A little bit of CBC radio history fades away · 23.02.17 by colin newell
If you are much under the age of 40, the concept of “radio, the medium that reaches the masses” is probably not a thing that resonates with you.
But for many residents of British Columbia, over the last 70 years, if you lived in an out of the way place, CBC Shortwave on 6160 Khz was likely your only source of news, commentary and entertainment. This service has been on for as long as I can remember. I was a 12 year old when I first discovered CBC 690 in Vancouver was being relayed by a low powered transmitter out on the mudflats of Richmond, British Columbia. It was part of my daily routine as a kid living on the West Coast to see how the news of the day sounded, as transmitted through a crackly and occasionally fading shortwave transmitter.
In the last year, however, amidst one more trim to CBC services, the Shortwave service quietly faded into history for British Columbia. And sure, it is easy to say, in an era of satellite and internet communications, “who listens to the radio anymore anyway?”
Well, through the years, this little 1000 Watt transmitter covered British Columbia and the Pacific North West with a pretty darn good signal – often being heard around the World. It served the fishing fleet in the Pacific, hunters and trappers in the wilds of British Columbia, geologists and foresters working in places served by nothing more than fresh air, sunshine and moon light.
But time moves on. In 2017, our news stories comes at us in 140 character snippets on our social media and video footage is viewed in HD quality on our smart phones. Heck, we hardly need television anymore.
Illustration below – Telus composite Cell coverage for British Columbia – around 15% of the Province has high speed cell coverage.
There was a time, when radio was king and the hardy and adventurous among us kept in touch the old fashioned way and listened to the sweet sounds of the CBC via radio skip. Many of us still do that in some of the more isolated nooks and crannies of this great province via the old style CBC AM radio service. For those of us who tuned the CBC with a multi-band transistor radio, a cranky ionosphere often made for quirky sounding audio and the fading associated with signal conditions gave this regional broadcaster a very retro and way back sound.
Quote from radio operator VE7SL – “Located on the mudflats of far western Richmond (Steveston) and a stone’s throw from the Pacific Ocean’s Georgia Strait, CKZU’s gets out very well for its compartively small 500W transmitter.”
Photo by Mark Matilla – VA7MM of the CKZU Antenna Array
In the last year, hobbyists and radio amateurs were noting that the little signal from Vancouver had been struggling after 7 decades on the air – a power supply component was creating distortion that was making the signal unlistenable. The decision was made. The plug was pulled. There was likely nary a moment when an outdoors person or fisher looked up from their work to note that CBC’s long range regional service was gone.
When contacted and asked about the regional radio service (via a CBC insider), the engineering department responded… “It’s broken, old and there are no parts…” Right.
Steve VE7SL of Mayne Island continues… “It appears to confirm the rumor that the antenna system consists of a two-wire beam (using wide-spaced folded dipole style elements) … one element being driven and the other element being a reflector. According to Mark, the orientation would beam the relayed CBU-690 signal up the coast of British Columbia and not towards the SE as the original Google photo appears to indicate. It is certainly a well ‘overbuilt’ structure. No doubt its height contributes to its ability to radiate a good signal all around North America (and Europe).”
On the other coast, in Newfoundland, it’s a different story. Private radio broadcasts began on the rock in 1932 but in 1939 the government of the day took over radio. A shortwave service began there in 1940 and used different frequencies depending on the time of day. Newfoundlands finest hours happened in 1940 as debate started about what would become of this British colony including thoughts cast towards joining the U.S.A. as a new state! Through the years equipment was updated and many radio stations carrying national broadcasts were added to the out of the way places in Newfoundland. That being so, Labrador, its own territory with its own special needs was covered by station CKZN out of St. Johns and future plans are to consider fully supporting regional shortwave broadcasting to reach the nooks and crannies of this rugged area.
So, what of British Columbia? At 365 thousand square miles (Newfoundland and Labrador are 165 thousand square miles combined) you would think we would be still worthy of regional shortwave radio service. There are, arguably, thousands of square miles of this great Province with little or no cell coverage and certainly no radio coverage during the day or night. So the question remains – why has CBC British Columbia simply gone “Meh…” as their primary and only regional Shortwave transmitter has puffed out? I’d love to know.
I’m not going to be bitter about it. CBC Shortwave service in B.C. is gone, but not forgotten. Thank you CBC. For decades of service to the small places and reaching the hardy faces of those brave souls who tamed the rugged vista that is British Columbia. Your radio waves are gone, but we will remember the good times when you brought the news, entertainment and music into the distant hills and valleys of this most rugged of Canadian provinces. But if you want to re-think this loss of service or entertain ideas about bringing it back, I am all ears!
