Jean Caine


00:00:02 Speaker 1 

As an interview with Gene Cain conducted in Winnipeg in November 1988 by Phil Stone, Gene Cain started in broadcasting in the 1930s as a child actress in Hamilton ON, she joined CHML in Hamilton when she was going to high school and there she acted and also had her own program. That was the late. 

00:00:22 Speaker 1 

30S and early 40s. She moved in 1941 to Ckoc Hamilton writing copy and hosting a woman. 

00:00:29 Speaker 1 

And show she met and married Howard Kane. They moved to Toronto, where she freelanced for some time, and in 1956, when they lived in Oakville, they opened CHWO in that station in that city. 

00:00:42 Speaker 1 

The station that she opened in Oakville, CHW O, was one that she and her husband of that time he has passed on since that time. 

00:00:51 Speaker 1 

Operated, you operated that for quite a number of time. 

00:00:54 Speaker 1 

Years with Howard didn’t. 

00:00:55 Speaker 2 

Yes. Well, Howard, we started in 1956. Howard died in 1966. 

00:01:00 Speaker 2 

So CHW have been going all at length. 

00:01:03 Speaker 1 

Of time. 

00:01:03 Speaker 1 

Let’s go back to when you were a young girl, 11 years old and you were acting. 

00:01:08 Speaker 1 

What were the circumstances then? 

00:01:10 Speaker 2 

Well, I was always crazy to be an actress. 

00:01:11 Speaker 2 

You see, that’s how I got into radio. 

00:01:13 Speaker 2 

Sort of through the back door. 

00:01:14 Speaker 2 

And when I was eleven years old, they had a thing in Hamilton. 

00:01:18 Speaker 2 

Called the Hamilton the. 

00:01:18 Speaker 2 

Stepfather and it was sort of a thing where they had music and. 

00:01:23 Speaker 2 

Everybody recited poems in those days and I won the Hamilton Stedford for the Under 12 class by doing Pauline Johnson’s the song, my paddle sings. 

00:01:32 Speaker 2 

I said it 5227 thousand times after that, and at one of these the Minister who was in charge of the Council of Churches program on CHML asked if I would, as this great winner, come on this program and read the Lord’s Prayer. Now, how many people do you know who started their broadcasting? They’re reading the Lord’s prayer. 

00:01:52 Speaker 1 

Gene for the benefit of young people who hear this tape back in those days, religious programs were were quite common on radio. 

00:01:59 Speaker 2 

Yes, I think that and they were very common from the point of view of being. 

00:02:04 Speaker 2 

Very locally oriented, I mean the local church and the local group. 

00:02:07 Speaker 1 

It wasn’t the national syndication. 

00:02:08 Speaker 2 

No, no, no, not the same as it. 

00:02:10 Speaker 2 

Is today. 

00:02:11 Speaker 2 

So that’s how that was, how that program. 

00:02:13 Speaker 1 

Came about. So you did the Lord’s prayer as. 

00:02:15 Speaker 2 

I did the Lord’s Prayer and never. 

00:02:16 Speaker 2 

Looked back probably. 

00:02:18 Speaker 1 

Well, you prayed probably, obviously. 

00:02:20 Speaker 1 

So you went on to work as a teenager at CHML. 

00:02:24 Speaker 2 

Well, I was very fortunate because at that time CHML, it was long before the days of even Ken Sobel and it was owned by a senator from Brockville named Senator. 

00:02:34 Speaker 2 

And his son used to sort of manage the station. 

00:02:37 Speaker 2 

It was going on around and they were doing quite a few plays and live drama and that sort of thing. 

00:02:44 Speaker 2 

So they asked me if I come in and do something. 

00:02:46 Speaker 2 

And so like kids today are in their babysitting money. 

00:02:50 Speaker 2 

I earn my money by going in and I get about $0.50 to go and play a role. 

00:02:54 Speaker 2 

One one of their plays on air that was great fun. 

00:02:56 Speaker 1 

Remember what the I was going to ask you, remember what the studio was like? 

00:02:59 Speaker 1 

What the mics were like? 

00:03:00 Speaker 2 

Well, they were down in the basement of the Piggott building in Hamilton at that time. 

00:03:03 Speaker 2 

Long been. 

00:03:03 Speaker 2 

I’ll see him. 

00:03:04 Speaker 2 

How beautiful studios. 

00:03:05 Speaker 2 

But in those days it was down in the basement of the picket building and all live. 

00:03:08 Speaker 1 

All life. 

