It was in May of 1949 that Jack Hagerman came on staff as an announcer, after working for several years at CFQC, Saskatoon. In September of that year, a fellow called Joe McCallum, who had been doing a series of school broadcasts, "Musical Playtime", joined the announce staff. Other members at that time were Reg Shawcross, Don Rollans, and Pat MacDougal. Pat eventually left for a job in Winnipeg radio. However, when Jack became station manager, he invited Pat back as program director. Pat originated a program called "Canada Calling", which featured a lot of local talent and was broadcast on radio station 2SM Sydney, Australia, which responded with a broadcast called "Australia Calling." A later program director was Tony Cashman, who has also had a successful career writing books about Alberta.
In 1949, Tony Biamonte and Geoff Nightingale arrived. Tony went on the be a personality with a big following on CFRN, later teaching radio at NAIT, while Geoff was to become the station's first, full-time news director. By the way, Tony Biamonte was a tenor trained in classical music. He even had his own show on which he sang operatic arias with wife Dorothy. One Saturday morning, Tony was on shift doing the country and western show, "Saddle Serenade", a live program featuring many local singers. Someone promptly dubbed him the "Italiano Cowboy", and the name stuck, even at CFRN.
During the late 1940s, announcers included Bob Wilson and John O'Leary, both becoming well-known on CBC Radio. Arthur Hiller, one of Hollywood's top directors, got his start in the media at CKUA. In 1946, Bill Pinko joined as a staff announcer, although his enthusiasm for the technical side of radio prompted him to switch to transmitter technician. He later became chief technician and was responsible for many innovations, including a tape player that utilized a turntable in the control room.
Art Ward, one of the best-known sports commentators in Alberta, was appointed CKUA sports director in 1947. He began his radio career in Calgary as an announcer during the late 1930s; early in 1940, he joined CFRN and became a sports commentator there. CKUA listeners will remember Art for his many hockey broadcasts of Edmonton Flyer games and his coverage of baseball games from Renfrew Ball Park. Meanwhile, Reg Shawcross, Jack Hagerman, Pat MacDougal and Joe McCallum began conducting one of CKUA's most popular late-night request shows "Command Performance." Listeners could not get enough of songs like "My Happiness" with Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong doing "Blueberry Hill."
In the 1940s, Walker Blake was station manager and Jim McRae program director. John Langdon came along in October, 1947, to become a special program manager in charge of school broadcasts. John was later promoted to station manager when Blake moved on to the AMA. Alex Rankin, a familiar newsman on CFCN Radio and TV in Calgary, was then a studio operator and recording technician for CKUA.
In the fall of 1950 CKUA began conducting auditions for a program called "High School Highlights." Among the "reporters" from the various high schools in Edmonton was a youngster called Bob Goulet from St. Joseph's High School. His main ambition was to be a concert singing star, although he was also very enthusiastic about becoming a radio announcer. At this time Bob had a distinctive French accent, but he took a lot of instruction from Bertha Biggs, CKUA's voice coach, and his persistence paid off. In October of 1951, he started work as a staff announcer at CKUA. Of course, he continued his singing lessons. (His fellow announcers had to keep studio and control doors closed when they were on the air because Bob had a habit of practicing scales on the spur of the moment. On many an occasion, listeners were treated to a spontaneous burst of song in the background, much to the surprise of the person a the mike!) In August, 1953, Bob left to begin his singing career in eastern Canada.
There was Steve Woodman, a mischievous type. He was an announcer for both CJCA and CFRN, but he liked CKUA best of all. There, he could be announcer, disc jockey, singer, actor on school broadcasts, and, as will be described, pianist to his heart's content. One of his habits was to play a recording on the air of, say, Doris Day doing "Moonlight Bay", then sing along in duet. Voice characterization was another of Steve's accomplishments. But a favourite trick when doing a late-night show was to open a studio microphone from the control room, then get up and walk around to the studio, sit down, and play the piano. Of course, there was a lot of "dead air" while he walked to the studio, but listeners loved it. Steve Woodman moved on to Montreal, New York, and later, Los Angeles.
Perhaps one of the most recognizable alumni of the CKUA Radio Network is former sports-caster and local Edmonton celebrity, Bryan Hall. Jack Hagerman recalls the time when Bryan first worked for the station. It was an election night, and various members of CKUA were positioned in different parts of the city to give remote broadcasts on the voting. However, one of the returning offices happened to be directly across the street from CKUA's location in the Provincial Building. So, it was decided that no remote line would be necessary - someone could just dash across the street and get the results and hustle on back and put them on the air. Because he was the junior member of ht staff, that someone was Bryan. Jack says, "Bryan must have huffed and puffed up to CKUA on the third floor about 50 times that night - smiling all the time and enjoying every minute of it." Now, that's what you call real enthusiasm for radio!
"Some CKUA Personalities" by Joe McCallum. Reprinted from "A Sound For All Seasons: CKUA's 60th Anniversary" with permission from CKUA Radio Network.