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Then and Now: From parking meters to Francophone rights, Sudbury truly is a city of firsts

Citizens can be proud of some initiatives but parking meters aren't one of them

It's not just an urban myth. Sudbury was the first city in Canada to install parking meters. Citizens can be prouder of some of other "firsts" that are worth bragging about such as its leadership in establishing Franco-Ontario rights and Sudbury's broadcast history.

In 1940, finding a parking spot downtown was a problem. Merchants complained employees' cars occupied spots meant for shoppers. There was congestion as motorists circled the streets looking for parking places.

The town's planning committee found a solution to encourage people to walk to work or use public transit: parking meters.

Two hundred and eighty-seven meters were installed by the Dual Parking Meter Company in August 1940 for an initial six-month trial.

Dual introduced the Park-O-Meter in Oklahoma City, USA, in 1935. Carl Magee, a newspaper publisher and the city's chamber of commerce traffic committee chief, came up with the idea. He named his company "Dual" supposedly because parking meters served the dual purpose of controlling parking and generating revenue.

By the early 1940s, there were more than 140,000 parking meters in the United States, although many Americans considered it "un-American" to pay for parking in the land of the free.

The original Park-O-Meters are now a collector's item and sell on eBay for around $150.

In the 1940s, Sudbury motorists were charged one cent for 12 minutes of parking and a nickel for one hour of parking. Police officers on motorcycles enforced the parking bylaw.

According to Downtown Sudbury's most recent count, there are 3,792 parking spots in lots or on the street available in the city's core.

Over the past year, parking meters have been replaced with 27 stations. The city installed HotSpot Parking, which allows drivers to pay with a mobile device using their licence plate number, meter number and a credit card or Visa debit card. The option to pay by coin or card is still available at the parking stations.

Francophone rights

With regard to firsts regarding the French-speaking population, Sudbury's CHNO was the first bilingual radio station in Canada outside of Quebec, signing on at AM 1140 in June 1947. 

Laurentian University, established in 1960, was the first non-denominational bilingual university in Canada.

In 1976, French-speaking Sudburians charged with a civic offence were the first in Ontario allowed a court interpreter paid by the province. Previously, the defendant had to pay the costs. Other cities soon followed this example.

In response to members of the C'est l'temp in Ottawa and Sudbury, who encouraged Francophones not to pay traffic parking tickets issued in English only, Attorney General Roy McMurtry authorized the first Ontario trial held in French in 1976 in Sudbury. In 1984, English and French were made official languages of provincial courts.

The green and white Franco-Ontario flag was raised for the first time in front of the University of Sudbury Sept. 25, 1975, and this date is celebrated annually.

Jacline England, a student and administrative assistant working at Laurentian, stitched the Franco-Ontarian flag, designed by Laurentian professor Gaétan Gervais and student Michel Dupuis. For many years, they kept their contributions anonymous.

The provincial government officially recognized the flag in 2001 as an emblem of the Francophone community in Ontario. 

When John Rodriguez was elected mayor in 2006, one of his first orders of business was raising the Franco-Ontarian flag at Tom Davies Square.

French is the first language for more than 26 per cent of Greater Sudbury's population, while more than one-third of residents in the city know both English and French. More than 600,000 Ontarians consider French their primary tongue.

Broadcast pioneers

CKSO TV was the first privately owned television station in Canada. The CBC affiliate went on the air Oct. 25, 1953, on Channel 5.

Sudbury was the fourth city in Canada to have television; CBC launched its first stations in Toronto and Montreal in 1952.

CKSO was backed by a group of businessmen including George Miller, Jim Cooper and W.B. Plaunt. Its manager was veteran broadcaster Will Woodill, who also had a share in the station that would make a profit from almost day one.

The first program was the Inco News, which featured one of the first women on Canadian TV, weather presenter Judy (Jacobson) Erola. She would later become Liberal MP for Nickel Belt and hold positions in the federal cabinet.

A crowd packed the Legion Hall on Frood Road to watch the CKSO's first day of broadcasting on a 30-inch black and white television set on loan from RCA. Within a month local merchants sold about 2,000 TV sets.

CKSO TV was the only television station available in Sudbury for almost 20 years. CKNC-TV Channel 9 entered the Sudbury market in 1971 becoming the CBC affiliate with CKSO switching to the CTV Network.

Cable television brought American channels and Global TV to Sudbury in 1975.

The CKSO story is an interesting one. Doug McCann is writing an eBook about Sudbury's pioneer broadcasters, “The Story of the Birth of Broadcasting in Sudbury - Local Visionaries, Canadian Pioneers of Broadcasting,” which is expected to be completed this spring.

Vicki Gilhula is a freelance writer. She is a former editor of Northern Life and Sudbury Living magazine, and has a special interest in local history. She can be contact by email at vgilhula@gmail.com. Memory Lane is made possible by our Community Leaders Program. 

Source: Greater Sudbury Souvenir Edition 2008: The Story of Our Times.