CHNS-FM, 89.9 The Wave, Halifax

Maritime Broadcasting System Ltd.

CHNS-FM200689.91,000Maritime Broadcasting Co. Ltd.
CHNS-AM199496010,000Maritime Broadcasting Co. Ltd.
CHNS-AM198896010,000Maritime Broadcasting System (Maclean-Hunter)
CHNS-AM198196010,000Maritime Broadcasting Ltd. (Maclean-Hunter 100%)
CHNS-AM197996010,000Maritime Broadcasting Ltd. (Maclean-Hunter 90%)
CHNS-AM19469605,000Maritime Broadcasting Co. Ltd.
CHNS-AM19419601,000Maritime Broadcasting Co. Ltd.
CHNS-AM19369301,000Maritime Broadcasting Co. Ltd. (Borrett)
CHNS-AM19349300.5Halifax Herald Ltd.
CHNS-AM19331050500Halifax Herald Ltd.
CHNS-AM1930910500Halifax Herald Ltd.
CHNS-AM192893050Halifax Herald Ltd. (William C. Borrett)
CHNS-AM192693010William C. Borrett


Col. W.C. Bill Borrett
Bill Borrett

During World War I, Bill Borrett, then serving overseas in the Signal Corps, became interested in radio. On demobilization in 1919 he was bitten by the wireless germ and as soon as possible he got together a spark coil and the necessary apparatus. He obtained an amateur radio license and was sent to Paris in 1925 to represent Canada at a world conference of amateur radio operators (International Amateur Radio Union). The publicity he received on his return caused the Northern Electric Company (Canadian subsidiary of Western Electric) to offer the loan of equipment if Borrett and three members of the Halifax Radio Listeners’ Club – Cecil Landry, Lionel Shatford and John Redmond, would apply for a radio station licence.

Carleton Hotel Halifax
Carleton Hotel Halifax (photo: Royal Print & Litho)

This they did, and on May 12, CHNS started broadcasting a few hours each day. On that first day, one prominent guest refused to speak on the air as he didn’t know who he was talking to! Radio was so unknown at this time. CHNS was Nova Scotia’s first radio station. Studios were in the Carleton Hotel and CHNS broadcast on a frequency of 930 kHz, using a 500 watt transmitter (some say 100 watts). Some stories report that Northern Electric actually opened CHNS and Borrett took it over a short time later.  The postcard which showed the photo on the right identified the Carleton Hotel as “the home of Northern Electric’s radio station”, which would tend to support this theory.

The first live hockey broadcast was done by Bill Borrett in November.


An early program feature was “Uncle Mel” (Hugh Mills) who was hired by Senator Dennis to read comics to children for 15 minutes six days a week. He continued the program into the mid 1940’s. His many voices could carry the conversations of Popeye and Mickey Mouse or the Lone Ranger and was one of the most popular shows on the air. He was also a talented actor and was featured in many dramas on radio and on stage.


Northern Electric’s Bill Johnson was one of Borrett’s original partners. Unfortunately Johnson was forced to shut down CHNS and sell Northern’s equipment to a station in Vancouver. It was fortunate that Senator Bill Bennett stepped in and provided the equipment needed to get the station back on the air. Other stories say it was a Senator Dennis, owner of the Halifax Herald that stepped in to help – and that Borrett and the Herald opened a new 500 watt station as CHNS. Regardless, the station was now broadcasting from the Lord Nelson Hotel. With a staff of four, early program schedules were 8:00 to 9:00 a.m., Noon to 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Spot announcements sold for $1.00 in the daytime and $2.00 at night, but most night time broadcasts were sponsored programs. All programs were live and since local talent clamoured to get “on air”, there was no need to pay them. But that gradually changed. Bill Borrett later recalled that one of the first musicians he paid was Hank Snow (later a millionaire), who got $ 15.00 a week to come on staff. As early as this time, CHNS carried regular educational broadcasts with the cooperation of Dr. H.E. Monrose, Nova Scotia’s Superintendent of education.


CHNS switched frequencies, moving from 930 to 910 kHz. Power remained 500 watts. The CHNS schedule grew to a full day’s operation – from 7:00 a.m. to midnight on a daily basis – in the early 1930s.