Video below – CKZU 6160 khz as picked up in Japan
Update – By 1946, CBR operated a shortwave relay for remote areas of British Columbia using the call sign CBRX and operating on a frequency of 6160 kHz (in the 49m band). The call sign changed to CBUX in 1952 when the AM station became CBU. In 1965, the call sign changed to CKZU, recognizing that the ITU prefix CB was not assigned to Canada, but to Chile. The transmitter operates at 1000 watts and is located adjacent to CBU’s AM transmitter.
Colin Newell is a long time Victoria resident who finds stories in the odd places… and tries to tell them like it is…
Local artisan series chapter one - Alfons Furniture · 8.08.16 by colin newell
When we first moved into our new house, one of the first neighbours to pop by was Alfons.
He lives on the street parallel to our and shares part of a back fence. An enthusiastic gardener and outdoorsman, Alfons represents all the good things about good neighbours – engaged, good humoured and genuinely interested in what is going on in the World around us.
As it turns out, Alfons is a fine furniture maker and designer – a guy who makes some very unique and breathtaking pieces that would grace and compliment any home or business. He completed an apprenticeship program in fine furniture in Germany in 1987. After several years working with a variety of senior masters in the craft, he returned to school to obtain a Master’s Diploma in furniture making.
Alfons came to Canada in 1998 and honed his craft in several different work shops in the Victoria area before setting up his own woodcraft design lab in 2005. Alfons focus is on traditional European design and the Contemporary interpretations within North America.
Alfons’s shop and ideas area is in the heart of Rock Bay in an old multi-storied warehouse that contains guitar makers, digital labs and an assortment of high end maker spaces.
We had lunch together recently after getting a tour of his unassuming work space and environment where many of his great ideas come together. There was something about the positive energy and youthfulness of the space that resonated with me – and I imagine that this contributes to the overall quality of everything that comes from this building and his creation space.
What I also discovered about Alfons is his acute ability to listen and provide instant feedback on what I may have been trying to convey on some of my design ideas – which is an immensely valuable skill when designing items of furniture that may reside in a home for 100 years or more.
As Alfons pointed out to me over lunch at the Salt Chuck Pie nearby, “The customer relationship is the most important key to succeeding in virtually any project… whether it is building the perfect piece of fine furniture for their home… or making their computer work better in their business…” Yes indeed, I can certainly relate to that!
Have a look at Alfons’s website and photo gallery – I think you will agree that he builds and designs some of the most remarkable pieces of furniture in the South Vancouver Island marketplace.
You can find Alfons online or make an appointment with him via – Alfons Laicher
Alfons Custom Furniture & Woodwork Inc. – 2614 Bridge St. #223 • Victoria, BC • V8T 4S9
Email: [email protected]
This is Chapter One of an ongoing series of artisan conversations – with the creators, makers and ideas people of Vancouver Island.
Long lost Gibson Guitar Les Paul Gold top stolen from ago · 2.06.16 by colin newell
A very long time (1985) I was a Gibson guitar player – they are awesome for Rock, Blues, Jazz, pretty much whatever you want to play. And I played it in a few pick-up bands and a couple of outfits that played a few shows… in a life a long time ago.
That said, I was not a big fan of this for some reason. Might have been the colour or the weight.
Ah, the weight! It was like carrying around a large dog draped around your shoulder – like a Lab or a Bull Mastiff -
And the sound of the Gibson Les Paul is unmistakable – it snarled like a cornered tiger and commanded any musical performance it was involved with.
But the weight got me down… literally… and one day I sold it to a notable and currently successful musician. That was in 1990 or so.
The new owner traveled the World with it – and took on a new life of its own.
Then one day: It was in the locked trunk of of the owner, “Sean’s” 1980 Buick in underground, gated parking beneath the Seagate Apartments on Esquimalt Rd. He came home after an afternoon practice and had left it for around two hours before he had to head out to another practice. Two hours in a locked basement garage. It could have been an inside job, an unscrupulous neighbour… someone that clearly did not appreciate the fact that this particular guitar playing fellows livelihood depended on those 6 stringed instruments. Guitar be gone.
Anyway – occasionally I make a shout out to the World about this missing guitar – likely in the wrong hands, maybe getting played, maybe not or in the hands of someone that is not aware that it is hot.
Anyway – here is the picture of the guitar stolen years ago – and somewhere out there, this guitar is waiting to come home to its owner. If you see it, please send it on its way.
The original owner thanks you!
This was a 1971 or 1972 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe with hard case stolen from the Seagate Apartment parking lot in 1992. The serial number is 171568 –
Any intel on this item would likely be rewarded with cash or whole bean coffee! Or both!
Working on a music project - that is all. · 13.01.16 by colin newell
Andrea asked me to cook up something Latin while I was working on a “special” music project. I have just completed assembling my current home recording studio and have been working on a couple of special projects to see how everything sounds – a shake down as it were.
