Biography

Pioneer

Erola, Judy

(1934- )

Judy Erola was to become known for many things as well as broadcasting. As an MP for the Nickel Belt riding, she was minister of mines in the cabinet of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, minister responsible for the status of women, and minister of consumer and corporate affairs. She was the first woman appointed to the powerful cabinet priorities and planning committee which has final say on government policy. But her career start was in broadcasting in Sudbury, where she also achieved several firsts.

She was born Judy Jacobson, one of seven daughters of a dairy farmer with Finnish forebears on both sides. By the age of 15 she was known for her enormous energy and was already writing radio advertising copy.

She worked at radio station CHNO Sudbury, founded in 1947, and at CKSO-TV which had its debut in 1953. At both she did almost everything except manage and look after the engineering.

At CKSO-TV she became Canada's first weather girl. Irrepressible long-time broadcaster Basil Scully, in his politically incorrect memoir Barefoot Boy with Chicque, wrote: "Opening day saw the first indication of what the weather was going to be like from then on. It was a beautiful autumn day…the camera was on Judy who stood looking stolid in front of the weather board wearing an Indian type blanket with her dark hair parted in the middle, with a beaded headband and a single feather stuck in the band. I walked onto the set, pretending surprise at what I was seeing, and then with exaggerated revelation and understanding I said 'I know what you're portraying….INDIAN SUMMER.' At which point Judy turned in my direction and in a scornful voice said 'No….SQUA-A-AWLS!'" Earlier he noted: "In retrospect, it was nothing more or less than primitive TV. There was one significant advantage. Very few of our audience had themselves seen anything resembling television and therefore what we presented to them was gobbled up with great enthusiasm."

During this time Judy married Vic Erola and they had two daughters, Laurie and Kelly. Judy worked part time for eight years while she raised them.

She was talked into going back to work fulltime for CHNO where she wrote advertising copy then was appointed continuity director and then the first woman broadcasting account executive in Sudbury. As before she did it all - provided ideas to her clients, sold the ads, wrote the copy and sometimes even read it.

Vic Erola died in 1977, devastating Judy. She needed a new direction and in 1979 won the Liberal nomination for Nickel Belt riding. She lost the election but the defeat of John Crosbie's budget brought on another election which she won. That was in 1980. When she was defeated in the 1984 election, she started yet another career, accepting the position in 1987 of president of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers' Association of Canada from which she retired in 1998.

Written by Jerry Fairbridge - May, 2002

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