To the end, Garth Materie made it sound easy.
Materie signed off from Blue Sky, CBC Saskatchewan’s noon-hour phone-in show, for the final time Thursday. Materie hosted the show for 15 years, inviting listeners in with a velvety voice that carried both steel and a wonderful sense of whimsy.
The 63-year-old was equally at home talking politics, pronouns, perogies or pelicans.
“Your ability to ask challenging questions and demand straightforward answers can be squirm-inducing for politicians, and sometimes for producers as well,” said Michelle McCaw, the first of Materie’s nine Blue Sky producers.
“But we respect and appreciate it, just as we appreciate the way you chat with Mrs. Claus and the kids at Christmas.”
Born and raised in Saskatchewan, Materie began his career in private radio in Yorkton in 1982. He worked in Regina and Swift Current before moving to Saskatoon in 1988 to work for CBC. Over the next decade-plus, he covered general news, politics and the Indigenous beat.
But Materie really joined — and helped set — the provincial conversation in 2008 when he took over hosting for Blue Sky. His years covering stories across Saskatchewan held him in good stead.
“That gives you a pretty good handle on the province, and the people of the province, how they think and what they think about,” he said Thursday.
“If you’ve spent your life here, it doesn’t take a lot to know that, OK, people are going to be talking about this — we should, too.”
To be fair, they weren’t always talking. Materie chuckled when reflecting on the realities of programming live radio, five days a week.
“I’ve been doing the show for 15 years and I still can’t tell when people are going to call in,” he said.
“Sometimes we’ll have a topic and I’ll think to myself, ‘this is just going to be answering the phone, call after call after call.’ And nobody called.”
Then there were times when a water-cooler idea took off like a runaway train. For example, The Sandwich Show.
“We asked people, ‘What is your favourite or weirdest sandwich?’ We thought, we’ll give it a shot,” he said.
“We gotta fill an hour, we’ll see what happens. It went, I guess as they say now, viral.”
Blue Sky49:19The end of an era: Garth Materie’s final Blue Sky
Thursday’s show gave Materie an opportunity to reflect on a 42-year career in radio. It also gave listeners a chance to call and write with memories.
And call they did. Grace in Saskatoon. Cathy in Kamsack. Cam in Pangman. All callers identified by first name only because, well, that’s how you talk to friends.
“Our region will miss you lots,” said Dustin in Regina. “Your coverage of First Nations and Indigenous issues over the years, with the many things that have come up, has always been balanced and respectful.”
There was James from Saskatoon.
“I don’t think the job you do here is an easy task,” he said. “As a caller, I thank you for giving voice to Saskatchewan people.”
And Lois from Swift Current.
“I always appreciated your fair and open mind to all your guests and callers; you have been very kind and professional. When my dad passed away in 2018 your words of condolences from you and your team were so very much appreciated,” she wrote.
“You were never physically in my home but it sure felt like you were here over the lunch hour or sitting in my car as I drove somewhere.”
Materie will stay on air hosting the Afternoon Edition until Dec. 15 before diving into full retirement. He looks back on his time on Blue Sky with fondness.
“We have, over the years, developed a sort of a community here on Blue Sky,” he said.
“Regular callers. Callers that have maybe called-in once in their lives. Some who phoned in who were terribly nervous. I feel we have formed a community over the years and I’m just really happy to have been part of it.”
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