00:03:09 Speaker 2 

And even when they were doing the sound effects, if you had, I remember there was one horrible play, Norm Marshall, who had made a great career and as a newscaster at CHM Allen and Hamilton afterwards. 

00:03:19 Speaker 2 

But he was the sort of young. 

00:03:20 Speaker 2 

Reporter and I was his girlfriend and there was dripping water in this terrible dungeon we were on and one of the operators was standing with. 

00:03:32 Speaker 2 

Reading this cloud so the water would. 

00:03:34 Speaker 2 

Drip as we were in this dungeon, so they were great. 

00:03:37 Speaker 2 

Fun to do. 

00:03:38 Speaker 1 

Remember the coconut shells for horses hooves? 

00:03:39 Speaker 2 

Oh yes, that’s right. 

00:03:41 Speaker 1 

I remember too a small door that you opened and closed. 

00:03:44 Speaker 2 

And you opened it. 

00:03:44 Speaker 2 

You had all these things were there in the studio, all the little doors that stood, and all of the things that you used. 

00:03:49 Speaker 2 

To make the sound effects. 

00:03:50 Speaker 1 

Did the audience like those shows? 

00:03:52 Speaker 2 

Believe them. 

00:03:53 Speaker 2 

Oh, I think they did. 

00:03:54 Speaker 2 

I mean, my husband was there long before I was at see at CKC in Hamilton and long before. 

00:04:04 Speaker 2 

Taylor Pearson. 

00:04:04 Speaker 2 

Carson or then all Canada. 

00:04:07 Speaker 2 

And they did two shows that were taken right across Canada at Ckoc. 

00:04:11 Speaker 2 

What price loyalty and Black Horse Tavern I think was the name of the other. 

00:04:16 Speaker 2 

And they were really very dramatic shows and network shows, but all of the sound effects were done with these silly things that they had to operate at the time. 

00:04:25 Speaker 1 

Were the people who appeared in the place where they celebrated in the community, were they well known? 

00:04:29 Speaker 1 

In the community. 

00:04:30 Speaker 2 

I guess so. 

00:04:31 Speaker 2 

Look, you see, I’ve always thought that maybe this is not fair to to put in a an opinion of this sort of thing, but to me radio is is so Canadian content, it always has been. 

00:04:42 Speaker 2 

And when I was a little girl growing up in Hamilton long, long time ago. 

00:04:47 Speaker 2 

People used to listen to. 

00:04:48 Speaker 2 

WBEN and a man named Clint Buehlman. 

00:04:50 Speaker 1 

Oh yes. 

00:04:51 Speaker 2 

And then all of a sudden, the local radio stations in Hamilton started, and as soon as there was Canadian content or Canadian input. 

00:04:58 Speaker 2 

People started to listen and those sort of community stations have been really the backbone of Canada. 

00:05:05 Speaker 2 

I think they have developed Canada and people were so loyal to them that they would eulogize the people who were. 

00:05:12 Speaker 2 

On different to that, yeah, yeah. 

00:05:12 Speaker 1 

That’s true in in the history of Canadian broad radio, people used to listen if they lived in border cities to the American stations. 

00:05:18 Speaker 2 

That’s right. 

00:05:19 Speaker 2 

Until ours got to the point where they were offering the services and the programs that people wanted. 

00:05:25 Speaker 2 

And they certainly got them from those local stations. 

00:05:29 Speaker 1 

You also did a woman show. 

00:05:31 Speaker 2 

Oh, yes. 

00:05:31 Speaker 2 

Well, that was after I. 

00:05:32 Speaker 1 

We’re doing recipes and things like that. 

00:05:34 Speaker 2 

That was after. 

00:05:35 Speaker 2 

I got my first full time job. I had been doing these part-time things at CHML and I had a women’s program on there called Diana Gale. 

00:05:45 Speaker 2 

Presents. What kind of show? 

00:05:46 Speaker 1 

Was that for that time? 

00:05:47 Speaker 2 

Oh, it was just records. 

00:05:48 Speaker 2 

Diana Gale was a singer on the old transcription services. 

00:05:51 Speaker 1 

World are universal. 

00:05:52 Speaker 2 

And I was, yes, I was her voice when she spoke. 

00:05:55 Speaker 2 

And the announcer was a chap named Stu Kenny. 

00:05:58 Speaker 2 

And Stu Kenny eventually became a morning man in in Toronto, and I can remember when he went, we were mightily impressed because with the gossip we heard at the radio station and Hamilton was that he had been offered $100 a week to do the morning show on CKUI for Jack. Can’t go. No one could believe that you could be paid that much money. 

