CHOK-AM, Sarnia

Blackburn Radio Inc.

CHOK-AM1993107010,000Sarnia Broadcasters (1993) Ltd.
CHOK-AM1987107010,000Middlesex-Lambton Communications Ltd.
CHOK-AM1979107010,000Richardson Broadcasting (Sarnia) Ltd.
CHOK-AM1970107010,000Sarnia Broadcasters (1964) Ltd. bought by IWC
CHOK-AM1968107010,000Sarnia Broadcasters (1964) Ltd.
CHOK-AM196410705,000/1,000Sarnia Broadcasters (1964) Ltd.
CHOK-AM194610705,000/1,000Sarnia Broadcasting Company Ltd.


The licence issued for a 1,000 watt station to the Sarnia Canadian Observer would be retained by H.M. Hueston, former editor of the Sarnia paper, since Roy H. Thomson was unable to take it up owing to recent multiple ownership regulations. 


In the fall, The Sarnia Broadcasting Co. announced that its 5,000 watt station was under construction. H.M. Heuston was president and A.D. McKenzie was secretary-treasurer (former business manager of the Canadian Observer). 


An ad from just before CHOK went on the air stated the station would offer “Complete Coverage of Western Ontario and S.E. Michigan.”

Some 2,500 people attended the official oppening of CHOK on July 29 at 7 p.m. Among the visiting dignitaries were Mayor W.C. Nelson of Sarnia, Mayor Harry E. Gillow of Port Huron, L.G. Howell, Port Huron city manager, and West Lambton M.P.P., Bryan Cathcart. Transcribed messages came from Dr. Augustin Frigon, general manager of the CBC, J.W. Murphy, M.P. for West Lambton and Harry Sedgwick, chairman of the C.A.B. Dorothy Deane, Russ Titus and Al McLeod were the featured entertainers. 

The station was owned by Sarnia Broadcasting Co. Ltd. (Claude R. Irvine). Sudios and offices were located at 148 1/2 Front Street North. There were three studios and two control rooms. The station broadcast on a frequency of 1070 kHz with power of 5,000 watts daytime and 1,000 watts at night (directional at night). The transmitter was on Concession 2, Sarnia Township, off the Plank Road, near Lucasville, five miles east of Sarnia.

CHOK was on the air from 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and 8:00 a.m. to 12:15 a.m. on Sundays.

Arnold Stinson joined CHOK’s sales department. He had worked on-air at CKCR Kitchener, CHML Hamilton and CKLW in Windsor. Bob Hart joined CHOK from CKGB Timmins where he had been program director. 

H.M. Hueston was president of Sarnia Broadcasting and Claude Irvine was managing director of CHOK. Jerry Kelly was chief engineer and Bob Reinhart was program director. The commercial staff included: Arnold Stinson, Sidney King, Bruce Nicol and G. Forbes (Port Huron rep). CHOK had six announcers and a total staff of 26. RCA equipment was used throughout the station and CHOK was on the air between 6 a.m. and 2 a.m. News was provided by Press News and the station used three library services.


CHOK was now a CBC Trans-Canada supplementary station.

Sid King was commercial manager.

CHOK was granted a 250 watt FM licence.


H.M. Edgar was sales manager. He left later in the year to become station manager at CJKL in Kirkland Lake. Ray Sterling was production manager. Al Cunningham was sports editor. Graham Emslie was news editor.


CHOK-FM went on the air around this time.


Arthur O’Hagan joined the company in October. Charles Doering joined CHOK from CKSF in Cornwall.

Slogan: Gain complete Western Ontario coverage with CHOK. 

Claude Irvine announced the appointment of Karl E. Monk as manager of CHOK. Monk had been commercial manager at CKWS in Kingston. His appointment was effective in September.


The CBC Board approved a transfer of control of Sarnia Broadcasting Co. Ltd. from H.M. Hueston and A.D. McKenzie to Claude R. Irvine.


Approval was given for the transfer of 667 common shares in Sarnia Broadcasting Co. Ltd.


Charles Doering left CHOK for Brantford’s CKPC.

The CBC approved the transfer of three common shares in Sarnia Broadcasting Co. Ltd.

