CKOT-AM, Tillsonburg

Tillsonburg Broadcasting Ltd. (John D. Lamers group)

CKOT-AM1996151010,000Tillsonburg Broadcasting Ltd. (John D. Lamers group)
CKOT-AM1975151010,000Tillsonburg Broadcasting Ltd.
CKOT-AM196215101,000Tillsonburg Broadcasting Ltd. (John B. Lamers)
CKOT-AM195815101,000 dayTillsonburg Broadcasting Ltd.
CKOT-AM19551510250Tillsonburg Broadcasting Ltd. (John B. Lamers group)


Ken Orton came to Canada from England in 1948. He wanted to work in radio and auditioned at several stations in south-western Ontario, but was turned down because of his accent. He then decided to look at starting his own station and chose Tillsonburg as the location. Orton was a commercial artist who also operated recording studios. Associates of Orton: Dr. R.A. Hawkins (veterinarian), John Lamers (tobacco farmer), Michel Demaiter (farmer), Ben Kleiman (would be station manager), and Lewis Harris (salesman).

Don Williamson of Westinghouse in Brantford did the frequency search and technical brief. He would go on to start his own engineering consultancy and own CHUC and CFMX-FM in Cobourg. Orton sought advice for the application to the CBC Board of Governors. He talked to other broadcasters who had recently received licenses. John French, an executive with a local company put Orton in touch with his brother Terry French, who had launched CKLC Kingston in 1953. He also got advice from Fen Job who was starting CFJB in Brampton.

The application was considered at a meeting of the CBC Board in Toronto on December 3, 1954. The CBC recommended the Tillsonburg application for approval. It would be a 250 watt daytime-only station. The licensee name would be Tilsonburg Broadcasting Co. Ltd. The CBC said there was a place for a community station serving Tilsonburg and surrounding area. Objections were filed by CHLO St. Thomas, CKOX Woodstock and CKPC Brantford.

Orton and his associates then travelled the region in search of ideas on how to put a radio station together. They visited Al Bruner at CJSP Leamington. He would go on to found the Global Television Network. London’s Walter Blackburn (London Free Press, CFPL) offered moral support. CFPL engineer Bill Onn installed the Tillsonburg station’s custom-made Westinghouse console. A Continental transmitter was purchased and Orton was elected to look after it. He had no technical experience and later thanked Continental for its support in keeping the station on the air.

Ken Orton had little money of his own. The other shareholders considered him the idea man. For his efforts he got a ten per cent share in the station. He also got his initials – KO – in the call letters – CKOT. The T was for Tillsonburg.


CKOT was licensed on April 26. It would operate during daytime hours only. The frequency to be used would be 1510 kHz and the power would be 250 watts. The transmitter and two 160 foot towers were situated on part of Lot 16, Concession 2, Middleton Township, Norfolk County.

John Lamers was secretary of the board of TBCL and would be general manager. Ken Orton, the vice president, would be assistant manager and chief engineer. Len Evans was program director.

Studios would be in the northern outskirts of town, just off highway 19. The building was owned by Lamers, who was starting a farm supply business in the front part of that building. CKOT would be in the back.

Don Williamson of Westinghouse would handle the technical installation. John Warder (ex of CFPL and CHLO) would supervise the technical work (to get CKOT on the air).

Larry McIntyre joined CKOT on March 1 as announcer, replacing Eric Finch who left for CKSL London. McIntyre was hired by Ken Orton and had been an operator at CKPC Brantford.

Ken Orton signed CKOT on the air at 2:00 p.m. on April 30. Program director Len Evans then guided listeners through the dedication by clergy. Comments followed from the mayor, general manager John Lamers, and company president Dr. R.A. Hawkins. A telegram from CBC chairman A. Davidson Dunton was read on the air. That was followed by a recorded message from CAB executive vice president Jim Allard. There were good wishes from numerous broadcasters and local dignitaries. Local musicians and school choirs added to the festivities.


