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Annie Garde retires as host of ‘Pea Green Boat’

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After 18 years hosting one of the longest-running children’s radio shows in the country, Annie Garde has sailed on.

The voice of the “Pea Green Boat” and “Children’s Corner” on Montana Public Radio recorded her final episodes last weekend, although she insists that “it never seemed like work.”

She loved picking out music, taking trips to the library and inviting guests on the air, and relished the challenge of coming up with new ideas for five to six days a week.

“That’s what’s so wonderful about this show and this station, is that I had free rein to do just about anything I wanted,” she said.

Her supervisors trusted her, and as long as it was tasteful, she had creative freedom.

“Who could complain about something like that?” she said, adding that it was “hard to call it a job. It was such a pleasure.”

She’s turning 75 this year, and looking forward to bucket-list items like trips to national parks in Montana and farther away such as Arizona; and gardening and reading more. She also felt it was time to “move over and let somebody else make their contribution to the kids.”

Voice of Garde

Garde, a Brooklyn native, headed west during the 1970s and instead of making it all the way to California, stopped here in Montana.

A friend was her intro into radio, which was a strong fit since she loved music and had theater training. She started logging time at KUFM in 1979 as host of “Evening Freeforms,” “Feminist Forum” and more.

Her career took a key turn in 2003, when Marcia Dunn stepped down after 23 years as the voice of the “Pea Green Boat,” whose quirky name is derived from a poem by Edward Lear. (An owl and a cat set out to sea in a “beautiful pea-green boat.”)

Garde applied and beat out the competition. She’d had a lot of children in her life, and taught a little bit. She also was familiar with finding children’s literature that spoke on multiple levels. When her mother was 80, she’d suffered a stroke and was confined to her bed for years.

Garde and her siblings took turns reading to her, but their mother eventually said the adult books were too difficult to follow. Garde began trying well-crafted titles for younger people, such as “Charlotte’s Web” and “Winnie the Pooh.”

“There’s just some fantastic authors out there who write on a level that grownups can appreciate,” she said.

Looking back at her time with the show, she’s fond of projects like one called “Kids Like You and Me,” where she invited children to talk about subjects such as living with diabetes. Another one, “Rodeo Radio Theater,” featured recordings of plays they made in-house.

She also brought authors and poets on air, and read children’s poetry, too.

An ‘intimate medium’

While the volume of gadgets to play audio has increased dramatically since Garde started, the power of human voice in daily life has not changed.

Program director Matthew Marsolek said “radio is a very intimate medium that way. People often listen alone or in small groups and they get to know the voice and they get to know those people and there’s a connection, and it’s pretty profound.”

Garde’s retirement is a “momentous moment,” Marsolek said. “It’s amazing how much investment our listeners have in children’s programming. It holds a very important place on our schedule and in people’s lives.”

While original children’s radio programming is not that common, the station dedicates 6.5 hours in prime time.

“It’s built right into our mission statement to provide educational and rewarding content to listeners of all ages,” he said.

MTPR is looking for a new host and director of children’s programming who will start this fall, Marsolek said. The shows will continue Monday-Friday at 4 p.m. and Saturdays at 8 a.m. with fill-in hosts.

Garde, meanwhile, said she hopes to drop by the boat again and see her friends.

“They are part of what makes a person stay here forever and ever, because everything’s so wonderful,” she said.

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