The Golden Age of Radio in Sault Ste. Marie
Jack Falldian for local2 sault ste. marie
August 4th, 2012 at 11:12am
The date is May 25, 1955 and CJIC 1050 Radio, which first signed on the air October 25, 1934, is about to be joined by CKCY 1400 Radio, the second AM station ever on the Sault Ste. Marie scene.
CKCY Radio, the brainchild of local businessman Carmen Greco, started to take shape during the winter of 1955 with the erection of towers and a transmitter site located in the north-west section of the city almost directly behind the Sault Drive-In Theatre on Great Northern Road. The majority of the labour involved with the construction of the transmitter site, which included installation of ground wires and the building of tuning huts, was handled by part owner Gino Marcon, John Meadows and me, with many long hours spent in cold, blustery weather trying to meet the signing on-air deadline. The new kids on the block came into the world officially as an independent station with no network affiliation on May 25, located at 1400 on the AM dial, with 250 watts of power.
Over the course of the next thirty-seven years, CKCY Radio would provide Sault Ste. Marie with a finely tuned blend of music (most of it rock ‘n’ roll) with some country thrown in, excellent news and sports coverage, numerous fun games which allowed the public to participate and a host of talented on-air personalities who became household names in the Sault, Karl Sepkowski, who actually got me started in radio as I sometimes operated for him, perhaps unknown to the company at the time, was the all-night show DJ, keeping night owls awake until the early morning hours with the top tunes from the Cash Box Top 40 charts. Then there was CKCY’s morning man, the unpredictable Marcel “Ding Dong” Lacrosse, who was entertaining, funny and a man not averse to playing tricks on listeners and co-workers alike. Once while I was on the board operating for one of the numerous programs CKCY aired, there was a power outage and being new on the job and extremely green to boot, I didn’t grasp the situation as rapidly as Marcel did and he was quick to take advantage of the opportunity. He suddenly rushed into the control room, handed me an official looking form and told me to get it on the air as quickly as possible, which I proceeded to do using my best possible radio voice. “Ladies and gentlemen, due to a power failure CKCY radio is now off the air. We apologize to our listeners for this inconvenience.” I intoned, much to the delight of the staff Marcel had assembled just outside the control room window, many of who were doubled over in laughter.
There were other popular shows the public became part of, such as Check Your Cheque and Radio Bingo with cash prizes up for grabs. Another highly popular show aimed at the younger crowd was Your Choice (rock ‘n’ roll remotes) from numerous locations around the city, the most popular being from the Lone Pine Drive-In located next to the husky Station and the Skylark Drive-In Theatre.
Each Sadie Hawkins Day, the station would be taken over by the ladies, with the wives and girlfriends of station employees handling all the musical programming, news and sports and doing all the commercials live.
Another interesting personality at CKCY was none other than Ray Koivisto who hosted a Saturday morning country show from 10 a.m. to 12 noon, a show I had the opportunity to be part of as a behind the scenes operator.
On other occasions Ray, along with his wife Helen, would bring their band into the station and do a live show from the main studio with Ray and his group proving very popular with those who followed country music.
Harry Wolfe, “The Voice of Greyhound Hockey,” was another gentleman I had the opportunity to work with for close to sixteen years doing the colour on Junior “A” Tier Two Hockey in the old Northern Ontario Hockey Association, in addition to working with Harry on Ontario Hockey League broadcasts.
I was also honoured to work the board for Harry on his very controversial “Open Mike” program with Harry bringing in some very interesting and at times humorous guests including Joe Diodati and Murray “Muzz” MacPherson.
There are others who come to mind, people such as Art Osborne, Lou Turco, Mike Sharpe, Steve Cooney, Peter Ray, Steve Pine, Dave Carter, Dick Peplow, John “JM in the AM” Meadows, Ron Robinson and many others who were part of the CKCY family, a family which had fun and gave listeners supreme entertainment and listening pleasure in the Sault’s Golden Years of Radio.
On August 30, 1992, CKCY 920 on the AM dial with daytime power of 10,000 watts and night time power of 5,000 watts signed off the air for the final time.
Less than a year later, on August 2, 1993, the final chapter in the history of CKCY was completed and Sault Ste. Marie lost a man whose vision and foresight brought thirty-seven years of happiness to this city. It was on this date that Carmen Greco passed away.