Royal Canadian Navy

Murray Westgate

It was Murray Westgate's "nice guy" look that landed him a legendary role that many Canadians still remember: that of Imperial Oil's friendly gas station dealer and original pitchman.

In 1952, gas was 25 cents a gallon. Hockey fans tuned in faithfully to the new box called a television, and Westgate's Imperial Oil pitchman sang the song "Happy Motoring" along with the famous slogan "Put a tiger in your tank!" His face became synonymous with Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts for 16 years. At intermission viewers watched the Hot Stove League and Westgate, who wore the spotlessly clean Esso uniform consisting of a zippered jacket and pants, a blue shirt, dark bow tie and cap.

From performing in high school plays at Central Collegiate in Regina, to working throughout the west for CBC radio, to acting in productions at Vancouver's Everyman Theatre, to a multi-faceted career that spanned television, and stage, Westgate was definitely born to perform. Westgate recalls his favourite television experiences: "The Discoverers: The Story of Dr. Banting" in which I played Dr. Banting alongside Canadian actor John Drainie. I also really enjoyed the plays, The Gin Game and On Golden Pond."

Along with acting, Westgate is also proud of his service in the Second World War and for the last ten years, he has lived at the Sunnybrook Veterans Centre. In 1939, he joined the Royal Canadian Navy and was posted to Halifax where he trained as a telegraphist, learning Morse code in order to communicate by radio lines while at sea. Westgate devoted six years of his life to the war effort - three on a British ship on convoy duty in the North Atlantic sailing to the strategic harbour of Gibraltar.

At Sunnybrook Westgate, 97, enjoys the occasional Bingo game, and has taken a few guitar lessons. Everyday he tries to take a daily stroll around the campus. "I'm a big news junkie. I love Charlie Rose and watch him daily on PBS. I'm also big Sienfeld fan," he says.

A letter dated April 30, 1979, and signed by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau hangs in a brown wooden frame on the wall in his room. The letter congratulates Westgate on receiving an ACTRA award for the best supporting actor in the play called, Tyler. "I've had a great life with wonderful opportunities, things fell my way. And now Sunnybrook is the best place I could possibly be."

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