At 10 a.m., March 30, 1981, Kahnawa’kehró:non sat comfortably in their cars, living room or offices and tuned-in to CKRK - K1037 - the very first community radio in Kahnawake.
Forty years later, with a couple of crises, radiothons and surviving a pandemic under its belt, the station is bringing back former hosts and guests to reminisce the past and celebrate the station’s success. For K1037’s 40th anniversary, the chairperson of the board and the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) press attaché Joe Delaronde wanted to offer the listeners a trip down memory lane.
“Back in 1981,” said Delaronde, “when it was brand new, we could have just had a dog barking on the microphone and people were excited!”
This upcoming Tuesday, starting at 10 a.m., listeners are in for a treat. Delaronde explained that he’s currently trying to bring together Jim Hum, Dave Bush, Gene Diabo, and some of the best hosts from the station’s first days.
“I never had a job where I had fun the entire time,” said Delaronde, who has also been there since day one. “Every day is a new day and has its own excitement.” With all the different stories he collected, working as a radio host or as the station manager, Delaronde alone could have made an entire celebratory show. “It opened every door that I’ve gotten into since 1981,” said Delaronde. “Before that, I was just some guy.”
He recalled the station’s first day, as Hum’s voice carried out in the community, and Delaronde, just a young man at the time, dreamt of being on the radio.
“Hum was hugely instrumental in making the radio work,” he said. “He was the morning man, but also the repairman. Back then, all the equipment we ever had, everything was used and repaired with duct tape! We needed a guy like him to keep everything working.”
Throughout the years, K1037 had many hosts, programs and staff, but one tradition stayed alive: the talk show every Wednesday, in Kanien’kéha.
“To have our own language, it was very touching for a lot of the elders,” said Delaronde. “They never thought they would hear that on the radio.”
As an outsider, K1037 news director Paul Graif always understood the importance of respecting Kahnawa’kehró:non culture and history. He recalled that when he first started in 1991, his biggest challenge was to show the community how much he cared and believed in them.
“The station is in my blood,” said Graif, looking back at his time working at K1037. “I’ve forged so many personal and professional relationships in the community over the years. A great deal of satisfaction is going to community events, even when I’m not working, and being able to just talk to people buddy-buddy.”
Every time something important was happening, explained Graif, the station was always there for the community. Most people will recall the role it played during the so-called Oka Crisis in 1990, when most mainstream media didn’t have full access to what was going inside the communities. Or during the ice storm in 1998, when most places didn’t have electricity to keep themselves informed.
“There are so many different stories that we’ve come to cover over the years, it’s just been unbelievable,” said Graif. “With the current pandemic, it’s been awful for all of us to live through, but so important to get the proper information out to everyone so they can adjust to what’s happening on a daily basis.”
For the past 40 years, K1037 was there during difficult times, but the kindness emanating from the radiothons is what strikes as the best memories.
“When we had the first radiothon for the first legitimate ambulance of the community, we raised more in one weekend than we ever did in nine years of firemen field days because of the radio,” said the MCK director of public safety, Arnold Lazare. “They haven’t been doing a good job - they’ve been doing an excellent job!”
As for birthday wishes, the current station manager Heather Bauersfeld hopes that the station continues to gain more listeners as they are planning to increase the range of their signal.
“K103 is at a turning point right now, it’s been climbing nonstop, it’s on an ascension, and if it plateaus, I hope it stays up,” said Bauersfeld.
Virginie Ann, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door