A piece of history is gone in Cornwall

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So there I was travelling along Second Street and I thought I’d tune into one of the radio stations I had worked at in my other life, many years ago.  It was 10:40am or thereabouts on Wednesday, August 18th and the station was playing some oldie song of one sort or another.  I was headed to an 11am appointment in Cornwall.

            I made my appointment when I was called into an office and asked to listen.  There on the radio was new General Manager of the Corus radio stations JJ Johnston giving last rites to CJUL or as oldtimers remember it, CJSS.

            The AM radio station was signing off for good and with that, a part of broadcasting history in Cornwall was coming to an end.

            Needless to say it was personal for me, having spent close to a decade working at what was then Tri-co Broadcasting which consisted of two radio stations—an AM and an FM outlet.  There was nothing unusual about that.  Many communities across Canada had similar operations but the futurists could see an end to AM radio, particularly in smaller communities.  You see AM radio is subject to limited reception unless you have tens of thousands of watts of power.  AM also couldn’t deliver the sound that the baby boomers demanded with their stereo tunes.  Myself, I grew up on AM radio (yup, little older than the baby boomers) and yes 1050 CHUM in Toronto was a staple, along with 580 CKEY in Toronto, 1150 CKOC in Hamilton (all rock and roll stations), along with 900 CHML in Hamilton—the so-called “middle of the road” station that those old “fogies” our parents used to like.  What few FM radio stations there were, in any market were dedicated either to classical music (cooties to a growing teen) and hours and hours of talk (bor-r-r-ing again to a teen).  At the time little did we realize the change that would take place in radio that would see talk end up on AM stations and rock and roll on FM (although you can still find some classical FM operations but not near as many).

            I remember arriving in Cornwall in 1997, scared to death in my new position as Operations Manager of the two radio properties.  But I was lucky.  I had great people already working at the stations and although I was warned about going to a “union” station, I can honestly say during my tenure the only time you even realized there was a union was during negotiations for a new contract and even that seemed to go smoothly.  The same can’t be said prior to my arrival when Cornwall radio was hit with a nasty strike that spoiled relationships forever at that time.

            But nevertheless CJSS had significant history.

                The station signed on in 1945 owned by, believe it or not, the Standard-Freeholder.  Call letters were CKSF.  Cornwall had its own FM station in 1957 and I have to assume as we mentioned above, it was either classical and/or elevator music because that’s when FM stations broadcast then.  According to Wikipedia, in 1959 the stations “were acquired by Stanley Shankman, the owner of CJSS-TV and both changed their call signs to CJSS as well.  Two years after that, Shankman sold his broadcast holdings. The TV station was sold to Ottawa’s CJOH-TV and the radio stations were sold to the local Émard family. The radio stations were subsequently acquired by Tri Co Broadcasting in 1978. Tri Co converted CJSS to the FM band in 1999. CJSS' former frequency, 1220 AM, did not go dark, but changed to an adult standards format as CJUL.”

            A ton of great broadcasters honed their craft at CJSS—too many to start mentioning them here for fear of leaving someone out.  However, I’m sure many readers will have some favourite announcer or news reader come to mind when CJSS is mentioned.  Who knows?  Maybe even the name John Divinski would come to mind for some as that guy who did that talk show “Talkback” in the late 90’s and beyond.  He had his moments but he could be a stinker at times as well.

            So, in the parlance of broadcasting, CJSS or if you will CJUL went “dark” on

Wednesday, August 18th and it brought AM broadcasting in Cornwall to an end.

            No reason was given for the move, but rest assured it was bottom line.  AM radio stations for the most part have been riding on the advertising backs of their FM sisters  and the cost of maintaining an AM operation continued to rise as revenues and listenership declined.

            The only AM radio stations making any type of go of it are all talk/news operations such as CFRA in Ottawa or CFRB or CFTR in Toronto.  Those types of formats are pricey but in big markets where even a 1 to 4% share of market can be thousands and thousands of listeners, AM can survive.

            I was sad to see an old friend go “dark” but will always have great memories of the fun we had at CJSS and CJUL.

            Another piece of sad news is that two employees were let go as a result of the shutdown including morning show host John Bolton.

                And here’s a piece of irony, again according to Wikipedia.