The Canadian National Railways used the CHNS facilities and staff to run Phantom Station CNRH until they closed down their network in 1931. There was no CRBC or CBC station in Halifax until 1944 and CHNS acted as the CBC outlet until then, producing many network shows, including covering the Moose River Mine disaster of 1936, which made CHNS regular, J. Frank Willis a household name across North America with his five minute hourly broadcasts from the mine site for five straight days until the miners were rescued. CHNS opened shortwave station VE9HX to rebroadcast the AM station’s programming. It operated on 6,110 kHz with 200 watts of power. The shortwave call sign would later change to CHNX.


On Christmas Day, the first Commonwealth message from King George V was aired. It included representatives from all the British Empire countries, led off with Bill Borrett giving greetings from Canada.


The 500 watt transmitter was replaced with a 1,000 watt unit. Some say the power increase happened in 1936. Hank Snow started his professional career at CHNS where he had his own show. He changed his name to “Hank, The Yodeling Ranger” because it sounded more western.


CHNS moved back to 930 kHz.


Arthur Grieg joined CHNS.


CHNS acquired Gates remote control equipment. Ad Slogans: The busiest radio station of the Maritimes – CHNS. All programs are also broadcast over short wave CHNX. / CHNS – The Key Station of the Maritimes. CHNS became a United Press subscriber. The CHNS transmitter tower fell December 6 in a heavy windstorm. It was snapped off 100 feet from the ground. The transmitter site was at Melville Cove, about 15 miles outside of Halifax.


CHNS installed a new 250 foot tower to replace the 224 foot vertical shunt-fed radiator, the upper half of which was demolished in a gale last December. The Blaw-Knox tower was located at Bedford, 10 miles outside of Halifax. It stood on the highest ground in the region – its top light being 404 feet above sea level. On the 14th anniversary of CHNS, the Halifax Mail newspaper devoted a full feature page to the history of the station, the oldest in Nova Scotia. Maj. W.C. Borrett, managing director of CHNS and veteran of the World War, was on active military service in Halifax, late in the year. He maintained contact with the station but John F. Claire took over Borrett’s work at CHNS. CHNS was on the air 16 hours a day and had a staff of 17. The station has made a remote control truck, shortwave transmitter (CHNX), and portable transmitter.


Ad slogan: One-third of all radio sets in Nova Scotia are within twenty-five miles of our antenna, two-thirds are within our primary coverage area. No advertiser can afford to overlook this field.


On March 29, a continent-wide shift of radio frequencies took place. CHNS moved from 930 kHz to 960 kHz. Power remained at 1,000 watts. Ad: Halifax, Nova Scotia – where more radio sets are located than any other centre of the Maritimes. Halifax is served by the key station of the Maritimes – CHNS.


Captain Berton Robinson became special events producer. He had worked in the past for CBC Halifax (producer) and in the newspaper business.


The CHNS studios and offices moved to Broadcasting House on Tobin Street. By this time, an average day on CHNS consisted of about 7 and a half hours of network programs, five transcribed hours, and three hours of live local talent spread throughout the day and evening.


The CBC established its own station – CBH – in Halifax. CHNS continued on as an affiliate because it was this year that the CBC established a second network. CBH was a Trans-Canada station and CHNS was a Dominion station.




Gerald J. Redmond was appointed station manager. He was a member of the National Advisory Council on School Radio Broadcasting.


CHNS increased power from 1,000 watts to 5,000 watts with the transmitter located at Bedford.


CHNS was granted a 250 watt FM licence. CHNS celebrated its 21st birthday in March with the use of a new 5,000 watt transmitter.  Slogan: The Voice of Halifax.


Slogan: The Station Most People Listen To Most. CHNS received approval to operate an emergency transmitter.


On February 7, CHNS began broadcasting regular AM and FM programs. CHFX short wave was operating on 6130 kHz.


G.J. Redmond was promoted from manager to station director.


Col. Borrett retired. The Association of Canadian Radio Artists (actor and announcer union) secured renewals of contracts with both CHNS and CJCH. The contracts affecting announcers, writers and librarians, called for a starting minimum salary of about $150.00 a month for announcers and writers and called for annual increases over a four year period. The scale of librarians was somewhat lower. Slogans: 25 years “on the air!” … and still the Leader in Halifax – best programs – best studios – largest staff. / 960 on the dial – first in Nova Scotia.


