#CPRSVAN60 Blog Series: CPRS Vancouver Circa 1959

Douglas HealWhen I started thinking about CPRS Vancouver’s 60th anniversary earlier this year, my goal was to reach out to as many people as possible who have been involved with the chapter since 1959.

Our #CPRSVAN60 blog series has so far highlighted remarkable pioneers in PR, stories of past innovation, and ideas about enhanced member experiences for the future. I’ve loved seeing these pieces come together to honor the past and celebrate the success of this chapter. In addition, we’ve got a celebration video being produced as I write this, which will be unveiled at the 60th anniversary event on June 13th.

One of my favourite moments of this whole project was tracking down Douglas Heal, Life Member (LM) and his daughter Paula Heal. Douglas was the CPRS Vancouver President exactly 50 years ago, from 1969-70. When I contacted Doug, he was thrilled that we had thought about him and wanted to share some stories about his career and involvement with CPRS. He asked that I get in touch with his daughter who would be able to provide some old photos.

I had a great conversation with Paula on the phone who had tasked her daughter (Doug’s granddaughter) with digging around in the storage room to find old pictures of Doug. When Paula sent them to me, my first thought was “wow, it really was like the Mad Men days!

Lots of people started their career back then in broadcasting and reporting, and my dad was no different”, says Paula. “He started off at the Province as a reporter and went on to work in advertising. I remember that my dad said there was a friendly city rivalry between Vancouver and Toronto when it came to top advertising and PR firms, but he would stack Vancouver pros up against Toronto any day of the week!

Paula told me about sitting with her dad recently, pulling out old files and news clippings and enjoying watching him laugh and recall memories of his career. “As I was searching through his Chrono files (yes, he really kept them!), I'd pull something out and he'd tell me some crazy story to go along with it. He laughed like I've never heard him laugh as he related the story of his Vancouver PR colleague, Tom Butler, trying to get a baby elephant loaded onto the Grouse Mountain Sky Ride gondola for a quick trip to the top of the mountain for some sort of ad campaign. Needless to say, the inevitable happened and the gondola door was opened mid-ride so that the cabin could be emptied of the peeing-pachyderm's rather prodigious accident.”

squirrel girlLeft: from a media pitch in October 1968, “Squirrel Girl Carolyn McDermott is helping the Nabob Foods home economist Jean White (left) introduce Squirrel peanut butter combined with crunchy bacon flavoured bits to western homemakers this month. Here, Carolyn tries the product as an hors d’oeuvres spread on celery sticks.”

I asked Paula about some of the projects that Douglas worked on that still stand out the most to him today. She states, “I laughed the hardest as he described his tour across the West with the Nabob Foods' Squirrel Girls mascots promoting a new bacon-flavoured peanut butter. Every time they got on the plane, it was his job to squish and shove the massive furry tails into the overhead baggage compartment. His fellow passengers thought he was nuts.” I laughed hard too, as I read the media pitch and accompanying photo Paula found in Doug’s files about this campaign!

Douglas’s career took him from Vancouver to Toronto and back again, and he was always so proud of the young PR people he met and worked with along the way. He valued how many clients ultimately became friends over the long haul. “I know his fondest memories come from the launch and life of Dome Advertising and Corporate Strategies Group in Vancouver in 1986 (right). He and his business partner, Charles Mayrs, watched over a family of young creatives and PR specialists for almost 15 years, and encouraged them to always do great work”, Paula tells me.

crisis solversDouglas is happily retired, living in Vancouver and is proud to be a Past President of CPRS Vancouver. He recently celebrated his 88th birthday.

As I chatted with Paula and Douglas, something really hit home for me and I’ve been preaching about for the last few years during my time on the CPRS Vancouver Board of Directors. Community. It’s the main reason why I have been a member of the organization myself for 10 years. Belonging to this professional association allows me to know others and be known. As I have been researching stories for #CPRSVAN60, I can’t count how many times I have heard people talk fondly and with vivid memories about their peers and life-long friends through CPRS. I only hope that when I’m 88 years old, someone from CPRS Vancouver is calling me up to tell them a story.

About the Author

Emma Shea is the past President of the Vancouver CPRS chapter and Principal of EJS Public Relations.