George Garrett has his photo taken with a Vancouver Police boat in the 1980s. (Alex Waterhouse-Hayward photo)

George Garrett has his photo taken with a Vancouver Police boat in the 1980s. (Alex Waterhouse-Hayward photo)

From a drunk judge to Clifford Olson: George Garrett recounts a life in B.C. news radio

New book from ‘Intrepid Reporter’ George Garrett offers readers a glimpse behind the headlines

From exposing political scandals at the highest level of the provincial government to alerting the public that a serial killer was on the loose, there was one voice that always seemed to be the first to break the story.

Surrey’s George Garrett has published a 285-page memoir – George Garrett Intrepid Reporter – that takes readers through his upbringing on a Saskatchewan farm to his time as one of B.C.’s most respected reporters.

The book goes behind the headlines he produced in his 43-year career in radio, mostly for CKNW, and is accompanied by harrowing, and occasionally humiliating, stories that happened along the way.

If something with provincial significance happened in British Columbia from 1956 to 1999, Garrett likely had a front-row seat.

Crafting the book almost entirely from memory, Garrett writes about his sometimes peculiar way of getting a story, such as the time he became a tow-truck driver in order to expose a forgery scheme. Another time, he posed as a security official to gain access to the area where securities were kept at the Vancouver Post Office. And another time, he impersonated the friend of a hostage in a prison riot by offering her a gift of flowers when she was taken to hospital.

In an interview with Peace Arch News Wednesday, Garrett said there’s one story, that when reflected upon, makes him smile.

“Some of them, you’re glad that you had the story, but there’s an impact on people as well,” he said.

Garrett spent a month riding along with the Vancouver Police Department, “which is unusual,” and always had his tape recorder ready to roll.

During one outing, Garrett and an officer were dispatched to a multi-vehicle collision that involved an impaired driver. On arrival, Garrett quickly recognized the suspect, Supreme Court Justice Davie Fulton.

“I’m standing between Judge Fulton and the police as they’re saying they’re going to impose a 24-hour suspension and his vehicle will be impounded,” Garrett said.

“Fulton said, ‘Very well, if you do this to me, I shall not be a judge anymore.”

Garrett said the officers began assisting Fulton into their cruiser, and Fulton, Garrett said, told the officers to “go to hell.”

“The headline in the paper was: ‘Go to hell,’ judge told cops,” Garrett laughed.

Another memorable tale, but less humorous, was the night he was assaulted while covering the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles in 1992. Garrett said he was approached by a group of men who demanded his car keys.

“I said, ‘You don’t want to bother with an old guy.

“I’m from Canada.’ They said, ‘It doesn’t matter, you’re white,’” Garrett said.

One of the men struck Garrett, breaking his upper jaw, causing him to bleed profusely. An onlooker stepped in and drove him to the hospital.

“I was lucky to get out of there alive.”

RELATED: ‘Talk!’ doc focuses on Surrey’s George Garrett and the ‘good ol’ days’ of radio in Vancouver

RELATED: Retired broadcaster details a life in media

Those who were familiar with Garrett’s body of work, particularly those in law enforcement, knew of his profound respect for, and working relationship with, police officers.

Although he reported on the numerous misdeeds of officers in his four decades of work, he has always kept a certain admiration for the men and women in blue.

“If I did a story about a bad cop, I never had a problem because the good cops didn’t want them around,” Garrett said, adding that he built trust with officers by not disclosing information that could hamper an investigation.

An example, Garrett said, was when he was covering the crimes and conviction of Clifford Olson.

Olson confessed to killing 11 children and young adults between the ages of nine and 18 in the early 1980s.

It was Garrett who first publicly described the string of similar murders, before Olson’s capture, as the work of a serial killer.

“I was the first guy to say that it could be a serial killer. I did that with approval of my boss, Warren Barker. But I knew that it would frighten the community, but at the same time, Warren and I agreed that the community should be made aware that there is a serial killer likely at work,” said Garrett, whose book includes a chapter titled The Monster, Clifford Olson.

“We ran it, and it caused the national media to become interested and the RCMP were forced to hold news conferences every day.”

After Olson’s capture, Garrett learned through one of his many trusted sources that the RCMP agreed to pay Olson $10,000 for each location of the hidden bodies.

