CFRC celebrates its 85th birthday

Spirit of radio ‘alive and well’ as Canada’s oldest radio station blows out its candles

CFRC host Rick Jackson says Kingstonians connect to the campus radio station.
CFRC host Rick Jackson says Kingstonians connect to the campus radio station.

CFRC alumni who were broadcasters as early as 1941 stopped by an open house celebrating the 85th anniversary of Canada’s longest-running radio station on Saturday to see how the station has changed over the years.

CFRC 101.9 FM Operations Officer Eric Beers said although the open house was only scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., some alumni stayed for hours longer.

“They sat around and just chatted and just enjoyed being here. It was really, really a wonderful experience,” he said.

Beers said many alumni were touched to be able to visit the station.

“A lot of them spoke of how it had maintained a certain colour, or atmosphere—a flavour that was precious to them,” he said.

“People who’ve been through here really love this place, and many of them spoke of how their experiences here have stayed with them their whole lives.”

Steve Cutway, Arts ’72, was CFRC manager from 1974 until 1989. He volunteered at the station from 1968 to 1972 when he was a student at Queen’s.

Cutway said in his time as a student, the last thing CFRC wanted was to become an AMS club.

“There was a belief that there would be less stability and continuity,” he said. “My only hope is that the AMS does realize what a resource they have.”

Cutway, who works for Queen’s IT Services, said CFRC was a very different place when he began there. There were two stations—one AM and one FM—and they only broadcasted on Thursdays through Sundays.

He said the weekend’s celebrations went very well.

“I was really pleased, personally, to see the number of people who came back,” he said, adding that he was also happy to see how many current volunteers who wanted to talk to alumni.

Cutway said he doesn’t think radio is irrelevant because everybody has iPods these days.

“I reject that completely, because radio is very much alive and well. I saw that here on the weekend,” he said. “I saw a very strong commitment, a strong enthusiasm and just love of the art of broadcasting.”

Rick Jackson has been a broadcaster at CFRC for the past 10 years. Since 1998 he has hosted a program called “The Artists and Music of the 20th Century” every Saturday.

Jackson, who has lived in Kingston for 37 years, said Kingstonians connect to CFRC.

“A lot of people phone in on my program on Saturdays and they do like what we’re doing at the station,” he said.

Jackson said students need to be better informed about CFRC.

“There’s some students who find it hard to believe we have a station there,” he said. “But certainly I think CFRC is working to try and get more involvement from the students.”

Wayne Vermette, another Kingston resident, has been volunteering with CFRC since 1981.

He said the first time he went on the air, he mispronounced the word bass—but he still got a slot hosting a program about jazz. After three or four years, Vermette began hosting a blues program, which he has hosted ever since.

“It’s fun for me. Not a lot of people get an opportunity to entertain an audience,” he said.

He said the “whole world opened up” when CFRC moved its transmitter to Wolfe Island and the station turned to stereo in 1990.

Now that CFRC broadcasts over the Internet, Vermette has calls from listeners as far away as Australia.

“I think I’d be lost if I wasn’t able to go down to the station every Saturday,” he said.

He said there were only three Kingstonians at CFRC in 1981.

“I think the community didn’t know that they could approach the station,” he said. “The net has done more for exposure.”

Today, he said, half the people at CFRC are members of the community.

“I think a community person can commit easier … but a student could be caught up in all kinds of lectures.”

CFRC is gearing up for a lot of change over the next few years as the staff begins planning for the station’s move to the Queen’s Centre.

Beers said CFRC is slated to move into the Queen’s Centre during the third phase of construction, which is scheduled to be completed between 2012 and 2014.

He said a more central location will be good for CFRC in terms of its relationship to Queen’s students.

“Hopefully that will help increase our relevance to the student body,” he said.

There are also drawbacks to leaving Lower Carruthers Hall, which has been CFRC’s home since 1958, Beers said.

“There’s a lot of history here, and in a way, it’s going to be kind of a sad occasion in and of itself.”

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