CKNX-AM, Real Country Music CKNX, Wingham
|Blackburn Radio Inc.
|The Blackburn Group Inc.
|CKNX Broadcasting Ltd. (London Free Press)
|Radio Station CKNX Ltd.
|Radio Station CKNX Ltd.
|Radio Station CKNX Ltd.
|Radio Station CKNX Ltd.
|Radio Station CKNX Ltd.
|Radio Station CKNX Ltd.
|Radio Station CKNX Ltd. (W.T. Cruickshank)
|The Radio & Electric Shop/Wingham Radio Club (W.T. Cruickshank)
It was February. The setting was Wingham, a town of 2,700 people. W. T. “Doc” Cruickshank took time out from his work at a local factory to experiment with a tiny radio transmitter he made from a drawing in Popular Mechanics magazine. Going through a box of spare radio parts, he came up with all that he needed. His little transmitter was completed within an hour. It was so small, on the top of an old butter box, he could carry it from his home to his new shop where he had started to sell and repair radios. He was the only radio retailer and service man within a 50 mile radius of Wingham. A few days later, station “JOKE” was born. The project was so much fun, Doc called it a joke, and since he didn’t have a turntable or records, all the programming was live and unscheduled. Local people would gather to entertain their neighbors who sat glued to their crystal sets at home.
In the spring, Doc learned he needed a radio licence. He obtained one and was assigned the 10BP call sign. Power ran anywhere from two to ten watts and 10BP was on the air daily at noon for an hour. A special program aired on Thursday nights and consisted of music and news and often included reports of hockey games that had just finished. There was also a Sunday morning program of religious music from a piano in his living room.
The ten watt signal was picked up often in Detroit and reports would later come in from all over the world once the power was upped to 100 watts. A special program was even aired for DXers between 4:00 and 5:00 in the morning.
As early as this time, “Doc” had lines installed in all Wingham churches, in the town hall and the arena, and was bringing talent as far as 50 miles to entertain over 10BP.
The government advised Doc Cruickshank that he and other “hams” would have to vacate the dial to make room for commercial stations. There was so much support and encouragement from the community that he applied for a commercial licence. In April, that licence was granted and the call sign CKNX was assigned. The new station operated on a frequency of 1200 kHz with a power of 100 watts. Ads sold for fifty cents a piece.
In time, Wingham adopted the slogan, “The Radio Town of Canada.
In 1936 Harry Boyle, a free-lance newsman for several Ontario news newspapers, while in Wingham covering a murder trial, heard CKNX, the local radio station. The news they were broadcasting was sometimes a week old. He went to see CKNX’s owner, “Doc” Cruickshank to suggest to him that he should carry local and area news. “Doc” said okay, why don’t you try it tonight. He started the next night and soon developed a noon hour news and sundry show that also included births, deaths upcoming entertainment, agriculture news – anything that would interest the listeners. He stayed at CKNX for 5 years where he gained the knowledge that would lead him to the top broadcasting post in the land, the CBC and then the CRTC.
Reg Douglas, 31, chief announcer at CKNX for the past 10 years, was accidentally killed January 28. He joined the station in 1928 when it started out as 10BP. John Cruickshank became chief announcer.
B. Howard Bedford was commercial director. Eva Homuth was on staff.
A new 1,000 watt RCA transmitter was installed.
Jim Maxwell was assistant to “Doc” Cruickshank. He was also commercial director.
Ontario’s Farm Station was now publishing a monthly paper – The CKNX Almanac. Station news, schedules and promotions were interspersed with reading matter of interest to the community, news and editorials, and advertising.
CKNX added the British United Press news service on September 1.
Erland Echlin joined CKNX as public relations director and news editor.
CBC Dominion Supplementary Stations: CKCV, CKTB, CHML, CKLW, CKPC, CKCR, CKNX, CJCS, CFOS.
Former pro hockey player “Tory” Gregg was named to head CKNX’s activities in the field of community sports. Former chief engineer Scott Reid ws now with the RCAF. F.N. Johnson was commercial manager. Warner Newton was CKNX’s agricultural representative and host of “The Farmer’s Bulletin Board”.
Tom Rafferty became program director at CKNX. He had worked in the past for CJKL and CKCH.
CKNX installed loops into the CNR and CPR stations in London so that it could broadcast the arrival of troop trains arriving in the city, 70 miles away. Repatriates within the CKNX listening area were interviewed and given the chance to speak over the air to friends and relatives who had no chance to meet them in London.