“I didn’t put it on the air though,” Garrett said, adding that he phoned crown prosecutor John Hall at home to confirm the information.

“I said ‘John, I don’t want to bother you at home but this is important. I heard there’s $10,000 per body offered to Olson,’” Garrett recounted.

“All he said was ‘George, I think I’d put that on the back-burner for now.”

Garrett agreed not to run with the information.

“The day Olson pleaded guilty, John Hall walked by my seat in the court house and said, ‘You can take that matter off the back-burner now.’”

Olson’s wife ultimately received $100,000 after he co-operated with police, the 11th body being what Olson referred to as a “freebie.”

Although Garrett’s memoir recounts his steps as a journalist, he also delves into the personal details of his life. He shares the heartbreaking loss of his son in a canoeing accident, and his wife’s devastating Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

The author’s proceeds from the book are to be dedicated to a cause close to Garrett – the Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society.

Garrett will be doing readings and signings of his book at Black Bond Books in the Semiahmoo Shopping Centre March 9 at 1:30 p.m., and at Haney Place Mall in Maple Ridge March 16 at 1:30 p.m.

His book George Garrett Intrepid Reporter, published by Harbour Publishing, is available on Amazon.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

George Garrett and his ‘News Cruiser,’ in 1959. (Contributed photo)

George Garrett and his ‘News Cruiser,’ in 1959. (Contributed photo)

George Garrett covering a woman’s arrest in Clayoquot Sound in 1993. (Contributed photo)

George Garrett covering a woman’s arrest in Clayoquot Sound in 1993. (Contributed photo)

From a drunk judge to Clifford Olson: George Garrett recounts a life in B.C. news radio

George Garrett on scene for a rainforest protest on King Island. (Contributed photo)

George Garrett on scene for a rainforest protest on King Island. (Contributed photo)

From a drunk judge to Clifford Olson: George Garrett recounts a life in B.C. news radio

George Garrett interviews robbery victims in the 1950s. (Contributed photo)

George Garrett interviews robbery victims in the 1950s. (Contributed photo)

Just Posted

Old English design elements can be seen in the sign of the Summerland Farm and Garden Centre in 1993. The guidelines are no longer in place, but some downtown businesses still show aspects of the days when Summerland had a theme in place. This photo was taken by Summerland photographer Dan Dorotich. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)
Summerland’s Old English theme has been abandoned

From the 1980s until the early 2000s, Summerland had design guidelines in its downtown

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

Residents of Rural Keremeos, Olalla and Hedley are being asked to give feedback for the first Official Community Plan for the area. (Brennan Phillips - Keremeos Review)
Survey on RDOS Area G OCP open until April 30

The area’s first Official Community Plan is in the early stages of development

Nominally 'flushable' wipes caused one of Keremeos lift stations to shut down, damaging the pump inside. The Village is asking residents not to flush anything that isn't human waste. (Black Press)
Keremeos reminds residents not to flush wipes after pump damaged

‘Flushable’ wipes caused the pump to seize up and burn out

Black Crow Cannabis is just one of Vernon's many pot shops now open in town. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Kelowna has highest cannabis fees in Okanagan

Vernon’s 14 stores pay second highest business licence fees

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Firefighters battled a burning home on farmland in the north end of Vernon Saturday, April 17, 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
UPDATE: Homeowner taken to hospital after Vernon home destroyed by fire

Firefighters engaged in a lengthy battle against the engulfed structure Saturday afternoon

Members of the Okanagan Screen Arts Society received a cheque for $1,500 Thursday, April 15, 2021. The funds are to help the society’s efforts as they prepare take over operation of the Vernon Towne Cinema at the end of July. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Okanagan dealership gives local cinema a lift

Vernon Watkin Motor Ford, in business for more than 100 years, donated to the theatre with nearly as long a history

Vernon Jubilee Hospital. (File photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared over in surgical unit of Vernon hospital

The outbreak affected four staff, 10 patients and led to three deaths in just over two weeks

A group of youth in Kelowna's Knox Mountain Park are suspected as having violated the B.C. Wildlife Act by harassing a pair of nesting bald eagles with a drone Friday, April 16, 2021. (Conservation Officer Service photo)
Nesting bald eagles harassed by youth-piloted drone in Kelowna

Conservation Officers are hoping to hear from anyone who witnessed the Knox Mountain incident

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

Most Read