Friday, November 12, 2004

Happy Birthday Channel 9!

Earlier this year my all-time favorite television station, Channel 9 in Windsor, Ontario celebrated its 50th year of broadcasting. Back in the day, 9 aired what I found to be a very entertaining mix of local programming, Canadian shows and American re-runs.
In the late 50s/early 60s in most of America, viewers had but 3 choices on the TV dial - their local affiliates of the ABC, NBC and CBS networks. But in southeast Michigan we were blessed with a fourth alternative, CKLW-TV, Channel 9, a CBC affiliate. I started watching Channel 9 frequently at a very young age. Channel 2 had B'wana Don and Morgus, 4 had Bozo and Milky, and 7 had Soupy and Johnny Ginger, but on Channel 9 there were 3 stars of kids TV - Captain Jolly, Jingles and Poopdeck Paul! Then there was Chez Helene, a 15-minute show that was done partially in the English language and partly in French, so that kids in Canada could learn the nation's other official language. I even remember tuning to the station early on Sunday mornings when they had a test pattern on! They didn't start regular programming until 9am, but we would turn it on to hear the bright, upbeat music they would play during the test pattern. Imagine offering today's young people a TV set that only picks up 4 channels, and one of them has a test pattern!
Later when I reached adolescence, 9 had two of my favorite shows: Swingin' Time with Robin Seymour and Windsor Wrestling with Lord Layton. And they also aired my all-time favorite TV show, The Adventures of Tugboat Annie!
No mention of Canada or Canadian TV is complete without bringing up the sport of hockey, and over the years Hockey Night In Canada has been a godsend. It's hard to believe in this era where virtually every pro and college sports event is televised, but 40 years ago the only time we got to see the Red Wings play were those rare Saturday nights when they visited Toronto to play the Maple Leafs! And you didn't even get to see all of the game - they would join it in progress at the end of the 1st period! The Stanley Cup playoffs were a real treat because then they showed you THE WHOLE GAME! Bill Hewitt did the play-by-play and after the game his dad Foster would come over from the radio booth to announce the 3 stars of the game. He almost always picked a Toronto player as the number one star, even when they lost the game! I still get goosebumps whenever I hear the Hockey Night In Canada theme song, and if I heard it now during the NHL lockout I'd probably shed a tear.
Another reason Channel 9 is special to me is because my dad was born in Canada, and when I was a kid we still had lots of relatives living there. Watching Channel 9 was a way of staying connected to them, and to my heritage.
Other programs I remember watching regularly included the panel shows Flashback and Front Page Challenge, the latter of which was on for decades and usually finished second in the Canadian TV ratings behind Hockey Night In Canada. Fred Davis was the host and the regular panelists were Gordon Sinclair, Pierre Burton, and Canada's answer to Arlene Francis, Betty Kennedy.
Then there were the musical variety programs - Tommy Hunter, Canada's Pet - Juliette, and Don Messer's Jubilee. While I probably wouldn't have chosen to watch these shows myself, since my parents did watch they became part of the soundtrack of my childhood.
In the 70s and 80s I enjoyed watching the British comedies Rising Damp, Yes Minister and The Two Ronnies on 9. Then there were the special shows like The Freedom Festival Parade with commentary by newsman Don Daly, the Mr. Belvedere Lookalike Contest (which was especially memorable for our family when unbeknownst to us, my dad's cousin Lester Heddle Sr. turned up on the show and won first runner-up), and Olympics coverage that put the U.S. networks to shame.
I left Ann Arbor in 1982 and when I came back in '94 a lot had changed, and most of the programming on Channel 9 no longer originated in Windsor. Still I would get a warm feeling every time I tuned the station in, and I especially enjoyed watching the hockey games with the cheesy, amateurish local commercials!
Now I live a long ways away from Channel 9's coverage area, but I still satisfy my taste for Canadian TV by occasionally tuning in "The National" CBC newscast on the International News Channel. And I'm looking forward to subscribing to NHL Center Ice when hockey gets going again, so that I can watch Hockey Night In Canada with Don Cherry! Good stuff, eh?


Blogger Frank H said...

I, too, fondly recall Windsor's CKLW-TV, Channel 9, from my youth in Detroit. I remember watching the sport of curling with fascination! Years later, when I moved to Wisconsin, I enjoyed actually participating in the sport!

11:41 AM  
Blogger Detroit Memories said...

Hey Jim -- I happened across your blog while googling for Robin Seymour. You'd probably enjoy my website, if you don't already know about it: You'll find a lot of what you mentioned there! You might be interested to know that Robin will be attending an Arizona-Detroiters Picnic and Classic Car Show, tentatively scheduled for next March in Scottsdale. We'd love to see you there!

You might also be interested in a terrific video about CKLW:

Eileen Trombley Glick
Phoenix AZ

12:00 AM  
Blogger Detroit Memories said...

Hi Jim -- I happened across your 'CKLW' blog. Lots of memory-joggers there for us 'kids' from Detroit! There's a terrific video about CKLW you should check out:

Speaking of Swingin' Time, Robin Seymour has graciously accepted my invitation to attend the first Arizona-Detroiters Picnic and Classic Car Show, tentatively scheduled for March 2007 in Scottsdale. We'd love to see you there too!

Eileen Trombley Glick

12:14 AM  
Blogger Tim Tattan said...

I grew up in River Rouge, Michigan, a few miles downstream from the CKLW-TV transmitter. In the years before PBS, we had noncommercial children's shows 'just before nap time' on channel 9. I fondly remember Chez Helene (but I didn't really learn any French from it), and The Friendly Giant. It would be great to find video archives of either of these shows. --

3:44 PM  
Blogger Fred said...

Ah yes. While I worked at CKLW in the late 60s, I was always on the radio site, at The Big Eight. But on Sunday mornings they never had a TV booth announcer so I was always called on to read the live tags every half hour for the religious shows.

"Send your five dollars for your full colour portrait of the Lord Jesus to ..." well, you know.

I often wondered what those listeners would think, because I sure put the sell into those tags like any good rock and roll newsman.

One of my favourite memories of channel 9 was working in the radio newsroom when Jim van Kuren came in with his toupee in hand, carefully combing it before going out on assignment to film a story.

6:57 PM  
Blogger CJ said...


Sorry, i don't remember the days when you were in that booth.

I do remember during the 70s, that Marty Adler or Stan Raymond would do Sundays.

Around noon or sometime after my mom brought me home from church, Marty and Stan would switch (later Marty and Conrad). It would be Stan's voice I would hear by Sunday Show Time...Somebody please post that...the best showtime theme song of all time--esp. the close.

Then Stan would be on to introduce the Tom Jones show.

Loved it.

Wish they'd use staff announcers again like that, and switch the danggoned stations off at a reasonable hour so the announcers and everyone else would head off into the night to get some rest.

5:40 PM  

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