Are You Satisfied With Your Community?

Fill out Morden's 2018 Customer Satisfaction Survey! 

Click Here For More

CFAM hit the air waves at 8:01 p.m. on March 13, 1957. The radio station, operating at 1,000 watts and located at 1290 on the AM dial, was housed in a small studio in Altona - a community of 1,800 people at the time.

The idea for a radio station in Southern Manitoba was conceived by A.J. Thiessen, an entrepreneur from Rosenfeld.

"It was a very momentous evening - something that people had looked forward to for quite a while," reflected CEO Elmer Hildebrand, who at the time of the launch, worked as a commercial copywriter at the station. "It was a cold winter day...(and) it was an amazing evening and from my recollection it's sort of like yesterday, I can remember it well."

When CFAM signed-on that March evening there were only eleven employees. The company, which started as this single station in Altona, has now grown to over 40 stations in Western Canada and Northern Ontario and employsCFAM hitstheairLeft to right: Les Garside, Dennis Barkman and Reuben Hamm about 450 staff.

Hildebrand admits that in those early day he had no idea the station would grow to this magnitude. "But somewhere in the mid-60's it dawned on me that this was a real business and that we could probably expand it over time, and we have."

Today, Golden West also operates about twenty online portals for people to access local news and information, as well as stream their local radio station. Hildebrand explains it became obvious a number of years ago that the company should have a digital or online presence of some form. "I may be the least proficient in that field but I know that we should be there."

He adds the online community portals are unique with no other broadcaster running web sites the way Golden West does, noting it all comes back to local content and local production.

"That is going to be a huge part of our future and, at the end of the day, that may be a bigger part of our business than radio."

Golden West has become a vital part of the fabric for about two-dozen communities, and the belief in local news, weather and sports continues to be the foundation of relationships with communities, clients and families in the centres it works in and represents. "We are nothing if we are not serving the community," noted Hildebrand.

He explains this local process is what makes Golden West unique in Canada, adding there isn't another radio broadcaster that takes this approach.

CFAM farmA live-on-location broadcast. Covering local news and farming issues has always been an important part of the CFAM mandate"As a result, you will hear in the media many stories about radio stations having a hard time - losing both listeners and audience. In our case that's the reverse, we're growing both with listeners and with revenue, and basically it has to do with one hundred per-cent local service."

Hildebrand feels that unless broadcasters offer this local service, they will eventually become irrelevant.

"It used to be that you needed a radio station for music, today...you need it for information and unless our stations prepare to hire people that have boots on the ground and are willing to cover events, they will become irrelevant."

He says Golden West has been ramping up these efforts ever since it was determined that this was the way to remain successful, and notes the plan is to keep it up and do more. "We're very optimistic for the future."

While he's accumulated too many memories to count over the last sixty years, Hildebrand says the biggest thrill that he still gets to this day is seeing young people enter the business, grow and become professional on a full-time basis.

"...They started their career with us and they blossomed, they haven't had to go anywhere else (and) they haven't had to move to bigger cities - they can do it all right here."

Hildebrand went on to say that in the radio business, we are only as limited as our imaginations. "I've often said that theatre of the mind is often more colourful than television, and so if we can imagine something then we can probably do it."

With cutting edge technologies and industry leading performance, Golden West is looking forward to the next 60 years.

Looking to the future, Hildebrand believes that Golden West will continue to provide the service that it does now on both AM and FM stations, as well as the online community portals. "We're also developing apps for our different centres, so that will be another expansion of the digital mode."

In fact, he predicts that one day all Golden West radio stations will be broadcasting without the towers that we see erected in the middle of fields, but rather over the Internet in some form. "All of this progress keeps going. We have a very qualified technical staff and generally we are close to the leading-edge of technical proficiency in our organization and it's something that I really enjoy watching."

CFAM birthdayLeft to right: Ben Horch, Esther Horch, Al Esau, Dennis Barkman, Elmer Hildebrand, Jake Peters, Chris Penner, Mary Dueck, Peter Olsen, Gertrude Wiebe, Larry Bodnar, Leonard Enns. Seated: D.K. Friesen

More Local News

Communities In Bloom Results Spark Drive In Morden To Do More

A perfect score was just out of reach for Morden in the Communities in Bloom (CIB) competition. Morden Community Services and Events Manager Clare Agnew says though the did not receive a full five…

Fire Destroys Children's Playhouse

A children's playhouse was destroyed after a late afternoon fire Thursday. Members of the Altona/Rhineland Fire Department responded to the blaze on Road 4 East around 4 p.m., and found the structure…

Winkler Mayor Returns For Fourth Consecutive Term

Martin Harder has been elected Mayor of Winkler by acclamation. He's served the city in the leadership role for the past 12 years. In that time he's seen a 50 percent population growth, from just…

Winkler Food Cupboard Sees Dip In Donations During Summer Months

The Winkler Food Cupboard continues to see a steady clientele of 50-70 families a week. Every week new clients walk through their doors as well, food cupboard committee member Menno Giesbrecht…

Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre Gives Aid To Rio Museum

After the loss of millions of years of history, the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre (CFDC) wanted to help the National Museum of Brazil. "When the news hit of the fire at the National Museum in…

MB Hydro Making Improvements to Altona Natural Gas Regulating Station

Manitoba Hydro is doing some preventative work ahead of winter at a natural gas regulating station in Altona. Crews are installing a line heater at the station located on 10th AVE NW, near the…

Fuel Fundraiser Boosts Profile Of 10km Morden/Winkler Bike Path Project

Fuelling up at Co-op this week helped raise thousands of dollars for a bike path between Morden and Winkler. On Fuel Good Day September 18 in Winkler, Morden and Plum Coulee five cents from every…

Woman Named In Morden Armed Robbery

A Winnipeg woman is facing a number of charges after an armed robbery Tuesday night in Morden. Around 5:10 p.m police were dispatched to Olympic Source for Sports in Morden regarding a female that…

Longtime Winkler Events Coordinator, Director Of Recreation Leaving

Longtime events coordinator and Winkler Harvest Festival Organizer Deb Penner is leaving her position. Penner began her career as Community Events Coordinator in 2007 before transitioning to Director…

BLSD Reports Highest Enrolment In Years

Student enrolment numbers in Border Land School Division are exceeding predictions. Early figures show 2,133 full time equivalent registrations for 2018/19, surpassing estimates of 2,088. According…

PembinaValleyOnline.com is your only local source for community news and information such as weather and classifieds.

Search the Biz Guide

Login