Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My First Radio Station, CKOV, Kelowna, BC

630 khz, 1000 watts 1961 - 1967

The station was on the second floor of a building on the east side of Pandosy Street just North of Bernard Avenue.
It was a former Onion warehouse.
It was the classic ‘40’s radio layout.
It had a raised Main Control room with a 45 degree cantilevered window looking into Studio A which had the radio station’s call letters cut into the linoleum floor.
Sloping glass windows looked into the adjoining Studios B and C.
Wall and ceiling treatment consisted of 12” square perforated ceiling tile.
The Main Control Room consisted of RCA BC-3C console, beautifully modified to add two tape machine inputs at the upper right hand corner by Art Vipond, one of the best radio engineers I’ve ever encountered.
The microphone was a radio version 77DX on a customized chromed half inch pipe swivel mount.
Remote starts had been added for the 3 16” turntables, one on the left side of the console, two on the right side.
The remote start consisted of a small momentary push-button at the bottom left of the channel fader.
It activated a stepping relay to turn on and off the turntable motor.
These relays were enclosed in foam lined aluminum boxes under the turntables so they were virtually noiseless.
Slip cueing was the method used in those days but some guys were good at timing and knew when to hit the button so the table would be up to speed when it hit the first groove.
Some were not good at this, so there were a lot of “wows” on the air.
The left side turntable was an old Presto three speed rim drive formerly used as a disc cutter with a motor that could be persuaded to run backwards if you spun the platter in that direction and hit the power switch.
The two right side turntables were idler drive, Presto Pirouettes
All three were equipped with the infamous “Grey” gouger arms with GE VR-II turnaround cartridges for 78 and microgroove recordings.
We played mostly 45’s, some 33 1/3’s and occasionally 78’s.
Above the two right hand turntables were 2 Ampex 351’s with tube electronics’.
They also had a remote start button added at the bottom left of the added faders.
Other control room gear, an old three line telephone set with the separate speakerphone box, which was wired into the console through a line selector.
We were a CBC basic station at the time, carrying a lot of network programs, but only after 7pm and on weekends.
The monitor speaker was an RCA Wedge with a 15” RCA driver.
It went to background level when the control room microphone was activated.
It was hung on the wall to the left of the operating position, about 6 feet above the floor.
Headphones for the announcer-operator were available but rarely used.
We learned the proper mix using the VU meter and using the speaker at background level, actually surprisingly loud with no hollowness or feedback.
The live commercial copy book and the telephone were on custom built holders above the console.
Commercials were filed in alphabetical order and we had a bunch of dividers for markers if several commercials had to be read in a row.
Some commercials, mostly national, came on 16” transcriptions.
Locally produced commercials were on multi cut reels of tape on the 2 Ampex 351’s.
We spent most of our on air time cueing records and tapes.
There was a big studio in front of the main control room, Studio A with the requisite grand piano, the RCA Starbird boom and other RCA floor microphone and table stands.
We could run 4 microphones from this studio.
The microphones available were three RCA 74B’s and a handful of Electrovoice 630’s.
We also had the RCA studio warning lights.
Studio A also had the same RCA Monitor Wedge on the wall.
Off to the right of Main Control Room was a small studio, equipped with a desk, a monitor speaker with volume control, and an Electrovoice 630 microphone on an Electrovoice desk stand.
There was a console type key switch, spring return, for a cough switch, a headphone jack with volume control.
We used the BC-3C’s talkback system.
This studio was used when announcers performed with an operator or outside talent.
A second, larger studio off to the left of Main Control had earlier been converted to an office but still had all the connections to be used as a two microphone studio.
Also in the Main Control Room, the transmitter control for the 1000 watt RCA Transmitter operating at 630htz into a single tower.
All this was housed in a 19” Rack panel to the right of the 2 Ampex 351’s and the turntables.
We also had an RCA limiter feeding the program line, which was open pair copper to the transmitter site in Okanagan Mission.
