Sprott-Shawís CKMO circa 1941
The History of Sprott-Shaw and the
birth of radio in Vancouver
If radio was the internet of the early 20th century, then Robert James Sprott was BCís Bill Gates of that time.
The co-founder of oldest community college in BC saw the potential in the new communications medium. It had only been 20 years since Guglielmo Marconi invented radio in 1901.
In 1922, BC had its first ever radio station, the airwaves crackling for the first time with news and music. Called CJCE, it was established by Sprott and Bruce Arundel, a teacher of the school of commerce, radio and telegraphy at Sprott-Shawís Vancouver College.
Sprott had launched a revolution of his times, introducing a mass medium that would bond people and communities together by disseminating information about the world instantaneously from one to many.
Like an idea whose time has come, the birth of CJCE helped pave the way for the growth of radio as the first popular medium for entertainment and information in BC and Canada.
Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the radio receiver became a focal point of everyday family life, the number of receiving sets rising from 9,954 to 862,109 nationwide.
Sprott-Shaw would close CJCE in 1924 but at the same time, took over another radio station CFCQ to serve the twin purpose informing the public as well as providing quality, hands-on education to students of its commerce, radio and telegraphy school.
The Vancouver career college would soon have for its alumni legendary broadcasters like Ernest (Ernie) Rose and John Francis (Jack) Cullen and other students who shaped the broadcast industry.
CFCQ later became CKMO and in 1955, the Vancouver College sold the station to Radio C-FUN Ltd. The station survived ownership and show format changes through the years and we now know it as CFUN Radio.
Two other radio stations went on air during the 1920s along with the Sprott-Shaw radio station but didnít last for two decades. CFUN has thus become the oldest radio station not only in Vancouver but also in the entire Western Canada.
When Robert James (RJ) Sprott became partners with William Henry Shaw of Shaw Colleges in 1903, they opened the first Sprott-Shaw school, called Vancouver Business Institute. Their development plan included four schools in Vancouver, one in Nanaimo and one in Victoria. In 1913, RJ Sprott and James Beatty opened Sprott-Shaw College in Victoria, which has been in continuous operation since itís opening. The college survived economic recessions, two World Wars and the Great Depression, all making its foundation stronger for today.
Always striving to offer the right programs based on the needs of the community, Sprott-Shaw designed programs to retrain military personnel after the Second World War.
The training included Morse Code, Radio Broadcasting and Aviation. The college established a broadcast station for the school with a signal being picked up all the way to Hawaii. The station was known as CKMO, which is now 1410 CFUN. Many well-known students including world-renowned Artist Emily Carr spent time with Sprott-Shaw on their journey towards accomplishing their dreams.
Vancouver's rebel disc jockey was late-night staple for five decades
Canadian Press Newswire
April 29, 2002
A radio legend who befriended Bob Hope, bested Nat (King) Cole and was blacklisted by Frank Sinatra died of heart failure this weekend. Jack Cullen was 80.
Cullenís radio show, called Owl Prowl, was a late-night staple in Vancouver for five decades and his record horde was reputedly once the worlds largest private collection. Cullen often knew more about artistsí recording careers than they did.
He got into an on-air argument with Nat (King) Cole in 1964 over the timing of Coleís first recording.
Back in 1936 when you made your first record, Cullen began.
It was 1939, said Cole.
It was 1936, said Cullen. May, to be exact.
Cullen delved into his archives and emerged with the 1936 record and tears welled up in Coleís eyes.
Cullen was a legendary party animal and a brash musicologist who surreptitiously taped concerts by the likes of Louis Armstrong, Harry Belafonte and the Beatles to play on his show.
The most infamous one was in 1957 when Frank Sinatra was playing the Garden Auditorium (at the PNE), recalled disc jockey Red Robinson.
ďAfter spreading some liquid sunshine among the ushers who saw what he was up to, Cullen hid under the stage with a tape recorder and hooked his mike up to Sinatraís mikeĒ, said Robinson.
ďIt became one of the classic bootleg performances of all timeĒ, he said.
ďBut for that, he was chastised and blackballed by the American Federation of Musicians, thatís why Frank would never do an interview with himĒ, Robinson said.
John Francis Cullen was born on Feb. 16, 1922, in Vancouver.
He joined the navy after high school and became a wireless operator.
