Public radio broadcasting from the campus of Queen's University began in the autumn of 1922, on experimental station 9BT and then, from 1923, on CFRC. That makes Queen's Radio older than the BBC, much older than the CBC, and by far the oldest surviving and consecutively broadcasting campus station in Canada. In fact, Queen's Radio has one of the longest continuing histories in radio, close behind the record of the Marconi Company and of KDKA in Pittsburgh. The original idea of some students and two professors in the Department of Electrical Engineering was to convey the action of Queen's Tricolor football games to alumni all across Ontario, because in those days that was possible, even at low transmitting power. In the early days, Queen's radiotelephone was picked up as far away as South Carolina, Chicago and Minnesota at a time when most people had neither telephones nor indoor plumbing in their homes!
Because Kingston sits in a sort of cup at the base of the Canadian Shield, a geologic formation of exposed Precambrian igneous and high-grade metamorphic rock, radio signals did not come in from Ottawa, Montreal or Toronto. Thus, at the time, Queen's Radio was largely the only Canadian station receivable down "in the radio shadow of the Canadian Shield". When CFRC began to reach out to the local community, it became Kingston's listening post on the rest of Canada and helped to bind the townspeople to Queen's in a new and different way.
Currently, CFRC's mandate is to provide innovative and alternative radio programming that enriches and challenges the academic and cultural life of the university and Kingston communities. It also provides Queen's students, staff, faculty, alumni and community members with the opportunity to participate in its operation, to gain skills and experience in the collective running of a public radio broadcasting station whose programming and practices are not constrained by advertisers and demands for profit.
This on-line exhibit covers CFRC's history from 1922 through its centennial year in 2022, with a focus on programming, equipment and photos from the early years. Click through the decades on the sidebar to explore the station's long and distinguished broadcasting history.
CFRC would like to thank Queen's University Archives for providing historical documents, and publishing this exhibit. Thanks also to the photographers credited. The original exhibit, published in 2012 during CFRC’s 90th Anniversary year was curated and written by Derek Redmond and Arthur Zimmerman, with assistance from Andrea McPherson. For the 100th Anniversary updates to the exhibit, Angus Merry and Ana Williams-Bergen conducted interviews with more recent CFRC alumni about the 2012-22 period with the generous support of the Queen’s Alumni Association. Radio Queen’s University Executive Director Dinah Jansen curated the updated stories with transcription assistance from Gabriel Korth and editorial assistance from Principal Emeritus (and CFRC Volunteer) Daniel Woolf.
Photos of buildings and artifacts for the 1922-2012 portion of the exhibit were furnished by Derek Redmond. Text for the first 90 year portion of the exhibit was adapted from "In the Shadow of the Shield" (1991) by Arthur Zimmerman while audio clips between 1922-2012 were excerpted from "The Queen's Radio Oral History Project" (1983) by Arthur Zimmerman; see The Eighties for details.
Additional photos were shot by Dinah Jansen and credited volunteers and alumni. Audio clips between 2012-22 are excerpted from the “CFRC Oral History Project” funded by the Queen’s Alumni Association in 2019-20.