When the power failed at the studio, which was quite frequently, we used an old manual start generator located in the Arena Motors building across the alley.
The transmitter site had emergency power, courtesy of an old generator from a World War One battleship.
We still had the old RCA audio and transmitter control console, a big RCA monitor speaker and the required remote control and transmitter monitoring equipment.
The production control room consisted of a Gates SA40 board, two 16” turntables with the Grey arms and turnaround cartridges, an RCA 44BX, bronze model on a similar chromed pipe mount, another smaller RCA monitor speaker, one Ampex 351 with tube electronics in a roll-around cabinet, a rack mounted Ampex 601, and another Ampex 601 in a portable case that was taken out on remotes.
An adjacent small studio off to the left was used for announcing and outside talent.
It had an RCA 74B for a microphone on an RCA table stand, a monitor speaker and control and headphone and control.
The newsroom consisted of a custom built Art Vipond Console, with 4 inputs.
It had a microphone input, a telephone input and two Magnecord PT6 tape transports.
It fed line level signals to the line selector in the Main Control Room.
The newsroom had a monitor speaker and control, headphone outputs and controls on both sides of the desk with an Electrovoice 630 on a boom arm that could be used on both sides of the desk.
An old teletype clacking away in the background provided newsroom ambience to broadcasts from this location and was the only source of news copy, save local correspondents and newspaper scalps.
Behind production control was the rack room with remote control equipment, various amplifiers and other equipment.
It would later house STL equipment and remote pickup equipment.
Early remotes consisted of a custom built control desk by Art Vipond.
It was a thing of beauty.
It consisted of a custom built four channel console with two Neat turntables one on each side, a microphone input and a line input for the portable Ampex 601.
We would take a tape with all the produced commercials on it and the records needed for the remote show.
The 601 was also used for remote recording where power was available.
For truly portable recording, we had two old spring motor driven Wirek machines with battery powered tube electronics.
They looked a little like a Magnecord PT6 in a box and used paper tape on 7” reels.
They were originally designed to be used with wire but had been converted to use the paper tape.
The control desk also included headphone and monitor feeds, including a monitor amp that fed two large EV Musicaster Speakers, line output amp and talkback facilities to the station.
Remotes were first by telephone line, later by RPU, which Art Vipond created from some surplus taxi cab radios.
It sounded pretty good from anywhere in the Kelowna area.
The only thing was, the station was on the second floor and the control desk had to be lugged up and down a flight of stairs.
It was transported in the station’s van, one of the first Ford Econolines.
We used to do 2 or three hour shows with this unit, with everything but newscasts coming from the remote location.
Remember, all this equipment is single channel monophonic, all tubes.
In 1962, we added RCA RT7A cartridge machines.
We had three of them, one record/play and two playback only.
All three were installed in the main control room so all could be available for playback.
An RCA switcher was used to bring the three outputs into one.
A remote control was crafted so the record machine could be fired from the production control.
This meant the on-air personality in Main Control had to load cartridges for the producer in Production Control.
Later, the record/play unit was moved to production and the machines were upgraded to RT7C’s
All the carts were stored in racks at the back of the control room.
I remember on Deejay who was fired who picked up the handheld bulk eraser and ran it down the backs of all the carts before he left!
Everything had to be re-carted.
We also tried various other types of gear.
Anyone remember Ampex CueMats?
They used flexible12” magnetic discs that looked like LPs and the machine that recorded and played them which looked like a turntable.
Or how about that Gates thing that looked like an Edison Cylinder?
Thankfully, we didn’t buy any of those.
Around 1963 or ’64, CKOV obtained an FM license.
CJOV-FM went on the air I think in ’64 or ’65.
The transmitter was on Okanogan Mountain, reachable in summer only by 4 wheel drive or helicopter and during winter, by helicopter or snow mobile.
The site had a short antenna, which was felled by ice early one winter.
The station transmitted through that winter with the antenna lying on the rocks.
