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Memory Lane: Readers share memories of Sudbury's 1st TV station

We asked, you answered. Readers share their memories of the early days of television and of Sudbury’s CKSO, Canada’s first privately owned TV stations

CKSO TV was the first privately owned commercial television station in Canada.

The signal signed on in October, 1953. Television was so new then that people were fascinated by watching the test pattern.

Sudbury had one television station until 1970. Many programs were produced locally.

Sudbury.com asked readers to send their memories about CKSO TV.

Vicki Thurlow remembered her family was one of the first in her neighbourhood to have a television set, an expense luxury in the early 1950s."I read with interest the Sudbury.com article on the early days of TV in Sudbury,” she wrote. “Our house was small, so our very close playmates were the only ones allowed inside to watch it. But I remember other neighbourhood kids peeking in our living room window to watch a show.”

Thurlow’s earliest memories are of the test pattern picture and a kids’ show starring Randy Dandy and some puppets.

“I still miss the test pattern! Basil Scully, Bill Kehoe and Trudy Manchester were certainly our local celebrities in late 1950s into the 1960s. In my high school years, Mike Cranston did a Saturday morning dance show.”

She has memories of appearing on CKSO TV, too.

“Three other high schoolers and I were panelists on a Saturday show called ‘Generation’ (circa 1967). Most of that time, Tom Pace was the moderator and each week we discussed a topic either with or without a special guest. They included the late (MPP) Elmer Sopha and the late (MP) Jim Jerome. We discussed topics of the day from the point of view of a teenager.”

Diane Ikonen wrote, “Really enjoyed reading the article about CKSO TV. It may have been my mom's best friend, as I recall sitting in front of the TV for long periods of time and watching the test pattern. I was sure I could see something happening in the test pattern that was signalling that a show was about to begin.

“I recall the TV personalities, Bill Kehoe and Judy Jacobsen (Erola). In my young imagination, they were an ‘item.’

“What an interesting point you brought forward about the lack of interest in McDonald's Restaurant. I recall seeing that restaurant in Sault Ste. Marie and being baffled by its slogan about the number of hamburgers served. Sudbury eventually caught up.”Another reader remembered as a young girl being invited to go to the neighbours’ across the street to watch TV for the first time. "My dad was a salesman and the neighbour worked at Falconbridge. That’s why they had a TV and we didn’t.”

Alex Kowalenko commented, “We got our Marconi from Roy's in 1955. I was five watching Channel 5. The first show I ever saw was ‘The Cisco Kid’.”

Donald Lawrence wrote, “It was great when we had two channels: CBC English and CBC French on Saturday night. You could watch the Maple Leafs or the Canadians.”

Although CKSO TV was affiliated with English CBC Television, some people in the Sudbury area remember a French channel could be picked up, but reception was not very good. J. Conrad Lavigne signed on CFCL TV Timmins, a bilingual station, in 1956. Eventually by 1965, he added a number of rebroadcast transmitters in several other communities.

John Lindsay wrote, “That was a good story on CKSO-TV on Sudbury.com. Remembering the early days when there was only one station compared to now with hundreds of channels and streaming services.

"I can recall when I was just a kid living in the United States where one of my uncles owned an appliance store and had some of the early TV receivers, which were expensive, but he provided one to my grandmother and we all gathered at her place to watch.

“Later, I worked at television stations in Timmins, North Bay and Kingston and was involved in opening the first station in Grand Falls, Nfld., in 1961. A local minister complained his Sunday evening service had to be discontinued as everyone was a home watching ‘Bonanza’."

Vicki Gilhula is a freelance writer. Memory Lane is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.