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Memory Lane: Remembering CKSO, Canada’s first privately owned TV station

Do you remember Tele Wives Time or Shhhhboom? Share your memories of Sudbury’s first TV station 

Where were you on Oct. 25 1953? That’s the day Sudbury's CKSO TV (Channel 5) signed on the air. 

A CBC affiliate, it was the first privately owned commercial television station in Canada. 

Then the sixth largest market in Ontario, Sudbury was the fourth city in Canada to have its own television station. French-language Radio Canada station CBFT Montreal and CBC's CBLT Toronto went on the air in September 1952. CBOT Ottawa followed in June 1953.

Sudbury residents were very curious about ‘radio with pictures’. It was not uncommon to see people gathered in front of appliance stores downtown to watch the test pattern on televisions in display windows. 

CKSO sold advertising on its test pattern for nine hours a day for weeks before signing on.

Very few Sudbury homes had television sets in 1953. A TV sold for about $800 then, or $,8,000 in 2022 dollars. But within a year, about 38 per cent of families had purchased one and, by the end of decade, most homes were sold on this new medium.

Sudbury.com invites readers to share their memories of the golden years of CKSO TV from 1953 to 1970. 

Send your memories to editor@sudbury.com or vgilhula@gmail.com.

In the 1950s, CKSO-TV filled 12 hours of airtime, from noon to midnight, with local programs and CBC-produced shows such as The Wayne and Shuster Hour and National Film Board features. The affiliate also offered American shows imported by CBC such as The Ed Sullivan Show. Inco sponsored the 15-minute evening news at 6:45 p.m. 

Doug McCann in his book The Story of the Birth of Broadcasting in Sudbury relates this story about CKSO TV's first news anchor, Bill Kehoe. 

"He arrived in Sudbury to work on CKSO Radio in November of 1952. At that time, the station was located on Elgin Street behind the old Nickel Range Hotel. His broadcast career may well have been short-lived for mispronouncing the city’s name, Sudbury, making the ‘bury’ sound like ‘berry.’

"The radio station manager promised he would be looking forward to working on television if he learned how to say the name correctly, otherwise he’d be fired! (Wilf) Woodill kept his word. CKSO TV opened in 1953 and Kehoe’s new TV career was born."

Kehoe recalled for The Inco Triangle in October 1996 that "we had to haul our huge camera up to the newsroom on the southwest corner of the station, point (it) out the window so people at home could watch the lnco slag pour in Copper Cliff. That was a huge entertainment draw in those days.

“We also used to take the camera up to Wilf's office in the northeast corner and point it up Frood Road, so we'd see the afternoon shift coming off at Frood. People would be sitting at home trying to spot Dad's car." 

People have told me that growing up in Sudbury the whole family would sit in the living room and watch Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday evenings on Channel 5, the only signal available.

I interviewed a successful theatre director from Sudbury who said he thought he developed a vivid imagination in part because he did not have access to much television growing up in the 1950s and 1960s.

Early made-in-Sudbury televison shows included Tele Wives Time, Juvenile Jury, Kiddies on Kamera variety show and Occupation Please, a version of the American quiz show What’s My Line.

Shhhhboom hosted by radio personality Michael Cranston was a studio teen dance party, a Sudbury version of American Bandstand.

CKSO TV celebrities included Basil Scully, Judy Erola, Kay Woodill and Trudy Manchester.

When a McDonald's restaurant first opened in Sudbury, it was not an instant success. The company sent experts from head office to find out why. No franchise had ever failed before. They found Sudbury consumers, who were not influenced by American television advertising, had never heard of Ronald McDonald. (They also preferred Deluxe burgers and fries.)

In 1966, CKSO TV was among the first in Canada to broadcast in colour.

In October 1970 a new Canadian network, CTV, entered the Sudbury market. CKSO TV Channel 5 switched to the CTV Network. CKNC TV Channel 9 became the CBC affiliate. It was a few years before cable television arrived in Sudbury. 

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

Sources
History of Canadian Broadcasting
The Story of the Birth of Broadcasting in Sudbury by Doug McCann