After being discharged in 1945, he enrolled at the Sprott-Shaw School of Commerce and Radio in Vancouver. Cullen moved to CKNW radio in 1949 and he remained there, almost continuously, until he was taken off the air following a station shake-up in 1999.
What do I attribute his illness to? A broken heart, said former CKNW station manager Bill Hughes. Because he wanted to perform up to the last second. He would still be on the air if he could. He loved it. He just loved it
In latter days, Cullenís show was known as a nostalgia show.
But in the late 40ís and early 50ís, it was an adventurous, trail-blazing broadcast.
He was the irreverent rebel in radio, said Robinson.
Cullen was an inspiration, he said. He was the guy who would say, Just a second, Iíll get the temperature for you, and heíd grab his mike and go up on the roof of the building.
You tuned in because you didnít know what the hell he was going to do! said Robinson.
Cullen interviewed virtually every entertainer who came to town, developing friendships with Bob Hope, Sammy Davis Jr. and Henry Mancini.
Louis Armstrong was so charmed by Cullen that he authorized the official release of a bootleg recording Cullen made of Armstrong in 1951.
He was obsessed with music and radio, the whole thing, said Vancouver big band leader Dal Richards.
He carried that forward into broadcasting. He was just a nut about entertainers, entertainment, music and band said Richards.
Cullen was married twice and had four children.
Ernest "Ernie" G. Rose: The father of TV in BC
Nobody in BC had a television set before 1947.
Not until the announcement was made, 150 miles away, that Seattle would have its first TV station.
Ernie Rose had an idea. A technician at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Rose got hold of war surplus radar equipment and with the help of a colleague, put together a device that not only brought in signals from Seattle but also ushered in the age of TV in BC.
Ernest G. Rose
It was a significant feat for a boy from the Prairies and Sprott-Shaw Community College graduate of 1934, who had originally dreamed of working as a radio operator to make his way on to luxury liners sailing out of the Port of Vancouver.
Rose never made it on to any ship as he soon got a job offer at CKMO, the radio station launched in 1922 by Robert James Sprott, the co-founder of the BC college bearing his name. But Roseís vision remained steadfast toward the broadcast horizon.
Eventually becoming the chief engineer of a station owned by Sprotts Vancouver community college, Rose moved to CBC in 1940 to work as operator/technician.
The Sprott-Shaw graduate would soon handle bigger responsibilities when the broadcast company finally entered the world of TV. Progressing to a maintenance supervisor, Rose eventually became assistant technical director.
Rose later began building CHAN-TV, the first-privately owned TV station in Vancouver. And he didnít stop at just erecting terrestrial transmitters.
The boy who started his journey in the Prairies and got an education at Sprott-Shaws Vancouver College in order to find a way to the sea began looking at the heavens for a way to further improve TV. With satellite transmissions, CHAN-TV was to become the first Canadian private TV station to broadcast 155 hours a week to as far as Whitehorse Yukon. The station was renamed BCTV in 1975.
From his first stint as announcer/technician at Sprott-Shaws CKMO, Rose would spend a total of 45 years in the broadcasting until his retirement from BCTV in 1981, building a track record that was recognized by the industry.
The Sprott-Shaw graduate was a recipient of the following awards:
*Canadian Association of Broadcasters, Colonel Keith Rogers Engineering Award 1973.
*Ted Rogers Sr.-Velma Rogers Graham Award 1980.
*British Columbia Association of Broadcasters, Broadcaster of the Year Award 1980.
*Inducted in the Broadcast Hall of Fame of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters 1986.
*The Western Association of Broadcast Engineers Honours Award 1995.
CFUN Ė the oldest radio station in Western Canada
ďLife happens - we talk about itĒ, goes the CFUN motto. R.J. Sprott must have been toying with the same line during the 1920ís when he saw the need for mass communication to allow people to talk about life and the world around them, and share the same with others.
Little did he realize that the radio station he was to put up would continue broadcasting into the 21st century, bearing witness to and being a part of the lives of several generations of listeners.
On April 10, 1922, he and Bruce Arundel established radio station CJCE with studios at 153 West Pender Street. At that time, the Vancouver school put up by Sprott and his partner William Henry Shaw in 1903 was offering radio and telegraphy courses at its BC college where Arundel was a teacher.