Scott Reid returned to CKNX as chief engineer after overseas service with the RCAF. Rupert Bedford left CKNX for the promotion department at CFOR in Orillia.
In the spring, work was underway to enlarge the CKNX operation in the Brunswick Hotel. The new operation would include the hotel’s kitchen and dining room, in addition to the combination studio-control room-office which it had been occupied since the station went on the air as 10BP. New quarters would include the main studio, announce booth, news room, library, announcer lounge and control room.
In advertising of the day, CKNX called itself “The Ontario Farm Station”.
CKNX was busy enlarging its quarters in the Brunswick Hotel to include the hotel’s kitchen and dining room, in addition to the studio and control room-office which it has occupied since first going on the air. New quarters will include main studio, announcer’s booth, newsroom, library, announcers lounge and control room.
Hugh Gage was a newsman at CKNX. Margaret Brophy hosted “At Home With The Ladies”. The program had been on CKNX for five years. Al Collins left CKNX for the announce staff at CKWS Kingston.
CKNX staff and management: W.T. “Doc” Cruickshank (owner & manager), F. Nowell Johnson (business manager), Scott Reid (chief engineer), T.R. Mathers (sales), Tom Rafferty (production), Johnny Brent (program department), Harold V. Pym (music), Margaret Brophy (women’s programs), Hugh Gage (news), Tory Gregg (sports), Jean Terbit (traffic), Iona Terry (receptionist), Lillain Gorbutt (secretary). Continuity: John Cruickshank, Mildred Jones, Shirley Nethery, Fred Russell. Announcers: Bud Cruickshank, Ross Hamilton, Al Phillips. Transmitter engineers: Glenn Scheifei (engineer), Gordon Walker, Harris Purdon. Operators: Doug Fry, Cliff Bowers, Jack Caesar. Book Keeping: Elaine Walsh, Lillian Darling.
George Gear, agricultural representative for Bruce County and Jerry Nelson of Huron County, both appeared regularly on CKNX.
CKNX was airing an average of 38% local live programming every week.
CKNX listed at 920 kHz, power – 1,000 watts (full-time), CBC Dominion affiliate, studios: Field Bldg., transmitter at Belgrave. Schedule: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays.
The CKNX radio service was greatly expanded after World War II, with former staff returning from the Services. New people included Bob Carbert who headed up a new Farm Department dealing with news of importance to the areas largest industry. Tory Gregg was brought in to organize another of “Doc” Cruickshank’s fondest dreams – a league to bring sport opportunities to all the towns and cities in Western Ontario. This became the Western Ontario Athletic Association, soon the largest amateur sports oranization in Canada. These commitments to Agriculture and Sports continue to this day.
Soon, live musicians began to gather at CKNX, with two country groups, The Ranch Boys and the Golden Prairie Cowboys and a modern dance band led by Bert Worth.
These, and an unknown number of other musicans became the backbone of “The Saturday Night Barn Dance”, which, for the next 20 years packed halls from Sarnia to Owen Sound to Stratford and every place in between for the weekly broadcast and dance.
New and innovative ways were developed to make personal contact with the large widespread audience over the five counties of Western Ontario. News correspondents were hired in a dozen key locations to feed news happenings by phone. Loud speaker systems were made available to area meetings, trade fairs, Fall Fairs, complete with operator and often an announcer as well. On air support was given to service clubs, farm organizations and other worthwhile causes.
Tory Gregg was sports organizer and reporter at CKNX. Frank N. Johnson was commercial manager. Margaret Brophy was women’s editor. Don Hamilton joined CKNX from the Academy of Radio Arts. Bill Pring (operator) joined CKNX from CHUM Toronto. John Strong joined the CKNX announce staff from CKPC Brantford. Tom Rafferty left CKNX as announcer/producer for CKCW Moncton.
The CBC recommended for approval, the transfer of licence from CKNX from W.T. Cruickshank to Radio Station CKNX Ltd. (present licensee retained control)
John Cruickshank was sales manager. Tom Rafferty returned to CKNX from CKCW Moncton where he had been program director. Earl Heywood was a guitarist on the CKWX “Barn Dance”.
CKNX had 19 news correspondents in its listening area. The reporters would phone stories in to the station and were paid on a per-item basis.
Fred Russell left CKNX to be program manager at the new CFCA-FM in Kitchener. Al Rowe joined CKNX. W.T. Cruickshank was manager and John Cruickshank was commercial manager.
