Shlemiel, Schlemazel, Hasenpfeffer Incorporated… Remembering a really good day at the office.

I’m not sure how it’s going to be marked (if at all) by the station’s current ownership… but I’ll be raising a whisky later to mark the 10th anniversary of the launch of radio station CKAY in Sechelt.

Known these days as “The Coast”, it was “C-Kay” at its birth, and someone out there saved a recording of the official, sign-on (12pm May 20, 2006) and it will live forever on the Internet. You can listen to it at radiowest.ca

The original partners don’t own the station anymore, and I don’t work there anymore, but I think the day is worth noting.  

CKAY was launched as the first-ever truly local radio station for the Sunshine Coast, and I was its first news director.  Just shy of my 40th birthday, I was getting a shot at building a news organization from scratch, and to serve my hometown to boot.  I owe a lot to Bob and Brian for taking a leap of faith based on a demo, a resume, a lunch at a local pub, and a thinly veiled threat to stake out the place until they hired me!  

We wanted to be the go-to voice for locals, especially when things got hairy, and they got hairy quickly in those first few years…  We were right there for a major traffic accident that tied up our only highway, cutting the community in two, for the better part of day during a big music festival. When the big storms of ’06 hit we pulled out all the stops to stay on the air (at one point I had to chainsaw my way through fallen trees in a snowstorm to get to work, and drove home through heavy snow to borrow some propane tanks from my camper to power our backup generator). We worked late to cover elections, the first live and local election coverage our community had ever been able to tune in for. We also broke a couple of solid stories in those early years, and faced the challenge of reporting on the death of one of our own.

Of the original crew – Bob, Brian, Matt, Amanda, Naomi, Jim, Keith, Ray, Dan, Scott, Sam, Shelley, Paul & Lindsay – some were gone before the first anniversary. By the fifth a few more had come and gone.  It’s the way of things in radio, especially small markets. 

CKAY 10th 1
You only get one chance in life to build a news department from scratch

CKAY’s days as an independent ended in the fall of 2012, when the station was bought by a chain on an expansion drive. 

CKAY 10th 2
The “heritage sign” still has the original logo

It’s been nearly six months since I left, and maybe tonight’s whisky is going to be as much a final farewell toast, as a birthday salute.  I’ll always be a proud of what I accomplished at CKAY, and just like my 10 years at CBC before it, the experience will always be a big part of who I am and how I do my job (but I’ll never be able to watch the opening sequence of Laverne & Shirley the same way again).

CKAY 10th 3
I left my mark on the place (or at least the whiteboard)

To quote Dickens, as people do when telling stories like these: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  And to quote Dylan: The times they are a changing.


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