CFAM-AM, Altona

Golden West Broadcasting Ltd.

CFAM-AM197595010,000Golden West Broadcasting Ltd.
CFAM-AM195712901,000A. J. Thiessen & group


On March 13, Manitoba premier D.L. Campbell flipped the switch that put CFAM on the air. Regular programming began the following day at 6:00 a.m. CFAM operated on a frequency of 1290 kHz and had a full-time power of 1,000 watts. A single directional antenna pattern was used, day and night. The station was on the air 18 hours a day and was known as Manitoba’s “Farm & Good Music Station”. This meant CFAM played no western or top 10 music. The station was an independent, having no network affiliation. The “AM” in the calls sign: Altona, Manitoba.

CFAM was owned by Southern Manitoba Broadcasting Co. Ltd. (A.J. Thiessen 20.4%, D.K. Friesen 6.1%, P. Brown 4.0%, J.M. Froese 8.0%, J. Hooge 4.0%, C.C. Neufeld 2.0%, W.E. Kroeker 5.1%, G.H. Fast 3.1% and 20 other shareholders 47.3%). Abe J. Thiessen was president of the company and CFAM’s manager. Others on the management team: Walter G. Kroeker (commercial manager), Les Garside (operations supervisor), Dennis Barkman (production manager), and Elmer Hildebrand (copy chief). 


CFAM applied for a power increase and change of frequency – 1,000 to 5,000 watts – 1290 to 1050 kHz. The station withdrew the application when it was learned that other stations were also seeking the channel. CFAM would look for another frequency. In the end, CFAM chose to remain on 1290 kHz but applied for a power increase from 1,000 to 5,000 watts, using a new transmitter site. The application was approved. 

Ad slogan: CFAM with power increased to 5000 watts covers the richest agricultural area in the Province of Manitoba with musical and agricultural programs especially designed to compel attention. 


CFAM increased power to 5,000 watts. 

Ralph S. Misener & Associates was successful in obtaining Winnipeg’s second television licence (CJAY-TV – later CKY-TV). Walter E. Kroecker, president of CFAM, was one of Misener’s associates. 

Ad: CFAM – 1290 on the dial – Altona, Manitoba, on the map. Providing adult radio for an adult audience. Good music all day…every day. Complete agricultural coverage. Extensive community service.


The company opened CHSM in Steinbach. Most of its programming originated with CFAM.


Walter Kroeker, president of Southern Manitoba Broadcasting Co. Ltd., appointed Elmer Hildebrand station manager of CFAM and CHSM. Hildebrand, with the station since the start in 1957, was most recently sales manager. He succeeded Dennis Barkman who had acquired an interest in some British Columbia radio stations.

By this time, CFAM 1290 was operating with a power of 10,000 watts day and 5,000 watts at night.

An ad promoting CFAM and CHSM: Now doubly effective – identical programming, separate 10 kW transmitters – Radio Southern Manitoba – 1290 CFAM – CHSM 1250. 


Elmer Hildebrand, station manager of CFAM-CHSM announced the appointment of Jim McSweeney as production manager and Ray Saunders as music director. McSweeney was also morning drive host (7:00 to 9:30 a.m.). Saunders had been with the stations for a year and was heard daily from 5:00 to 8:30 p.m.

Slogans: Radio Southern Manitoba / CFAM-CHSM – The Winning Combination.

CFAM applied to the BBG to increase night-time power from 5,000 to 10,000 watts and to change frequency from 1290 to 950 kHz. The changes were approved despite opposition from CFRY Portage la Prairie. The frequency change and transmitter relocation would add 15,000 people to CFAM’s basic coverage area.


CFAM and CHSM stressed “news from around the world and around the corner” in 24 daily newscasts broadcast between 6 a.m. and midnight. The news staff included Eric Friesen, Dennis Siemens and Harv Kroker (sports). The stations had 28 local correspondents across southern Manitoba. Bruce Gunn was farm director. W.E. Kroker was president. 

The two stations simulcast 100%, 24 hours a day, and had been doing so since CHSM went on the air in 1964. CFAM-CHSM had proposed to broadcast simultaneously separate pre-recorded commercials of equal length on the two stations, excluding ads from national or Winnipeg advertisers, and to broadcast individual station ID’s separately. However, the Board of Broadcast Governors denied the application.

Music director Ray Saunders said the programming emphasis was on continental music, recognizing Manitoba’s ethnic mosaic. The stations also aired special interest programs directed at those of Ukrainian, Dutch and German backgrounds. Classical music was offered from 2:05 to 3 p.m., 7 to 8:30 p.m. and “Classics ’til Dawn, 12:05 to 5:45 a.m. CFAM-CHSM offered a large number of religious programs, including devotional hours, church news, worship services, hymns and organ music. The stations even had a children’s program – on air since CFAM started out in 1957 – Children’s Party with Aunt Olly Penner. From a station print ad: CFAM-CHSM – The winning combination. Since 1957 Radio Southern Manitoba has maintained a mature and dignified approach to radio broadcasting. This includes good music, local news and information, agricultural news, as well as publicizing community events.

