CKPT AM shutdown renews radio memories

11 October 2013 update: Unfortunately the video previously embedded on this page from the Peterborough Examiner is no longer available online.

May 5th marked the end of an era in a small southern Ontario city, and brought back a few fond memories for me.

The radio station where I began my media career, CKPT in Peterborough, abandoned the AM dial in favour of a new home on FM.

The switch probably cuts the station’s power bill significantly (the AM transmitter ran at 10,000 watts day, 5000 watts at night) and delivers better-quality audio.

But it’s still a bit sad. AM radio is what drew me to broadcasting – staying up late as a youngster to tune in the super stations of the 1960s like WABC New York, WLS Chicago and KMOX St Louis – plus the dozens of lesser signals that filled the dial after sunset. As the signals faded in and out, I would strain to discern their callsigns and locations.

There was a sense of mystery and intrigue in those days that you just don’t find on Sirius or iTunes – or even on FM.

When CKPT hired me as an announcer in 1976, I couldn’t believe my luck. I got paid to stay up all night playing the top 40 and reading the news every hour. And being on AM, you just never knew where that 1420kHz signal might reach. I recall one time we received a cassette recording from a radio enthusiast in Scandinavia, and sure enough, through the echo and the static you could hear the announcer identifying CKPT.

In the video above, CKPT engineer Ed Crompton – who has been with the station for almost 40 years – gives the Peterborough Examiner a tour of the AM transmitter site, a few hours after shutting it down.

By the way, the old CKPT website is looking just as forlorn as the transmitter shack.

UPDATE 11 October 2013: Here’s some info about the history of CKPT.