A freak tornado hit the heart of the city in May, causing millions of dollars in damage and one death. One of the damaged buildings was CHOK’s. A neon sign crashed through the window of President Claude Irvine’s office and ended up draped over his chair and desk. Manager Karl Monk’s office was littered with flying bricks and cement blocks from other buildings. Monk happened to be across the river that day – in Port Huron. Librarian Oma Armstrong suffered cuts caused by shattering glass. Program Director Frank Stalley suffered shock and narrowly missed serious injury on his way home during the storm. CHOK was knocked off the air but Ontario Hydro staff gave priority to returning power to the station’s transmitter site. Chief engineer Bob Cooke got all of the undamaged equipment together and made emergency repairs and had the station ready to go again within four hours of the storm. A temporary phone line was put in to the transmitter but it could not carry sound from the downtown studios so the staff had to move out to the transmitter site. Both WHLS and WTTH in Port Huron were silenced by the storm and their transmitter sites were more severely damaged than CHOK’s. News staffs from all three stations worked together to get the news out to the border cities. CFPL London, CBE and CKLW Windsor and WJR Detroit picked up important messages from CHOK and rebroadcast them throughout the area. Stations from all over offered help – from as far away as CJCA in Edmonton. CHOK sports editor Mac McKenzie actually saw the storm as it swept across the St. Clair River from Port Huron. Later, by telephone, he did the first description of the storm for the CBC and CKEY in Toronto. CHOK remained on the air under emergency conditions for three days.

CHOK-FM (1948-53) was lost in the big Sarnia tornado. It was never rebuilt and the licence was allowed to lapse in 1957.


Phil Clayton (PD), Charles Doering (chief announcer), Frank Stalley (news), Elaine MacDonald (women’s), Jim Cooke (sports).


Bill Brady was an announcer at CHOK.


Ownership of Sarnia Broadcasting Co. Ltd.: Claude R. Irvine 86.6%, Margaret M. Irvine 13.3% and J. W. G. Hunter 0.1%.

Claude R. Irvine was president of the company and Karl E. Monk was CHOK’s manager. Other staffers of the day: Phil Clayton was program director. Gene McLaughlin was news director. George Ludgate was sports director. 


Ad slogan: CHOK Sarnia reaching more households in Lambton County than all other radio stations combined. (BBM Sp 59)


The Trans-Canada and Dominion networks of the CBC were merged in to a single service. CHOK had been a Trans-Canada station and remained with the CBC after the merger.


Sarnia Broadcasters (1964) Ltd. purchased CHOK.


William A. McKenzie was president of the company. Art O’Hagan was manager, commercial and promotions manager of CHOK. Karl E. Monk was national sales manager. Gene McLaughlin was program manager. Frank McBride was morning man. Ian Dunlop was news director. Jerry Daniel was sports director. 


CHOK purchased a new transmitter.


W.A. McKenzie was president of Sarnia Broadcasters (1964) Ltd. Karl E. Monk was CHOK’s general manager. He had been with the company since 1950. Arthur O’Hagan was station manager. He also joined CHOK in 1950.

Keith J. Dancy applied to the government for a new AM station at Sarnia. CHOK opposed the new station because of timing. CHOK was desperate to increase its power to 10,000 watts and build new transmission facilities. It had received a favourable recommendation from the Board of Broadcast Governors on June 29, 1967 but the U.S. Federal Communications Commission filed an objection because of possible interference CHOK might cause to WAPI (1070) in Birmingham, AL and to WIBC (1070) in Indianapolis, IN. On January 22, 1968, CHOK received Department of Transport approval to move ahead with construction of the new 10,000 watt facilities. Because of this delay, it was not expected the new facilities would be operational before October or November and the station felt it should be permitted to operate at its new power for a reasonable length of time before a new station was licensed to the area. Dancy’s application was approved in March and his new station – CKJD 1250 – went on the air in August. 

Ads: Soon more power to you from CHOK. / Coming Soon! 10,000 powerful watts day and night – Sarnia’s first station – OK Radio 1070. 25 years of community involvement.

CHOK finally increased its power to 10,000 watts on December 24. It had different directional patterns for day and night operation, using seven towers. During the daytime, three towers were used. At night, CHOK used six of the seven towers. The new transmitter site was located at Hill Road and Blackwell Sideroad, Concession 11, Moore Township. The site was eight miles southeast of the downtown studio location.


IWC (formerly Industrial Wire & Cable) announced plans to acquire CHOK. It was the first step in the company’s proposed expansion into communications, following the sale of its wire and cable operations to Noranda Mines. 

Broadcast News was the main source of news for radio stations in Canada but only a handful at this time were subscribing to BN’s voice (audio) service. CHOK was one of those stations.


On February 4, IWC Electronics and Telecommunications Ltd. was given permission to purchase Sarnia Broadcasting (1964) Ltd. One common share each would be held by G.D. Zimmerman, Karl E. Monk and J.G. Torrance. 

Slogan: People turn us on (because…we’re involved). The BIG OK – CHOK – 1070 – Sarnia. 


On December 31, IWC Industries Ltd. was authorized to acquire IWC Electronics and Telecommunications Ltd.


