Claire Martin reminisces about her work at CBC

Photo: provided by Claire Martin

Claire Martin behind the CBC microphone in the early 1940s

Spending an afternoon conversing with Claire Martin in the comfort of her apartment is an enriching experience. The 97-year-old writer, whose award-winning Quebec classic In an Iron Glove graces the shelves of the library of the Literary and Historical Society, has written many other books and has led a life that is worthy of note.
Mrs. Martin delights in reminiscing. Her personal stories are many and interesting and merit being recorded and in due course, hopefully, will be.

Perhaps because of the 75th anniversary of the founding of CBC, it would be appropriate to focus on Claire Martin’s early career as she was the first female announcer with the broadcasting corporation in Quebec City.

Upon leaving her father’s house, she worked as a secretary for a law firm in Quebec City. One day she accompanied a friend who was going to radio station CKCV for a singing audition. Her friend got the job. In addition, Claire herself was asked, because of her outgoing manner, her assurance and her superb voice, by the general manager of the station if she would be interested in working as an announcer. She leaped at the chance.

While working for CKCV she got a call from the manager of CBC in Quebec, asking her if she would like to work for the national broadcasting company. She was more than flattered. She replied that she was very interested but would like more time to get used to her new job with CKCV before accepting to sign on with CBC. The manager agreed to wait.

According to what I could gather from our conversations, it must have been in 1940 or 1941 that Mrs. Martin started working for Radio Canada (CBV, Quebec) where she hosted musical programs and read the news and other related tasks. The station at that time was located at the Chateau Frontenac. She recalls that one night she called a taxi to take her home. As she was about to get into the waiting taxi, a man approached the cab and said that he was in a hurry to get to the train station but was having trouble getting a taxi. She and the taxi driver recognized the man as Maurice Duplessis, the Premier of Quebec, who resided at the Chateau. Claire and the taxi driver agreed to drive Mr. Duplessis to the train station before proceeding to the young announcer’s apartment.

Later she was asked to work at the station in Montreal (CBF). One of the most memorable moments of her career was when, by a set of lucky circumstances, it fell upon her to announce to francophone listeners across Canada that World War II had ended. She recalls easily the exact words she used when she made this most welcomed announcement: “Attention! Attenion! La guerre est terminée en Europe. C’est officiel.”

In August 1945, Claire married Roland Faucher, a chemist from the Beauce who worked for the federal government in Ottawa. The policy at CBC at the time required a woman about to marry to resign which she did one month before the wedding. The couple moved to Ottawa where Claire, with a lot of encouragement from Roland, would eventually start her long and distinguished writing career. However, her attachment to Radio Canada/CBC still remains. She has given many interviews and appeared on several TV programs over the years. While living in southern France in the 1970s, a film crew from Radio Canada posted in Paris came to do a report on this Canadienne errante.

Claire Martin is a woman with a rich past which she shares with pleasure. Her personal stories, like her many books, are a rich source of insight and inspiration. She feels that her positive work experience with CBC/Radio Canada helped her to gain confidence in her own abilities which eventually lead to finding her own voice as a writer. For this, she is forever grateful.