Jack Sharpe at the CFRB control board, Nov 17, 1930. Pic: @Torontoarchinves
Jack Sharpe at the CFRB control board, Nov 17, 1930. Pic: @Torontoarchinves

Preserving Canada's Broadcast History

What a world we live in!  

Just about everyone has a cell phone and spends way too much time on it…and, of course, there’s Facebook where we can sit for hours and watch 'million dollar spaghetti’ recipes, or puppies dressed up like Spiderman (both of which I saw today).  

As Nick Michaels, the former Montreal native and one of North America’s top voice over talents, once said, ‘We live in an over communicated world.' His meaning is that we are bombarded daily by hundreds (even thousands) of commercials, comments, newscasts, DJ chatter and texts from radio, television, the internet,  and cellphones.

But how many of those communications are important enough that we’ll remember them in a day, a week, a month or even a year from now?  

Not many.

I’ve always thought it would be so cool to be able to listen to an actual tape recording of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address from November of 1863 or eavesdrop on the Fathers of Confederation as they discuss the forming of Canada in 1864 or 1866.  Oh sure, we have recreations of both events along with many others, but while they are a history of a sort, they aren’t the real deal.

Broadcasting has been fortunate in that a lot of material has been saved, but it’s just a fraction of what aired on radio and television over the decades.

When the Canadian Broadcast Museum Foundation (CBMF) was formed in 2001, its mandate (which continues today) was to collect, preserve and celebrate the history of Canadian broadcasting.  

To date, we have close to 200,000 items. Among them in the collection,  composer/musician Terry Bush’s massive jingle archives from 1969 until the 1980s.  Terry also wrote and recorded the theme song from “The Littlest Hobo” TV series, which aired around the world.  

During the 1970s and ‘80s, Terry created commercial music for just about every major advertiser in Canada (and quite a few in the U.S.)  We also have the audio tape archives of Pat Holiday, the former CKLW DJ who went on to become a Standard Broadcasting executive; as well as the sound effects collection (multiple doors and locks/marching blocks etc.) from the CBC Radio Drama department when it closed down.

The CBMF is honoured to have much of the legendary broadcast executive Joel Aldred’s audio and visual archives; and archival material from Leo Rampen, the CBC’s first Graphic Designer who went on to become an Executive Producer at the Corps.  Leo designed the first “Hockey Night In Canada” graphic used for many broadcasts (along with credit crawls and many other graphic designs).  

These are all part of the CBMF Archives.

When Newstalk 1010 (CFRB in Toronto) was bought by Bell Media, and moved to Richmond and John from its longtime home at Yonge and St. Clair, the CBMF was fortunate to receive their news archives.

Included are many historic interviews from broadcaster Betty Kennedy’s talks with world luminaries that included Rose Kennedy (the matriarch of the Kennedy clan), Sir Edmund Hillary, Malcolm X, and Group of 7 member A. J. Casson.  

We also took possession of decades of Gordon Sinclair’s scripts for his daily CFRB news commentaries.

Truly historical material.  

Had any of this been tossed into a dumpster, it would have been a tragic loss.

With the CHUM archives, there are 50 years worth of material.  CHUM AM & FM was located at 1331 Yonge Street from 1959 until 2009 (it’s now a condo site), and not much was thrown out in those decades.  We have hundreds of CHUM DJ airchecks, station jingle masters, promos from the late 1950’s on up and nearly 1000 photographs, brochures, and memorabilia.  

I started working on that archives with Bob Laine, the late CHUM Executive (inducted into the Canadian Broadcast Hall of Fame in 2003),  and I’m still digitizing tapes and finding new photos and all kinds of wonderful memos. One, written by Allan Waters in 1958, has great historical significance.

For the past year, the CBMF has been working with the CBC documenting their archives (which truly are massive).  To that end, our Executive Director and the Executive Committee have been in talks with the federal government to take over the former NORAD bunker near North Bay, Ontario to store our current archives as well as any and all future collections.  
Our estimate of needed space is approximately two million cubic feet.  The NORAD bunker will do quite nicely thank you and, hopefully, we can make this happen.  
If you’re a broadcaster, former broadcaster, or family of a broadcaster no longer with us, and have tapes, scripts, etc. that are taking up space in your home, please consider contacting the CBMF.  

We are a non-profit organization and if you’d care to donate to preserve Canadian broadcast history, visit aireum.ca for all of the details.

Doug Thompson is Chairman of the Canadian Broadcast Museum Foundation as well as the official Archivist for CHUM Radio during the Allan Waters era,  from 1954 to 2005.


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