On July 1, Slaight Broadcasting Ltd. and IWC Communications Ltd. merged. Slaight controlled CFGM Broadcasting Ltd. and Radio CFOX Ltd., while IWC owned Sarnia Broadcasting (1964) Ltd. Slaight bought into IWC in 1970.


On January 5, CHOK was given permission to drop its CBC affiliation. The CBC has had its own transmitter (CBEG-FM) on the air in Sarnia since 1977.

On May 23, approval was given for the transfer of 42.5% of Radio IWC Ltd. from Allpack Products Ltd. and J. J. MacBean to J. Allan Slaight on behalf of a company to be incorporated. Slaight already held 13.8% of IWC. A further transfer was approved on the same date…the sale of Sarnia Broadcasting (1964) Ltd. from Radio IWC Ltd. to Richardson Broadcasting (Sarnia) Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Bruce Communications Ltd. Bruce owned London’s Middlesex Broadcasters Ltd. (CJBK-AM).

Richardson took ownership of CHOK on June 15.


CHOK lost its bid for a sister FM station. The licence was awarded to competitor CKJD.


Paul Godfrey joined from CHYM Kitchener. John Hayes (John Derringer) joined in March from CFTR Toronto and left in May for CKJD Sarnia. He did overnights at CHOK.


CHOK spent $600,000 to restore and renovate its studios and office building at 148 ½ Front Street North. The station had operated from the building, built in 1890, since it went on the air in 1946. CHOK broadcast from temporary facilities at 185 Front until the work was completed. When 1070 CHOK returned to 146-148 Front in early April, it occupied the 2nd and 3rd floors of Broadcasting House. The exterior of the building retained its Victorian character while the inside now had an open, contemporary style. The basement level was now home to a restaurant and bar, and several boutiques were at ground level. Over $100,000 was spent on new equipment, including a stereo control board, ITC cart machines, Ampex tape units, STL’s, two-way radio systems, a new selection of microphones, and a new telephone system. The three fully-equipped control rooms were each approximately 200 square feet, with three booths averaging 75 square feet each. The newsroom contained five operating positions in a 400 square foot area.

Claude Irvine died at the age of 73. He opened and operated CHOK in association with the former owners of Sarnia’s daily newspaper, The Observer. Irvine retired in 1962.


Paul Godfrey was CHOK’s program director.


On April 30, Middlesex Broadcasters Ltd. (Rick Richardson) sold CHOK and CJBK/CJBX-FM London to Middlesex-Lambton Communications Ltd. (owned by Twigg Communications Ltd., owned by Twigg Management Co. Ltd., in turn owned by Don Patten and Walter and Tony Zwig). 

Former CHOK & CJBK-CJBX owner Rick Richardson was now chairman of the board of Middlesex Lambton Communications, the company that purchased the stations. The company, owned by the Zwig Family Trust, held a ‘New Beginnings’ party at the London studios on June 23.


The new owners of CHOK and London’s CJBK announced plans to convert those stations to stereo. Middlesex Lambton Communications planned to spend $1.06 million on the project.

On June 8, the corporate name changed to Middlesex Lambton Communications from Sarnia Broadcasters Ltd. 

Paul Godfrey was CHOK’s program director.

Linda Tracey joined CHOK’s on-air team from CJBK London. Mike De Jong moved from CHOK to CKNX Wingham.


On December 1, the CRTC approved the sale of CHOK by Middlesex Lambton Communications Corp. to Sarnia Broadcasters (1993) Ltd. Sarnia Broadcasters was owned by CHOK’s manager, Wayne Steele. The station had been unprofitable in recent years. 


Shawn Gladwish was the new Production Manager at CHOK.


Sarnia’s three radio stations were moved together as part of an LMA between Sarnia Broadcasters (CHOK) and Blackburn Radio (CKTY and CFGX-FM The Fox). The move saw CHOK moving from downtown to Blackburn’s relatively new facility at 1415 London Road in Clearwater. At the time CHOK offered news, information, sports and, Oldies music. CFGX was an Adult Contemporary station, while CKTY had a Country music format. 

CHOK marked 50 years on the air.


Karl Monk, CHOK general manager from 1950-79, died at age 83.
Gary Connors was morning host. Paul Godfrey was operations manager.


CHOK president Wayne Steele said he and Blackburn Radio had reached an agreement whereby Blackburn would acquire all outstanding shares of Sarnia Broadcasters (1993) Ltd.

On December 18, the sale of Sarnia Broadcasters (1993) Ltd., by Penway Radio Holdings Ltd. and Wayne W. Steele to Blackburn Group Inc. was approved. Blackburn was the owner of Sarnia’s two other commercial stations – CKTY and CFGX-FM. Blackburn would own all three commercial radio stations in the market. The three stations had been part of an LMA since 1996.

