I was aware of and fairly interested in Radio from quite young. After learning how to tell time at Age three, I was mystified by Bob Hutton on CKNW telling me that it was “Twenty to Eight in the Morning” when I knew it as “Seven Forty”. At Age five, I remember listening to CJOR on the portable transistor radio my father had on the card table in the back yard when regular programming was interrupted for live coverage of the Second Narrows Bridge collapse.
About 1960, when the Rocket Radio was first introduced, my father bought me one. It was not exactly portable as it came with an alligator clip that had to be attached to an external antenna: our wall telephone’s dial hook was grounded and provided the best reception. These Japanese-built radios were only a small step above a crystal set with low sensitivity and selectivity. The six Vancouver stations, including CKNW, were all that you could hear in our East Burnaby home, and it required carefully tuning to separate CFUN-1410 from CHQM-1320.
At Age 9, when I was home from school, recovering from a Cold, my interest became a passion when I first heard Dave McCormick counting down the C-FUNtastic 50 on a Friday afternoon shortly after 1:00 p.m. I would always say that it was The Music that attracted me but, in 2001, when I first heard an aircheck of Dave’s last show on CFUN, it was the closest to a Time Machine I’ve ever experienced, in terms of feeling like I did when I was 9.
Technically, I began collecting Radio Station Record Surveys that Friday, as I clipped the C-FUNtastic 50 from that morning’s Vancouver Province. Less than a year later, I was buying a small transistor radio of my own at the Seattle World’s Fair, which the salesman demonstrated by tuning it to KJR. That expanded my horizons past CFUN, with my first taste of The Isley Brothers, when “Twistin’ With Linda” was a KJR hit, before CFUN began playing Isley songs.
1964 was the year that I expanded beyond listening to my favourite music on CFUN and KJR. Before the year was out, I was listening regularly to WBZ in Boston, to hear the hits first, even before my previous favourite, WLS in Chicago. By the time I gave up the hobby to concentrate on university, I had heard more than 1200 radio stations on the standard AM band, 540 to 1600 KHz in those days. Not all of them played Top 40, of course.
I learned a lot about Radio, especially what works on-air, listening to all those stations.
Working for Free
Over two and a half years, from the beginning of 1969 until the middle of 1971, I worked for free at four different radio stations before being getting a regular pay cheque as a part-time Operator at CHQM in Vancouver.
- CFAY – a pirate station in Surrey that I could hear at home in South Burnaby, and was once heard in Seattle. The transmitter was 5 watts with an old crystal from the days when 1357.25 KHz was not yet part of the standard AM broadcast band. The studio equipment was all children’s toys, but the record library was interesting thanks to regular U.S. mailings from the Elektra and Chess/Checker labels.
- CKSF – the Simon Fraser University (SFU) campus station high atop Burnaby Mountain. Closed circuit with speakers in some student areas, rumoured to included underwater in the swimming pool, and carrier current to some of the student residences.
- CYVR – the UBC campus station, closed circuit in the Student Union Building (SUB) and carrier current on 650 KHz to a couple of student residences.
- CHQM – my first four weeks were a full-time training period, with another operator always supervising my work. I was told that I was competing with another new operator for the position, and would not be paid for the first two weeks, at the end of which, they would choose between the two of us. There was, of course, no other operator….