On September 19, CFAM moved from 1290 to 950 kHz, doubled its night-time power to 10,000 watts and moved its transmitter site to just south of Winkler. The station was now able to serve an additional 15,000 people as a result. 


Ad: For complete coverage of the lucrative Southern Manitoba market – rely on the region’s dominant selling force – CFAM and CHSM!!


Elmer Hildebrand purchased Southern Manitoba Broadcasting Co. Ltd.


Southern Manitoba Broadcasting Co. Ltd. opened CJRB 1220 at Boissevain. Most of CJRB’s programs originated with CFAM.


By now, CFAM was operating on a frequency of 950 kHz with power of 10,000 watts day and night. The 1290 frequency was taken over by CFRW in Winnipeg.


On February 15, the CRTC renewed the licenses for Golden West Broadcasting Ltd. stations CFAM Altona, CJRB Boissevain and CHSM Steinbach, to September 30, 1989. 


CFAM was given approval to make changes to its daytime radiation pattern. The proposed change would result in an improved signal to areas already served. It would also extend the station’s coverage to an area to the west to include the communities of Hartney and Boissevain while slightly decreasing coverage to the east.


Golden West Broadcasting received approval to acquire CISV-AM in Winkler/Morden from  Sun Valley Radio Inc. With respect to the CRTC’s common ownership concerns, Golden West noted that the communities in question had distinct identities despite their proximity and that CISV had developed an audience that was quite different from that of CFAM. Golden West further submitted that the stations’ services were complementary, maintaining diversity of service in the area by providing listening alternatives. In this regard, it contrasted CISV’s country format with CFAM’s more eclectic music programming and indicated that, while some news-gathering resources would be shared, a distinct local news service would be maintained in each community. 

As a result of the change of ownership, CISV changed its name to CKMW.


CFAM opened an operating studio at the new CKMW (now co-owned) facility.


Lyndon Friesen was appointed general manager, radio, Golden West Broadcasting. He would be responsible for the group’s radio stations.


On March 13, CFAM marked 35 years on the air. CFAM was now the anchor of a three station network in southern Manitoba, and flagship of the growing Golden West Broadcasting group, which had stations in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. The main studio for the network was in Altona. It played the music and co-ordinated the flow of information to and from CHSM Steinbach and CJRB Boissevain. Three separate news, sports and weather forecasts aired simultaneously. Local commercials aired on each station at the same time.


CFAM’s sports director Clayton Dreger became president of the Manitoba Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association. 


Golden West Broadcasting and CFAM officially opened its new headquarters in late June. The 12,000 square foot operation was on the second floor of a 4-storey building – known as Golden West Plaza, located next door to the original CFAM and Golden West HQ built in 1957.


On March 13th, CFAM marked its 50th anniversary. 

Golden West Radio news stringer Marj Heinrichs died at the age of 54. Former CFAM broadcaster Don Bousquet died at 62. He was known as the voice of Farm Market News, heard on stations across the west and got his start at CFAM. After 41 years with Golden West, David Wiebe retired in March. In recent years, his focus had been on national sales for the company and for Winnipeg’s Canadian Broadcast Sales. Jack Hoeppner passed away at age 72. He started his career at CFAM.

Menno Friesen, after 29 years with Golden West Broadcasting, left his CFAM-based position at the end of May. He announced his retirement last year. Friesen had been in local sales management and operations for the chain of stations.

Don Bousquet died at 62. For 36 years, he was known as the voice of Farm Market News, heard twice-daily on radio stations across western Canada. Bousquet got his start at CFAM.


On August 31, the CRTC administratively renewed the licence for CFAM until March 31, 2012.

Richard Kroeker was appointed vice president of Goldenwest Broadcasting Ltd. He’d been with the company for 16 years.


On March 20, the CRTC administratively renewed the licence for CFAM to August 31, 2012. On August 28, the licence was administratively renewed to December 31, 2012. On December 21, the licence was renewed to August 31, 2019.


Ron James (72) passed away in November. He was heard on Golden West’s Southern Manitoba Network (CFAM, CHSM and CJRB) for 34 years, hosting Classics Till Dawn and the mid-morning show. He retired in 2009.


Menno H. Friesen died June 9 at age 72. Friesen worked for Golden West Broadcasting for nearly 30 years and played a vital role in the company’s growth. He retired in 2010 as VP of Sales and Marketing.


Don Taylor died on April 24 at the age of 75. Between 1966 and 1997, Taylor worked at stations in Portage La Prairie, North Battleford, and then CFAM.

Harv Kroeker, 74, died on June 30. Kroeker was the long-time voice of news on the Radio Southern Manitoba network. He worked with the stations for more than four decades, starting in the 1960s, and anchored network news coverage for many of the region’s definitive events over that time. Kroeker was one of the recipients of a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.

The story continues elsewhere…
Effective September 1st 2019, we will only be adding new material to these station histories in exceptional circumstances. Our intent to chronicle the early days of these radio and television stations has been achieved, and many new sources and technologies, from the CRTC website to Wikipedia, and others, are now regularly providing new information in these areas.

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