CKWR in the Beginning: Some Reminiscences by David Gillick
Radio always has been the heart of Kitchener and Waterloo. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the listeners themselves became more vocal and they wanted to become involved in radio broadcasting.
CKWR had its genesis then with a circle of like-minded people who were my friends. In the beginning we set out to create the station as a non-commercial, community broadcast service run entirely by volunteers. I hypothesized that the station would ‘re-heat’ the community by allowing volunteers to use the airwaves to express themselves and communicate with a diverse range of programmes that could not be heard elsewhere. I thought the programmes would motivate listeners to contribute to their local communities of interest instead of being passive consumers or 'enlightened citizens of Canada' in the mould of a CBC listener.
Wired World Inc., CKWR’s licensee, was set up as a non-profit, charitable organization. Its Board of Directors were to be accountable to the general membership, listeners and to institutions that include the CRTC. The station was to fill a void left by the profit-making companies that ran commercial radio stations and the CBC's publicly owned national broadcasting service
Initially, the incumbent commercial broadcasters were hostile to the idea of CKWR. CHYM's station manager, John Larke, and Keith Sterling eventually became loyal supporters; however, W.D. “Bill” McGregor, General Manager of Central Ontario Television was openly antagonistic. Institutionally, the CBC was not interested but many well-known CBC broadcasters were supportive; notably, the late Peter Gzowski. The CKWR concept was so unprecedented that the CRTC had no licence application process for it and there was no FM frequency channel available over which to transmit a signal. Would it be possible to raise enough money; not just to get the station on the air but also to sustain it operationally over many years? The challenges seemed insurmountable.
Interest and support for CKWR was generated from the popular "Wired World's Community Radio" programme heard each Sunday morning on CHYM. There were fundraising 'stunts' and events that included "The Great Canadian Cassette Con" and a Dinner Dance in one of the local German clubs. People of all backgrounds and ages made major contributions. On occasion, excerpts the original Sunday morning programme were heard across Canada on CBC Radio - "The Dare Strike", produced by the strikers themselves, and "The Canadian Standard Grant Request" parody that remains relevant in today’s world.
Kitchener-Waterloo's community radio movement then gained national prominence and inspired others as far away as the United Kingdom. Support for the CKWR even came from one of the original founders of the CBC, Graham Spry, and from CRTC Vice-Chairman, Harry Boyle (although CRTC Chairman Pierre Juneau was far less enthusiastic).
Doug Baer led the licence application project supported by those of us who were Wired World directors plus a rump of other dedicated residents. Michael Volker and Gerry Wooton led the search for a suitable FM channel allocation that required co-ordination by the Canadian Department of Communications with the US Federal Communications Commission. The late broadcasting pioneer, Israel ("Sruki") Switzer, put his technical seal to the application. In 1972, a convoy of local residents travelled at their expense to Ottawa for the public hearing of the licence application and excerpts from hearing were broadcast on CHYM.
CKWR (the call letters were chosen for 'Waterloo Region' or 'Kitchener Waterloo Radio') signed on at 98.7 MHz at 202 watts from a house at 1342 King Street East in Kitchener, with programming limited to evenings and weekends. So was born Canada's first English-language community radio station. Similar stations were soon to be licensed in Vancouver, Montréal and at universities; including Radio Waterloo (CKMS-FM) where some of us first became radio broadcasters.
CKWR/ Wired World Inc. was - and is - a dynamic organisation because of many dedicated and talented people who have made it happen over more than 35 years.
Other people who should be remembered from the early 1970s are:
•Henry Crapo - who donated substantial finance at the outset as well as his time with others to get CKWR going. He was persuaded that there needed to be an alternative voice in K-W due to the manner in which the Kitchener downtown development was, for the most part, 'kept under wraps'.
•Lawrence McNaught - a great radio artist, gentleman and a person who was a focal point in working with volunteers from all backgrounds. He also produced some of the early live broadcasts on CKWR from the old "Picture Show" cinema in Waterloo that included performances by Spot Farm, Perth Country Conspiracy, Jane Siberry and many other talented people from the area.
