Ted Woloshyn: The Face Behind the Microphone

Uliana Hlynchak, Toronto

In September 2014, a new Ukrainian radio show called Radio Kontakt premiered on the Toronto airwaves. The show is an off-shoot of the Kontakt TV and is a first of its kind Ukrainian radio show in both English and Ukrainian languages. It airs on Saturdays and Sundays at 9 pm on 530 am. Uliana Hlynchak has recently interviewed on the show’s hosts, well-known radio personality Ted Woloshyn. The New Pathway plans to interview the shows other host, Olga Mozkova, in the near future.
UH: Tell me about your parents and your childhood. Are you a second or third generation Ukrainian-Canadian? Did you speak Ukrainian only before you went to school?
TW: My father is from Ukraine – Ternopil region, my mother from Canada – used to be Fort William now it’s Thunder Bay, baba and dido also came from Ukraine. My older brother spoke only Ukrainian before he went to school, and I learned English from him.
We lived with baba and dido so we celebrated all Ukrainian sviata, and all English as well – we celebrated everything.
UH: Who was your role model – father, mother, brother?
TW: I didn’t have one specifically. I took from everybody, little bit from everyone.
I had a great childhood surrounded by family and great Ukrainian food. I went to CYM and Ridna Shkola. Then I went to Ukrainski Kursy. I did not quite graduate. I think right near the end they kind of wanted me to step aside…
UH: What did you do?
TW: I just made life hell for some of my teachers. I was just goofing around, and some of the teachers had a sense of humor, and some did not.
UH: You did not go to maturalna zabava?
TW: I did not pass Matura.
UH: It’s never too late.
TW: Technically I did not graduate from high school either because I was short one credit. It was gym.
UH: Still you got accepted to college…
TW: And I never graduated from college either… because I got a job.
UH: We are getting ahead here. We’ll talk about college a little later. But I think the person who finds the true calling in life, who does what he or she likes to do is very happy. College or not. You are very happy to get behind the microphone and talk to people, right, even if you have to wake up 3:30 in the morning?
TW: Yes, I am very happy. I find people fascinating.
UH: Let’s get back to your childhood.
TW: Yes. Interestingly my dido had a great sense of humor.
UH: Did you take it after him?
TW: I think so. Dido had seven grand children. Me, my brother, my sister and four boy cousins. Dido used to say “Ya mav sim rokiv, yak ya narodyvsia (I was seven when I was born)”… I just thought it was a goofy thing to say. It was not until years later my baba told me, that the reason he said that that he got passed around from orphanage to orphanage. It was not until he was seven years old that he landed with the nice family. It was in Ukraine.
UH: How was high school for you? Were you a tough guy or comedian?
TW: Tough guy – not, comedian – yeah, yeah, I guess, ha-ha, and I have the marks to prove it too. I went to Runnymede Collegiate. I enjoyed high school, there were a lot of Ukrainians at Runnymede, and so I enjoyed it. I played in the band, the orchestra, played some football, it was fun.
UH: Was it a Ukrainian band or high school band?
TG: High school band, I played in a Ukrainian band as well – “Baturyn”, I played the trumpet.
UH: What was your favorite subject, gym?
TW: No, I failed gym. The gym teacher hated me, I hated him, he was a “zaraza“. He did not like me at all, I did not like him. I liked English, Music, History, and hated Math and Sciences. I don’t have that part in my brain – Math scares me. Technical things as well. When I saw kids working on the computer, I thought “What the hell?”
UH: Now you know how to use a computer?
TW: Now – yes basic things but if anything new comes out I’m totally lost.
UH: What did you do after high school?
TW: I went to Seneca College, I studied communications. Half way through the second semester I got a job at the radio station in Brampton and from there I went to Peterborough, Montreal, and Hamilton and then in Toronto in 1976 or 1977 when Q107 went on the air…
UH: But did you finish college?
TW: No because I got a job when I was half way through. The head of the department said to me “You’ll learn more on the job than studying in college”.
One of the professors knew somebody who worked in radio. He said to me that they were looking for somebody for part-time. I started part-time and then it turned into full-time…
UH: He recommended you?
TW: He told three or four of us, we applied, some got in and some did not.
UH: When did you know that you have a great voice, that radio was your calling?
TW: I always wanted to work in radio. Honestly, since I was about nine or ten years old. I enjoyed listening to the radio; I enjoyed the music and the entertainment. But I did not get into radio for the music. A lot of people I went to school with wanted to get into radio because they fantasized about having this collection of ten million albums… But I got into radio more to entertain. I always thought the music got in the way in the show…
UH: What records did you listen to at those times?
TW: Back then? Beatles, I was not much for really heavy metal, it was not for me.
UH: How about Ukrainian music?
TW: Yes, I played it in the polka band too. The trumpet.
UH: For many years you were a morning man at CFRB (now Newstalk 1010). What was your favorite part of the job – morning hours?
TW: (Laughs) You had to wake up 3:30 in the morning. That’s not even the morning. I woke up in the middle of the night. The best part of the job was… First of all you get to joke on everybody else. You get into everything before everybody wakes up. And it’s nice to get everything done too. And by eleven o’clock in the morning or so your day is done. No traffic.
UH: But tell me about your routine? You have to get up 3:30? Come to work by 4:30?
TW: Yes.
UH: And when do you go on air?
TW: 5:30.
UH: So what do you do between the hours of 4:30 and 5:30?
TW: Read the newspaper, talk to the producers, prepare for the interviews.
UH: And your program was usually what? A couple of interviews? Did you co-host or you were alone?
TW: I was alone. It was a one person show. From 5:30 to 9:00 o’clock. It was a long show but it moved fast.
UH: Was it stressful?
