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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dr G.E. Young a pioneer in cable television in Canada

If someone asked you who the pioneers of cable television were in Canada, immediately you may be inclined to say Rogers or Shaw, the giants of the industry in English Canada today. And to a great extent, you are right.

But although most Canadians have likely never heard of him, Dr G.E, Young who practised medicine in the small isolated northern Ontario community of Chapleau for more than 50 years, deserves a place right up there among the giants of the cable industry. In the 1960s Dr Young placed microwave towers on the top of a hill, originally called "Slaughterhouse Hill" and later "Dr Young's Hill" and started his "clothesline" cable system with poles and wire in all the back lanes of the town, with dishes atop his medical and apartment complex in downtown Chapleau.

In the early years reception was limited and snowy, and the stations few, but Dr Young's efforts brought cable television to a community that would otherwise have likely been limited to the CBC affiliate station in Timmins for many years.

Dr Young also waged many battles with the CRTC, the regulatory agency, as he had little patience for the bureaucracy. However, in 1982, when his licence was up for renewal, once again Dr Young made history. He comvinced the CRTC that the people of Chapleau had a right to be heard live at the hearing, but as the hearing was in Toronto, very few would be able to attend.

So, an audio link was established over phone lines from Dr Young's office in Chapleau to the CRTC hearing in Toronto, and Chapleau citizens were able to make their case live. And I was so privileged to host the Chapleau end of the hearing and broadcast it live with video over the system's community channel. It was the first time in Canadian history that the CRTC had permitted a hearing of this kind where everyone was not physically present in the room

Graham Bertrand assumed responsibility for all the technical aspects of the production. Dr Young and Tony Byvank were in Toronto.

When I visited Dr Young in 2001 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of Chapleau, he had recently sold the cable system, bringing to an end about 40 years of his involvement in providing television to the community.

Dr G.E "Ted" Young, born and raised in Chapleau, graduated from Queen's University in medicine and never planned to return home. He interned at Columbia University in New York and went home to replace a doctor for six months and he stayed making Chapleau a better place for being a true visionary who despite many challenges worked for his people.

At 94 years of age, Dr Young lives in retirement in Chapleau.




NOTE: I am aware that A.J, Grout the president of Smith and Chapple Ltd, also started a cable system in Chapleau in the 1950s. In fact, I had a weekly program on CHAP TV in 1958, but the system was closed down in the early 1960s and it was Dr Young who carried on to bring us television.

2 comments:

Michael J said...

Wes wrote on facebook:

I vaguely remember Dr Young. He was my doctor til I was about 4 or 5.
The last time I went to Chapleau I noticed one of the towers was gone. I was somewhat sad to see that. The hill looks so naked now.

Michael J said...

Neil wrote in email:

This is going to sound long and rambling perhaps (I'm relaxing and having a few brews)....I enjoyed your blog on Dr. Young. My parents normally saw Dr. Broomhead, but I did see Dr. Young on occassion, my best memory is about a foot problem...I took my socks off and he laughed the hartiest laugh I've ever heard...before or since. He wiped his eyes and said that I had the worse feet he's ever seen, haha. I find it interesting how Chapleau seems to end up on the cutting edge of technology once in a while. Which brings me to my question I guess...I've read before that Chapleau had the first telephone system in the country at the CPR shops (from Vince Creighton's book) which I remember bringing up in Grade 9 for some reason during History class. I was impressed by the book because it seemed complete at the time to some extent, but you seemed to imply that you weren't impressed by it. I'm not sure if this is my imagination or not. If you weren't, I'd love to learn more 'true' histoty of the area and take any suggestions.

I also remember you mentioning my grandfather Anicet and how he could fix "ANYTHING"...that made me very proud of of him. He died last October, but he has a special place in my heart.

You've made a big impression on me during high school and I really do regret not taking drama....all my friends had a blast in your class. I'm curious on what your take on Chapleau history is and what your impressions were growing up.

NOTE FROM ME: Thanks Neil. Hope others will comment...

Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet

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