•Chris Laing - another 'original' Board member of Wired World Inc. It was from his home that the Wired World group operated from ~1970. He wrote the acclaimed "Canadian Standard Grant Request" that not only was broadcast on Wired World's Community Radio on CHYM-FM but also cost-to-coast on CBC Radio on the old "This Country in the Morning" programme.
•Marilyn Lambert - the first president of Wired World Inc. who worked tirelessly raising support and doing things on the air as well.
•Junius Lockhart - who was a mainstay among the original volunteers at the 1342 King Street East studio/house.
•Vinnie Gray - another original Board member who was a hard working volunteer raising financing and other support.
•Liz Hurst - a dedicated volunteer who also worked on the old Sunday morning programme. On air Liz starred in a locally written play entitled "The Greek Poetess" - she even received scented letters from listeners for her performance!
•Leo Burns - a well-respected local actor who devoted much time on the air and behind the scenes raising financing and donations 'in kind'. Leo brought locally written drama to the air performed, at times, by excellent actors like him.
•Gary Meade - a reformed addict, truck driver, good father to his children and great blues DJ.
There were many other great people - some of whom no longer are with us - that contributed greatly over the years. Apologies if I forgot someone or misrepresented anyone from that era.
Over the years from here in the UK, I was aware of how CKWR evolved and the ups and the downs that were to be expected. A degree of commercialism was introduced with professional broadcasters who were established personalities with a loyal following. Although we originally had hoped that CKWR would be free of commercial spots, there is nothing inherently wrong with them being present on a limited basis. This has provided CKWR with an audience anchor and a sustaining revenue stream.
Today, CKWR’s listeners include people who are far away from Kitchener-Waterloo, tuning into the audio stream available via the World Wide Web. That includes me over here in London. So I guess Wired World was a good name to choose for CKWR’s organization when we began back in the early 1970s!
David Gillick, was born in Kitchener, went to Grand River Collegiate and Eastwood, and is an alumnus of the University of Waterloo. He was a founding director of Wired World Inc.
Beginning in 1974 David had a ten year career in the Canadian government as a senior policy maker in Ottawa. In 1984 he moved to London to become the Deputy Director of the International Institute of Communications, followed by a career as a management consultant. Today he is a director of two British companies and continues to provide management consultancy to the communications and transportation industries.
FM 98.5 CKWR the Region's HO-HO-HOME for the Holidays Radio Station
Bill Inkol’s Gifts of Christmas celebrates 30 years on the airwaves
Waterloo, ON – Dubbed the "Holiday Music Station," FM 98.5 CKWR is well known for its wonderful Christmas music. The radio station is capturing the spirit of the season through special features and holiday favourites until December 27, Monday to Friday, from midnight to 6:00 p.m.
Leading up to Christmas, listeners will be treated to three special features: It Feels Like Christmas, seasonal vignettes showcasing the incredible voice and story telling of Gipp Forster; It’s All About Christmas, great stories about Christmas traditions past and present by veteran broadcasterDan Fisher; and Gifts of Christmas, earnest parables and reverent homilies by veteran broadcaster Bill Inkol.
Inkol’s Gifts of Christmas has graced the airwaves every Christmas season for more than 30 years in Waterloo Region. CKWR is honoured to be part of this tradition which airs Monday through Friday between 1:00 - 1:30 p.m. Forster’s and Fisher’s presentations will be interspersed throughout daytime programming.
These talented storytellers with their warm and expressive voices will add a touch of magic to your Christmas. Spoken word entertainment, which is such a rarity today, is a wonderful way to commemorate the occasion, while remembering generations past.
Holiday favourites includes music that every member of the family will enjoy, such as The Carpenters, Bing Crosby, Boston Pops Orchestra, Josh Groban, Diana Krall, Barbara Streisand, Burl Ives and many more — perfect music for the company Christmas party or while baking Christmas cookies, wrapping presents, trimming the tree and, of course, while driving from store to store in search of the ideal gift.
Additionally, the radio station’s specialty and multicultural hosts will present special features and Christmas music during their respective programs, while Sunday mornings will continue to be devoted to church services.