TW: Yes, it was live.
UH: What was the most memorable moment at CFRB?
TW: 9/11. I was on the air on 9/11 when the first plane crashed. We had breaking news, watching these events unfold. Watching this, and then for the next three-four weeks that’s all it was. And then we went and did the morning show in New York City on the first anniversary of 9/11, one year later. And it was very special.
UH: You probably met the families of the victims?
TW: Some of them I knew. I had a friend who lost his son.
But going down there and going down to Ground Zero and talking to people of New York and relating all their stories, the things that happened that day and all the subsequent weeks and months and then the city bonded and banded together – it was horrific. It was a world-altering event… I will remember those tragic times probably more than anything else…
UH: You also write a monthly column for the Toronto Sun. What topics interest you?
TW: I write about whatever I want – people, events, my interpretation of things. Sometimes it’s serious, often times it’s not that serious, and sometimes it’s just, you know, to have some fun. But there are serious topics as well.
UH: Do you like politics?
TW: Yes. I almost went into politics. John Tory asked me to run for the conservatives provincially. And right at the last second I said that I can’t.
UH: Why not?
TW: Because I felt too claustrophobic. I just thought that I would not be saying what I wanted to say, what I was thinking what I wanted to say, I will be saying what they wanted me to say. So last minute I said “no”.
UH: Do you regret it?
TW: No, because politics are different now. It’s ugly now. Politicians do not respect each other, people don’t respect politicians, the media does not respect politicians, and politicians do not respect media. It’s ugly, really ugly.
UH: There are many examples when people who work in the public eye change their name/last name… Ever think about changing Ted Woloshyn to something like Ted High?
TW: I did, when I first started. That was 1974. I did. For the first few years I was Ted Walker, because there were no ethnic names there.
UH: How did your family react to that?
TW: I think they understood. When I came back to Toronto, it was 1977, that’s when I came back with my full name. My grandfather used to wash windows, had a business years ago, and in order for him to get accounts he had to change his name as well. His name was Grygoriak. Who’s going to hire a person if they can not pronounce their last name? So he changed it to Hunt…
UH: You did not have a problem changing your name back to Ted Woloshyn?
TW: No, I was happy to do that, and it happened when I came back from Hamilton to Toronto.
UH: What forced you to change your name back to Ted Woloshyn?
TW: I wanted to, I was always proud of my heritage, of my Ukrainian roots, so I became Ted Woloshyn again.
UH: You were a Parade Marshall on the one of the first Ukrainian Canadian Bloor West Village Festivals. Also you were doing an evening Cabaret shows with the late Michael Currie…
TW: What a wonderful man he was.
UH: Yes, and very talented too.
TW: Miss him…
UH: Let’s go back to our question. Ron Cahute also performed with you at the Cabaret. What does it mean for you to be Ukrainian and to participate in the Ukrainian community?
TW: It means a lot. My father was involved in the Ukrainian community, and passed it along to me. My kids are involved in the Ukrainian community. I am very proud of that, proud of being Ukrainian, proud to be Canadian as well. I think you can be both; you don’t have to give up one in order to be the other. The Cabaret shows I enjoyed a lot, because I am a performer. They wrote the script and I read my own material. Michael played the piano, and Cahute played his thing and I introduced performers, and did jokes and stories.
UH: Tell me a funny Ukrainian joke…
TW: I don’t tell jokes, I tell my own words or observations. I am not a joke teller. But…It’s always fun to introduce people who are not Ukrainian to our food. Explain to them what “studenets” is. They just run out of the kitchen. They think we are crazy. “Studenets” – gelatin and pigs’ feet. What? And “kyshka” – blood pudding. I mean who wants to eat that? Or “chasnyk“, I always call “chasnyk” Ukraine’s national flower.
UH: Producer of Ukrainian TV show Kontakt Jurij Klufas tells me that you came up with the idea of Radio Kontakt. How did this happen?
TW: The people at the radio station Duff Roman, who is of Ukrainian decent, a veteran in radio business and a wonderful man, he contacted me and we had a meeting, and said: “Listen, we do not have a Ukrainian program on the station, we’d like to have one, and you should be the person that I should call. That was a time when all hell was breaking loose in Ukraina. And the owner of the radio station Bill Evanov, he is Bulgarian, so he’s quite well aware of what was going on. He started asking: “Why don’t we have a Ukrainian radio program?” I thought it was important to have a Ukrainian program and I agreed, I said “Yes, let me see what I can do”. I immediately started going to Jurij, because Jurij has a television program Kontakt, and it worked well. I think it’s important to do a program for people who don’t speak the language but want to listen to the program, because if you do not understand the language you’re not going to listen to the TV or radio show.
UH: You enjoy doing this program?
TW: Yes, it has good dynamics, we will continue to grow, and we need to get more sponsors and community support. We will be able to reach out to the broader community, to the things that affect Ukrainians that are not necessarily and strictly Ukrainian issues.
UH: Bridging communities together?
TW: Yes. I think anybody who is looking towards media as a career in the Ukrainian community – don’t forget about your Ukrainian roots, and given the opportunity, always speak up about your Ukrainian roots and Ukrainian issues. I always have taken advantage to speak about our Ukrainian issues, and to do what I could, because I have thought that it was important, and it was a gift. So everybody who is in radio should use this opportunity to assist in charitable work, because you have a chance to talk to hundreds and thousands of people. Use it for the good. And in the case of people with a Ukrainian background – don’t shy away from it.
UH: That’s why you changed your name back to Ted Woloshyn, because you have a strong connection to Ukrainian roots?
TW: Yes, it’s very important, whether we are playing a Christmas carol on the radio, or you are talking about Ukraina, you are given a voice – use it.