My small basement “grotto” sound work-shop features a 24-Track digital audio workstation, a 12 in / 2 out mixing board, APEX floating plate condenser microphones, Cort and Godin guitars, a digital piano and a variety of incidental percussion – as well as a synth stand-up bass. It’s a good set-up for just about every kind of music.
OK so back to the request – I have a spare hour or two because I am currently on vacation. Let’s see, apart from noodling on the occasional Latin or Spanish rhythm, I have never attempted anything start to finish. There is nothing really that complicated about this piece – more a case of starting in the right groove and staying there.
Click here for audio file if you cannot see flash player above.
My wife is a huge fan of Ottmar Liebert, you know, that German born, Flamenco-Spanish guitar playing wizard…
Well she wanted something that sounded like that.
So, I winged it. Enjoy. It is 5 minutes long and perhaps a bit stretched for a Spanish piece – and currently lacking any lyrics, might drag a bit.
Enjoy. I play everything on it. Feel free to download, enjoy on your iPod, play while you are in the shower or doing whatever. It’s up to you. More to come in time!
Tommy Emmanuel launches Pan-Canadian Tour · 16.05.14 by colin newell
This week, my nephew William (an aspiring guitar player), and I (a guitar slinger since the mid-70’s) had the pleasure of seeing finger style guitar player Tommy Emmanuel – in person at the Mcpherson Playhouse in Victoria, B.C.
Arguably one of the hardest working solo acts in the business, Tommy has been touring for over 5 decades. Starting his career at age 4 in a family rich with musical heritage, Tommy was playing professionally by the age of 6 in a family band and by 10 years of age had already toured Australia.
With a Chet Atkins “Certified Guitar Player” title (and I know of no other players who have this accreditation…) and 2 Grammy nominations, Tommy’s 7 year stint of touring a minimum of 300 dates a year is truly breath taking and staggering. It is no wonder that his skill with the 6 string guitar borders on the unnatural and nearly impossible. His evening show, comprised of 2 1.5 hour sets, left everyone (particularly the musicians in the audience) staggered and, like me, elated and exhausted at the same time – witnessing the level of showmanship and raw focused talent.
As mentioned above, there is a major influence from Chet Atkins, who was clearly a leader in guitar playing technique from the 1940’s through executive production roles in the 70’s – and his influences (which are readily audible in Tommy Emmanuel’s style include Merle Travis, Django Reinhardt, George Barnes, Les Paul and Jerry Reed.) And in Tommy’s show, he displays all of these with perfection and aplomb. In fact, some of the delivery is so rapid fire that you often are not sure if Tommy is drawing on some historic influence or cooking it up on the fly and in the moment. Either way, it is guitar fireworks like you have never seen.
Being an acoustic and electric guitar player, with a (I think) modest level of accomplishment at an intermediate level, I felt like 1.5 hours of Tommy’s playing would be perfect for me — because I am there for the joy of the music and the learning. In fact, a guitar workshop (which he does frequently) would have been a better choice. Fact is, I am more of a technique technician than an actual performer – meaning I spend way more time hammering out technique than actual melodic playing. But for the fan of Tommy and his art, his show was engaging, long on humility and genuine engagement and light on the grandstanding typical of this level of artist. His sense of humor infused all but the most serious of tunes – and there were a few… and I will not spoil the surprise as this is, after all, tour date number one.
Not surprisingly, the McPherson theater was a full house – what was odd, however, was the age group of the audience – 65+. There were even 90 years young folk at the show and as many guitar players as I know, many were clearly absent. And upon additional investigation, I found that many of my guitar playing friends who worship Tommy’s skill set and live shows, discovered that the local show was not very well locally publicized. Even I kind of fell upon some tickets that my nephew had purchased months ago (that his guitar teacher had tipped him off to). And by the time I had clued in and checked the theater online ticket listings, there were only singles available. Which is not a problem for the artist, because the room was full. I guess in an ere of social media, when one wants to follow an artists tour, they need to subscribe to their feed – whether it is facebook, e-mail or twitter. Whatever works.
Anyway – for the rest of you Canadian guitar players out there that want to catch Tommy Emmanuel live, head over to the tour date page – His shows feature a lot of his original material, many of the cover tunes that he interprets oh so well, and some humor and story telling thrown in for good value. As I quipped to my nephew, “Everything I can play on the guitar, and I mean everything I know… Tommy can play in about 5 minutes at break neck speed…”
I have seen many, many YouTube videos featuring Tommy Emmanuel and his live performances are hotter than anything you can watch on a screen — if such a thing is possible.
So grab a ticket. And enjoy! And happy guitar playing!