We've been asking you for your memories during this, CHAB's 100th anniversary and we've received dozens of submissions.
This one came from Bill Wilson who spent some of his early years in the business at CHAB.
We're sharing Bill's written submission and we also gave Bill a call so we could reminisce.
If you remember the day the old Cecil Hotel burned down, you'll enjoy Bill's story.
"I'm Bill Wilson and I spent time at CHAB between 1974 to 1976. The station under Moffat ownership had just converted to a top 40 music format along with plenty of local news. I was working the morning news shift at the time. In my 50 year radio and TV broadcasting career I can honestly say that my most memorable event in the business happened at CHAB.
In those days without smartphones and watches you had to rely on alarms and of course the traditional morning wake-up call from the all night graveyard shift disc jockey. To make my early morning news run that meant getting a call around 3:30 AM. Like clockwork the all night guy who happened to be Brian Ring at the time made my phone ring. Now Brian was a rather laid back guy and most mornings he sounded about as tired as I was when I answered the phone. But on this day which was July 18th, 1975, I hardly got the word 'hello' out when he said you'd better get down here ASAP because the radio station might be burning down.
The historic river street hotel known as the Cecil was ablaze. The building CHAB was in was located on Main Street across the back alley from the Cecil. In a panicky voice Brian said I'd better get down there because a bunch of the staff were coming in to gather up what they could before the police forced everyone to evacuate.
So as I charged down Caribou West towards downtown, I could see an orange ball of light on the eastern horizon which was the Cecil burning down. Upon arriving at the station it was announced by Merv Pickford, the chief engineer at the time, “We are going to shut down the station and move out to the transmitter hut at Boharm about 10 miles west of the Moose Jaw and we’re going to start broadcasting from there. Fortunately most of the top 40 music was on cartridge tapes in those days, although 45's and turn tables were still used. So several of us gathered up carts and threw them into waste paper buckets. I also gathered up several clips on cartridge tapes that were left from the previous night's city council meeting put together by Reg Neiszner, the News Director at the time, along with some other national audio feeds that had come in.
So by about 5 am, Merv shut the station’s signal down as the fire was still raging and the police wanted us to get out of building
By 6 AM we arrived at the tranquil, scenic transmitter hut surrounded by 4 red and white broadcast towers located just on the east side of Boharm, west of Moose Jaw. As I recall cows were grazing the grass around the site and the meadowlarks were singing from the fence posts. Inside the hut, a 1940's vintage radio control board was brought to life by Merv and his fellow engineer. A couple of mics were plugged in, one for me and one for the DJ. Then Merv managed to haywire 2 1970’s vintage cart machines to operate on the 1940’s board. I began hammering out my first newscast on an old manual typewriter we brought from town. By shortly after 6am the 10,000 watts of CHAB was live again with yours truly breaking the news of the Cecil Hotel blaze. Unfortunately I had to tell listeners that the Cecil was gone and at least one person staying at the hotel was unaccounted for.
During the 7 o’clock hour we had to open the doors as the hut was getting hot from the heat of the old board and no A/C, combined with a summer heat wave we were experiencing. Since we were just a couple hundred feet from the CP mainline we simply couldn’t talk over or compete with the train horn and thunder of the train when our mics were open, so if a song or spot wasn’t airing we’d stick the mic out the door and let the listeners hear the passing train.
We continued this emergency broadcast operation until I think around 3 pm when the police and fire departments said it was safe to move back into the CHAB studios. So, roughly 12 hours later the station was back in its home, thanks to an engineer who kept the board at the transmitter wired up and ready to go for such an emergency, along with several employees who assisted in gathering materials and equipment before being told to evacuate. This strategy meant the station was only off the air for about an hour from 5 am to 6 am. For me that event, which by the way came just 3 years after CHAB celebrated its 50th anniversary, gave me a great appreciation of how local news on 800 CHAB played a vital role in keeping the community well informed.
This is a role CHAB continues to play everyday in the Notorious but Friendly City of Moose Jaw."