Kaslo resident Jim Yount

COLUMN: Kootenay broadcasters silenced

Jim Yount and Mike Evenson, two broadcasters with local connections, signed off for the final time last week.

Two broadcasters with local connections signed off for the final time last week.

One was a popular afternoon show host on what was then Mountain FM; the other was never on air here, but spent both his childhood and retirement in West Kootenay.

To start with the latter, Jim Yount, 64, lived in Kaslo, where he was a familiar figure about town. His diminutive stature belied his big personality. But I’m not sure if many people here knew of his long, distinguished radio career — I was only vaguely aware of it until recently, despite trading many emails with him over the last five years.

Young and his twin sister Penny Kushko were born in Vancouver, but spent the first eight years of their childhood in Arrowhead, a now-drowned town on Upper Arrow Lake, where their family was in the logging business. “It was wonderful. You couldn’t have asked for a better upbringing,” Penny told me from her home in Drumheller.

Another thing most people probably didn’t know: “He was a fantastic pianist, and all by ear. He could play anything you asked him to. He was in school and church choirs and always did solos. He had a magnificent singing voice.”

That voice led him to radio. When the family moved to Vernon, Yount began hanging around station CJIB, where he was filing records at age 12. He was on the air at 13. One of many online tributes referred to him as a “booming voice from a body that was five foot nothing.”

He also worked at stations in Kelowna, Calgary, Salmon Arm, Revelstoke, and Vancouver as an announcer and newsman. He was also with the English service of Radio Netherlands, and did commercial voice-overs for Coca Cola, Mercedes, and General Electric, amongst other companies.

In the mid-1980s he was an instructor and then program head of broadcast journalism at the BC Institute of Technology. Retired BCIT broadcast dean Brian Antonson wrote: “With a career spanning decades, having touched down in so many markets, and being involved with so many people in local and provincial politics, Jim was well known to many, and one of the true characters in our industry.”

Yount retired to Kaslo seven years ago to be close to a cousin in Argenta and his boyhood home of Arrowhead, where his family still owned property until recently. He helped out at the local laundromat and frequented the Kootenay Star cafe. He lent his pipes to a promotional video for the latter. “Kaslo sure looked after him,” his sister said. “Wonderful people there.”

He also took a profound interest in local politics, which is how I got to know him. He often sent us news tips as well as his take on the state of the village. He was, I am sure, regarded by most Kaslo politicians as a pain in the neck.

He was going to run for mayor last month until his doctor talked him out of it. Although he served on Vernon city council in the early 1980s, he didn’t expect to win, but figured his candidacy would stir things up.

I gave him a ride to Argenta in October for the post office’s centennial celebration, which was the first and last time we met face-to-face. It was only then that I began to learn the extent of his broadcasting career which, as a BCIT radio grad myself, I found fascinating.

Yount was looking forward to traveling to Boston in January to see his daughter and 1½ year old granddaughter, but died suddenly on Sunday. As Antonson put it, he faced a number of health challenges recently with “his usual combination of humor and sarcasm.”

A memorial service will be held in Kaslo in the spring.

Until taking a job in Victoria in 2009, Mike Evenson was known in the Kootenays as Diamond Dave, the talented and well-liked afternoon host on Mountain FM (later 103.5 The Bridge, and now Juice FM).

I worked with him there, where the control’s room’s 1-800 number was one digit off a telecommunications company’s complaint line.

As a result, the phone rang incessantly and probably 90 per cent of the calls weren’t for us. Yet for some reason many refused to believe they had misdialed. Evenson (pictured at left) recorded those calls and stitched them together into a priceless weekly segment called Wrong Number.

The most incredible one I remember was from a woman who was certain she had called her husband’s cell and demanded to speak with him. When Evenson insisted she’d reached a radio station, she sharply rebuked him: “You are lying to me!”

Evenson, a rising industry star, was commuting on Thursday from his home in Chase to Kamloops, where he hosted the morning show on 97.5 The River. His car collided with a logging truck and he died at the scene.

Evenson, 37, was a husband and father of two. A voice silenced far too soon.

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