How it all began...
In 1922, Herb Slack didn't set out to be a radio pioneer. The owner of the Wentworth Radio Supply Company had the idea that a local station in Hamilton could really spur an interest in radio purchases from his store.
At the time, Hamiltonians could only receive two radio stations locally... KDKA PITTSBURGH and CFCA TORONTO (that debuted in 1919 but would later cease broadcasting... leaving CKOC as Ontario's oldest radio station and second only to CFCF Montreal in all of Canada.) For just $500 Herb got a license and purchased the necessary equipment to put his 5 watt station on the air from a studio on the north-west corner of King William and John Streets.
From day one, Herb Slack called his Hamilton radio station CKOC. It's original program schedule covered but two hours daily from noon to 1pm and 6pm - 7pm. Herb soon boosted CKOC's power to 10 watts. The programming consisted of news, community events, pre-recorded music and a weekly church broadcast.
In 1924 pioneer radio engineer Les Horton joined the staff of the radio station and it was moved to new quarters in the Lister Building, where the power was boosted to 50 watts. That same year, the Hamilton Spectator started a 50 watt radio station on the 3rd floor of their King Street location. It was called CHCS and shared CKOC's frequency.
In 1925 yet another local station came on line.... CFCU radio at 123 King Street West. Before long both CHCS and CFCU were disbanded but CKOC carried on.
In 1926, Herb Slack pulled the plug on a service being broadcast from First United church when the minister disobeyed a request to stay away from politics on religious broadcasts and lectured on prohibition (a hot political potato at the time).
Twenty five angry parishioners banded together and procured a broadcasting license to start their own radio station in 1927. The group was called Maple Leaf Broadcasting and they named the station CHML.
By 1927, CKOC was finding the Lister Building accommodations unsatisfactory and the radio station was moved to the 11th floor of the Royal Connaught Hotel. The transmitter power was raised to 100 watts. For a brief time, CKOC and CHML shared the same frequency... 880 on the radio dial. In 1931, CKOC changed to the 630 on the dial and boosted power to a full 1,000 watts. The radio business was beginning to boom!
In 1933, CKOC purchased new quarters in the Wentworth Building at the north-east corner of King William and John. In rather rapid fashion the station changed frequency 3 times... to 1010, then 1510 and then 1120 where it would stay for 8 years.
In 1939, Herb Slack sold CKOC to a western company called Taylor, Pearson & Carson. In 1941, the Sifton Family purchased 50% of CKOC. They would eventually purchase the rest and Armadale Communications would hold the license until 1993. 1941 saw yet another dial move for CKOC, this time to 1140.
In 1947, CKOC made it's final dial move to it's present frequency - 1150. The station multiplied it's power to 5,000 watts and relocated its transmitter to Elfrida on the mountain.
Meanwhile, there were extensive renovations to the King William and John broadcast centre and the new studios were considered state of the art. The building contained a 200-seat auditorium with stage where many popular programs like the Eatons Good Deed Club were aired before a live audience.
At this time, the station was carrying many popular network shows like Arthur Godfrey, the Happy Gang, Fibber McGee and Mollie and the Wayne and Schuster Show.
The year 1960 was a banner one for CKOC. The station moved to 73 Garfield Ave South. It was a 2-storey building originally built by Bell Telephone to house the Garfield Exchange. Over the years the building had also served as offices for the steel company and as a school for the blind. 1960 also saw CKOC, like many radio stations, move to a music/news format as television took away the dramas, quiz shows and soap operas. CKOC became a Hit Parade Station and "The Busy Bee" was born.
It was like a love affair between Hamilton and CKOC during the Sensational Sixties. Hamilton was "A Honey of a Hometown and CKOC was everywhere playing the Top 40 Hits of the day and entertaining with zany contests and promotions. In 1967, CKOC boosted power once again, this time to 10,000 watts. A mere decade later the station moved her transmitter to the community of Blackheath Ontario and became a 50,000 watt powerhouse, broadcasting all across Southern Ontario. In the fall of 1980, CKOC set an all-time record for audience reach by a Hamilton Burlington radio station: 724,300 listeners a week. On August 10th, 1983, CKOC became the first AM radio station in Canada to broadcast in full AM stereo using the Motorola C-QUAM system. From 1922 on, CKOC was always the "pioneer" in broadcasting.
The final physical move to date for the radio station took place in April 1990 when CKOC moved to Hamilton's mountain and took up residence at 883 Upper Wentworth Street, near Lime Ridge Mall. This was the first time any local station had settled away from the lower city.
Valentine's Day 1992 saw CKOC move to an Oldies format featuring the great music of the late fifties, the sixties and the seventies.
Several generations of listeners who grew up listening to "The Busy Bee" could now come back to 1150 and the music that made memories.
In 1993 Radiocorp Inc, purchased CKOC from Armadale Communications. Radiocorp invested heavily in the station, installing the latest computer technology, and continued to thrive as it serviced the Hamilton and Southern Ontario Marketplace.
Today, Oldies 1150 CKOC is Good Times, Great Oldies! The station is now part of Bell Media group of companies.
The Big 500 Countdown History:
It was in 1968 that CKOC first surveyed the music preferences of our listeners to compile The Big 500 Hits of All Time and play them back, in order, on the station.
The Big 500 Countdown has been the area's major radio listening tradition every year since.
Click here for the latest edition of the Big 500 Countdown.