John Strong was news editor.
An ad marking CKNX’s 25th anniversary mentioned all of the station’s staff: W.T. “Doc” Cruickshank (general manager, 25 years), Jean Tervitt (traffic, 10 years), John Cruickshank (station manager, 14 years), Johnny Brent (program director, 9 years), Margaret Brophy (women’s commentator, 12 years), Scott Reid (chief engineer, 13 years) and M.L. “Tory” Gregg (sports organizer, 6 years). Other staff members: Ward Allen, Lloyd Bank, Shirley Boucher, Bob Carbert, Bob Clark, Buc Cruickshank, Lillian Darling, Vin Dittmer, Frank Eidt, Mary Louise Flack, Doug Fry, Norm Fry, Lillian Garbutt, Ross Hamilton, Early Heywood, Mildred Jones, Barry Kay, Jack Kingston, John Langridge, Mel Lavigne, Bill Mankiss, Bert Mathers, Willard Platt, Elmer Purdon, Tom Rafferty, Jack Salter, Glenn Schieffele, John Strong and Iona Terry.
Slogan: Experience sells the rural market from Owen Sound to London.
The CKNX Barn Dance had been airing Monday thru Friday from 4:15 to 4:30 p.m. for three years now (in this time period). The same group was also heard on the Saturday night Barn Dance. The programs were headed by RCA Victor recording artist Earl Heywood and Capital artist Jack Kingston.
CJOY Guelph was added to the Community Broadcast Services group which also included CKNX Wingham, CFOS Owen Sound, CKBB Barrie, and CFOR Orillia. The 14 month old group produced and promoted live talent programs, and had been working on a schedule of some three shows originated by each member station weekly. Each show was taped and circulated to the other member stations. CJOY had already been contributing programs for a few months.
Don Hildebrand left CKNX to become a staff announcer at the new CKCO-TV in Kitchener.
Vin Dittmer was at CKNX.
When Doc Cruickshank established ham station 10-BP, it operated from the Brunswick Hotel. With CKNX Television soon to sign on, a larger home was needed for the combined radio and television operation. Wingham town council held a special meeting and decided to co-operate with Cruickshank by selling him and old high school building for a dollar.
On November 18th, CKNX-TV signed on the air providing a new depth of experience for many of the radio staff members.
CKNX 920 had a power of 1,000 watts day and night (directional at night) and was a CBC Dominion supplementary B affiliate. It was owned by Radio Station CKNX Limited (W. T. Cruickshank 87.6%, G. W. Cruickshank 4.1%, J. J. Cruickshank 4.1% and Mrs. L. McCall 4.2%).
W. T. Cruickshank was president of the company. J. J. Cruickshank was manager of CKNX. John Strong was news director. Scott Reid was chief engineer and Elmer Purdon was chief operator
Popular Dominion label recording artist Earl Haywood could be heard every week on the “CKNX Saturday Night Barn Dance”.
The CBC Board of Governors approved CKNX 920’s power increase from 1,000 to 2,500 watts day and 1,000 watts night. In approving the application, the CBC Board praised CKNX for its 35% live programming.
Ad slogan: For double impact in Western Ontario use CKNX Television and Radio – the Ontario Farm Stations.
R.W. (Bob) Carbert, CKNX-Radio-TV farm director for ten years, left for the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. Johnny Brent retired from CKNX’s “Top of the Morning” program which had run for some 18 years. When he arrived at the station, he took the morning show over from station founder and owner, “Doc” Cruickshank. Back then, the program was known as the “CKNX Breakfast Club”. It originally started at 8:00 a.m., but over time was moved to a 6:30 a.m. start time (where it was now).
CKNX was expected to soon be operating with 2,500 watts.
CKNX increased power to 2,500 watts day and 1,000 watts night (full-time), using two 187 foot (overall height) towers at same site. Studios were moved to Carling Terrace & John Street.
Print Ad: CKNX Radio Dominates Town & Country in Western Ontario. Dial 920 – Wingham.
Bruce St. George was appointed director of operations for CKNX Radio and TV.
In the early morning of March 8, the former high school building that housed CKNX Radio and Television burned to the ground, and nothing was saved. CKNX Radio was back on the air from the transmitter building, missing only a few hours of air-time.
