My grandfather and his brothers and buddies would sit around in the evening with aniticipation of the next call the radio announcer would make, amidst the intensity of listening through the crackling static and the lazy smoke from hand rolled cigarettes rising from the heat of the small wood stove. Sonny Liston receives another blow from Cassius Clay. The room goes silent until the announcer coolly recovers from his disbelief. The great Cassius Clay wins by KO, Feb 26, 1964, and again in 1965 with a one punch, first-round KO. No betting and no booing came from my Grandfather and his friends, just the satisfaction of receiving a clear signal on the radio from a distance of more than 2,500 miles, in the deep south where the now well known great boxer, Mohammed Ali, defeated Sonny Liston. However, because the fight was so short and over in minutes, the radio dial was tuned to Nashville and great original country and western. (Decades later, as hundred of thousands of Japanese paid hundreds and thousands of dollars to watch 15 seconds of a Tyson brawl, history was repeated, with inflation included).
Radio, back in the day, was entertainment and information. The cold war and Second World War was always there, in the living rooms of people who had battery-operated receivers. The Bay manager’s house was powered by a windmill erected in his front yard and on occasion he would allow use of his ham radio. The Anglican Church supplemented its income by collecting daily weather reports, and everyone knew what the weather was going to be anyway, so the radio played the part as entertainer for many years.
Hollywood came to town a long time ago and all the latest westerns and sci-fi flicks were viewed on a regular basis; a nickel for kids and a dime for adults. Over the years, some kids eventually grew too big for the doorman or collector and they would graduate into the upper income category or adulthood. Years passed by and radio became more reliable when the CBC shipped up a very large satellite dish, which somehow made it across the freshly frozen river on a flat-bed truck. The driver, the next day, awoke to find out that he was the first to cross the river, and the “rough road” he had encountered was really a ski-doo trail and the “nice stretch” “Who’s your daddy now.”
A Sonny “I could’ve been a contenda Orr Quote he described was the inches thick ice on the river.
We got FM, then colour TV. (There never was any black and white TV because the closest television transmitter was in Moosonee and many waited in vain for a signal to come through.) One of my uncles owned a TV for years before he could use it, but when he could, it was Hockey Night in Canada (somewhat of a new religion, it is still practiced today) and Guy Lafleur was the new hero. Les Canadiens replaced the weekly fights and the long distance crackling of an AM station from somewhere in middle America, slowly faded from our use of communications.
After seeing “Cold Journey” and “Little Big Man,” movies seemed to have Native heroes all over the world. This sparked a new generation of our people to get up and do something that we could only receive and play a passive role in; we made our own radio and television programming. A lot of effort came from the CBC. After the transfer of knowledge, skills and equipment, the community radio station was built. Many of our communities’ radio stations come from small groups of people who really wanted to work in that field, not because they needed a job, but because it was something that we all realized could become a great tool to entertain, inform, the educate, to remember and preserve and most important of all (gasp!) play BINGO! Somehow, I miss those days when my numerical knowledge went past 75.