Former journalist George Garrett regaled seniors at the Peninsula Retirement Residence last Friday afternoon with tales of his career.

Retired broadcaster details a life in media

George Garrett went undercover as a tow truck driver to expose a fraud.

George Garrett still knows how to tell a story.

Garrett, 81, spent 43 years working as a broadcast journalist for CKNW.

He was at the Peninsula Retirement Residence Friday to tell stories from his past, raise money for the Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society and talk about his new book, The Life and Times of Lighthouse McNeil.

Garrett started working for CKNW in 1956. He describes it as the golden age of broadcast journalism.

He didn’t have daily deadlines. He went to the beat of his own drum when it came to gathering news.

Garrett looked in his element as he relived one of his stories from his journalism days.

Years ago, Garrett learned that a Vancouver towing company was illegally towing vehicles to increase business. The owner of the tow company was supposed to have written authority from the owner of the parking lot to tow a vehicle. This particular business, Garrett learned, was just forging the parking lot owner’s name on a slip.

“Totally against the law. I thought… how am I going to get this story? I’m going to pretend I’m a tow driver,” Garrett told the crowd.

Garrett explained how he bought some work boots, stopped shaving for a couple of days and went into the unemployment office. His plan was to gain some experience as a tow-truck driver in a legitimate company then possibly go work for the fraudulent company.

He found an advertisement in the unemployment office that said Coquitlam Towing needed a driver. The staff in the unemployment office said Garrett needed to apply for unemployment insurance before applying for the job.

“I thought, if I apply for unemployment insurance, that alone is fraud because I’m not unemployed. But, it’s a story, so I applied,” Garrett told the audience.BC Radio History photo

Garrett used his middle name, Reno, to throw off suspicion that he was undercover.

After filing for unemployment insurance Garrett drove to Coquitlam Towing and asked the boss for a job.

“‘He said ‘you… want a job?'”

Garrett – thrown off by the question – asked “what’s wrong, am I too old?”

“He said ‘age has nothing to do with it, you’re George Garrett with CKNW. I saw you on the Pattullo Bridge yesterday morning.”

Despite his cover being blown within the first minute of his operation, Garrett was still able to work with Coquitlam Towing for his story.

Instead of posing as tow-truck driver, Garrett was now an actual tow-truck driver. Which, he said, brought up a bunch of challenges all on its own.

After gaining experience he went to the fraudulent company and asked for work. It turns out the company wasn’t as secretive about the fraud as Garrett speculated it would be, and sure enough, Garrett had his scoop.

Garrett – who has a profound respect for the RCMP – did his presentation last week while wearing his red honourary lifetime member blazer for the RCMP Veterans’ Association Vancouver Branch.

His book, which was released last month, is about the life of RCMP Const. Stirling McNeil. Garrett interviewed approximately 40 people over a seven -year period for the story.

His interest in the topic came after Polish-immigrant Robert Dziekański was killed after being repeatedly Tasered by RCMP officers in the Vancouver International Airport in 2007.

“I knew that affected a lot of members. It was kind of like a blow in the gut to them because that’s not the way they operate, it’s just a performance by primarily one guy,” Garrett said. “I thought the RCMP were better than that, I knew that.”

It wasn’t long after that incident that Garrett learned of McNeil. He wrote a short article on him and that prompted him to write a book.

The book is available online through Chapters.

Approximately $2,400 for the Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society was raised through Friday’s event.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This Crescent Beach home, located at 12505 22 Ave., was subject of a police search warrant June 18. (Google image)
Civil Forfeiture Office alleges Crescent Beach home used to launder money

Court documents request the home, and $85,000 to be turned over to the government

Surrey firefighters battle a house fire near the 70A Avenue and 126A Street intersection early Sunday morning. According to a witness, it appears that the occupants were able to get out without injury. (Shane MacKichan photos)
PHOTOS: Fire causes extensive damage to Surrey home

Occupants able to escape without injury: witness

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

An animated Gordie Hogg introduces his 'Community Connections' videos. (YouTube screenshot)
Community Connections: Gordie Hogg speaks with Glenn Rose

Former mayor, MP began posting conversations on YouTube in June

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Mounties looking for teen boy ‘unlawfully at large’ from Riverview psychiatric hospital

Nolan Godron left the hospital, located at 2721 Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam, without consent on Saturday

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Most Read