It is thought to be the fourth oldest radio station in Canada, and it is the oldest radio station in Saskatchewan. This weekend, Moose Jaw’s CHAB is celebrating 100 years on the air.
The story started in 1922 – April 23rd, 1922 when, after many meetings, planning and anticipation, 10-AB began broadcasting. According to Broadcasting-History.com, the Moose Jaw Amateur Radio Association “had planned originally to operate the station, but found they couldn’t afford to run it, so handed it over to the Kiwanis Club. 10-AB was licensed as a non-commercial station at 1200 kHz with 50 watts of power.”
One hundred years later in 2022 the signal at 800 on the AM radio dial booms across the province and into the northern United States with 10,000 watts of power with studios located atop Main Street in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, broadcasting through a transmitter located near Pasqua, just southeast of Canada’s “Most Notorious City”.
It was in the fall of 1922 that the Kiwanis Club turned 10-AB back to the re-organized Moose Jaw Radio Association and in 1924 the studio was moved from the old YMCA building to the top floor of the Bellamy Furniture Store, a building which still stands to this day, having been turned into an apartment block on Main Street, downtown.
In 1931 there was another move to new studios at The Grant Hall Hotel, a lovely, historic building that has been completely refurbished.
Financial struggles in 1933 would lead to 10-AB leaving the air on November 11th. The history books tell us that Rudy Vallee “provided the background to the sign-off singing I’m Heading for the Last Round-Up”. It was just a few weeks later when 10-AB returned to the air as CHAB after being issued a commercial broadcasting license by the federal government. Carson Buchanan, the secretary of the Amateur Radio Association, would own the radio station with partners and become the general manager at CHAB.
It was in 1937 that one of the first true radio stars to come out of Moose Jaw would begin his career. Elwood Glover got his start at CHAB, working for $5.00 a week. Glover would later move on to become CBC Radio’s Chief Announcer.
In fact, CHAB was an affiliate of the CBC from 1933 through 1962 when CBC’s Dominion Network folded and they became an independent station.
Many long-time, loyal listeners can tell you about the different programs and formats they’ve had over the years. CHAB was a top 40 station in the 60s and many youngsters counted on them to play all the new Beatles songs back in the day. They stuck with pop music and rock ‘n roll for most of the 60s through the 70s and into the 80s when, for a time, we were “Favourites of Yesterday and Today”. Many will never forget the historic switch to country music in the mid-90s when they rebranded as “Country 800”. That move came just days before the popular Craven Country Jamboree, now known as Country Thunder.
It was in 2002 when CHAB, under the ownership of Golden West Broadcasting, switched back to rock ‘n roll with the format “The Greatest Hits of All Time”, as Golden West expanded operations in Moose Jaw with the addition of a new FM station, CILG – Country 100 – 100.7 FM.
Twenty years later, the flagship CHAB is flanked by two FM stations now, with the addition of CJAW – Mix 103.9, and they own and operate DiscoverMooseJaw.com, Moose Jaw’s daily source for local news and information.
Over the course of 100 years, they’ve switched hands a number of times with many, many famous broadcasters and entertainers getting their starts right here at CHAB. You can find a chronological history right here.
Golden West Broadcasting, under the direction of CEO Elmer Hildebrand, purchased CHAB 30 years ago, in 1992, from then-owners Moffat Communications.
It was a transaction Mr. Hildebrand looks back on with pleasant memories.
“There was a variety of stations that Moffat Communications had and we were interested in Moose Jaw but the way the whole deal shook out, we needed to take a station in Calgary and one in Hamilton to make it work because we were doing this deal with three other broadcast companies…so they convinced me, this was a Ted Rogers operation that was leading the process, they convinced me that, in addition to Moose Jaw we should also take Calgary and Hamilton, which we did. But Calgary and Hamilton are much larger cities than we’re used to operating in. We were used to operating in smaller communities and we ultimately exited both Calgary and Hamilton and chose to just concentrate on smaller communities on the prairies,” Mr. Hildebrand explained.
Golden West Broadcasting brought a new outlook and a new culture to CHAB in 1992 with a focus on local news, local weather and local sports – a mindset that remains to this day, 30 years later.
“If you keep it local, nobody else is doing it and so you have a product that is unique. That’s what we’ve been able to do over the years. It’s the kind of thing that just sets us apart from many other broadcasters and from my perspective, that’s the only reason we’re still around,” Hildebrand said.
And while Golden West Broadcasting has owned CHAB for 30 of their 100 years, Hildebrand has been toiling in the industry for 65 years, starting his career as a copywriter at CFAM in Altona, Manitoba.
“It’s been an amazing journey and I’ve enjoyed it a lot. Working in the kind of environment we do, we’re so fortunate that we can create whatever we can imagine. If we can imagine something, we can actually do it and we can do it on the radio and on our portals. The biggest thing that drives me is the service that we provide our listeners. We have so many listeners across the prairies, it just astounds me. They’re there every day…and we have to make sure that we provide the kind of interesting radio service that they want to come back again tomorrow and the next day and again and again and again. So, the whole concept of creating local news for local communities by local employees, that is what drives me.”
CHAB is a sister station of CJYM 1330, CFYM 1210, Bolt 107.5 FM and Country 104.