CKOT applied to increase power (daytime only) from 250 watts to 1,000 watts. The power increase was approved and was expected to be operational in 1957.


CKOT was an independent station with no network affiliation. Ownership of Tillsonburg Broadcasting Co. Ltd.: R. A. Hawkins 17.3%, J. Lamers 17.3%, N. Kleiman 17.3%, L. Harris 17.3%, M. Demaiter 17.3%, A. K. Orton 9.1% and G. C. Brown 4.4%.

Dr. Ralph Hawkins was president of the company. John Lamers was manager of CKOT. A. Kenneth Orton was program director and chief engineer. Ralph Errington was news director. George D’Ambrose was sports director.

Larry McIntyre left CKOT on March 31 for CJOY Guelph. McIntyre recalls some of the staff during his time at the station (1955-57): Frank Taylor (mornings), Bill Irvine, Ralph Errington (news), George D’Ambrose (sports), Bob Gibbons, Robert McQuiggan (operator), John Lamers (GM), Ken Orton (PD), Jack Campbell (Sales Manager), Dan Leupart (sales), Jackie McDonald (traffic), Lois Yallop (reception). John Holmes who had been with the station since sign-on, had already left when McIntyre arrived, as had Len Evans (as PD). He added that CKOT then branded itself as The Tri-County Station (Oxford, Norfolk and Elgin counties). Its most popular program was the winter-time three hour daily request show aimed at listeners in the strip rooms of the area tobacco industry, logged as ‘Strip Room Serenade’.


On March 18, CKOT increased power to 1,000 watts (daytime only), using one 165 foot tower.


John B. Lamers became sole owner of CKOT when he bought out his partners.


Ken Orton went on to work in the film business. He left CKOT this year and formed AKO Productions.


John Lamers was president of the company and manager of CKOT. John D. Lamers, Jr. was assistant manager, commercial and promotions manager. George D’Ambroise was morning man. George Edwards was news and sports director.


In January, CKOT-AM and FM adopted different programming. “The Sound of Music” was born on FM while AM became known as “Active, Lively, Community Information Radio.”


CKOT applied to change its frequency to 1600 kHz. It was not alone. CHSC (1220) St. Catharines, CFRS (1560) Simcoe and CHIN (1540) Toronto also wanted the frequency. There were also two applications for new stations at Guelph and at Waterloo, using the adjacent frequency of 1590 kHz. 1600 kHz had been used in the region by CJRN Niagara Falls – now on 710 KHz. CHIN wanted 1600 for night-time use only. It would continue to use 1540 during the day. CHIN also felt that if it got 1600 for night use, the channel might still be of use to any of the other applicants – especially during the day.


On July 9, CFRS Simcoe was authorized to move to 1600 kHz and operate with a power of 10,000 watts, day and night. The change was originally approved February 28 but required clearance from the Department of Communications which was now given. The other applications for 1600 kHz and for 1590 kHz were turned down.


On July 11, CKOT was given approval to increase daytime-only power on 1510 kHz from 1,000 watts to 10,000 watts and to move the transmitter site approximately ten miles southeast of Tillsonburg to near Glen Meyer. CKOT-FM also received approval for a power increase. This was the start of a major expansion for both stations…new transmitter sites with power increases.


AM and FM studios were upgraded. New McCurdy SS8500 stereo consoles were ordered. There were now three production rooms in the renovated and expanded facility. The renovations actually began in late 1976 when new offices were laid out at the front of the building, providing larger quarters and easier operation. The area previously occupied by the offices was changed to a sales room and two new stereo production rooms, which can go on-air if needed. The main control room was completely rebuilt and a second one added. Each studio has an adjoining separate news booth. There is also a common guest booth.


Blair Andrews and John Rodenburg joined CKOT news. Brent Caupens left CKOT for CFBK Huntsville.


Brad Abernathy was on the air at CKOT.


