Hinterland Who’s Who



Every time I hear the haunting strains of that lone flute playing its woodland theme, my mind drifts back to my childhood days. Back then, the whole family would gather around the television and tune in the CBC. It didn’t matter what the program was, because we were waiting for the commercial breaks. Every commercial break was a potential chance to see another "Hinterland Who’s Who" vignette.

We learned so much from those little gems of wilderfilm. So many childhood questions were answered by those sixty second time-fillers. Questions like, "What’s a hinterland?" and "Why don’t a muskox and a muskrat look alike?"

First aired in 1960, "Hinterland Who’s Who" was developed because the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation couldn’t sell enough advertising time to fill a commercial break. But, it had the added benefit of teaching Canadians, young and old, about the wonder and beauty to be found mere yards outside of their igloos or cabins. Narrated in a dull, flat tone by a dull, flat man, each segment examined the environment, behaviour, and general characteristics of a specific animal indigenous to the Canadian wilderness.

It was certainly an eye-opener for this young lad.

I learned the difference between the Greater Snow Goose and the Lesser Snow Goose.

I was privy to the secrets of the Snowshoe Hare.

I discovered that a Redhead isn’t just the pretty girl in math class with the fiery temper, it is also a freaky-looking type of diving duck.

It was disclosed to me that the name of the Caribou is a corruption of the Micmac word "xalibu" which means "the one who paws."

The Semipalmated Sandpiper’s feet are only partially webbed, otherwise they’d call it fully palmated.

The Lemmings of the Canadian Arctic have no suicidal tendencies whatsoever, unlike their European cousins, showing that even rodents know that Canada is the best country in the world.

That old black guy on Sanford & Son isn’t the only Red Fox on television.

All this knowledge and more was mine for the asking with "Hinterland Who’s Who" and ask I did. However, amongst all of the diverse tidbits and snippets of wisdom gleaned from this classic canuck creation, one fact stands out. "Vignette" was the first French word that I learned from someplace besides the other side of the cereal box.

And I know that everyone who grew up in Canada in the last half of the twentieth century can say the same thing.



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