00:06:17 Speaker 2 

To be on the air. 

00:06:19 Speaker 2 

Anyway, Stu and I did that show for quite some time, but it was part time for me and just, you know, little bits here and there. 

00:06:25 Speaker 2 

So I had done some. 

00:06:27 Speaker 2 

Work for the. 

00:06:28 Speaker 2 

Victory bond for shows that were in. 

00:06:30 Speaker 2 

Toronto and they used to bring stars in like Ned Sparks and Walter Pidgeon and these sort of people to try and encourage people to buy victory bonds during the war. 

00:06:41 Speaker 2 

The beginning of the war. 

00:06:41 Speaker 1 

That was money to help the war efforts. 

00:06:43 Speaker 2 

To help the war effort, yes. 

00:06:44 Speaker 2 

And so having done those, somebody heard me and said, why don’t you apply for a job at CKC? 

00:06:51 Speaker 2 

Because they are looking for someone and I wanted to be an actress and go to New York to study. 

00:06:56 Speaker 2 

But the war put kibosh on that. 

00:06:59 Speaker 2 

I was, and not able to get down there. 

00:07:01 Speaker 2 

So I applied for the job at CKC. 

00:07:03 Speaker 2 

And I got it. 

00:07:04 Speaker 2 

And I want you to know, I made $80.00 a month. 

00:07:06 Speaker 2 

I mean, that would make money in those days. 

00:07:09 Speaker 2 

But I did wrote coffee and did a lot of shows. 

00:07:14 Speaker 2 

And in those days, of course, you know, radio stations weren’t as didn’t have the sort of sound that they have today. 

00:07:21 Speaker 2 

Now you turn on a radio station and you know it’s this station or that. 

00:07:25 Speaker 2 

Because of the music they’re playing in those days, you were all things to all people. 

00:07:28 Speaker 2 

You went from 15 minutes of the Bing Crosby show to classical music and then to Wayne King presents, you know, or something like that. 

00:07:37 Speaker 2 

And all of these shows were script. 

00:07:39 Speaker 2 

And we used to write all these things by the mile, you know, to get these shows on the air. 

00:07:44 Speaker 1 

You loved it. 

00:07:45 Speaker 2 

Oh, I loved it, all right. 

00:07:47 Speaker 2 

And I loved Howard Caine. 

00:07:48 Speaker 2 

I met him while I was there. 

00:07:49 Speaker 2 


00:07:49 Speaker 2 

So that was very nice. 

00:07:50 Speaker 2 

Too, because he’s working. 

00:07:50 Speaker 1 

Was it a young people’s business? 

00:07:52 Speaker 1 

Then primarily. 

00:07:53 Speaker 2 

Well, I think so. 

00:07:54 Speaker 2 

And I think that’s why today you still are able to talk to a lot of the sort of pioneers of broadcasting because after all it’s only 50 years old and when it started, it was a tremendously young business and a lot. 

00:08:07 Speaker 1 

Sure, they they started young. 

00:08:07 Speaker 2 

Of them still around. 

00:08:09 Speaker 1 

So they’re still about and still able to tell you. 

00:08:09 Speaker 2 

That’s right, that’s. 

00:08:11 Speaker 2 

Well, a lot of them started. 

00:08:12 Speaker 2 

You know, just because they just love fiddling with it and love to do all of these sort of things and didn’t really know where they were going. 

00:08:18 Speaker 2 

But you enjoyed doing. 

00:08:19 Speaker 1 

It after you married Howard, you were in Toronto freelancing. 

00:08:22 Speaker 2 

Well, I married Howard in 1941 and he went immediately into the Navy. 

00:08:28 Speaker 2 

So I followed him around for a little while in the Navy and we lived in the East Coast and whatnot. 

00:08:33 Speaker 2 

But when the war was over, instead of going back to Hamilton, he was offered what seemed to be a better opportunity. 

00:08:39 Speaker 2 

With Jack Kent Cooke, who had just acquired CDKEY in Toronto, so he went to work for him and was there for. 

00:08:46 Speaker 2 

Quite some. 

00:08:47 Speaker 2 

Time he he did sales and for. 

00:08:47 Speaker 1 

In sales. 

00:08:53 Speaker 2 

Company that Jack started, which was a sort of, they provided jingles. 

00:08:59 Speaker 2 

It was one of the very first Jingle houses that ever happened. 

00:09:03 Speaker 2 

And then he moved over to CKY afterwards. 

00:09:05 Speaker 2 

That was in the days when Lauren Green was there and some of. 

00:09:08 Speaker 2 

The other people. 

