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Percy Saltzman, Canada's first TV weatherman, dies

Last Updated: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 | 9:05 AM ET

Percy Saltzman, who was the first person to appear on Canada's inaugural television broadcast in 1952 and was the country's first TV weatherman, has died at 91.

Saltzman died at his Toronto home on Monday. About six weeks ago, the iconic TV pioneer suffered a seemingly minor injury and his health began deteriorating rapidly, his family said.

When CBC-TV launched English language broadcasting in Canada on Sept. 8, 1952, Percy Saltzman was the first person to appear.When CBC-TV launched English language broadcasting in Canada on Sept. 8, 1952, Percy Saltzman was the first person to appear.
(CBC)
Saltzman's television broadcasting career spanned 30 years. Using no notes, no teleprompter, he did the weather from memory, ending the report with his trademark toss of the chalk.

"He was the first of the weathermen," said CTV anchor Lloyd Robertson, who worked with Saltzman.

"He made it all happen. In fact everyone today is a successor of Percy Saltzman. He was the the original."

The start of his career was also a milestone in Canadian broadcasting history. When CBC-TV launched English-language broadcasting in Canada on Sept. 8, 1952, Saltzman was the first person to appear.

He would spend the next 20 years at the CBC and several more at other Canadian networks.

During that time, he pioneered a number of techniques now firmly established in weather forecasting and reporting.

He was the first Canadian weatherman to use radar and satellite and the first to give road and forest fire reports. He was the weatherman who talked Toronto through Hurricane Hazel.

Saltzman, doing his trademark toss of the chalk, pioneered a number of techniques now firmly established in weather reporting, including using radar and satellite.Saltzman, doing his trademark toss of the chalk, pioneered a number of techniques now firmly established in weather reporting, including using radar and satellite.
(CBC)
"He always explained everything so well and that's really what piqued my interest in meteorology," said CTV weatherman Dave Devall.

Three years ago, Saltzman recalled how it troubled him if the weather didn't match his predictions.

"My conscience hurt a lot and I lost a lot of sleep when I'd go home after an inadequate forecast," Saltzman said.

Born in Winnipeg, Saltzman later moved to Saskatchewan, then British Columbia, where he attended the University of British Columbia. He later studied medicine at McGill University until 1935.

In 1943, he became a meteorologist and served in that role during the Second World War in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.

Four years later, he helped arrange weather programs for CBC Radio. Despite his move into broadcasting, he remained as a full-time employee of the official federal weather service for 25 years.

"He kept that job at the weather office the entire time he was on television with CBC because he didn't think TV was secure. He wasn't sure that TV would last," said his grandson, CBC reporter Aaron Saltzman.

Along with weather forecasting, Saltzman became a prominent TV interviewer and commentator. He worked on a number of CBC-TV's news and public affairs programs and participated in the 10-day coverage of the first moon walk.

Saltzman estimated he did 9,000 weather TV and radio broadcasts during his career and interviewed more than 1,000 people.

In 2002, he was invested in the Order of Canada and in 2004 he became a member of the Broadcast Hall of Fame. He was also the recipient of a Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal.

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