I got my break in broadcasting at CKRD-TV. What fun it was!
I’d been registered at Red Deer College in the phys ed program. Yes, I was going to be a “jock.” But while perusing the summer job postings at what was then ManPower, I saw a posting for a writer at a TV station in Red Deer.
I liked to write and never knew you could actually get paid to do it. So I asked the counsellor for a referral. She refused, telling me I was only qualified to be a housekeeper.
However, I figured there was no law stopping me from applying anyway, and since there was only one TV station in town, I put together some of my poems and stories and went in.
Dale Nelson called me for an interview. He didn’t spend a lot of time on my proffered writings but instead asked me to do a “test.”
I was to sit at his typewriter for the next 15 minutes and crank out one 60-second “spot” that should be double-spaced and fill the page; and a 30-second that should fill half the page.
The pages were split with audio on one side and “slides” on the other. He told me to ignore that.
So I sat down and started my career in broadcasting. I wrote something wild and crazy about roller derby and I did it in the time limit. And I was hired.
What great fun it was! The joy of creation. Working with countless other “crazy” broadcasters.
We all did hours of overtime for no extra pay. The station wouldn’t pay it and we were hooked on production. We didn’t care!
When the telephone list was issued, everyone rushed to see who was still employed. “Hey! Your name is not on here” was the first clue. And that afternoon the person in question would get their cheque and a pink slip. The reason was usually they had asked for a raise.
We got used to the idea. This was the little league of broadcasting. You wanted more money? Prove your worth — move up — to ITV, Edmonton or Toronto!
We laughed at Uncle Ron’s afternoon radio talk show. People loved it!
Ron would usually open with “Today’s topic is open . . .” and the calls would roll in. “Ron, I just wanted to say how much I enjoy your show . . .” and after about 10 minutes of adulation, someone would call in with their favourite rant. Followed by a ‘frequent flyer’ with another rant.
He would generously acknowledge it all.
Our news was local then. Everything was local. That was the great thing about it.
We didn’t have irrelevant satellite feeds about strange alligators found in Florida toilets. Local events, local sports, local celebrities.
And local ads for local stores. In those days, TV production was a simple slide-tape in most cases.
Someone like me wrote the ad and dreamed up the concept for the pictures.
The station photographer would pop over to the store, snap photos of product and store owner and exterior signage. We’d pick some music, have an announcer like Doug Fix record the copy onto a ‘cart’ (cartridge tape).
Then the slides would be set in order in the telecine chain and the switcher would press a button to “switch” them while the cart played back during the commercial break.
Even small retailers could afford airtime. It wasn’t much more than print advertising.
I moved on to ITV and CFCN and ACCESS and continued producing more advanced local shows, including the Time Lines series for CFCN-TV, which was surprisingly highly rated.
It was a local historical show done on a tiny budget by executive producer Bruce Nelson, producer Gord Enno, cinematographer Tim Hollings (who sadly passed away a couple of years ago), me as writer/researcher, and Per Asplund, film editor.
Gord, Tim and I travelled Alberta in his van on about a $10 budget for beer and hot dogs and interviewed the most amazing people about our history. Then we spent afternoons in the Glenbow Archives, shooting black and whites to supplement the interviews.
But cable TV and conglomerate networks invaded our local retail world. Soon in order to pay for the fancy shows, the retail ad costs went up dramatically — as did the production requirements. That helped kill many local stores and build national chains who could afford it.
So, it changed our business communities too. Local production and broadcasting barely exists anymore — a crime when the technology has made it cheap and easy to reflect our immediate world. I had a great time at CKRD-TV and I mourn CHCA’s passing.
Michelle Stirling-Anosh is a Ponoka freelance columnist.