The CBC’s Trans-Canada and Dominion networks were consolidated into a single service. CKNX had acted as a Supplementary B affiliate of the Dominion network. Following the network merger, CKNX became an independent station.
Following last year’s fire, CKNX officially opened its new studios and offices on October 7.
W. T. Cruickshank was president of Radio Station CKNX Ltd. G. W. Cruickshank was general manager of CKNX with John Cruickshank being the assistant manager. John Langridge was program director. Jim Moore was chief announcer and Joel Thompson was morning man. John A. Strong was news director and John Brent was sports director. Scott Reid was chief engineer.
John Strong was news director.
CKNX received approval to increase daytime power from 2,500 to 10,000 watts. Night time power would remain 1,000 watts.
David Burgess left CKNX Radio-TV after 10 years to work in the U.S. He had been a studio engineer.
On November 21, CKNX increased power to 10,000 watts day and 1,000 watts night (full-time) from the same site (Highway 43, three and a half miles south of town, Lot 42, Concession 11, Wawamosh Township), using four 227 foot towers.
Slogan: 10,000 watt powerful radio for all Western Ontario – CKNX 920.
The CRTC approved the transfer of 12,600 preferred shares of capitol stock in Wingham Investments Ltd., a shareholder in Radio Station CKNX Ltd., from W.T. Cruickshank to G.W. Cruickshank.
John Cruickshank was assistant manager and commercial manager. Dave Curzon headed the farm department.
Jerry Chomyn joined CKNX-AM-TV as a reporter and anchor.
Ad: If you plan to advertise in Belfast, Brussels, Carthage, Ceylon, Damascus, Dublin, Dunedin, Gibralter, Hanover, Kimberly, Lebanon, Lucknow, Tralee, Southampton, Zurich – use CKNX Radio-Television Wingham. We reach them all (and more) in Ontario’s farming heartland.
On March 1, CKNX Radio along with Television was sold to The Blackburn Group of London, with long experience in broadcasting and newspapers. “Doc” Cruickshank died on February 28, the day before the sale was finalized. The end of an era. The new President was Murray Brown of London, and the General Manager of the CKNX complex was long time staff member Ross Hamilton.
The music format for CKNX AM was changed from the traditional country and western sound to Modern Country, appealing to a wider audience and known as Country Music 920.
CKNX Broadcasting Ltd., owner of CKNX 920 and CKNX-TV Channel 8, opened CKNX-FM “FM 102” on April 17. The station broadcast on a frequency of 101.7 MHz and had an effective radiated power of 22,000 watts. Studios and offices were in the CKNX Radio & Television building at 215 Carling Terrace. In fact, room had to be made in the existing CKNX building for CKNX-FM. To create the space needed for new studios, offices and record library, FM took over some of CKNX-TV’s storage area. The antenna was on the CKNX-TV tower. A Collins Generation 4 type transmitter was used. CKNX Broadcasting Ltd. was owned by the Blackburn family’s London Free Press of London, Ontario. Jerry Chomyn left his news duties to become a sales rep for CKNX-TV.
Gary Ryan was on the air at CKNX.
Jerry Chomyn became program director for CKNX-AM-FM. He had been a sales rep with CKNX-TV.
Ross Hamilton was promoted to vice president and general manager of CKNX-AM-FM-TV. Jack Gillespie was named station manager of CKNX-AM-FM.
CKNX installed a new Nautel 10,000 watt transmitter. It went in to operation at the end of June. Murray T. Brown retired as president of the broadcasting divisions of London Free Press Holdings Ltd. He would remain as a company director. C. Ross Hamilton became president of CKNX-AM-FM-TV. Walter J. Blackburn died December 16. Control of the company passed to his daughter, Martha.
London Free Press Holdings Ltd. and its subsidiary CKNX Broadcasting Ltd., merged into The Blackburn Group, Inc.
Former MPP Murray Gaunt was farm commentator at CKNX.
Highlighting year-long 60th anniversary celebrations, CKNX held an open house weekend and reunion of former employees on June 15. CKNX-AM first went on the air February 20, 1926. W.T. ‘Doc’ Cruikshank, founder of CKNX, was posthumously appointed to the C.A.B. Broadcast Hall of Fame and to the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame. Lisa Brandt joined from CKSL London to host the mid-day talk show. Ray Baynton was news director for CKNX-AM-FM and TV.