Slogan: The voice of Halifax. The choice of Halifax.


John Funston was an announcer at CHNS. Slogan: Halifax is the MaritImes No. 1 city and Halifax’s No. 1 salesman is CHNS.


Mjr. William Coates Barrett, managing director, retired from that post after 26 years, 2 years ago. He still worked on a Sunday program, Tales Told Under the Old Town Clock. Anna Dexter was on-air at CHNS.


Slogan: Broadcasting first is a habit with CHNS. John A. Funston did sports. Clive Schaefer was a newscaster.


Orville B. Pulsiver joined CHNS part-time as announcer, news editor and newscaster.

Arthur Grieg left CHNS where he had been chief engineer. He built the transmitter used by CHNX shortwave, to rebroadcast the programs of CHNS-AM.


CHNS 960 had a power of 5,000 watts full-time (directional at night) and was an affiliate of the CBC Dominion network. Ownership of The Maritime Broadcasting Co. Ltd.: Nova Scotia Agencies Ltd. 99.3%, A. W. Robb 0.1%, W. C. Borrett 0.1%, G. M. Daley 0.1%, D. A. Morrison 0.1%, G. W. Dennis 0.1%, L. F. Daley 0.1%,  Estate of Hon W. H. Dennis 0.1%. Ownership of Nova Scotia Agencies Ltd.: A. W. Robb 0.1%, D. A. Morrison 0.1%, G. M. Daley 0.1%, G. W. Dennis 0.1%, A. D. Weldon 0.1% and Estate of Hon. W. H. Dennis 95.5%. Graham W. Dennis was president of the company and Gerald J. Redmond was manager of CHNS.


John Holden was promotion manager. Ad slogan: CHNS – The voice – The choice – of Halifax. CHNS received approval to increase power from 5,000 to 10,000 watts. The power increase took place later in the year.


In May, Orville B. Pulsiver was named to organize the news department as news director. The Board of Broadcast Governors approved the formation of the Atlantic Broadcasting System with affiliates CKCW Moncton, CFNB Fredericton, CFCY Charlottetown, CHNS Halifax, CFBC Saint John and CJCB Sydney.


Ad slogans: CHNS Your Stereophonic Station – 10000 watts day and night. /  Suntime is CHNS time in Halifax! CHNS your stereophonic station – 10,000 watts day and night. Some of the staff at this time: Frank Cameron (mornings), Mike MacNeil (announcer), Carl Westhaver (chief operator), Orville Pulsifer (news editor) and Fred Arenburg (program director). CHNS dropped plans for a Halifax TV station. Competitor CJCH was still moving ahead with its plans for TV though. Ad: In Halifax – leadership where it counts! Listenership when you want it! CHNS – your stereophonic station – 10,000 watts day and night.


CHNS increased power to 10,000 watts. Ron Slade became news director at CHNS. Before moving to CHNS Radio, he had been with the Halifax Chronicle-Herald since 1950. He replaced Orville B. Pulsiver who had become program director. In May, CHNS became Eastern Canada’s first 24 hour a day radio station. Fred Walker hosted the first overnight show seven days a week until he left for CBC Halifax a year later.


The Trans-Canada and Dominion networks were consolidated into a single CBC radio service. CHNS had been the Dominion affiliate while the CBC’s CBH was the Trans-Canada station. Following the merger, network service continued on CBH while CHNS became independent.


News director Ron Slade left CHNS for CFMO-FM in Ottawa.


Graham W. Dennis was President of Maritime Broadcasting Co. Ltd. Fred W. Arenburg was General Manager of CHNS. Mike Duffy joined CHNS in June. He had been with CKDH in Amherst and before that, worked part-time at CJCH in Halifax.


Orville Pulsifer was program director.


Eric MacEwan was on-air. The shortwave stations of CHNS (Halifax) and CKWX (Vancouver) had ad time purchased by a Japanese company to sponsor their mid-dawn marine weather broadcasts. This sponsorship could be the first time commercial sales had been made on Canadian shortwave radio. Orville B. Pulsiver was program director and a member of the CHNS board of directors. He joined the station part-time in 1956 and was an announcer, news editor and newscaster until 1958. In 1959 (May), he became full-time and was named to organize the news department as news director. He became program director in 1961 and was appointed to the board in 62.