Gord Dougan left CKOT for the news department at CFCO Chatham.


Bob Lamers, Jr. was general manager of CKOT-AM-FM.


On May 17, CKOT was granted a daytime power increase on 1510 kHz from 10,000 to 20,000 watts and the addition of a night signal on the same frequency, with power of 10,000 watts. In the end, these changes were not implemented because of American (technical) objections.


CKOT had hoped to switch its signal to the FM dial but lost out to CKDK Woodstock for the use of 102.3 MHz. The station had been seeking a variety of solutions to its daytime-only AM signal for years…moving to FM…and even using split frequencies on AM – 1510 during the day and another frequency at night. At one point, a move to 1200 kHz full-time was even considered.


John B. Lamers, Sr. died at the age of 89 on April 17.


Mike Roberts was an announcer at CKOT.


On September 10, the CRTC approved a change in ownership of Tilsonburg Broadcasting Co. Ltd., resulting in John D. Lamers, Jr. increasing his ownership interest from 36.8 to 50.3%, thereby gaining effective control. Other shareholders are Robert Lamers and Joanne Fenton.

On the air at CKOT: Steve Barlow (mornings), Jeff Rock (mid-days), Craig Fox (afternoons). John Lasar and Brad Robinson were in the news department. Fox joined CKOT this year from Chatham’s CKSY-FM. At this time, CKOT-AM had a contemporary music format.


Craig Fox left for Brantford’s CKPC.


CKOT was now known as Country 1510. Steve Barlow was still morning man. Jeff Rock did mid-days, and George Walker was now the afternoon host. Jerry Daniel and Hal Rothenberg were in the news department.

Robert Palmer died. He had been with CKOT since its inception in 1955 and was the first announcer heard on the station.


Cam Leonard joined the CKOT announce staff in April.

On October 28, CKOT-AM lost out on another move to the FM dial. It had hoped to move its country format to 102.3 MHz but the channel was awarded to CHUM Limited for a new station at London.


On August 25, CKOT-AM finally received approval to move to the FM band. However, the 104.7 MHz frequency the station had proposed to use, was awarded to a new station in Woodstock. CKOT would have to seek an alternate channel. If CKOT had used 104.7, it would have operated with an effective radiated power of 2,300 watts average (5,000 watts maximum) with antenna height of 163.5 metres from the existing CKOT-FM tower.


On August 11, Tillsonburg Broadcasting Co. Ltd. was authorized to use frequency 107.3 MHz for CKOT-AM’s move to the FM dial. Effective radiated power would be 4,500 watts.


After a lengthy test period, CJDL-FM “ New Country, Classic Country – Country 107-3” signed on the air on August 1 at 5:00 a.m. CKOT-AM remains on the air, simulcasting CJDL-FM during the daytime hours.


John Schwarz passed away on March 1. He was 81. Schwarz hosted the weekly German show for 50 years, never missing a program in that time. He retired from the airwaves in 2009.

The CRTC approved the change to the ownership of Tillsonburg Broadcasting Company Limited through the transfer of the shares of Tilsonburg to a holding company owned by the initial shareholders of Tilsonburg Broadcasting, licensee of CJDL-FM and CKOT-FM Tillsonburg, Ontario.


On February 17, Canada’s last day-time AM station was silenced when CKOT Country 1510 signed off the air for the last time. For the past five and a half years, CKOT-AM had been a repeater for CJDL FM Country 107.3. John Lamers, President and General Manager of Tillsonburg Broadcasting Co. said, “Because of the cost of operating the station – (hydro, maintenance, necessary upgrades, taxes, etc) and since it was being operated only as a repeater, generating no income, the decision was made to shut it down.” The AM station also aired religious programming on weekday mornings and ethnic programming on Sundays. Both the ethnic and the religious programming came to an end, and station management decided to disassemble the towers and to sell the land on which they were erected. 


Ken Orton passed away January 29. He was one of the founders of CKOT Radio.

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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