R.A. (Sandy) Green was president of Blackburn Radio.


CHKS-FM was launched June 16. It replaced CKTY 1110.

In the first BBM ratings after the launch of CHKS, the station finished with a 14 share overall 12+, CFGX had a 16 share and CHOK, an 18 share. The combined group had a 49% market share. 

With the sale of CHOK Sarnia to Blackburn Radio completed, former president Wayne Steele was no longer with the station. The general manager of CHOK, CKTY and CFGX-FM – collectively known as Radio Sarnia-Lambton – was Terry Regier. 

A retirement party was held for Wayne Steele on June 5. Over the years at CHOK, Wayne had worked in sales, became general sales manager, general manager, and then he bought the station. Steele sold CHOK to Blackburn earlier in the year and then retired. 

Former CHOK broadcaster Roy Caley passed away at age 79.

Dave Curtis was sales coordinator.


On March 17, the sale of CHOK, CFGX, and CHKS (and several other stations) by Blackburn Group Inc. to Affinity Radio Group Inc. (subsidiary of Radiont Inc.) was approved. On May 29, Affinity announced that it would not be able to close on the purchase. The stations would remain in the hands of Blackburn.

In June, Blackburn decided to totally refurbish the Sarnia broadcast facility. All three stations were converted from analog to digital.

In the Fall BBM’s – CHOK had a 16 share. CHKS increased its share from 14 to 19, and CFGX went from a 16 to an 18 share. Total 12+ for the three had increased from 49% to 53%.

Ron Dann was PD for all three stations.


CHOK morning man for 16 years, Gary Connors was let go. PD Len Smith filled in until a successor was found.


On March 22, a change in control of Blackburn Radio Inc. through the transfer of all of the issued and outstanding shares of Blackburn Group Incorporated (the parent corporation) from the Estate of Martha G. Blackburn to a corporation controlled by her son, Richard Costley-White, was approved. 


On January 12th at 6:00 a.m., CHOK switched from an Oldies format to Country as “Country CHOK”.  The new format featured the best of the current hottest country performers.

On July 20, Blackburn Radio Inc. received permission to operate an FM transmitter in Sarnia to rebroadcast the programs of CHOK-AM. The FM transmitter would allow CHOK to adequately serve the population of Sarnia by improving the quality of the station’s signal, which has been steadily degrading over time due to urban and industrial build-up, to metal structures associated with the operation of the region’s petrochemical plants, and to interference from hydro lines. The CRTC found the proposal to use a frequency of 100.9 MHz (with average effective radiated power of 615 watts) as a rebroadcaster would not utilize the full potential of a Class A channel. Blackburn was required to submit, within three months of the date of the decision, a further application proposing alternative technical parameters that would be acceptable to both the Commission and the Department of Industry.


On January 18, CHOK was authorized to use frequency 103.9 MHz for its new FM transmitter at Sarnia. Effective radiated power would be 200 watts.

CHOK’s FM rebroadcasting transmitter signed on the air June 18 to begin its testing phase. In July, the downtown transmitter would begin simulcasting CHOK-AM. 


On October 5, the CRTC renewed the licences for Blackburn Radio Inc. stations CFGX-FM Sarnia, CHKS-FM Sarnia, CHOK Sarnia and its transmitter CHOK-FM-1 Sarnia, CKNX Wingham, CKNX-FM Wingham and its transmitter CKNX-FM-2 Centreville, CKUE-FM Chatham and its transmitter CKUE-FM-1 Windsor and CFCO Chatham and its transmitter CFCO-1-FM Chatham, from 1 December 2010 to 31 August 2014. This short-term renewal would enable the Commission to review, at an earlier date, the licensee’s compliance with the Radio Regulations, 1986 and with its conditions of licence.


After 39 years in Sarnia, Blackburn Radio news director Larry Gordon hung up his headphones April 26. Gordon began as a part-time operator at CKWW Kitchener while attending Conestoga College. His first full-time gig was at CKAR Huntsville/ CKAR-1 Parry Sound. In 1974, he moved to CJCS Stratford and then to CHOK. He became CHOK News Director in 1978 and, as they became part of the Sarnia ownership, ND for CFGX-FM and CHKS-FM.

In May CHOK 1070/103.9 changed format from Country to Classic Hits.


Former CHOK personality Gary Connors (65) passed away on December 16. He began his career as a reporter at the old CKJD Sarnia in 1972 and then spent 14 years on CHOK. In the last few years, Gary was a DJ at The Eagle 107.7 FM at Kettle & Stony Point First Nation.

The story continues elsewhere…
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