Mike Duffy left CHNS in June. Years later he said he didn’t go to journalism school, he went to CHNS! During his time at the station, Mike was a DJ in the morning and worked in the newsroom in the afternoon. CHNS subscribed to the Standard Broadcast News service. SBN received direct feeds from NBC New York by broadband.


On July 17, approval was granted for the transfer of shares of Maritime Broadcasting Co. Ltd. (CHNS, CHNX, CHFX) – 538 common shares from present shareholders to L.F.D. Investments Ltd. (50.2%), Douglas A. Grant (12.4%), Weldon Douglas Coleman (12.5%), and George Charles Piercey (24.9%) with Lawrence F. Daley and Austin E. Hayes each holding one qualifying share beneficially owned by L.F.D. Investments.


Chief engineer Ralph Parker built new quarters for the CHNX shortwave transmitter.


CHNS went to 10,000 watts full-time.


On August 31, approval was given for the sale of 90% of Maritime Broadcasting Co. Ltd. by L. F. D. Investments Ltd., Newton Holdings Ltd., The West Gore Investments Co. Ltd. and Premium Holdings Ltd. to Maclean-Hunter Ltd. M-H undertook to increase news staff and public affairs programming, to establish a Halifax bureau for Newsradio, and to operate CHFX-FM separately full-time, instead of simulcasting from midnight to 6:00 a.m.


Fred Ennis was doing news and commentary at CHNS at this time.


In April, Maclean-Hunter, through its subsidiary Key Radio Ltd., acquired the remaining 10% interest in Maritime Broadcasting not already held.


Joe Bowen left CHNS-CHFX as sports director to become play-by-play announcer for the Toronto Maple Leafs radio broadcasts via Telemedia Broadcast Systems.


Hal Blackadar, vice president and general manager of CHNS and CHFX-FM was appointed to that same post at CKOY and CKBY-FM in Ottawa.


CHNS/CHFX-FM news director Dave MacLachlan left for Vancouver’s CKVU-TV. Jim Crichton became news director at CHNS.


G. Michael Cranston left CHNS as program director to become morning man at CKSO in Sudbury. CHNS/CHFX vice president and general manager Dennis O’Neil was named to Key Radio’s executive team.


Former CHNS host Basil St. Clair (Baz) Russell passed away.   Dennis O’Neill was vice president and general manager of CHNS. Roger Snowdon left CHNS to become news director at CFNB Fredericton. Merv Russell became general manager of CHNS as Dennis O’Neil moved on to CKNG-FM in Edmonton.


CHNS and CHFX-FM moved to a brand new 10,000 square foot studios and office facility at 1313 Barrington Street (at the corner of Morris). CHNS had operated from the old building for 45 years. Ward-Beck consoles were used in the new control rooms and three production studios. The newsroom equipment was almost totally new. Much of the equipment in the new facility was part of an on-going upgrade program over the past five years, so the company didn’t have to purchase new “everything”. Fuller Construction and Metcalfe Realty own the commercial-residential condo building that now houses the two radio stations. Jack Schoone was president of Maritime Broadcasting while Merv Russell was executive vice president. Some CHNS staffers: George MacLeod (sales manager), Nancy Hitchie promotions), Kurt Arsenault (chief engineer), Gary Barker (program director), Jerry Lawrence (morning drive announcer), Morrissey Dunn (mid-day announcer), and Mike Allard (afternoon drive announcer). Newsroom staff included Jim Crichton (news director), Mike Brown, Daryl Good, Clive Schaefer (with CHNS since 1949) and Tom Silver. Maclean-Hunter merged its Maritime Broadcasting Co. Ltd. and Eastern Broadcasting Co. Ltd. into Maritime Broadcasting System Limited.


Merv Russell was appointed president of Maritime Broadcasting System Ltd.


