train from Montréal. You probably wonder why yours truly is busting your chops with this information, don’t you? Well, there is a method behind the madness, or is it madness behind the method? I forget. I’m getting old.

Be that as it may, by a curious coincidence, yours truly’s father spent 3 winters in the Clova area working as a lumberjack with his father, in the late 1940s, even before he was 20 years old . Asked in 2017-18, he still remembered well enough this distant period of his life, his meeting with First Nation residents of the region for example, and his work with a mare that he liked. It’s a small world, isn’t it, my reading friend?

One of the most famous and appreciated residents of Clova for about 35 years was Dr. Paul-Léon Rivard. Very affected by the death of his young (French?) wife, which occurred before the end of his studies in surgery at the Université de Paris, this Quebecker became a doctor for CIP in 1929. He treated lumberjacks and the families of those who were established in Clova, without neglecting the First Nation residents of the vast territory it served, approximately 125 000 square kilometres (more than 48 000 square miles) – a territory larger than Iceland. To do this, Rivard used various means of transport, from canoes or dog sleds and airplanes, as well as automobiles, train or even speeders, the latter being provided free of charge by Canadian National Railway Company. Yours truly’s father was among the thousands of patients of this extraordinary doctor. He may have been treated in the 30 bed hospital that the CIP built at the request of Rivard.

From time to time over the years, Rivard performed functions that went well beyond the scope of medicine. He sometimes found himself a notary, lawyer, judge, or constable. Even before the end of the 1930s, Rivard married his nurse and founded a family. The couple had 5 children.

Aware of the isolation in which he lived with his potential patients, Rivard set up a radio station in Clova no later than the early 1930s, with the blessing of CIP – a first in the region. He oversaw the construction of a transmission and reception tower that might still exist in 2018. Having learned to use all this material, he used it to consult with isolated groups and missionaries. Rivard saved many lives by this means. Several small bush flying companies in Québec quickly realized the importance of the Clova radio station. They soon created a small communication network more or less centered around it. CIP itself seemingly installed radio sets in some of its logging stations.

When the Second World War began, Rivard, a reserve captain in the Canadian Army for several years, tried to enlist. Given the importance of his contribution to the lives of the people of his region, his request was politely rejected. The arrival of German prisoners of war in two camps set up in CIP depots, in 1943, changed the situation. Rivard managed the administration of these camps and provided medical care to prisoners. These worked in the forest under close surveillance, in exchange for a small sum of money. Prisoners who did not wish to work had their food ration reduced. In 1944, Rivard heard about a great escape project involving a dozen aircraft – an utterly zany concept if yours truly may say so. This being said (typed?), he immediately contacted his superiors. Prisoners, or even all prisoners, were quickly transferred to other camps.

The renown of Rivard, a good lord from the north, as many of his patients called him, was such that a film crew from the National Film Board (NFB), a world-renowned federal agency mentioned in a July 2018 issue of our blog / bulletin / thingee, went to Clova to film his activities. The team apparently filmed operations performed under hypnosis, without anaesthesia. Rivard could be one of the Canadian pioneers of this technique, quite controversial at the time – and still so in 2018. Bush Doctor, a part of the series Canada Carries On, was presented for the first time in 1954.

A biography de Rivard, Northwoods Doctor, came out in Canada in 1962. French and German translations, Le médecin du Nord and Der Buschdoktor, followed in 1963 and 1964 in France and Switzerland.

Would you believe that, in the late 1940s or even the early 1950s, your humble servant’s father worked in a textile mill owned by Dominion Textile Incorporated located in Magog, Québec, the small town where Rivard was born in 1900? The world is really small, is not it, my reading friend? And yes, Dominion Textile was mentioned in an August 2018 issue of our blog / bulletin / thingee. My apologies, I digress.

Rivard left Clova around 1964, when CIP ended its activities in the region. He was still practicing medicine, a day a week, as late as 1978. Rivard died in Montréal in January 1981, at the age of 80. Sadly, he was unable to fulfill one of his dreams: seeing Halley’s Comet when it came by in 1986. Rivard had seen it in 1910 when he was 10 years old.

It should be noted that the wing of a Model 180 bearing the registration CF-RCK was in a hangar used by a small air carrier in the Laval, Québec, area, until at least 2015. It could be interesting, and useful, to check if this wing still existed in 2018. Dare I suggest that its acquisition by a museum, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum for example, would not be a bad idea? Just sayin’

This writer wishes to thank all those who provided information. Any error in this article is my fault, not theirs. Take care of yourself, my reading friend. Cheerio.

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Rénald Fortier