Ten days later on April 20, 1922, Major J.C. Dufresne of Radio Specialties Ltd. opened CFCQ with its studios at 791 Dunsmuir Avenue.
In 1924, RJ Sprott closed CJCE and took over CFCQ. The station was renamed as CKMO in 1928 and its studios moved to Bekins Building at 815 West Hastings Street.
The BC community college was to move the radio stationís studios in 1933 to 812 Robson Street where it remained until 1955.
From a fledgling operation, the radio station grew to a point where its broadcast signal reached as far as Hawaii across the Pacific.
After RJ Sprott passed away in 1943, his wife Anna Ethel Sprott became president of the Sprott-Shaw Schools of Commerce, Radio and Telegraphy. Eventually in 1955 she sold CKMO to Radio C-FUN Ltd., a group composed of businessmen and shareholders who were also station employees.
CFUN was to undergo other changes in ownership and call letters as well as show formats. From rock in 1960 it mellowed to easy listening music in 1967 before switching to an all-news format in 1969.
Three years later in 1972, CHUM Ltd. acquired CKVN, the name given to the station by previous owners Radio Futura Ltd., and it reverted to its popular call letters CFUN. It was in 1996 that CFUN adopted its all-talk format.
Life continues to happen, and it continues to be talked about over CFUN. Somewhere R.J. Sprott is smiling.
Anna Sprott loved a good fight and she fought many a crusade for worthy social causes.
By any standards, Anna Sprott was a wealthy woman. An accomplished business leader running a successful chain of schools in British Columbia, she could have chosen a life of ease and comfort away from the rough and tumble of the everyday world.
But the president of Sprott-Shaw Community College was made of sterner stuff and her heart always had a soft spot for the poor, diseased and helpless.
Throughout her civic and political career, Sprott championed a variety of causes, setting a sterling example of committed and responsible citizenship that would be an inspiration to new generations of both men and women leaders.
First and foremost a feminist leader, she pioneered many of the leading womenís organizations that sought to empower women at a time when women were fighting for social equality as well as help the less privileged.
Known as a loving mother, she headed the executive committee of the BC branch of the Save the Children Fund, a group that raised funds for needy children and encourage individuals and associations to support children in impoverished countries.
A patriot, she served as the chairperson of the Polish Relief and Defence Committee during World War II. After the war, she toured European capitals extolling women there for their heroism and fortitude.
Fresh from a holiday in the United States, she led the Vancouver city council in opposing a plan in 1955 to hang American flags along three blocks to promote an exhibition of American paintings. A compromise was reached when it was decided to have a Canadian flag displayed on each pole with the American flag.
I just wonder if any other country would allow three blocks of flags of another, Sprott said of what newspapers described as a minor international incident.
A consumer advocate, Sprott fought the powerful dairy industry for better quality low-priced milk in BC during her long term as alderman. As chairperson of the city council social services committee, she endorsed the proposal of retailer Canada Safeway to sell richer milk cheaper as a real service to the consumer.
She was also successful in putting into use sanitary caps for milk bottles and less expensive waxed paper cartons for milk.
Although she was an avid golfer, she was appalled by plans in 1956 to allot more taxpayers money for additional golf courses in the city at a time when prices of basic food items like bread and necessities like clothing were on the rise.
City council has suggested sometimes that rising prices are not their concern, but they backed me up when I asked for a definite mandate to look into these increases, she said.
She also fought what she termed as real estate interests in a bid to bring the rents to economic level, noted one newspaper report.
Sprott was likewise active in raising funds to fight polio, a crippling but preventable disease among the youth, through the BC Polio Fund, leading 15,000 Greater Vancouver women in a march for awareness.
Robert James Sprott- A man of letters and music
A renaissance man in his own right, Robert James Sprott co-founded in 1903 the Sprott-Shaw Community College, today oldest and biggest private career college in British Columbia.
It was more than just entrepreneurship that motivated Robert James Sprott to take over a school at Hastings Streets in downtown Vancouver, which he renamed after himself and business, partner William Henry Shaw.
Then in his early 30s, Sprott was a lover of knowledge, a well-traveled and highly educated man with various interests.
A graduate of the University of Toronto, he previously held a teaching fellowship at the University of Chicago. There he won a scholarship to the prestigious Sorbonne University in Paris.
R.J. Sprott and
From France, the young Sprott would later travel to Germany and England, seats of higher learning in Europe. He would return to Chicago as professor of romance languages.
