North East RadioWatch: July 22, 1999

NERW On The Road: Chatham to Flint

by Scott Fybush

We're back in the USA, coming to you tonight from the luxurious Sleep Inn in Flint, Michigan. Here's what our Friday looked like on the NERW road trip:

We began the day in Chatham, starting out at the CFCO (630) towers west of town on the old Highway 2. It's a nifty site, with seven towers arrayed all over the place, presumably protecting WMAL, KXOK, and probably a few others as well. After a brief stop to take care of a dead camcorder battery, we continued on to the CFCO/CKSY studios, which not only had many bumper stickers but were also across the street from the Chatham studios of "The New WI," CHWI (Channel 16) Wheatley, another in the CHUM Group's web of little independents across small-market Ontario. And after a stop for a newspaper, we were on our way north towards Sarnia.

The first stops in Lambton County were near Oil Springs, at the CKCO and Global relay transmitters, on channels 42 and 29, respectively. After that, we let the GPS guide us north and west towards the site of CKTY (1110) -- where we found a lot of steel on the ground, seven doghouses, and a lonely transmitter building. While we're sure the folks at WBT and WNNW are relieved to hear the last of CKTY, we still hate to see any AM go away, especially one whose towers we'd yet to see. Just up Ladysmith Road, we found CKTY's sister FMs, CFGX (99.9) and the replacement for 1110, CFKS (106.3), which is a very cool rock station.

Next stop: a living AM array. CHOK (1070) is just a few miles away, with seven towers arrayed in two rows of six with a seventh centered at the end, and a killer signal north into town. The final Canadian tower stop was a mile or so away, at the CBC site that's home to CBEG (90.3) and English and French TV relays.

A friendly receptionist at "Radio Sarnia Lambton" wondered why we were taking pictures of her building, and after our explanation provided us with "K-106.3" keychains and the information that the station still gets phone calls from people who wonder what happened to CKTY.

From there, it was over the Bluewater Bridge and across the border into Port Huron, a gritty little town with a few decent radio stations. WHLS (1450) acquitted itself with locally-run oldies music and decent news, shared with sister country station WSAQ (107.1). We found their studios right on Huron Ave., the main drag. WPHM (1380) does mostly-satellite news and talk and shares its offices on Military Street with CHR WBTI (96.9 Lexington) and "Real Country" affiliate WHYT (1590 Marine City). WPHM must be a modest station -- they put their calls in lower case on the front of the building, something we'd never seen before. The 1380 transmitter is near St. Clair, about 8 miles south of Port Huron, with seven towers. We found 1590 still further south, and found the building that was presumably once the station's studios occupied by a plant nursery. The nursery rents space back to WHYT for the transmitter itself and the two-tower array.

Returning to Port Huron, we caught the tower of religious WNFA (88.3) just north of I-69 and I-94 a couple of miles from the border. To the south was the tower of WSAQ/WHLS, marked with a nice big sign on the garage.

The clouds were dark on the horizon as we left Port Huron for Flint, and by the time we'd driven 20 miles or so, we found ourselves in the midst of a severe thunderstorm with high winds and driving rain. After pulling off the road for a few minutes to let things clear up, we were off for Flint, where we checked into the hotel and drove north to see the TV transmitters.

Flint is in a multi-city TV market, and the transmitters for most of the stations are located in a rural area between Flint and Saginaw. WEYI (Channel 25) has studios at the base of its tower in Clio; a dozen miles to the west, WJRT (Channel 12) has a tall tower just north of the candelabra that holds religious WAQP (Channel 49) and Fox affiliate WSMH (Channel 66).

We returned to Flint for dinner and airchecking, an interesting experience here, since almost every channel on the FM dial has something present, whether it's from Flint, Saginaw, Bay City, Midland, Detroit, Lansing, Grand Rapids, or the northern part of the state.

In the morning, we'll check out Flint's AM stations and drive south to Detroit for more towers and the Tigers-Red Sox game, weather permitting. We'll see you from beneath the sticks in Southfield tomorrow night!

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