Saturday, 23 July 2011

Elwy Yost O.C. 1925-2011. How to be a respected public figure and enjoy what you are doing.

Elwy Yost 1925-2011
What manner of man was Elwy Yost?
When Elwy’s name is mentioned everyone thinks of movies and particularly TVOntario’s Saturday Night At The Movies  the program that Elwy hosted for so long.  I knew Elwy before he got on the air with this famous program cooked up with Jim Hanley TVO's programming director. 
Elwy had done guest shots on CBC game shows and other series, but when I started at TVOntario he was the Manager of Regional Relations. He was in charge of a public relations job to introduce TVO (then the Ontario Educational Communications Authority) to the public across Ontario. There were five regional councils and that job kept him very busy. There may have been thoughts of movies but it was very much a sideline interest.
The Avro Arrow
Elwy came to public relations with great credentials. He had managed the Avro Arrow project’s public and media relations flawlessly. He was not a bitter man but he would grit his teeth when Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s name was mentioned. After Diefenbaker canned the Avro Arrow so unceremoniously Elwy was never the same. It was a dreadful moment that haunted him because as he once said at lunch to me, “I am not a vindictive man, but the destruction of that project and that wonderful aircraft was a bleak moment that slapped Canadian expertise in the face and cut me very deeply.”  Elwy was the last paid employee of that ill fated project. He was there to the bitter end trying to do something decent during the destruction of all the planes and their parts.
At TVOntario, about 1975, I got to work with Elwy doing press work with him throughout the regions and also explaining our promotional plans to the Regional Councils we had set up to advise us. We went all over the province together. One week we would be in Thunder Bay, then Sudbury, then Ottawa, then Toronto and the Golden Horseshoe (now the GTA) and also in London and Windsor promoting the new Ontario Educational Communications Authority that morphed later into TVOntario and its 22 channel satellite fed network. 
Elwy had come from the defunct Metropolitan Educational Media Association (META) when the province decided that educational media would be concentrated into an  crown corporation the Ontario Educational Communications Authority (OECA). The public relations job he got after META was folded was Regional Relations for the new OECA.
The enthusiastic promoter...
Much later when Saturday Night At The Movies was very successful I could always rely on Elwy to appear with his season all done and teeming with promotional ideas for each week. He would show up at my office with his plan for the new season and he would take us through the entire Fall and Winter showing how he acquired movies that were relevant to the educational themes he had dreamed up. He also had his guest list organized for the interviews between the two movies.  He knew that
our attention was on getting excellent listings with the TV guides and coverage the media television writers. Elwy's attention to detail certainly helped us to do a long range plan to get  media coverage.
“Now I know you are not a bottomless pit of budget’ he would always start off “ But Saturday Night is a flagship program and you can link other promotions to us as useful cross promotions.” He had a smooth tongue but unlike other programs he was so organized we naturally wanted to help him.   He was always aware of budget restraints mainly because he stretched his own budget by buying huge packages of movies put together by wanton film distributors for local TV channels. “Those movie packages are like a gold mine”  Elwy enthused once at a meeting with my department, “we only use 10 to 15 percent of the titles, but those cheap packages are pure gold because we get the likes of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and La Strada! ” His enthusiasm was infectious. 
Besides being a colleague during the exciting start up years at TVOntario, Elwy was always a decent upbeat person who loved what ever he was doing. I am certain that he put the same energy and devotion into the Avro Arrow, META that he put into his first TVO job and what the viewers saw on air as he hosted Saturday Night At The Movies  and his wonderful experiment cutting feature films into episodes for Magic Shadows. I was glad when he received The Order of Canada for his unique achievements utilizing films to provide educational opportunities. Rest well my friend.
© Copyright 2011, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved

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