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March 2019

Costas Halavrezos

Costas Halavrezos

Costas Halavrezos of Dartmouth has one of the most mispronounced—butchered might be more accurate—names among Maritime personalities. But if many East Coasters have trouble getting their tongues around his decidedly Greek moniker, they have no problem identifying his “buttery” voice, as one caller described it when Costas announced in 2010 that he was retiring as the host of CBC’s Maritime Noon after 23 years.

Despite all that time on the air, the listeners who didn’t know Costas personally wouldn’t really know that much about the man. And, as Costas explains in his story, that was intentional.

“I was on every day,” he says. “Why would I blather about myself? The person you’re talking to—it might be the only time they’re ever on the radio because of the circumstances of the story. It’ll certainly be memorable for them. Very often people are nervous—even if it’s something they know about. The host’s job is just to make them comfortable, conduct the interview, get the information out. That’s it.”

However, when we sat down to talk to Costas, the tables were turned and he graciously opened up about his own life story. And it’s fascinating.

Costas’s father grew up among peasants in the Greek mountain village of Agios Stefanos, left school as a boy to travel with his sister to Egypt for work, and eventually joined the Greek merchant marine during the Second World War. “He had quite a few adventures and close calls,” says Costas. That included surviving being torpedoed and having the ship he was on sink in 12 minutes, a story that Costas relates in some detail.

His mother was “Miramichi Irish” and grew up on a small subsistence farm in Semiwagan Ridge, N.B. She moved to Saint John as a young woman and met Costas’s father while she was working as a waitress in The Paradise restaurant.

Costas recalls essentially growing up in his father’s eatery in downtown Saint John. He says Nick’s Coffee Counter was a “real classless society” that catered to everyone from politicians to prostitutes. Only occasionally, if someone was drunk and said something inappropriate, would Nick Halavrezos grab him by the scruff of the neck and the back of the belt and give him the bum’s rush out onto the sidewalk.

Costas regales us with tales of growing up “Irish Catholic” in Saint John, attending St. F.X. University, travelling throughout Greece and England for a year, working as a young man, drifting into radio work and more.

He and his wife—respected reporter Jennifer Henderson—live a relatively quiet life on a leafy Dartmouth street. He’s grown grapes, sold spices and wrote a book titled Seasoned: Recipes and Essays from The Spiceman. He plays bass in a band called the BBQ Kings, does voice-over work and just started a podcast called Book Me! in which he interviews Atlantic Canadian authors and illustrators.

But it all started at Nick’s Coffee Counter …

This is only a short introduction to Costas’s much longer story.

To read Costas’s compelling life story in his own words—interspersed with plenty of great photographs—please consider subscribing to Backstory NS for just $40 per year (tax included). That includes 26 in-depth stories per year from notable Nova Scotians based on old-fashioned personal visits. There’ll be a new story every two weeks, and the entire collection will be available to our subscribers to read and reread whenever you wish. Your valued support will ensure these stories are collected and shared for years to come. Thank you.

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Mary Campbell

Mary Campbell

Mary Campbell possesses that quick, cutting sense of humour that seems particular to the place that was once called Industrial Cape Breton. Most importantly, she can tell a story against herself. However, Mary also happens to be a serious, seasoned (not old!) journalist who has worked in Halifax, Prince Edward Island, Montreal, Toronto and the Czech Republic’s capital city of Prague. She was in Prague for several years.

In her story, she recalls in detail flipping her car into a snowbank in rural P.E.I. and then taking a photo of it for the newspaper she worked at, fainting while covering a surgical procedure in Montreal and being caught by the anesthesiologist, and getting hired as an English teacher by a Zimbabwean man in Prague because she was wearing a Cape Breton T-shirt.

Eventually, Mary returned home and in 2016 founded the online newspaper called the Cape Breton Spectator. On the publication’s site, she writes, “My needs are not great—my only extravagances are quality paper and cat antibiotics—so it won’t take too many subscribers to keep this enterprise afloat. Anything I earn beyond the bare necessities will pay freelance writers and photographers: I’m fond of the sound of my own voice, but not that fond.”

Mary also happens to be one of the “Highlander Campbells.” Her parents John and Dolores, several uncles and aunts, and a number of “non-Campbells” published the radical Cape Breton Highlander newspaper in Sydney from 1963 to 1976. Its prospectus stated, “There will be no hesitation to become involved in controversy if the outcome holds promise of constructive achievement for Cape Breton.” Mary, who was born in 1964, recalls growing up in that environment and the influence it had on her later life and work. That could well be the prospectus for the Spectator.

In her story, Mary mentions Tim Bousquet, publisher of the online Halifax Examiner newspaper, which like the Spectator is independent, adversarial, subscription-based and advertising-free. The two publications now offer a joint subscription. Bousquet writes, “Campbell is everything a journalist should be: inquisitive, dogged, and unafraid. Even better, she’s wickedly funny.” That describes Mary Campbell—and the Cape Breton Spectator—to a T.

This is only a short introduction to Mary’s much longer story.

To read Mary’s compelling life story in her own words—interspersed with plenty of great photographs—please consider subscribing to Backstory NS for just $40 per year (tax included). That includes 26 in-depth stories per year from notable Nova Scotians based on old-fashioned personal visits. There’ll be a new story every two weeks, and the entire collection will be available to our subscribers to read and reread whenever you wish. Your valued support will ensure these stories are collected and shared for years to come. Thank you.

This content is for subscribers only. Please log in or subscribe.
Log In Subscribe
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