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Fate prevented Moose Jaw from having first Saskatchewan television station

Ron Walter writes about the Ross School air crash of 1954 and how it surprisingly affected local media
Trading Thoughts by Ron Walter

CKCK-TV’s celebration of 65 years of television in Regina brought memories flowing of the 1950s when television first came to Saskatchewan and the Prairies.

The infant television industry arrived offering viewers a new form of entertainment and information source.

Imagine — until then, newspapers, radio, family gatherings and locally-produced plays and concerts were the main sources of entertainment and information. This new TV was like being able to watch the movies at home.

Some viewers were so enchanted they would watch the test pattern for hours. The test pattern was a fixed geometrical design often with an Indigenous person wearing a war bonnet in the centre.       

The test pattern’s purpose was to help the viewer adjust the sometimes snowy and grainy screen picture. Children sometimes played with the adjusting knobs, really throwing the picture for a loop.

The often-snowy TV offerings were limited from five o’clock in the afternoon until 11 p.m., then midnight.

CKCK-TV went on air in April 1954 well before the rival CHAB-TV in Moose Jaw, receiving the licence just hours before going on air. It was the first TV station in Saskatchewan.

Had it not been for fate, Moose Jaw viewers could have had the first TV station in the province.

The Moffat family, the owners of CHAB radio, had applied for a licence to open a Moose Jaw TV station well before CKCK.

The late Bob Wyatt, who worked for CHAB during most of his accounting career, related the events to me while we were discussing the book Mid-Air Over Moose Jaw by Larry Shaak.

CHAB had given up on receiving approval for a station because of the time lapse since the submission to the Canadian Radio Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in Ottawa.

The CRTC had actually awarded CHAB a TV licence.

In those days with no fax, no cell phones and limited use of expensive long-distance telephones, snail mail letters were the main source of communication. The pace of business and bureaucracy was much slower.

The licence approval for CHAB’s new television station was in the mail on the way to Moose Jaw by airplane on an April 8, 1954 flight of Trans Canada Air-Lines.

The TCA North Star plane collided in mid-air with a Harvard trainer from the RCAF training base in Moose Jaw.

The crash took place near the former Ross School in the city’s northeast. It was the worst airplane disaster in Canada up to that time.

Thirty-seven people were killed — all the people on the TCA and the Harvard trainer as well as Martha Hadwen, the only fatality from Moose Jaw.

Wreckage was strewn all over the area including the current Hillcrest golf course. Among the items lost in the crash were bags of mail.

One of the lost letters in the mail bags was CRTC approval for the CHAB television station.

Apparently, CHAB didn’t learn about the approval until years later when re-applying for a TV outlet.

CHAB-TV opened on Main Street in 1959 in the current location of Houston Pizza. In 1969 the CBC bought the Moose Jaw TV station as the publicly-funded broadcaster built a national network. CBC moved the station to Regina in 1971. 

Ron Walter can be reached at

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.  

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