On December 19, the CRTC approved the sale of Maritime Broadcasting System Ltd. (CKDH Amherst, CHNS-AM/CHNX-SW/CHFX-FM Halifax, CKNB Campbellton, CKCW/CFQM Moncton, CFAN Newcastle, CIOK Saint John, CJCW Sussex and CFCY/CHLQ Charlottetown, to 2337017 Nova Scotia Ltd. The new owner – made up of an investor group, including Maritime Broadcasting President Mervyn Russell, along with Robert Pace and J. Gerald Godsoe. This all follows the purchase of Maclean Hunter Ltd. (Maritime’s parent) by Rogers Communications Ltd.


Long-time CHNS news director Jim Crichton left that post to join Broadcast News in Halifax.


Chief engineer Mark Olsen stated that CHNX (shortwave) had not operated at 500 watts of power for some time and had only been putting out between 40 and 70 watts. CHNX went off the air early this year due to transmitter problems but was back on the air as of October 24, but only with 40 watts going into the G5RV antenna. The station’s official ID: “You’re listening to CHNX rebroadcasting the programming of Oldies 96, CHNS, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada on sixty one thirty kilohertz on the 49 meter band. Our transmitting site is located in Rockingham, a suburb of Halifax, and running 24 hours a day. This is CHNX shortwave.”


Nancy Hitchie became general manager at CHNS-CHFX. She was promotions manager and had been with the stations since 1984. Mike Halverson became the new operations manager at CHNS-CHFX. He’d been with the stations for about ten years, most recently as production manager. Dennis Vautor left the company. He had been operations manager. Mark Olsen left CHNS where he had been chief engineer. Oldies 96 (CHNS) marked 75 years on the air. A two-day birthday celebration was held in May 11 and 12 at the Lord Nelson Hotel. This location was one of the station’s first homes. In September, CHNX left the air. There were further transmitter problems and no funding was forthcoming from parent, MBS Radio.


On April 12, Maritime Broadcasting was given approval to convert CHNS to the FM band. The new station would operate on 89.9 MHz with an effective radiated power of 100,000 watts. An adult contemporary format would be offered. On July 29, CHNS made the move to FM as “89.9 Hal FM” with a classic rock format. As an AM station, CHNS had an oldies format. With the move to FM, competitor CJCH-AM switched from standards to oldies. The move brought to an end, 60 years of broadcasting by CHNS on the AM band.


Mike McFarland left Classic Rock 89-9 HAL-FM in late summer. He had been afternoon drive announcer and music director. Former CHNS employee Mike Duffy was appointed a Senator by Prime Minister Stephen Harper Nikki Marsh was appointed Promotions Manager at FX101.9fm/HAL89.9fm. March had a Bachelor of Science Degree with an emphasis on mass communications. She also completed four internships in the professional sports industry before joining the MBS Halifax stations. The new General Sales Manager at CHNS/CHFX was Preston Pardy. His last stop was in sales management at AML Communications/Rogers Wireless..


Ian Trevor Kent died at age 46. After a successful career in the telecommunications industry in Toronto, Kent joined Maritime Broadcast Systems as a sales representative in 2001 and was then promoted to General Sales Manager at CHNS-FM/CHFX-FM.


Former Z103.5 morning host Jeff Cogswell was now hosting afternoon drive at HAL FM. Later in the year, Cogswell and HAL FM parted ways. Geoff Walsh, Music Director/announcer at Maritimes Broadcasting System Halifax the last three years, was promoted to Operations Manager at MBS Saint John.


On August 8, the CRTC administratively renewed the licence for CHNS-FM until August 31, 2013.


On August 30 at 8:00 a.m., Classic Rock HAL-FM became 89.9 THE WAVE – Halifax’s Greatest Hits 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.


CHNS celebrated its 90th birthday on May 12. The station offered vintage programming for the entire month of May to mark the occasion.


Denyse Sibley left radio after more than 35 years on the air, for an opportunity with the federal government. She started her career at CHNS-FM in 1981, moving on to host at CKCL-CKTO Truro. For most of the last three decades, she’d been hosting mornings on CHFX-FM, and most recently The Wave 88.9 (CHNS).


Mike Cranston ended a five-and-half decade career in radio in January. He started out at CKOC Hamilton where his dad (Bill) was GM. Mike then moved on to CKMP Midland, CKSO-AM-TV Sudbury, CHUM Toronto, CKPG-TV Prince George, CFRN-AM-TV Edmonton, SUN-FM Halifax, and CHNS-CHFX Halifax, where he worked off and on since 1979.

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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