Randy Simms says he has "little or no memory" of any conversation he had with Joey Smallwood, in which Smallwood accused him of working for the sanitary department "shoveling shit".
I played the tape for Simms (right, VOCM photo) earlier this week and he seemed to enjoy it immensely.
"It's classic, I think it's classic," said the host of VOCM Open Line and Mayor of the City of Mount Pearl. "Needless to say, I want a copy."
However, Smallwood's vitriol doesn't align with Simms's own recollection of events back then.
"I've never heard that tape before, obviously," he said. "I don't actually remember the specific interview but I do think it was related to the establishment of the (Liberal Reform Party. I was doing a talk show and obviously this was his reference to commentary I made on the air that must have pissed him off. I was cutting my teeth in those days I was pretty young and I had started doing a talk show on CJCR in Gander and the way I do a talk show today, the kernels of that were there back then too. Being provocative and saying to Newfoundlanders Do you think he is too old?' would be the exact kind of thing I would have done. And that seems to be what he's talking about. But for the life of me, I have little or no memory of it at this point in my life. But to say that it didn't happen would be a lie for me as well because it probably did."
Simms says he interviewed Smallwood about a dozen times after that first meeting in Gander, and Smallwood was always polite toward him. "My memories of Joey were that I had a relationship with him where I could interview him whenever I wanted, and he allowed me to. He always treated me face to face with the utmost of respect. (NTV owner) Geoff Stirling set up a whole series of interviews with him that I conducted. There's got to be about eight hours of videotape in the NTV archives on all that, dealing not only with history, but with his philosophy on politics, life and so on. At one point, Joey told Stirling and a bunch of people in a room that, after Patrick Watson, I was the finest interviewer that the country had ever produced. He obviously forgot about that time back in 1974, and I do as well.
"I wouldn't say that I got to be a good friend that wouldn't be true but I spent many an hour with Joey at his place. I would go down and visit him he was writing his Books of Newfoundland at the time. He used to get out his old reel-to-reel tapes of his old speeches and play them over and over, and gaze off into the sunset. There was one speech in particular that he liked to play and I'm sure I wasn't the only one of his acquaintances that he played it for over time was a speech that he gave back in 1958, about when he went after Diefenbaker on Term 29. He used to play that speech incessantly I heard it at least three different times."
Here is a link to the actual audio file, in case you missed it:
Click here to listen to the tape, which is just over three minutes long.
I had planned to include in this post an old black & white photograph of Randy Simms actually interviewing Joey Smallwood, taken back around 1974, but have been unable to get it thus far. If I do receive the photo in the days ahead, I will add it to this post.
Some readers may not be able to play the above link on their computers. For those people, I have included the following transcript of the full exchange, between Smallwood and an unidentified reporter with CBC. Appreciation and thanks are extended to my Dad, Ken Meeker, for preserving the cassette recording for almost 35 years and then generously allowing me to use it here.
Reporter: I don't know if you were listening to the radio program here in Gander this morning, saying that Joey Smallwood shouldn't come back, that he's too old, he should realize that it's time to retire, and all that, you know
Smallwood: Oh yeah?
Reporter: I don't know if you could call it good radio, or just trying to get listeners, but
Smallwood: What station was this?
Reporter: This is CJCR, the local private station here.
Smallwood: Who is the fellow?
Reporter: Simms, I think his name is.
Smallwood: Oh, he is the fellow who just rang me.
Reporter: Oh, he called you did he?
Smallwood: He just rang me a few minutes ago. When I was here last, I was on my way through and spent the night here, and he asked if he could interview me. So I went into his studio and he interviewed me and I didn't hear it because I went on. It was on I think the next day sometime. And then in his news broadcast he said that the station had interviewed me, that I claimed I was going to win the leadership and be the next premier. And he said, Well, let's keep our fingers crossed and hope he won't.' That was in the news. So I was told this this morning. Just soon after being told, the phone rang and it was he. And he said This is Randy Simms' and I said Who?' and he said Randy Simms' and I said How do you spell that?' S-I-M-M-S' and I said Oh you're the fellow who works on the sanitary department.' He said No' and I said Aren't you the fellow who works in the sanitary department, shoveling shit?' He said Nooo' and I said Well, there must be another Randy Simms.' He said, No, I'm a newsman.' I said Oh, you're a newsman you don't mean a propagandist?' No, I'm a newsman.' I said, You're not the Randy Simms I've heard about. I've heard about a Randy Simms who's setting himself up as the Dr. Goebbels in Gander.' Anyway, I gave him shit.
Reporter: (chuckles) I don't know what he's trying to pull but it's he's not a newsman as such.
Smallwood: Oh, he's anything but.
Reporter: The things that he has been saying over the past months have been out and out ridiculous.
Smallwood: and propaganda.
(The tape may have been edited here, as the reporter seems to change tack suddenly.)
Reporter: Not too long, yeah. I remember one time, first when he began, he called Harold Collins and asked him about that scandal on the Gander River and the government, if he was involved, you know.
Reporter: No tact whatsoever.
Smallwood: Well, you know, I don't have anything to do with him at all, anytime. Again, once bitten, twice shy. You fool me once, shame on you fool me twice, shame on me. I'm not going to shame myself by dealing with him anymore. I find the CBC honourable always, decent and honourable.
Reporter: Well, we try to be, in most areas anyhow. Well sir, if there is anything that you would like to have publicized after your meetings, or anything of that nature, feel free to call us.
Smallwood: Well, thank you very much.
Reporter: Bye bye.