This story of a long time Saskatchewan radio presence begins in Cleveland, Ohio, where Doug Birkmaier entered this world. Shortly thereafter his father was transferred to a management position at a forest products plant in Prince Albert, and from there the story unfolds as it usually does for most of us ---He began seriously listening to radio in about grade 7 or 8 -- tuning in late at night when cold winter nights would allow huge stations such as CFQC in Saskatoon and WLS in Chicago to boom into the young teen’s bedroom.
In his own words, Birkmaier explains how he landed his first radio job: “At age fourteen I phone the neighbour two doors down, who was Jim Scarrow of CKBI Radio in Prince Albert. ‘ I sure would like to be a radio announcer, Mr. Scarrow,’ I said, and he told me I could come down and hang around and see how it goes.”
That was the proverbial foot in the door for Birkmaier. He goes on to tell us that for the next six months he would spend after school and weekends hanging around the station, doing odd jobs such as getting coffee and washing cars, just so he could “be near the stars, because at the time I thought radio people were important.”
A month after his 15th birthday, after being put on the payroll at 95 cents an hour as a control room engineer, or “board operator”, as we used to say, Birkmaier used his first pay cheque to go on a road trip to the shiny city lights of Saskatoon, about 90 minutes south of Prince Albert.
“I spent my money on a train ticket to Saskatoon on a Saturday, because you could, in those days, take a train to and from Prince Albert on the same day, and went to the CKOM studios in the old Empire Hotel and met Digger Dave Palmer. Wow! I was hanging with the stars.”
We will continue with the exciting radio adventures of young Mr. Birkmaier soon, so don’t stray far from this site, and keep watching for The Great Saskatchewan Radio ‘n Recipes Memory Book, coming sooner than you can imagine.