Montreal Radio Blog

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Fantastic Tribute to the Montreal Expos

Annakin Slayd put together this wonderful montage. Hopefully, MLB won't have YouTube take it down, as they are prone to doing to material that contains game footage...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Shortwave Radio and RCI

I still have a shortwave radio I purchased in 1989. I took a trip oversees and wanted to see if I could pick up Radio Canada International. It's hard for younger people to imagine a time when you weren't able to have instant access to information, but yes that is the way it was. Back then (late 1980s), about the only way to keep in touch with home aside from long-distance calls (which were still a big deal!), was to pick up the U.S.A. Today or try to pick up shortwave signals.

It was really amazing when you picked up a signal in english that was clear enough to understand! Voice of America was beamed around pretty well, but RCI seemed harder to catch. You had to acquire a schedule which included frequencies. It was necessary to send a request to the broadcasters by mail and wait for them to send it back to you. Oh yeah, things have surely changed since then!

You knew you had found the right frequency/time combination when you heard the first four notes of O'Canada right as they were about to begin their transmission. Then the voice said that you were listening to Radio Canada International - from Montreal. Instantly, you had access to Canadian news, weather and sports scores, among other things.
RCI is run by the CBC, sort of... I think right now they broadcast in 7 languages. The service used to broadcast in considerably more languages than that. RCI launched in 1945, primarily as a way for Canadian service men to stay in touch with news from home.

Pretty much all of their stuff is now available online. They can also be heard on Satellite radio. I'm not sure about their current situation, but I know for a while they were struggling to stay alive. Some federal budgets announced cuts that threatened to do away with the service altogether. Many claimed that the Internet makes shortwave services obsolete, but that is pretty naive thinking. There is still a sizable portion of the planet that does not have access to the Internet.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Great Flood of 1987

I can remember a lot of heat waves, and most weren't as bad as the one Montreal just went through. One exception might be the one Montreal experienced in July of 1987. Maybe it's just me, but I can't recall it ever having been that warm in Montreal. Thermometers were pushing the 40 degree mark, but that might have been with the humidity. Obviously, there was no Internet and no Weather Network back then. Whatever the official stats were, it was excruciatingly hot, and it seemed to go on for at least a week.

The heat led to something that is still talked about by all who lived through it. That was the great Montreal flood of 1987. It happened on July 14th,  23 years ago today. Around 100 mm of rain fell in a few hours. We kind of had a mini version of that a few days ago, but nowhere near on the same scale.

The day started off hot and muggy, but by early afternoon, ominous dark clouds began to cover the island. It seemed to be very localized to Montreal. The storms began in the early afternoon. Wave after wave of storm cells hit for what must have been a good few hours.

So on went the radio, and there was long-time CJAD weatherman Bill Holdament (I’m hoping that was the way his name was spelled!) saying something to the effect of how you'd better tie up your lawn furniture or it might end up in your neighbour's yard. He wasn't kidding...

Montreal's sewer system couldn't keep up with the continuous downpours. Remember the images of the Decarie expressway under water? People lost an awful lot of possessions that day, including a lot of vehicles.

If something like that were to happen today, you'd go online and share your observations, or you might check out the weather channels or tune into one of the many all-news TV channels. Back in 1987, none of those things existed. You had to open your local TV channel and hope they were covering the happenings live. Or you did what most people probably did at the time, especially if you had lost power: you grabbed you transistor radio and listened to live coverage as it happened. I wish I remembered how the day was covered on local radio, but all I can recall are Holdament's comments. It's been a recurrent theme of mine that even today, when disaster strikes, radio is still going to be the best option for news and information. After all, technology becomes pretty basic when power and communications infrastructures go down.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Classic Canadian Children's TV

We've got these 24 hour kids channels now that show all kinds of stuff. Back in the late 70s and most of the 1980s, there weren't any specialized channels like that. If you didn't have cable, you had to watch what was on either channel 12 or channel 6, and if you felt adventurous enough, you'd check out what was on the french channels.

Who can forgot the CBC's morning programming? Look Up, way Up! Friendly Giant was only on for 15 minutes at a time, but there was something really cool about that show. Jerome the giraffe sticking his head through a fake window and Rusty the rooster sticking his head out of a bag? That was classic television! There were over 3000 episodes and the show ran for nearly 30 years! Did you know that the Friendly Giant originally aired in the United States? Bob Homme, who played the giant, was actually from Wisconsin.

And speaking of another American who created some classic Canadian children's television, we can't forget Ernie Coombs. He was Mr. Dressup. It's probably the most remembered Canadian children's show. It ran for about 29 years and stuck around in repeats though the mid-2000's even after the show was no longer in production and Mr. Coombs had died. Why did Casey and Finnegan have to live in that tree house anyway?

Then there was Canadian Sesame Street. It was the same show as down south, but with Canadian segments thrown in. It was an introduction to the french language for many, I'm sure. It was yanked off the CBC sched in the mid-90s, and that's really too bad.

And then there was Rocket Robin Hood. Listen to the theme music, it is brilliant... The overly dramatic description of RRH and his Merry Men is priceless. And then you get to see the same descriptive vignettes over and over and over again... To this day, it comes across as pretty damn funny!

I have to mention The Flintstones, even though it can hardly be considered Canadian content. For what seemed like forever, the show would air at noon on channel 12. It would disappear when school let out and then return "fresh" as ever in the fall. If you were home at noon, you watched the Flintstones, even if you had seen the same episode a million times already. There was an instance back in the 90s when the show was yanked off the sched for a while. A group of McGill students began a petition and campaign to get it back on. They succeeded - for a while.

Of course times have changed, and none of the above shows are on local TV anymore. The specialty channels do have some great stuff though, especially the retro channel.