00:09:09 Speaker 1 

Lauren was doing the news. 

00:09:10 Speaker 2 

That’s right. 

00:09:10 Speaker 2 

Yes, a long time ago. 

00:09:12 Speaker 1 

Well, you’re. 

00:09:12 Speaker 2 

Doing well, I was doing a little bit of freelance work. 

00:09:15 Speaker 2 

Then I wrote some shows for various things. 

00:09:18 Speaker 2 

I did some Ford theater and that sort of thing for the CB. 

00:09:23 Speaker 2 

And I had a freelance show on CFRB for a while, and I was raising a family, so I sort of tried to work the two end together. 

00:09:30 Speaker 1 

Was radio a lot different then? 

00:09:32 Speaker 1 

Had it begun to change? 

00:09:35 Speaker 2 

Yes, I think that after the war, it began to change quite a bit. 

00:09:38 Speaker 2 

That’s my own personal feeling. 

00:09:39 Speaker 2 

It got more, more businesslike and of course, it became a business up until the war, people were almost playing radio, you know, it was a lot of fun. 

00:09:47 Speaker 2 

And and you everybody enjoyed themselves tremendously, but I don’t think that they had really come face to face with the potential of this wonderful. 

00:09:55 Speaker 2 

Business and how much influence it could have on on society. 

00:10:00 Speaker 2 

And it’s when you suddenly realize the responsibilities that a business has to society, that it becomes a much more serious business than it was when they were sort of developing it. 

00:10:11 Speaker 1 

You were living in Oakville, gene. 

00:10:12 Speaker 2 

Yes, well, after the war we we eventually went to live in Oakville, which was my husband’s hometown originally. 

00:10:19 Speaker 2 

And we had always wanted to have a radio station of our own and wondered where we would go and where we would apply. 

00:10:25 Speaker 2 

And all of a sudden looked around and thought why not? 

00:10:27 Speaker 2 

Right here? 

00:10:27 Speaker 2 

It’s growing up right around us, which it was. 

00:10:29 Speaker 2 

At that time, and so we applied to the then the CBC for the license and were granted it in 1956. And we went on the air in November 56. 

00:10:42 Speaker 1 

I recall that a lot of people wondered if you were doing. 

00:10:44 Speaker 1 

The right thing. 

00:10:46 Speaker 1 

Did you find that was universal? 

00:10:47 Speaker 2 

Well, I don’t know. 

00:10:48 Speaker 2 

I never thought we were. 

00:10:49 Speaker 2 

I thought we were doing exactly the right thing. 

00:10:51 Speaker 2 

We enjoyed it. 

00:10:52 Speaker 2 

Thoroughly it worked out just fine. 

00:10:53 Speaker 1 

It worked out. 

00:10:54 Speaker 1 

But we were taking your chance, were you? 

00:10:56 Speaker 2 

Well, I think everybody was in those days, you know, and it was a lot different than it. 


Yeah, yeah. 

00:11:00 Speaker 2 

Now we started with only 1000 watts day and 500 night and that was under the days when the CBC was was allowing the licenses and I’m I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of people say that it was sort of like the competition licensing the competition. But and I’ve always thought that that was a very sad thing that a lot of. 

00:11:15 Speaker 1 


00:11:20 Speaker 2 

Stations instead of demanding that all Canadians who were going to broadcast. 

00:11:25 Speaker 2 

Broadcast that the maximum power that that particular frequency could allow, they were curtailing the the amount of power you could have in the frequency. 

00:11:34 Speaker 2 

And of course, the states then picked up an awful lot of them. 

00:11:36 Speaker 2 

So I think we have to today just cherish and hang on to every frequency we have because. 

00:11:45 Speaker 2 

I do really feel that if we ever let one go, we’ll never. 

00:11:47 Speaker 1 

See it again right in in the years that you and Howard ran the station together. 

00:11:53 Speaker 1 

What was your role then? 



00:11:54 Speaker 2 

Well, I did about everything. 

00:11:56 Speaker 2 

I mean, I was exceedingly good at. 

00:11:58 Speaker 2 

Changing the toilet paper and the John and writing the copy and doing the traffic and answering the phone in the beginning there was there were so many things to be done. 

00:12:08 Speaker 2 

I guess programming was really my my main line of territory and hiring in the staff and you know all of those sort of things that go on and watching the copy department. 

00:12:18 Speaker 2 

Did a lot of coffee in the old days and traffic. 

00:12:23 Speaker 2 

And just, you know, sort of filling in wherever I. 

