DICKSON, Roy Ward




Born Richard Louis del Valle, on August 18, 1910 in London, England, Roy Ward Dickson lead a troubled childhood. Unhappy at home and repeatedly expelled from school, he was sent to “the Colonies” by the parents to “make a man out of him.” Choosing Canada over Australia, Dickson began working as a farm labourer at the age of 15. Following brief stints in a number of low-paying jobs, and later as an ad man, he embarked on a successful career in radio and television.

When Dickson moved from advertising in Vancouver to working at the Toronto Star, commercial radio programming, paid for by advertisers, was a relatively new development in North America. Listening to the radio one night, Roy recalled the question-and-answer sessions he had used with his pupils during his time as a school teacher. This led him to formulate a general knowledge quiz game for the public.

On May 15th, 1935, he began moonlighting from the Star by producing the world's first quiz show for CKCL radio. Professor Dick and his Question Box aired five times a week, at lunchtime. The half-hour shows were prepared each night at home and produced during Dickson's lunch hour, after which he'd return to his advertising beat.

Within a year, Dickson had invented a format for a lively radio quiz game titled The Quizz Club (1936). He pitched the broadcast of that radio show in a half-hour evening time slot once weekly through the wide coverage, and enormous popularity, of Toronto's CFRB radio station. Leaving "Dick del Valle" behind, he hit on "Roy Ward Dickson" and launched The Quizz Club to instant and phenomenal success. Dickson's show aired on Saturday nights, a half-hour before Foster Hewitt's Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts.

In the early fifties, it became clear that audiences were shrinking; the heyday of radio had come and gone. With the impact of television was being felt, Dickson mounted his first television show What d'you Know? in 1953/54 at CHCH-TV, Channel 11, in Hamilton, Ontario. The Sunday afternoon game show was soon to be joined by a simulcast version of Fun Parade. Other RWD programs followed within months: a regular weekly TV version of Turnabout (circa 1954) and a two-hour daily afternoon magazine show called PM. These were followed in short order by a panel game called Claim to Fame (with the panel including Dickson's wife Shirley), and a celebrity talk show called People.

After spending four years in Britain producing and hosting a succession of television programs (Turnabout (1954), Bonanza, The £1000 Word, Full House, and Abracadabra), Dickson returned to Canada in 1960 where he devised the first morning magazine TV show, A.M., for Ken Soble at CHCH Television. He also started the first show to book a slot on the new CTV network, Take a Chance!

Dickson was married twice. He had two children with his first wife, Helen, and three with his second wife, Shirley. He retired in the late 1960s, to Victoria, BC. He passed away on September 16, 1978

Books:

How to Win at Roulette and Blackjack
The Greatest Quiz Book Ever!
Take a Chance! Confessions of a Quizmaster
Plusword Puzzles
Quiz 2000 (4 volumes)
So You Want to Make 'em Laugh?
Man Bites Dog

[BCBW 2009]