Memorable Manitobans: Mitchell Parks (1917-2004)
Born at Kamsack, Saskatchewan on 27 February 1917, son of Charles Parks (1881-1950) and Fannie Adelman (1886-1963), he spent his formative years at Estevan, Saskatchewan and Roblin. He began piano lessons with an itinerant music teacher from Belgium who travelled the small towns of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. By the time he moved to Winnipeg in the early 1930s, he had already mastered the trumpet and was supporting his family by playing at weddings, bar mitzvahs, resorts, and vaudeville shows. In 1940, he met Norma Eugenia Jampol (1916-1985). Both musical, they connected when Jampol was looking for an accompanist for her ballet school. They married in 1940 and had one son.
He became one of the top musicians in Winnipeg and performed in various capacities for over 70 years, playing with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra when it first started, and enjoying a long career in broadcasting, first in live radio at three of Winnipeg’s four stations, and then in television. Broadcasting opportunities switched his focus from trumpet to piano, and during the 1940s he was half of a popular musical act, the Parks and Burdett piano duo, with Percy Burdett as music arranger and himself as business manager. He participated regularly in weekly TV series, such as Cabaret and Red River Jamboree, and wrote music for the Canadian-content portion of Sesame Street. He gained local fame as the pianist on CBC Television’s Hymn Sing, a position he held for 31 years.
In his later years, he remained active by playing concerts for the elderly. He described music as sustaining him, and told the Jewish Post in 1995, “When I play, I lose all thoughts of bad things. When anything goes wrong I go to the piano.”
He died at Winnipeg on 3 November 2004 and was buried in the Shaarey Zedek Cemetery.
Birth registration, Saskatchewan Vital Statistics.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 6 November 2004.
Mitchell Parks, Craig Parks Family Tree, Ancestry.
CBC Program Schedule 451111, Old Time Radio Researchers Group, www.otrr.org
This page was prepared by Lois Braun.
Page revised: 11 November 2020