Growing up on a farm in the 1950s, isolated from everything, Anita Jenkins developed a taste for the music she heard on CHED – one of the only stations strong enough to broadcast out into the rural part of the province. She says she heard all kinds of rock music – Big Bopper, Little Richard, Chubby Checkers, and B.B. King. But it wasn’t until she went to the University of Alberta a decade later that she discovered CKUA.
“I was a huge fan of Bill Coull,” she says. “He had a lifelong career, having started at CKUA when he was 18 – he was extremely talented. Every now and then I’d be inspired to phone him, though I didn’t know the guy – his name was “cool”, his music was cool, and when I finally met him he was like a schoolteacher. It’s funny how your image of the announcer is nothing like (the real person)…”
“I don’t think I’d listen to any jazz at all if it weren’t for CKUA – Bill Coull taught me about jazz. Because of him, I took out John Coltrane’s ‘Love Supreme’ from the library. I feel like I have a Master’s degree in music from listening all these years. I would not have known anything about the sophisticated music I listen to if it weren’t for CKUA.”
CKUA helped Anita not only develop her musical tastes, but also played a romantic part in her life. She met her future husband in 1966 (she says it might have been on a blind date).
“He came to my apartment and I had the radio on, and he said, ‘Oh I see you listen to CKUA too’…when CKUA went off the air in 1997, I told my husband that we needed to get a divorce – CKUA was the only thing we had in common!”
Anita soon went from being a listener to being a volunteer. She answered phones for 20 years, and found that one of the exciting things about phone campaigns was getting to meet the announcers (all of whom she knows now). Today, her CKUA volunteer role is as Coordinator for the Winspear Centre in Edmonton. She makes sure that volunteers, called CKUA ambassadors, are available for selected concerts held at the Winspear. Ambassadors set up a table and bring along a CKUA banner, information about CKUA programming, and giveaways such as CKUA guitar picks. They chat with concert-goers who stop by the table (many of whom are ardent CKUA fans already).
“I knew our family was musically inclined – I’m the oldest of 11 – but I realized just how much we shared a love for music after I’d become a volunteer for CKUA, and I was answering phones. The announcers would always say the names of the volunteers on air. My sister in Calgary mentioned one time that she’d heard my name on the radio. Then, on a separate occasion, my brother said that he too had heard my name on the radio. I didn’t know that either of them listened to the station. So we’re all connecting through CKUA without even knowing it.”