Radio and television have been a part of Prince Albert for many years, and that was the subject of discussion when the Prince Albert Historical Museum hosted Coffee and Conversation on Thursday afternoon.
The speaker for the afternoon was legendary former broadcaster and Mayor Jim Scarrow who outlined the entire history of CKBI Radio and Television and all of the changes up until today.
Scarrow said he was asked to speak because of his own history in radio and television and how he bridges both through his life experience.
“I was very unique in that I was in broadcasting for all oh some 50, 60 years, but to be more precise, probably about 56 years,” Scarrow said. “I was introduced to a lot of the history and participated in much of it.”
Scarrow explained that he really only had two jobs in his life, and dabbled as Mayor.
“One Christmas with Kresge’s and the others with broadcasting,” he said. “I found very early on in age that it was a job that I would love. As it turns out, I got to do all my life what I wanted to do.”
His involvement in broadcasting led to being involved in the community. Scarrow said you can’t be in Prince Albert and not volunteer, and speaking at the museum about the city’s history is a great opportunity to do just that.
“The museum here is just outstanding, he said. “I couldn’t encourage people enough to come and see what’s been done because (with) museums you think, ‘I’ve been there and seen that.’ No, you haven’t. It keeps changing and evolving.”
The talk took place in the Bob Serjeant Room of the Museum which recently had a complete refurbishment completed.
Scarrow opened his talk with the first words spoken from the new Prince Albert radio studios on May 25, 1937. Then he discussed the development of radio from a Marconi Club to the launch of CKBI and the eventual split off of television with the sale of CKBI to Yorkton’s Shamrock Broadcasting.
“They were actually owned and started by a private group of people who were interested in Morse code … and that was back in about 1913 or ’14,” he explained. “Then the thing, television, came on board and there was a radio and TV in the same building and worked closely together. The creative department, for example, worked for both radio and TV news.”
The two were integrated until the television station was spun off in the 1980s and the radio was eventually sold to the Jim Pattison Group by the Rawlinson Family in 2014.
“Largely it’s been the Rawlinson family, Ed Rawlison and Gordon Rawlinson in particular, creating the opportunity to build a TV station in Prince Albert back in 1958,” Scarrow said.
At the time, he explained, technology was progressing at a rapid rate, especially on the television side. That led to more t.v. programming from outside networks, while radio in Prince Albert remained hands-on.
Scarrow’s talk drew a large crowd to Coffee and Conversation. The former mayor said that’s because many residents have an emotional attachment to radio.
“Television less so, but everybody’s radio is kind of personal, and that still continues to be very, very strong,” he said. “Eighty-five per cent of Canadians listen to radio once or more throughout the year, three or 4 hours a week it’s still an attractive medium.”
Despite the talk being about radio and television, Scarrow also touched on the Daily Herald and its presence in the Bill Smiley Archive.
“We were competitors for the advertising dollar, but we see here the magnificent gift that the paper had given in terms of the photo library and the access to all of the editions of the Herald going back to those days that predates radio,” he said. “You have all the pictures and the history and the names and the people under the accuracy of the paper. It is so important.”
After his talk concluded, Scarrow went around the room asking people about their memories.
The next Coffee and Conversation will be a biography of Grey Owl with Fred Payton on Thursday, April 20 beginning at 2 p.m. at the Prince Albert Historical Museum.