After spending his whole career here, John Dando is retiring after 43 years as a cameraman at CFTK.
The soon-to-be 65 year old worked his last day on the job Sept. 30 with the distinction of being at the TV station the longest of all the staff currently there.
“I think I’m sure I could say that I’ve probably seen 1,000 people go thru here,” said Dando in his office surrounded by items he’s used over the years.
Dando, who grew up here, started in 1972 as a photographer, taking still photos since there were no portable TV cameras then.
Everything he did was in the form of slides so the commercials he produced were “slide shows” with sound, he said. And just like slide projectors of the time, the slides had to be shown one at a time with the push of a button, he added.
The station got its first video camera in 1976 that could be taken out on the road for shooting commercials.
“The camera itself was quite small then and it was also connected to a recording dock so we had to actually build a couple of different sized golf carts to pull these things around so we powered it by a motorcycle battery,” Dando said. “It was quite heavy and we had a big wooden tripod. The other thing is that cameras back then weren’t very light sensitive so to shoot inside you had to have lights, and even outside on a grey day or towards dusk it was too dark to see.”
Dando got started in photography as a boy. His dad was an amateur photographer and had a darkroom at home so he helped his dad out with developing film.
He bought his own camera the year before he started work and took a lot of pictures. Then he heard CFTK was looking for a new photographer with dark room experience so he applied and got the job.
When he first started, he worked in an old building which is where the federal Service Canada offices are now and which was then known as the Nash Building.
His office was actually an old army hut where the parking lot is now. There were three people in the accounting department, an artist and Dando working in that building, he said.
“So my dark room was in the washroom, so I had to sort of inform everybody I was going to go into the dark room to do some developing so they should go in if they wanted to use it (the washroom) in the next hour or so,” he said.
When CFTK moved kitty corner in 1973 to where it is now, a building which had been an Overwaitea store, Dando built himself a new dark room downstairs.
Three years later when the station got its first video camera, he had to learn how to make moving pictures.
Dando began shooting commercials and doing news stories and then started on The Skeena Journal, a public affairs program that ran for 25 years and which won a few national awards.
“It was quite well-known around the community and around our area. Everybody was looking forward to that every week, it was a half hour news magazine show so that was quite a long run,” he said, adding it was sponsored by Alcan for all those years.
The station then began making music videos, getting involved with Inside Tracks, a program produced through the collaboration of five TV stations around the province.
It featured local bands in those music videos. Valdy came up one time to do introductions for the show, Dando added.
For one show, he went over to the then-named Queen Charlotte Islands (now Haida Gwaii) in 1993 to do some videos for Louisa Marshall – she was recently here performing her tribute show to Tina Turner.
Along the way, CFTK also produced dramas, one of which was the popular 1980s series Trapper Jack.
Dando’s plan has always been to retire at age 65 as he didn’t want to work any later than that. Leaving now gives other people a chance to do his job, he said.
And he has plenty to keep busy.
“I’m physically active. I do swim and I just bought my seniors pass at the pool and my seniors pass for Shames Mountain so I’ll be skiing not just on weekends but a few days during the week,” said Dando. He’s also purchased a new hybrid bicycle and is going to work on his cooking skills.