40th Anniversary celebrations of the long running CBC TV series The Beachcombers makes news in the Vancouver Sun Newspaper.
The show about salvage loggers was filmed in Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast BC Canada, and was seen around the world.
Even to this day, the popular show attracts fans to Gibsons and the iconic Molly’s Reach, which Jackson Davies says is the most “recognizable building” in British Columbia.
On October 1st, 1972, The Beachcombers debuted Sunday night at 7pm on CBC TV & became a worldwide hit! It aired every Sunday for 18 years and 387 episodes until December 12th, 1990.
Molly’s Reach is still in Gibsons – serving Beachcombers-themed menu items like “Nick’s Lamb Burger,” “The Constable” omelette, and “Relic’s Big Breakfast” – which of course features the option of ham.
And the original Persephone – Nick Adonidas’s famous Beachcombing boat – is drydocked forever around the corner for tourists to pose with.
“I will bet anyone right now that Molly’s Reach is the most recognizable B.C. building in the world,” Jack-son Davies (a.k.a. Constable Constable) told The Sun.
“We could show a picture of Molly’s Reach in Australia or Germany or Italy, and say, ‘Do you recognize any of these buildings? You’ve got the parliament building, you can have the convention centre – which building would you recognize?”
Molly’s Reach manager Wheath Ralla seems to confirm Davies’ theory: “Pretty much every second customer mentions The Beachcombers,” says Ralla, “and they’re from everywhere. We had people from Sweden here last week, Australia, New Zealand, Ger-many, the U.K., people from across the country. We get a lot of people from Asia.”
Ralla is displaying some of Relic’s costumes from the series.
“We still love The Beachcombers.”
Duane Burnett, who runs a popular culture website devoted to promoting events on the Sunshine Coast, told The Sun, “I grew up watching The Beachcombers, and I am a huge fan. I looked forward to it every Sunday at 7 p.m. on CBC right after Walt Disney. I spent many a summer on the Sunshine Coast watching the cast and crew film episodes, then eagerly tried to spot the segment in the show.”
Burnett, who has created a special video on his site to celebrate the show, says he grew up dreaming of being in the series. “So my cousins and I devised a plot to walk into Molly’s Reach while filming and order a pop, pretending we didn’t know it was only a television set.”
By Duane Burnett and the Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives
Greetings from Gibsons
The Beachcombers was born under a magical shooting star – and that star was Paul Henderson.
The Beachcombers debuted on Sunday, Oct. 1, 1972. Just days earlier, Henderson had scored his famous goal against the Soviet Union live on CBC TV.
“Canada won on Thursday. The Beachcombers was on Sunday. So all of the sudden Canadians had a sense of, ‘You know what? We’re someone. We’re world beaters,’” recalls Beachcombers star, historian and chief cheerleader, Jackson Davies.
Sitting in the Cactus Club restaurant overlooking the beach at English Bay, Davies told The Sun that Beachcombers (which had the “the” removed a few years before its cancellation in 1990) was created by Marc Strange and his wife Ella, who dreamed up the idea of creating a made-in-Canada version of Zorba the Greek.
The proudly Italian Bruno Gerussi was cast as the proudly Greek Nick Adonidas, who was paired with First Nations first mate Jessie Jim (Pat John) to run the salvage boat “Persephone.”
Robert Clothier was cast as their nemesis, Relic, a fellow beachcomber with a quick temper and a quicker boat. The meeting place for everybody was local waterfront café Molly’s Reach, played by local waterfront café Molly’s Reach.
Davies still recalls hearing about the show on CBC Radio just before its debut and thinking it sounded like … a disaster. Davies was driving a van holding the theatre troupe he was touring with to their next gig in northern Alberta when they heard Gerussi pitch the show. He laughed.
“It’s about a Greek guy and a native guy and they pick up logs? This is going to last a week!” Davies laughs again at the memory. “I was out by a bit.”
Canada’s longest-running drama series was cancelled in 1990 just a year before it would have caught Gunsmoke for the title of longest-running TV drama anywhere.
Reel West editor Ian Caddell has written extensively about how The Beachcombers helped launch B.C.’s film and TV industry. As Caddell told The Sun, “When the Americans were looking for locations in the early 1980s, they could see that B.C. and other areas were competitive. But B.C. had experienced crew members thanks to The Beachcombers, which at that point had been in operation for about a decade.
“It meant they could shoot here with a low dollar, and they didn’t have to bring as many people in via airplanes who would also have to stay at hotels, saving them significant dollars. The acting pool also was an advantage for bigger shows that needed more speaking parts from people who could do the work.
“Our reputation during the ’80s and ’90s was spurred by Beachcombers alumni who went on to make significant contributions to both local and international productions.”
Caddell rattled off the names of several former Beachcombers who helped Vancouver lay claim to the title of Hollywood North, including director of photography Rob McLachlan (MacGyver, Game of Thrones), producer N. John Smith (21 Jump Street and Stargate), director Brad Turner (21 Jump Street, 24), writer Hart Han-son (creator of Bones), production designer Michael Bolton (The Killing), and props master Jimmy Chow (Tron: Legacy).
Davies also lists some of the cast members whose careers began chasing logs in Gibsons. “Chief Dan George, Ryan Stiles, Bruce Green-wood, Winston Rekert, and all these other guys.”
Davies is delighted and some-what baffled by the show’s enduring fan base, noting that a petition at TVArchives.com (tvarchive.ca/petition/) has collected over 2,000 signatures to bring back the show.
Davies just finished a new book – written with Strange (who recently died) titled Bruno and the Beach that is being published later this fall.
The title is a tribute to his affection for Gerussi and Davies’ deter-mined modesty about his role in the series.
Davies joined The Beachcombers for its third season as an unnamed RCMP officer paired with actor Terrence Kelly – now one of B.C.’s most acclaimed stage actors. Over the years, Davies not only gained a name – Con-stable John Constable – but became one of the most recognizable cast members. After the show was can-celled in 1990 and revived for two TV movies (featuring SCTV star Dave Thomas as the new owner of Molly’s Reach), it was Davies who became the face of the series. Gerussi died in 1995, and Clothier died.
Interviewed shortly after the show’s cancellation in 1990, Clothier described the decision to remove the “the” from the title as “fatuous,” and blamed CBC brass “in the East” for the changes that led to its demise.
“They took hold of it and decided they wanted to slick it up and to modernize it. And I think in so doing they destroyed the innocence that the thing had,” Clothier told this reporter at the time.
“It was not ever a show that went in for the slick at all. For one thing, we never had the money for slick – we had minuscule budgets – and in trying to slick it up, the original quality of the show was lost.”
But the original memories have never vanished. Says Davies: “A woman – she was probably like a 30-year-old woman – stopped me in the street one day, smiling. And she said, ‘I just remember getting into my PJs and snuggling up with my dad and watching The Beachcombers on Sunday night. It was our night, together.’
“I probably should have walked away from that franchise a long time ago, but I get thousands of emails from Beachcomber fans all over the world, so I realize how important it was, and still is.”