The St. John College in Winnipeg offered him a deanship and this brought Sprott back to Canada. He spent a number of years at this college before he started his journey westward to BC where his name would become synonymous with the private school he would help found.
In the years that followed the opening of the first Sprott-Shaw school, Sprott would absorb other competing colleges in BC and open new branches throughout the province.
Aside from being president of a thriving Vancouver college, Sprott also became closely identified with the courts of BC and neighbouring Washington in the US starting in 1905. As a handwriting expert, he was a reliable and sought after expert witness on disputed documents.
Sprott also had a keen musical ear. He perfected a device now used in transposing pianos. He also manufactured autoharps.
Sprott was active in the community. The Vancouver Rotary, Royal Vancouver Yacht Club and Point Grey Golf Club were among his associations. He was also a Mason.
An amateur cartographer and navigator, he mapped large areas of BC coastline. An avid student of Greek mythology, he named his yacht The Cleodoxa after the sixth daughter of the Greek goddess Niobe.
A man of innovation, he put up the first radio station in BC after opening the first private wireless radio and telegraphy school in Western Canada. He also started an aviation school as part of the growing Vancouver College.
Glimpses of Vancouver's first woman mayor
Anna Sprott was the first woman to serve as acting mayor of Vancouver, a position she filled several times with a vote of confidence from her colleagues at the city council.
The heavy black and purple robe of the city mayor hardly clears the floor on her. She must also pick the right lipstick and earrings to go with it. She confessed that the stiff pointed collar gave her a dreadful time at first until it was solved by a lace fichu. The mayoral gold chain too is a trifle too long for her size.
But save for these small distractions, Anna Sprott ably fit the shoes of acting mayor of Vancouver and was the first woman to serve in this capacity.
First appointed acting mayor in 1951 or just two years after she won a seat as alderman, the president of Sprott-Shaw Community College was chosen several times by her colleagues to act as mayor in a vote of confidence on her ability and leadership.
At that time, pioneering women of Sprott generation were struggling to assert their worth in fields outside the home.
It wasnít surprising that while Sprott had presided over council meetings, some of her colleagues still got embarrassed and don know what to call me, Sprott recalled.
In September 1953 during the councils first session for the week, Alderman Syd Bowman stammered when addressing the acting mayor.
Your worship er ¶ Madame Mayor ¶ ah ¶ Mrs. Sprott
I donít know what to call you, Bowman stumbled. His colleagues didnít fare any better, mixing the three titles when raising a point before the woman mayor.
Trained as a student in the Sprott-Shaw business school where she later rose to become a teacher and eventually owner of the community college, Sprotts technical skills were a boon to the council.
In one meeting in 1956, Alderman Halford Wilson wanted to pursue a point about one concern previously deliberated upon by the council behind closed doors. But since the city clerk had been asked to step out, there was no record about the past discussion.
Alderman George Miller quickly rose and with a smile responded: There was a record kept and it was taken down shorthand, too. And then he beamed proudly on the alderman seated on the next desk
In one fairly quiet week when she was acting mayor, Sprott was interviewed at the mayorís office by a woman journalist who noted that there was no frippery on her desk.
Just spectacles, letter-opener and mounds of paper, the newspaper reporter wrote.
Sprott won the admiration and confidence of her fellow aldermen through the precedent-setting 10 years of service she made in the council, a record which saw the championing of various of causes and many good decisions made.
Vancouver's most popular politician
Anna Sprott set an unprecedented and unsurpassed record of five terms, as alderman of Vancouver, topping the male-dominated elections once, was second once and third twice.
When Anna Sprott first stood for election as alderman in 1949, her election notices carried an impressive list of achievements as leader in both business and civic involvement.
From president of Sprott-Shaw Community College, director of the schools radio station CKMO to being past presidents of organizations like the American Federation of Soroptimist Clubs and having led the Police Relief and Defence Committee during the war, Sprott presented herself as a candidate with solid qualifications for public service.
As the first woman nominated for alderman by the Non-Partisan Association, Sprott put her first bid for public office in the election of December 1949.
She was to serve in the council for 10 years in a record-setting five terms in office.
Iím very happy that I have been asked to continue my work with the people, Sprott said after December 1953 election.
