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"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.

Wavescan N471, March 4, 2018

The Canadian Northern Messenger Service

It was back in the Summer of 1923 that shortwave receivers were issued to the northern outposts of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for the purpose of enabling them to tune in to the programming from the American shortwave station KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In this way, isolated families on service in the frigid Canadian north could remain in touch with events in the rest of the world as a form of relief from their loneliness.

A recommendation from Canadian Westinghouse in Hamilton, Ontario suggested that KDKA should produce some special programming for the benefit of these northern and isolated residents and that it should be beamed to the far north on shortwave. The two and a half year old KDKA did indeed prepare this special programming for the Canadian Far North, and thus began the KDKA Far Northern Service which was inaugurated during that same 1923 Summer.

Programming was made up of letters from listeners, important messages to isolated families and friends way up north, news and information, as well as recorded music. These new broadcasts were initially inserted into other already existing KDKA programming, though as time went by, their Far Northern Service became a self-standing program in its own right.

The KDKA Far Northern Service became a regular winter time feature, and it was on the air usually from November each year into May of the following year. The KDKA Far Northern Service provided a much needed and highly appreciated fill-in service when mail deliveries and the shipment of goods were suspended during the harsh Arctic winter.

This Westinghouse Far Northern Service was on the air from KDKA mediumwave and 8XS shortwave (later W8XK and WPIT) and it was carried at times by other Westinghouse mediumwave and shortwave stations, and on occasion by additional mediumwave and shortwave stations in the United States. The initial Far Northern programming was introduced in the late Summer of 1923 and it ran for a total of some 17 years.

As Broadcasting magazine states, the 1939 service began over KDKA mediumwave and WPIT shortwave on November 1. We would presume that this was the final series of Far Northern programs from KDKA, and that they extended into May of the following year 1940.

However, of real significance is the fact that the Canadian radio authorities introduced their own program service for far northern residents, and it was based quite specifically on the American KDKA-8XS Far Northern Service. This is what happened.

During the year 1932, the small network of mediumwave radio stations previously owned and operated by the Canadian National Railways was acquired by CRBC, the newly formed Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission. Initially, the CRBC operated just three mediumwave stations; CRCO in Ottawa, Ontario, CRCA in Moncton, New Brunswick, and CRCV in Vancouver, British Columbia, with the Vancouver station as the key station of this fledgling new CRBC network.

Quite soon after it was organized, the CRBC began planning its own northern service, which became a very successful copy of the KDKA-8XS Far Northern Service. In December 1933, the new Canadian program, under the title Canadian Northern Messenger, was inaugurated as a special Saturday night program, and it was broadcast from all of the mediumwave stations in the growing CRBC network.

At the initial stage, the Canadian Northern Messenger, with a duration of one and half to two hours on each occasion, was on the air each Saturday night at 11:30 pm Eastern Standard Time. As was the case with the KDKA-8XS Far Northern Service, the Canadian Northern Messenger was made up of listener letters, important messages for family and friends, news items and recorded music. It was a regular special feature program each year during the harsh Arctic winter, beginning in early November and running through to sometime in May.

Program production for the new Canadian Northern Messenger radio program was under the auspices of the CRBC in Toronto. Their mediumwave station in Toronto at the time was an interesting mix of equipment from previous mediumwave stations at various locations under earlier callsigns in the Toronto area, and this conglomerate collection was on the air under a new CRBC callsign, CRCT.

In addition to mediumwave coverage, this highly appreciated radio programming was also on the air shortwave throughout North America. In his very interesting radio volume, The Early Shortwave Stations, the authoritative radio historian Jerome Berg in suburban Boston informs us that initially four shortwave stations in Canada also carried the Canadian Northern Messenger in their regular broadcasting schedule.

These shortwave stations were:

VE9DN Drummondville, Quebec Marconi Co. 6 kW 6005 kHz
VE9GW Bowmanville, Ontario Gooderham & Worts .2 kW 6095 kHz
VE9CL Winnipeg, Manitoba Richardson Co. 2 kW 6150 kHz
VE9JR Winnipeg, Manitoba Richardson Co. 2 kW 11720 kHz

Four years after CRBC, the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission, was organized, it transmigrated into another though similar organization, CBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and that event took place on November 2, 1936. The production and broadcast of this highly acclaimed radio program, the Canadian Northern Messenger, continued under the new CBC administration.

A few months later into the year 1937, states Jerome Berg in an update on his historical information, the shortwave stations that were carrying the Canadian Northern Messenger on Saturday nights were as follows:

VE9DN Drummondville, Quebec Marconi Co. 4 kW 6005 kHz
CRCX (VE9GW) Bowmanville, Ontario CBC .5 kW 6095 kHz
CJRO (VE9CL) Winnipeg, Manitoba Richardson Co. 2 kW 6150 kHz
CJRX (VE9JR) Winnipeg, Manitoba Richardson Co. 2 kW 11720 kHz
W8XK (8XS) Saxonburg, PA, USA Westinghouse 40 kW 4 SW channels

Give another eighteen years and we come to the year 1954. World War 2 is well and truly over, and post war expansion and development are well under way. The annual wintertime Canadian Northern Messenger program for the year 1954 was reintroduced on Friday evening, November 5, and the list of mediumwave stations carrying the program is shown as:

CBW Winnipeg, Manitoba 50 kW 990 kHz
CBK Watrous, Saskatchewan 50 kW 540 kHz
CBX Lacombe, Alberta 50 kW 1010 kHz
CBXA Edmonton, Alberta .1 kW 740 kHz

Each edition of the Canadian Northern Messenger was produced in the CBC studios of CBX and CBXA in Edmonton, Alberta and it was broadcast on mediumwave and shortwave to the north. However, exactly one week later, a recording of the original broadcast was then rebroadcast over the 50 kW mediumwave station CBA at Sackville in New Brunswick.

In addition, the programming from the CBX & CBXA studios in Edmonton was also on relay via VED, a communication station that was operated by the Royal Corp of Signals in their encampment on the northern edge of Edmonton. This area is now built up as suburban housing.

The 5 kW army transmitter, Model TH41, was built by the Canadian Marconi Company at Kanata in Ontario and it was in use for the relay of CBC programming to a small network of low power mediumwave stations in the north. The three letters in the communication callsign VED indicate: Canada, with the initial letter V, and Edmonton with the two subsequent letters ED.

Station VED was established in 1924, and it was taken into CBC relay service in 1949 for some eight years running from 1949 up into 1956. International radio monitors observed three shortwave channels that were in consecutive use as a program feed for the northern low power mediumwave stations; 8255 kHz, 8265 kHz, and 7230 kHz.

Two years after the end of the CBC program relay via VED (1958), the CBC announced that they planned to install a 50 kW shortwave transmitter in Vancouver for program coverage of the isolated northern areas. That planned shortwave coverage was never implemented; however, the CBC Northern Service was inaugurated instead. And that's another interesting story for another occasion.