P.E.I. celebrates 100 years of radio, a 'lifeline' then and now

·3 min read
P.E.I. celebrates 100 years of radio, a 'lifeline' then and now
Kathy Large and historian Ian Scott host a remembrance ceremony at Fanningbank to mark 100 years since first radio broadcast on P.E.I. Large holds a photo of her grandfather, Keith Rogers, who was part of P.E.I.'s first radio broadcast. (John Robertson/CBC - image credit)
Kathy Large and historian Ian Scott host a remembrance ceremony at Fanningbank to mark 100 years since first radio broadcast on P.E.I. Large holds a photo of her grandfather, Keith Rogers, who was part of P.E.I.'s first radio broadcast. (John Robertson/CBC - image credit)

Prince Edward Island is marking a major milestone this year with the celebration of 100 years of radio in the province.

During an appreciation event at Fanningbank on Wednesday, Island broadcaster Kathy Large and Lt.-Gov. Antoinette Perry spoke to their love for radio and broadcasting in the province.

Large's grandfather, Keith Rogers, was the driving force behind radio in the province.

While she was too young to remember spending time with her grandfather before he died, Large has looked back at his life and accomplishments and there have been "many family conversations about what it was like to be involved in … the early days of radio in P.E.I."

Kathy Large and historian Ian Scott host a remembrance ceremony at Fanningbank to mark 100 years since first radio broadcast on P.E.I. Large holds a photo of her grandfather, Keith Rogers, who was part of P.E.I.'s first radio broadcast.
Kathy Large and historian Ian Scott host a remembrance ceremony at Fanningbank to mark 100 years since first radio broadcast on P.E.I. Large holds a photo of her grandfather, Keith Rogers, who was part of P.E.I.'s first radio broadcast.(John Robertson/CBC)

Those early days began in March 100 years ago, when her grandfather was trying to receive a signal from the U.S.

"It was a shot in the dark that they would actually be able to pull in the signal from a station in New York," she said.

The radio itself was "crude," in her grandfather's words — a cardboard salt cannister with coils of wire wrapped around it. The speaker was actually just a headset.

"It was all just, kind of, things pulled together … the determination to actually find the broadcast was amazing," Large said. "And they did. Through that wall of static, occasionally, little bits of radio music, little bits of voice, could be heard."

And right then, on March 11, 1921, the first international broadcast of music was received on P.E.I. from New York, and it was the first radio transmission in the province's history.

"This, to me, is the crucible of where broadcast media started in Prince Edward Island," Large said. "It is the event that sparked the whole rest of the industry as we know it now."

Keeping in the know

The celebration reminded Lt.-Gov. Perry of what it was like growing up in rural western P.E.I., where radio was an essential link to news and current affairs across the province, the country and beyond.

"We were kept in connection with our community, and I think connection is the big word here," she said.

'This, to me, is the crucible of where broadcast media started in Prince Edward Island,' Kathy Large said.
'This, to me, is the crucible of where broadcast media started in Prince Edward Island,' Kathy Large said.(John Robertson/CBC)

During a storm in 1982, she said, West Prince was "totally disconnected" from the rest of the Island for two weeks and it was difficult to get TV cameras to the western edge of P.E.I.

"It was blocked from Miscouche west. So, really, that was our lifeline, you know, to keep in connection," she said, adding that radio was "really a part of our everyday life" as well.

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