In that particular election, she pulled 27,832 votes in her third bid for a seat in the council. She came third behind Jack Cornett with 31,138 votes and Donald Cunningham with 30,742.
Sprott and Ada Crump were the only women elected in the civic election of 1953. Crump was a member of the Vancouver School Board.
During her third term, she was the councils busiest representative on Vancouverís public boards taking on more responsibilities than her male colleagues.
Then Mayor Frederick appointed Sprott as the city councils delegate to nine groups and associations, namely, the Alexandra Community Activities; Art, Historical and Scientific Association; Vancouver General Hospital; Pacific National Exhibition; Vancouver Art Gallery; Vancouver Preventorium; Canadian Institute for the Blind; Public Library; and the Metropolitan Health Committee.
Sprott was also on the forefront of defending consumer rights and welfare. She was an advocate of cheaper but better quality milk and opposed price increases on basic commodities like bread.
She didnít hesitate to stand up even against the entire council on particular issues. A case in point was when she strongly voiced her support for a heated swimming pool at the community centre of Kerrisdale, a project being opposed by the council.
In 1956, Sprott was hit by pneumonia and had a long spell at the hospital. Then on her fourth term, she announced that she would not seek re-election.
Sprott, however, soon changed her mind, saying: Thatís a womanís prerogative, isnít it?
If the voters will have confidence in me, I shall be happy to serve again, Sprott said. She was voted into her fifth and last term in the elections of 1957
Pioneer in the cable industry
William Wolfe took radio courses at Sprott-Shaw and as a rising entrepreneur helped pioneer cable television in British Columbia.
No cable service? In this age when entertainment and information are streaming 24/7 into six million Canadian households, having to go without cable is almost unimaginable.
But Cable TV is relatively new. It began in the country only in 1952 and Canadian stations transmitted colour television signals for the first time in 1966.
Entrepreneurs who first laid out the foundation of the system had to face enormous struggle at the start. They didnít get much support from financial institutions that didnít believe in taking risks with the new broadcast medium.
But this did not deter visionaries like Sport-Shaw graduate William Wolfe from dramatically altering the character of Canadian television services, by extending the range of programming and services available to Canadians.
Venturing into business from his successful career as a popular radio host, Wolfe helped pioneer the introduction of cable TV in Chiliasm, BC
That was in the era when you could go to the bank and ask for a loan for a new company and they said, No one will ever pay for television, Wolfeís daughter Marilea Pirie recalled in an interview with the Chilliwack Times.
He proved them wrong, Pirie added.
From 1965 until 1973, Wolfe, who got his start in Chilliwack as a DJ and program host of CHWK Radio, was the owner, president and manager of Valley Televue.
Wolfe, originally from Manitoba, took radio courses at the Sprott-Shaw Community College in Vancouver where he also worked on enunciation to soften his German accent.
The Vancouver college graduate Rose to become a popular radio-man in Chilliwack. He was well known as the host of Bill's Breakfast Bell, Let's Talk and Bill's Partyline on CHWK in the 50's and 60's.
A successful cable services provider, Wolfe became the chairman of the Western Canadian Cable Television Association; the national industry association that represents federally licensed cable systems, in the early 1970s.
The BC community college-trained broadcaster went on semi-retirement in 1980 and he pursued varied interests from being a volunteer feeder at the Chilliwack Hospital to riding a motorcycle.
He also became to be known as an on-call Mr. Fix-it to his friends and neighbours as he spent his spare time fixing radios, toasters and other appliances.
He was a great fixer. We never bought a new toaster or anything, Wolfeís daughter said.
The BC college graduate didnít stop learning during his retirement. At home, he spent many hours at his computer. He took up the organ and loved to play, mostly by ear. Always active, Wolfe was also into model airplanes, boating, fishing and woodworking.
An electronics buff, the guy who helped introduce cable TV in Chilliwack also built a TV remote to surf the universe of channels.
The voice of Nanaimo
Lawrence William Thomas took up radio writing and engineering at Sprott-Shaw and he rose to become a respected journalist in British Columbia.
For Lawrence William Thomas, nothing beats good, honest and fair reporting.
Thomas believed in getting his news firsthand. He was always on the scene whether it was a royal visit or a fire in Nanaimo, where he worked as a broadcast, TV and print journalist.
He mentored many young and aspiring broadcasters, leading them in news coverage and drilling them in the honoured principle that there are always two sides to every story.