00:12:26 Speaker 1 

Could you had to have a community station, didn’t you? 

00:12:29 Speaker 1 

Because they could easily hear the throttle stations. 

00:12:31 Speaker 2 

Oh, yes. 

00:12:31 Speaker 2 

Well, Oakville has always been a community station. 

00:12:34 Speaker 2 

We actually serve what is of the region of Halton now and always did from the beginning and the I think that we are sort of. 

00:12:44 Speaker 2 

Well, I think the epitome of a community station where certainly there’s a lot of choice in our area and dozens of stations can be heard. 

00:12:54 Speaker 2 

But I think that one of the important things that radio does is to offer the Community service, the Community news, the local news, the local services, and you really become a part of the Community or not. 

00:13:06 Speaker 2 

To an entertainment factor, you are really a part and parcel of the community. 

00:13:11 Speaker 1 

But you have to get the communicators to work for you, though, don’t you? 

00:13:15 Speaker 1 

The kind of people that communicated that. 

00:13:17 Speaker 2 

Feeling you mean the the mayor and the Council and the all the staff? 

00:13:18 Speaker 1 

No, no, I mean the staff. 

00:13:20 Speaker 2 

Yes, too. 

00:13:22 Speaker 2 

We’ve been very fortunate all through the years in, in being able to attract excellent people on staff and and they fortunately seem to stay. 

00:13:31 Speaker 2 

With us. 

00:13:32 Speaker 2 

But I think that’s possibly because we are a family business and we are. 

00:13:35 Speaker 2 

We care about the community, we care about the people who work for us and and fortunately they seem to care about us and the Community too. 

00:13:37 Speaker 1 


00:13:42 Speaker 1 

When, as your son Michael grew up, he became a part of the picture. 

00:13:46 Speaker 2 

Well, Michael was just in his late teens at university when his father died and we. 

00:13:55 Speaker 2 

Sort of had a an understanding that we would let five years go by and see how he felt about it, where he really wanted to go. 

00:14:03 Speaker 2 

And so I’m a very lucky lady because he decided that. 

00:14:07 Speaker 2 

Broadcasting was something he really wanted to do and he really is running not only CHW, but we have a sister station, CJ. 



00:14:14 Speaker 2 

Or in Mississauga, he runs that, too, and does it very successfully. 

00:14:18 Speaker 1 

In 1967, when Howard died, you suddenly had to take over the whole shop. What was that like? 

00:14:22 Speaker 2 

That’s right. 

00:14:24 Speaker 2 

Well, in actual fact, while emotionally it was tremendously difficult from a point of view of practicality, it wasn’t because I had helped build the station and had been there and been a part of everything we worked together on everything we did. 

00:14:38 Speaker 2 

So it wasn’t like someone coming having to come in and pick it up, who didn’t really know anything about it. 

00:14:43 Speaker 2 

I really didn’t know what I was doing. 

00:14:44 Speaker 2 

And so while it was, as I say, emotionally awfully difficult from a practical point of view, it wasn’t. 

00:14:52 Speaker 2 

And I was exceedingly lucky. 

00:14:53 Speaker 2 

You know, feeling that I had awfully good people with me and the people who had been with the station for a long. 

00:15:00 Speaker 2 

And who were extremely supportive, plus the children who were both very keen that we keep it and and let’s go on and and make it bigger and better. 

00:15:08 Speaker 1 

You know, did you learn much from those early days that you used later to your 1940s OC and Hamilton and? 

00:15:15 Speaker 2 

Oh, I think so, yes. 

00:15:17 Speaker 1 

Got a different kind of radio though. 

00:15:18 Speaker 2 

Wasn’t it was a different kind of radio but still show business, you know? 

00:15:21 Speaker 2 

And I think that’s something that everybody has to remember when I talked to young people. 

00:15:25 Speaker 2 

That’s one of the things I keep trying to say to them. 

00:15:27 Speaker 2 

You know it’s it’s show business and it’s as close as you’re going to get and make it good. 

00:15:33 Speaker 1 

It’s been good to you. 

00:15:34 Speaker 2 

That’s it. 

00:15:35 Speaker 2 

Sure has been good to me and very, very. 

00:15:36 Speaker 1 

Good to me. 

00:15:38 Speaker 1 

It’s been a pleasure. 

00:15:38 Speaker 1 

Talking to you. 

00:15:39 Speaker 2 

Thank you. 

00:15:39 Speaker 2 

It’s been a pleasure to be. 

00:15:40 Speaker 1 

Part of this this has been Gene Cain interviewed by Phil Stone and Winnipeg in November 1988.