The site was powered by three diesel generators, running eight hours each.
There was a huge fuel tank to keep them running for months.
During the day, it simulcast the AM programming.
However, when we got into network and religious programming from 7pm to 11pm Monday to Friday, we programmed it separately but from the same control room!
How this was accomplished was a minor miracle.
We used the B side of the board, or audition channel as RCA billed it, as the FM program source.
We’d simply put an LP on the third turntable on the B side of the board, throw the control room microphone over to B, announce the album and roll it.
We’d roll the entire side and sometimes forget about it.
The record would run out and the phone would ring, usually the FM manager, Charles Patrick, likely the only listener, to tell us to turn it over.
Later, one of the Ampex 351’s was used for tape programs.
It was not unusual to be running a religious tape on AM and a taped program on FM on either Ampex.
Later, the production studio was used for live programming after 7pm at night until 11pm.
After I left the station in 1967, the RCA BC-3C was swapped out and replaced with a transistorized RCA BC7 Stereo Console.
Turntables were replaced with McCurdy idler drives and Micro-track wood arms.
The electronics in the 351’s were upgraded to Inovonics.
The station dabbled with IGM automation for awhile, set up in Studio A but later scrapped it as unworkable.
It ran on IBM punch-cards and had Reel to Reels and cartridge carousels.
I worked there from December 1961, starting as go-fer and high school reporter for the sum of 50 cents an hour, graduating to remote operator, control room operator, assistant engineer, teen show deejay when John Tanner left to go to CFUN, Vancouver, now at a dollar an hour, night operator and deejay, moving to afternoon drive deejay and morning show host before leaving in April of 1967 to move to Lethbridge, Alberta.
At that time, I was making $350 a month!
I got my first on air break on Christmas Eve, 1961 when the operator called in sick.
I was so nervous, I forgot to shut off the transmitter at 1am.
When I started at CKOV, it was owned by Jim Browne Jr. who was the GM, Walter Grey was the morning deejay, Jack Cooper did mid-mornings.
Girlfriend Gloria (Gloria Mildenberger) did afternoons.
John Tanner did afternoon drive and we had operators at night.
After 11, it was a live deejay show until sign off at 1am.
Others who passed through the doors, Cal Coleman, Wayne Barry Heinrich,
Al Jensen and his son, known as Kid Jensen for his Radio Luxemburg days,
Greg Acres and many more whose names I can’t remember.
Jack Bews was the News Director and Morning Newscaster.
Bob Hall did sports
During those early days, we picked our own music, listened to every disc that came into the station and had distinct day parts as far as music was concerned.
We had specialty programming with guest hosts.
Scotty Angus did “Echoes of the Highlands” every Saturday night.
On New Year’s Eve, the widow of the station’s founder, “Mother Brown” would show up with her ‘78’s and a bottle and do a live show with guest drop ins and phone inserts.
It got pretty wild.
We also did a regular remote church broadcast and regular studio broadcasts for the Salvation Army.
The piano often was used live for these shows and sometimes didn’t sound very good.
We used to hide our empties in there.
At about 10pm many nights, we’d get local bands into Studio A to record them.
We’d gather up all the microphones after sign off, use the production board and the main control room board and mix live to the Ampex machine in the control room, using the second Ampex for effects, ie: reverb and phasing.
We’d usually isolate the vocalists in Studio B and put the drums in the production Studio.
We had a 77DX, a 44BX, 4-74B’s and a handful of Electrovoice 630’s to work with as well as the grand piano in Studio A.
We made some pretty good recordings, some of which actually made it to vinyl.
In the early ‘60’s, your show was your own.
There were no consultants or music directors.
Your teachers were your peers or the big US and Canadian stations you could pick up at night.
There were no broadcast schools and you were hired on talent alone.
You learned how to do everything.
The only radio or television job I’ve never done is Sales.
I remained at CKOV, rising to the post of Chief Announcer and left in April of 1967 to move to Lethbridge, Alberta.

Above is the Logo for CKOV after CJOV-FM went on-air.

A Reception Verification Card

Advertising brochure cover

Two KHS Students recording

The original transmitter building.

The late Bob Hall (Sports Director) doing a remote broadcast.

No comments:

Post a Comment