I have known Grant Ullyot for as long as I’ve lived in Chilliwack. The simple reason is that he hired my husband as a reporter for CHWK Radio. Funny thing is that while I thought I knew a lot about Grant, I really knew very little about him. Isn’t that usually how it is? We think we know people but far too often we don’t take the time to really get to know them.
Grant was an only child, born in the city of Winnipeg. He was your typical youngster; he enjoyed playing baseball in the summer and hockey in the winter. “I used to lace up my skates at home and walk nine blocks to the community rink. I’d skate on the padded snow on the way there,” he explained with a smile. He wasn’t particularly a great student. He was bright but was constantly daydreaming. “I was always in my own little world. I had planes, trains and automobiles on my mind. Sometimes, I’d have people talking to me and I wouldn’t even hear them,” he said.
His paternal grandfather was an engineer with the CPR for 35 years while his father worked for the Railway Express Agency. For Grant, he had designs on becoming a railroad engineer from the time that he was a little boy until well into his teenage years. “I had a lot of respect for my grandfather and my father. Working for the railroad in those days was not easy. Oftentimes, the trains were delayed and that meant that dad had to work late. I really admired his tenacity. There was no overtime in those days either. You did what you had to do and that was that. My grandfather worked hard too and ended up dying of a heart attack right in the middle of Portage and Main in Winnipeg,” he explained. Though he worked for the railway industry, Grant’s father was adamant that his son was not going to follow in his footsteps. Yet, Grant persevered and ended up getting hired by the CNR as a break man.
Although he was earning good money, his challenge was getting enough hours. “I was only working part-time, working four to five days in a month,” he said. One day, his mother approached him asking, “When are you going to get yourself an honest, full time job? You need to start paying room and board. Why the heck don’t you just join the army?”
After the heart-to-heart chat with his mother, Grant walked past a recruiting office, decided to walk in to inquire about the possibilities that lay before him and walked out a member of the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air force). “Shortly after that, I was off to St. Jean, Quebec for basic training and then to Trenton, Ontario for trades training. I went into movement’s controller (air),” he said.
Grant completed his training; his marks the second highest in class. “They gave preferential postings to the top two and this meant that I could pick where I wanted to go. I decided to go back to Winnipeg and was there for the next two years,” he laughed.
He had originally signed on with the RCAF for two years and after that time had to decide whether to stay in or get out. By this time, he was married to Nancy and had resolved to leave. “The officer in charge of the air movement unit asked if there was anything that would change my mind. With this, he handed me a telegram that read 230816 service, LAC BG Ullyot is hereby transferred to 3(F) Wing Zweibrucken, Germany for four years provided he enlists for five years. “I called Nancy and told her that we were going to Germany,” he chuckled. In July 1957 Grant left for Germany and wife Nancy followed in September, staying behind to give birth to their first son, Russell. “Bruce and Jeff were born in Germany and Kathryn and Ken were born after we came back to Canada.”
While he was stationed in Germany, Sergeant Ken Pells, who was the band master and supervised CFNZ Radio on the base, went out in search of radio station volunteers. “The station used to broadcast CBC programs and played music for the Canadian military audience. I decided to become a volunteer in the Fall of 1957 and was there until I left in 1961. I was even fortunate enough to do the play-by-play for the RCAF Flyers Europe,” he said proudly. While in Germany, he traveled extensively visiting Holland, France, Italy, Spain and Britain.
He returned to Canada and was posted to Edmonton, remaining there until 1963 when he decided to leave the RCAF to go into commercial radio. “My first job in that industry was with CHCA-TV in Red Deere where I did the six o’clock news as well as the sports.” From there, he went onto radio and television stations in Saskatoon, Melfort, Prince Albert and finally, in 1972, he was hired as News Director by CHWK Radio in Chilliwack. There he remained for the next 27 years. Although he’s now retired, Grant continues to write for The Westcoast Farmer for the Chilliwack Progress.
Grant has lived an exciting and colourful life, his experiences far too numerous to mention. I was memorized by his stories and truly came to appreciate the breath of knowledge that he possesses. It was thrilling to listen to his escapades and the scenarios that have played out through his life while with the RCAF and in radio, including his close relationship with Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. Yet, for all of his accomplishments, to him, they pale in comparison to the successes of his children. Indeed, after over 20 years, I have finally taken the time to really get to know him.