AM 920 program director Jerry Chomyn became host of the 9 a.m. to noon talk show – Music and Conversation. Sylvia Derer, formerly with CHNR Simcoe, CJCS Stratford and CIAM Cambridge, joined CKNX-AM-FM as promotions co-ordinator. Newscaster Paul Irvine left for CHNR in Simcoe.
C. Ross Hamilton retired September 1. He had been president of CKNX Broadcasting Ltd. He was replaced by Robert Elsden who is also president of co-owned CFPL-TV in London. A. N. (Al) Skelton, former manager of CKNX-TV, was appointed vice-president and general manager, responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company. Hamilton remained with the company as a director. Mike De Jong joined CKNX from CHOK in Sarnia. Jerry Chomyn left CKNX for Humber College in Toronto.
On May 1, CKNX began broadcasting 24 hours a day. Dan Elliot was named music director. Trisha Freriks was appointed AM-FM promotions co-ordinator.
Lisa Brandt (talk show) left for CKFM Toronto.
Gord Dougan was on the air at CKNX. The CRTC turned down an application by CKNX that would have allowed it to simulcast CKNX-FM’s presentation of the syndicated Coast-to-Coast overnight program. Bill Brady was appointed vice president of radio for Blackburn Communications Systems.
In early May, Martha Blackburn, chair of the Blackburn Group Inc. announced the sale of CKNX-TV and CFPL-TV to Baton Broadcasting Inc. Martha Blackburn-Hughes, 47, died suddenly on August 15. She was the daughter of the late Walter J. Blackburn and became head of the company following his death. Despite the death of Blackburn, the proposed sale of CFPL/CKNX to Baton was to proceed. The future of the London Free Press newspaper and CKNX / CFPL radio stations was up in the air.
The CRTC approved the sale of CKNX-TV and CFPL-TV to Baton Broadcasting, in January.
Announcers included Matt O’Neill (mornings), Don Fraser (mid-days) and Stacey Thompson (afternoons). Stacey Thompson joined from Guelph.
Stacey Thompson left in for CFJB Barrie and was replaced by Julie Bullivant.
Matt O’Neill was morning host.
Gerry Belanger, director of engineering at CKNX, died at 58 after a lengthy illness. Belanger had been with CKNX radio and television for more than 35 years.
Jack Gillespie was CKNX-AM-FM general manager.
John Weese, general manager of CKNX-AM-FM and CIBU-FM announced that effective August 31 Scott Pettigrew would add the role of news director to his duties as AM920 program director. Scott joined CKNX as PD in 2005. Ray Baynton would move from news director to head of Agri Media Services for Blackburn Radio. Natalie Lovie (afternoon news Anchor with CXNX-AM) left to become a full-time reporter at CFPL-AM in London.
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.
The new Brand Director (PD) at CJOB was Scott Pettigrew, moving from his 26-year gig at AM920 CKNX Wingham. He was Program and News Director at CKNX. Pettigrew started at CJOB September 24 and succeeded Kevin Wallace who moved to Golden West’s Air 106.1 (CFIT) Airdrie as PD. Newscaster-reporter Steve Sabourin was appointed News Director while John Goodyear added Program Director duties to his announcer job.
Duane Duck was promoted from General Sales Manager to General Manager at 94.5 The Bull/101.7 The One/CKNX AM920. Jeff Irwin was the new GSM, promoted from retail sales supervisor, a position he’s held for the last six years. On May 10 the CRTC denied the application by Blackburn Radio Inc. to amend the licence for CKNX Wingham to add an FM transmitter in Wingham, to broadcast the programming of CKNX. The Commission found that approval of Blackburn’s request would be equivalent to granting it a third FM radio station in the Wingham radio market, which would be inconsistent with the Common Ownership Policy for radio. It further found that the licensee had not provided sufficient justification to warrant an exception to the Common Ownership Policy. Blackburn had proposed to operate the FM transmitter on 104.3 MHz (channel 282A) with an effective radiated power of 3,000 watts (non-directional antenna with an effective height of antenna above average terrain of 69 metres).
Murray Brown died February 4 at age 96. He joined CFPL Radio in 1945 as a weekend announcer. Brown eventually became station manager and helped launch CFPL-TV in 1953, and became manager of that station as well. Between 1968 and 1984, he served as president of the Blackburn stations.
After 45 years in the business, Kirk Dickson retired October 30 from CKNX where he had been news director and on-air anchor. Prior to CKNX, Dickson had worked in Stratford, Kitchener, Toronto and Ottawa.
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.