“As a consequence to CJUL's closedown, St. Catharines’ (AM radio)station CHSC could be heard after sunset, though this availability is short-lived, as CHSC's licence expires permanently on August 31, 2010, and that station is expected to close by then.”

I’m John Divinski

Organizations: Corus, CHUM, Tri Co Standard-Freeholder

Geographic location: Cornwall, Toronto, Second Street Hamilton Canada Ottawa

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Recent comments

  • bob aiken
    March 14, 2013 - 15:56

    Sorry, Dougie, but, Yes you can! On the Internet, any time, from anywhere on the planet! Like you I'm an 'EY vet from '52-'55 in Sales, under JKC's bro' Hal. I'm stiill in touch with guys like Carl Banas, Russ Thompson & Tom (Foul-Mouth) Harvey. Wish I new the whereabouts of 2 of the best who Jack brought in from 'OY in Ottawa ....Ned Conlin & ..????..........(Damn! who was that other guy?) Carl would know. My favourite recollections, circa 1941/42 are of WGR's morning man, Clint Buelman, ("Yours truly, Buely") and Joe Chrydale & his side- kick, known only as "Little Joe" on Hamilton's CKOC. with a Sat afternoon. 'jazz' show that featured Raymond Scott's wife who doubled as a vocalist singing "Pretty Little Petty -Coat". Hunh?! Yup! that was jazz as featured on CKOC, courtesy - Lyman Potts.

  • Bob Rice
    August 30, 2010 - 16:37

    Hi John. I truly enjoyed your writing of the passing of CJUL, an all-to-familiar story in these times of corporate-run broadcasting where the bottom line is dollars and cents and to heck with what the public wants. As a long time CKEY employee (another station that has disappeared into the stratosphere) it was my pleasure to work with some of the finest talent that ever graced the airwaves. I also listened in to other stations in the area and am pleased that Brian and Doug took the time to put in their two cents worth. We dinosaurs at least have great memories to sustain us.. and the knowledge that we were all a part of Canadian broadcast history. All the best. (Captain) Bob Rice

  • Brian Thomas
    August 30, 2010 - 15:09

    Hi John. I was not aware that you are out of the business. What are you doing now? It's been a long time since I hired you for your first radio job at CJCS, Stratford in 1964 or '65. I enjoyed reading your history of CJSS. You were working here the last time I talked to you. I never worked in Cornwall myself but I certainly had a number of friends who got their start at CJSS. My best friend for many years until we lost contact, Ron Roberts who's home town is Cornwall started his radio career at CKSF and went on to stations in Kitchener, Halifax and London, where Ron and I worked together as PD and ND at CJOE, London in 1968. It's sad indeed that the majority of AM stations can't be supported and I fear many more than CJUL will be signed off permanently. I was with CHUM FM and 1050 CHUM for 32 years until 2004. 1050 CHUM (AM) basically signed off twice...First in 2001 to become an all sports station which was a disaster and then finally more recently to become an audio feed only from CP24 television. How terribly sad! I can relate to how the folks in Cornwall feel about the loss of their old friend..and how sad it is for the many fine broadcasters who came through CJSS. Sounds like you got out in time John. I would love to hear how you are doing and hope you will contact me. Brian Thomas Former Manager News Operations 1050 CHUM and CHUM FM, Toronto.

  • Doug Hobbs
    August 29, 2010 - 17:11

    Hi John, I remember our days together at CKSL in London in 1969. I've been retired for five years, and when I see what is happening to the industry it makes me very sad, but glad I don't have to live in it anymore. Like you, I grew up listening to CHUM, CKEY, CKOC, WKBW and those great AM stations from places like Chicago (WLS with Dick Biondi), New York (WABC with Cousin Brucie), Boston (WBZ with Jeff K) etc. etc. I think I can name just about every announcer at CHUM or CKEY - even the part timers like Garry Ferrier, from 1950 to 1965. I got in the business in late 1965 and worked in places like Galt, Woodstock, Ajax, Oshawa, London and finally in St. Catharines (CKTB, not the soon to be extinct CHSC) where I've lived in 1969. I loved AM radio because you could listen to stations so far away. You can't do that with FM. Hope all is well with you, Doug Hobbs