Known for his ethics and integrity and intimate knowledge of the central Vancouver Island city, Thomas contributed news and columns to the Vancouver Sun, Province and the Victoria Times Colonist.
In 1978, Thomas won the BC News Directors Award for his coverage of a bus accident in Lantzville, British Columbia.
Thomasí career in journalism started at Sprott-Shaw Community College. After secondary studies at Kitsilano High School, he enrolled at the Vancouver college and completed radio script and engineering in 1951.
The BC college graduate immediately put his training to work in brief stints in the military and CKMO, the radio station that ran then was run by Sprott-Shaw and which had survived through the years into what we now know as CFUN.
Before the end of 1951, the young man originally from Revelstoke moved to Nanaimo where he built a multi-faceted career in journalism.
He served in various capacities at CHUB, a Nanaimo radio station. For his achievements in bringing the best in community radio to Nanaimo, CHUB presented him with a golden record during its 40th year anniversary in 1989.
Thomas also became staff reporter and photographer for the Nanaimo bureau of the Vancouver Sun. He likewise wrote for local publications like the Nanaimo Times and the Nanaimo Bulletin.
From broadcast and print, the Vancouver college trained journalist also branched out to TV, hosting the Nanaimo Business Show.
Thomasí interests covered the whole range of topics from news, sports, music and the weather. He interviewed a wide array of people from prime ministers to movie actors.
A music buff that loved jazz and collected records, he hosted Canadaís second-longest running radio show A Peek at the Past.
On weekends, he plied Nanaimoís waters to bring first hand reports on boating conditions and the weather.
It was his voice that was heard in 1967 when 200 bathtubs fitted with engines raced from Nanaimo to Vancouver. This event launched what is now the annual world bathtub race of which Nanaimo is the race capital of the world.
Thomas also annotated hockey games by the Nanaimo Clippers and lacrosse by the Nanaimo Timbermen.
Vancouver's oldest disc jockey on air
Wilf Ray started his radio career at Sprott-Shaws CKMO on his 18th birthday and he has been on the air for over 60 years.
Its the deep resonant voice of Wilf Ray that goes on the air every Sunday from 10 pm to midnight over 600 AM and 94.3 FM. Already approaching the age of 80, he has been on the air the longest of all current radio personalities in Vancouver and there are no signs that has about to sign off.
"As long as the good Lord gives me health, I'll continue to be on the air with my own program. God willing, it will be a privilege and thrill to be on the air when I reach 100," Ray said.
Radio has always been a central part of Rayís life.
Straight from West Van High School where he and three friends put up a radio club, Ray started work as a morning disc jockey at CKMO radio right on his 18th birthday on Dec. 21, 1944.
CKMO was owned by Sprott-Shaw Community College, a renowned private career school in British Columbia. The station is now known as CFUN radio.
We used to go up from the school on Robson and Howe to the second floor where the station was located, Ray recalled.
The BC college established a radio station to allow its students taking up radio, telegraphy and commerce to experience first-hand aspects of radio operations from engineering to broadcasting. The station was managed by Kay Willis, a daughter of school owner Anna Sprott.
One of its students who later rose to become a prominent radio personality and a competitor of Ray was Jack Cullen who enrolled at the Vancouver college in 1945, a year after Ray began working in the station.
It was at CKMO that Ray met his future wife Marion McDonald, the radio station music librarian. They were the first couple ever to be married at the Pacific National Exhibition.
Ray would later move on other radio stations, including CHUM in Toronto.
He also started a successful career as a realtor. His two daughters would join him in his realty firm called Ray Team in the late 1980s and they would win recognition in the industry for outstanding sales.
Ray was hired by his flamboyant Vancouver billionaire-friend Jim Pattison in the mid-1960s as corporate communications director. In 1972, he won the Financial World award for producing the Best Annual Report in Canada Neonex International, a Pattison company.
Ray was also a successful politician. Voted as alderman for Maple Ridge in 1981, he served in the municipal council for several years.
On Rays office wall hangs an old picture of him, Mrs. Sprott and Bruce Arundel, a former Sprott-Shaw instructor who helped build CKMO, the station, which launched his career.
Voices trained by Sprott-Shaw
Distinguished Canadians like multi-awarded author Pierre Berton, radio executive and later on Vancouver Canucks president Bill Hughes.
