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CTV Kitchener celebrates its 70th anniversary

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A very special celebration is happening at CTV Kitchener!

The station, formerly known as CKCO, first hit the airwaves on March 1, 1954.

To mark our 70th anniversary, we’re looking back at the history of CTV Kitchener. That includes the shows our viewers grew up watching, the people you welcomed on your TVs every night, our special event coverage and the biggest stories impacting our community over the last seven decades.

Remembering CKCO/CTV Kitchener

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the opening ceremonies of our Kitchener-Waterloo television station,” said Winston Barron, kicking off the first CKCO-TV broadcast on channel 13.

MORE: The history behind CKCO and our old studios

In the years since its debut, CKCO aired a wide variety of community-based entertainment and news programs. Shows ranged from cooking, bowling, dancing, polka music, to children’s programming and more.

Take a trip down memory lane by checking out our photo gallery here.

You can also get a look behind the cameras during the production of our 70th anniversary show.

Courtesy: Laverne McGee

Locally-produced programming

Since the station’s beginnings, CKCO-TV has been home to dozens of daily, weekly and annual productions.

You can’t mention the most popular productions without mentioning the pioneers that started it all – from Violet Scriver’s ‘Come Into the Kitchen’ to ‘The Elaine Cole Show.’

Many of the programs were filmed live in our studios and featured a studio audience. A generation of kids grew up with Big Al, as well as the Romper Room franchise, which CKCO produced from 1963 to 1992.

Miss Fran was the longest-serving Romper Room teacher in North America, who could often be seen with her magic mirror.

The interactive songs and sketches on Camp Cariboo also inspired many children. The show grew out of the summer camping experiences of Tom Knowlton and Mark Baldwin. The show ran for five seasons and received national television awards along the way.

When Camp Cariboo ended, Knowlton continued to contribute to the stations programming. He eventually became the final host of Bowling for Dollars, where people won cash based on how well they bowled.

Provincewide first aired in 1985. It went on to become the longest, continuously-running locally-produced news and current affairs program in Canada. Over the course of three decades, the award-winning show featured interviews with everyone from politicians to celebrities.

While many of the station’s productions have gone off air, the people and programs that brought them to our screens continue to inform and inspire us decades later.

Take a trip down the memory lane of productions in the video player above, which includes interviews with some of the people behind these programs. 

70 years covering the biggest stories

Whether it’s feel-good stories or tragedies, CTV Kitchener has reporting history in real time for the last seven decades.

During the station’s first year on air, teenager Marilyn Bell became the first person to swim Lake Ontario.

From glory on the water to the sheer force of it -- in 1974 the banks of the Grand River flooded and submerged sections of Cambridge.

A man helps people at Main & Water Sts. during the 1974 Galt flood. (Source: City of Cambridge)

An ice jam on the same river caused significant flooding in Brantford 45 years later.

Chunks of ice are seen in the Grand River while flooding hits Brantford on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. (Jason Gagnon / Twitter)

In Woodstock, 10-year-old Victoria Stafford was snatched off the street in front of her school in 2009.

Chunks of ice are seen in the Grand River while flooding hits Brantford on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. (Jason Gagnon / Twitter)

Seven years later, Elizabeth Wettlaufer was found guilty of killing eight seniors in her care at a local retirement home.

In 2013, an airport hangar in Breslau and a farm near Ayr were tied to the grisly murder of Tim Bosma, who was killed by Dellan Millard and Mark Smitch.

Then there was the crime that literally shook Kitchener. A house exploded on Sprucedale Street and was later determined to be part of a homicide plot.

Click the videos above to see these big stories, and more, throughout the station’s history.

CKCO in the community

Over the decades, CTV Kitchener has teamed up with many local organizations.

One year after the station hit the airwaves, a unique partnership began with The Kinsmen Club. For more than 60 years, CKCO broadcasted the Kinsmen auction, which raised thousands of dollars for community organizations.

Chef Emily Richards has been sharing cooking tips with CTV viewers since the early 2000s. She even joined the station on the road when it launched CTV News at Five.

Of course, CTV Kitchener has been there for the big Bavarian bash known as the KW Oktoberfest.

Endless keg tappings, festhallen fun and, of course, the Thanksgiving Day parade all made their way to TV screens for more than five decades thanks to CTV Kitchener’s talented crew.

Click on the video player above to relive how we’ve covered our community.

Former anchors return to the studio

Ahead of our 70th anniversary show, we asked some of our former colleagues about their memories of CKCO/CTV Kitchener.

Nancy Richards and Kyle Christie, who anchored the Noon at News together, made a lasting connection outside the newsroom. They tell us about their friendship on and off screen, how they're still working together and the moment on live TV that still makes them laugh.

Lyndsay Morrison, now the weather anchor at CTV News Toronto, said telling stories and meeting people in the community was the highlight of her time at CTV Kitchener. She also appreciates the viewers who have continued to follow her career.

Rosie Del Campo started at CTV Kitchener as a videographer, reporting the biggest news stories of the day. She also reflects on her time at the anchor desk, including launching the News at Five and the importance of local news and telling stories from the community.

Ron Johnston, who was anchor for almost 20 years, tells us about the biggest changes in TV technology, like switching from film to video. He also said Kitchener was the first CTV station in Canada to be fully computerized.

You can watch their extended interviews in the video player above.

Vintage Videos

Every Thursday we bring back a blast from the past in the form of our Vintage Video series.

To celebrate our 70th anniversary, we’ve brought back a few favourites including tributes to Betty Thompson and Dave MacDonald. You’ll also find a segment from 2007 that went behind the scenes to show viewers “A Day in the life of CTV Kitchener.” We also have look at TV fashion (including the iconic red CKCO jackets) and how technology has changed since CKCO’s inception. (You can also watch these in the video player at the top of this page).

Miss Betty (Thompson) on Romper Room.

More from our archive

We have more on CTV Kitchener’s history on our website, including tributes to the careers of Bill Inkol, Frank Lynn, David Imrie, Nancy RichardsArt BaumunkRandy Steinman, Dave MacDonald and Jeff Hutcheson.

We also look back our longtime home – 864 King Street West – and our new Kitchener studio.

To see how things have changed in just the last five years, you can watch our 65th anniversary show here.

Then: CKCO's new home

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