Radio CKSF "on the air" fall 1966

by Brian Antonson

I was a brand new 1st-year student that September.  To my delight, nobody had yet started a campus radio station at SFU, which was then only a year old, an idea that had been rattling around in my mind since high school at Burnaby South.  

One brilliant September afternoon, I ran into two fellas I knew from South on the steps leading up to the Quadrangle, John Bishop and Rob Turner.  We discussed how our first couple of weeks in university were going, and I mentioned that I'd like to see a campus radio station started.  After we'd talked about it for a while, Rob said "So...are we going to talk about it, or are we going to do it?"  We all agreed we were going to do it!

We arranged for a room to hold a founding meeting and put up posters around campus inviting interested people to attend.  The room was packed, and many signed up to be a part of this venture.  We went to a student council meeting and asked for money, and received a grant of $300.  With that in hand, we secured some old control room equipment from Rob's next door neighbour, country music star Evan Kemp; there was a microphone, an audio console that once belonged to CKNW personality Jack Cullen, an amplifier that didn't amplify, a couple of turntables, and a couple of speakers.  

The student council of the day gave us the use of an empty janitor closet underneath a staircase just to the southwest of the Rotunda for our headquarters.  Our growing group met more formally to elect leaders, and John Saikley was elected as both president of our loosely organized group, known as CAMRAD for Campus Radio, and station manager.  I became program director. 

We worked away at turning this small janitor closet space into a control room at the rear, and a work area nearest the door.  A fellow named Chris McKelvey brought some technical expertise to the group and was able to coax sound out of the amplifier.  We bought enough speaker wire to stretch from our door to just inside the southwest door of the Rotunda.

And on a grey November day in the Fall of 1966, we went "on the air" with the call sign CKSF, bringing popular tunes from our home collections to those people sitting in the Rotunda.  I can't recall our first record, I can't recall who was first on air...likely me!...but we were launched, and SFU has never been the same since.

Patrick Reid, whose father managed the radio station in Quesnel, dropped by with his booming radio voice and offered to be our news guy, and with current news items cribbed from each morning's Province newspaper, we kept the Rotunda residents informed of goings on.  SFU was a hotbed of student activism in those days, and with a borrowed portable cassette recorder, we covered the rallies and speeches and such, and held our telephone over the recorder's speaker to play back the action to our meager audience.

One day, the Boss Jocks from 73CKLG, the top rock station in town at the time, dropped by when they were on campus for a celebrity event of some kind, and we were able to interview them.  Various other people, some with radio experience, others with none, dropped in to join our motley crew.  Christmas break arrived, and we shut down, but reconvened operations in early January 1967 and made sure a wide variety of music shows, interview and talk sessions, etc., were a part of the growing schedule.  We were on the air weekdays from 10am to 4pm, and occasionally on weekends if someone was available.

I left after the winter term, and moved to BCIT's Broadcast Communications course in September 1967.  John Bishop continued with the station for several years.  I lost track of Rob Turner along the way.  But we three founding fathers can be proud of our work in birthing an operation in the Fall of 1966 that continues to be a part of Simon Fraser University's tartan fabric, five-and-a-half decades later.  Through location changes into larger premises and call sign alterations, that tiny operation has grown to be available on the FM band throughout the lower mainland [CJSF-FM]...a grand achievement of generations of SFU people, and a starter station to a number of successful broadcasters.    

September 18, 2021

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("On Air" photo by Fringer Cat on Unsplash.)