Ethel Wallace lived on through the voices of her former students even as she was laid to rest in the spring of 1968.
A well-known music and voice teacher in Calgary, she moved to Vancouver in 1938 where she became part of the faculty of Sprott-Shaw Community College as a trainer of aspiring radio announcers.
Herself trained in voice productions in Germany, Wallace mentored students who later became prominent personalities in radio, television and the stage. Here are profiles of a few of them:
Pierre Berton is remembered as a journalist, editor, veteran broadcaster and author of 46 books.
Born and raised in the Yukon, he became chief announcer in 1940 for the University of British Columbia Radio Society. He spent his early newspaper career at the Vancouver News-Herald, starting in 1942, where at 21 he was the youngest city editor on any Canadian daily. He moved to Toronto in 1947, and at the age of 31 was named managing editor of Macleans Magazine.
In 1957 he became a key member of the CBCs public affairs flagship program Close-Up and a permanent panelist on Front Page Challenge, a CBC anchor program for 39 years.
He joined The Toronto Star as associate editor and columnist in 1958, leaving in 1962 to commence The Pierre Berton Show, which ran until 1973. Since then he has appeared as host and writer on My Country, The Great Debate, Heritage Theatre, and The Secret of My Success.
Berton won the Governor Generals Award for nonfiction for The Mysterious North (1956); Klondike (1958), a narrative of the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898; and The Last Spike (1972). He was awarded the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour (1959); the Canadian Authors Association Literary Award for non-fiction (1981); the Canadian Booksellers Award (1982); the Biomedical Science Ambassadors Award (1997); and the John Drainie Award for significant contribution to television broadcasting in Canada (1999).
Bill Hughes began his radio career in Trail in 1944 and started his long association with the Vancouver radio station CKNW in 1946.
He hosted the popular program called The Roving Mike until 1994 when he broadcast the 15,000th show. He became part-owner of CKNW in 1965 and was president from 1965-1977.
Hughes was also a hockey lover. He became president of the Vancouver Canucks in 1972; two years after the Canucks became an expansion team in the National Hockey League. He led the Canucks until 1981 and during that time also served as a governor of the NHL.
John Francis "Jack" Cullen
The original "shock jock"
At a time when radio broadcasting was entirely scripted, Jack Cullen ad-libbed his shows.
The former naval ensign and colourful radio jockey would play the music of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald even though he didnít do a music show per se. He was restless and unpredictable, often getting up in the middle of his airtime to answer telephones, or stretch his legs.
Management at CKNW, where he worked until 1999, often ended up apologizing to federal broadcast regulators in Ottawa for his radio antics, even though his fans loved him for his down-to-earth style.
Cullens career started when he ended his tour of duty as radio operator during World War II. Looking for a new challenge, he enrolled at the Sprott-Shaw Community College in its commerce, radio and telegraphy school in Vancouver in 1945. A year later after attending the BC college, he began to pilot the airwaves as a news announcer and deejay at CJAV in Port Alberni, BC.
In 1947, Cullen moved to CKMO Vancouver, the radio station put up in 1922 by Robert James Sprott, co-founder of the Vancouver community college where Cullen got his training for a radio career.
Before the year was over, he started to host the widely popular Owl Prowl that was to become his trademark show throughout his career.
The Sprott-Shaw graduate took his Owl Prowl to CKNW two years later but not without pulling off a stunt. On Aug 15, 1949, Cull
Jack Cullen in his early days was heard over two different radio stations at the same time as he went live on CKMO for the last time while his first show on CKNW was played on tape.
Always on the prowl, Cullen would visit community centres and hop from one location to another to broadcast his shows. Sometimes he would be heard talking to his listeners from a cab or from the rooftop of a building.
Cullen would also broadcast scratchy bootlegged music he captured on a recorder that he carried into nightclubs. At times, he aired past interviews with musicians and performers of a bygone age.
The radio station ran by the Vancouver college would eventually beckon Cullen back and he returned to CKMO in 1954. He remained at the station, which later became CFUN in 1955, for another three years before making his last move over to CKNW.
For his contributions to the broadcast industry, the Sprott-Shaw graduate was named to the British Columbia Entertainment Hall of Fame in the radio category at ceremonies held at the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver.
Cullen would remain a popular broadcaster until his retirement on May 18, 1999.
Home: BC Radio History