600 Memories

Click to hear me in 1955 at CJOR

The former CJOR at 600 on the AM dial is going dark and the station is flipping to FM.  It is fascinating that it is happening 54 years to the day I began my career there.  I had been hanging around CJOR in 1953 with Al Jordan and his Teen Canteen show.  I created a fictional character called Rod Gat, a satirical take-off on the popular writer Mickey Spillane‘s anti-hero Mike Hammer.  It garnered a following and hundreds of letters poured in each week. It always ended with a cliff hanging situation which meant you had to tune in the following week to find out where the story was going.

Then suddenly Al Jordan took off to work in Penticton and was replaced by Rod Hume. He lasted six months. I had gone to Penticton on Remembrance Day Weekend 1954 to visit Al. Upon my return program manager Vic Waters told me that Hume had been let go and that he and others had decided to give me a try with a “live” audition. Vic said, “listen kid, if you can handle it you can have it and build it”.  I went on the air right after the four o’clock newscast and kicked the show off with a doo-wop/R&B song called Marie with the 4 Tunes. The phones lit up and at the end of the show Vic said I had the job.

Click to hear Vic Waters remember how it started

I built the show to a point where I had over 25,000 club members and it became an advertiser’s delight. I stayed at CJOR until April 1957 when I joined CKWX for more money… but more importantly to take my rock and roll records to a station that was going to broadcast with 50,000 watts. That would make it one of the nation’s top stations with an unbelievable reach.

I was replaced at CJOR by Brian Forst (before he was known as Frosty –  a name some have indicated he got from Seattle deejay “Frosty” Fowler). He had won a contest to replace me.

CJOR will always be with me. Even as a teenager I knew the station’s history.  Alan Young (Mr. Ed), Bernie Braden and Barbara Kelly, who became a sensation on BBC in England, and others had carved their careers at 600 on the radio dial.  I can remember the last days of old time radio with a live broadcast from the Commodore each Saturday Night with Doug Kirk’s Orchestra, Town Meeting in Canada from our radio studios on Howe Street, and Harmony House from the stage of the Orpheum Theatre.

The station had a reputation as a major source for news and entertainment. In the Fifties and Sixties the tradition continued with personalities such as Vic Waters, Monty McFarlane, Jack Webster, Dave Abbott, Pat Burns, Fanny Kiefer and a host of other great and talented people. Vic Waters, it must be added, aided and abetted the careers of many including Frosty, Fred Latremouille and myself. Sadly, Vic passed away this past summer.

I can still picture the rain on Howe Street illuminating the CJOR call letters, the Grosvenor Hotel and the main studios downstairs, Joe the shoeshine guy around the corner next to the dry cleaners on Smythe Street, the Orpheum a block away and down at the other end Robson Street, with  Danceland, where Jack Cullen had his studios, and of course Sam’s Shirt Shop where I spent gobs of money buying Elvis inspired clothing. These things are indelible in my mind.

Goodbye, old friend. You are going out without much fanfare but  the memories you have provided will live on with many of us. An era has ended.