K103 moves into new building, and says goodbye to 30 years of history

The new main studio at K103 Kahnawake.

The new main studio at K103 Kahnawake.

For this community where tradition is so important, the move of K103 to a new building in July was bittersweet, even if it was a long time coming. Staff and supporters were excited about entering a much larger building and sitting down to state-of-the-art equipment, but it also meant leaving the building that the station had occupied since it launched in 1981, and bringing with them only small relics of the memories that were made there.

I talk about the K103 station move, as well as two other radio stations on Mohawk reserves near Montreal — KIC Country (CKKI-FM 89.9) and Kanesatake United Voices Radio (CKHQ-FM 101.7) in this story, which appears in Saturday’s Gazette.

Below are videos, photos and more about the K103 move. (I’ll have posts about the other stations soon.)

In researching this story, I looked back at Gazette archives, and found references to the idea of moving to a new building as far back as the mid-1990s. This is something that has been on the station’s mind for half its life, but its small budget prevented it from moving forward until last fall, when the various pieces started falling together and it managed to secure funding from an aboriginal construction fund for the building.

The funding paid for the building, but not the equipment inside it. So the station put on a radiothon last fall. And though K103 radiothons have successfully raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, including $400,000 for a new ladder truck for the fire department, station manager Cheryl Deer told me she wasn’t sure how successfully the station could raise money for itself.

As it turns out, pretty successfully. The radiothon brought in almost $80,000 in honoured pledges, enough to buy all-new equipment.

“It’s amazing because you never know the type of support you’re going to get,” she told me. “We were extremely pleased, overwhelmed. We could never say thank you enough.”

I couldn’t say that the old building was literally falling apart. But to get to the old studios you had to climb an outdoor wooden staircase or go up the fire escape in the back. There were broken windows never repaired. Air conditioning was reserved for the equipment, not the staff. And space was at a premium, with a single broadcast studio and another for producing ads and promos.

And yet, the move was described as bittersweet by many. The old building developed character over those three decades. It had stickers and posters on the walls and doors. It was a place of memories.

I asked Deer what she would miss most about the old place.

“The closeness,” she answered. “Everybody kind of worked on top of each other there. You really had to get along with each other. Now everyone’s so far away from each other. You just can’t whisper to each other.”

Photos: The old building

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Don’t get me wrong. Everyone was excited about the new building, the increased space, the new equipment. The new place is all on the ground floor, making it wheelchair accessible. This is important because the aging population found it more and more difficult to climb the stairs to the offices to do things like buy their weekly bingo cards.

The time capsule

One of the last official things done at the old office was to open a time capsule sealed into a wall of the reception area in 1991.

Morning host Lance Delisle had the honours of taking out his aggression on the walls. But it took them a while to find where that capsule had been hidden. When they find it, they were amused by what they found: bumper stickers, a list of ad prices, and posters of hunks of the day including Patrick Swayze and Jon Bon Jovi.

In true K103 don’t-take-yourself-too-seriously fashion, it also included this letter:

K103 capsule letter

Some reconstruction work may be required if they use this building for anything else in the future.

Some reconstruction work may be required if they use this building for anything else in the future.

A K103 news report from 1991.

A K103 news report from 1991.

In with the new

The move to the new building was a big affair. Global News did a story on it which is posted here, as did the local Mohawk TV channel. Members of the community were invited to stop by and take a tour. There was also a ribbon-cutting ceremony:

Almost two months later, they’re settling into the new building.

“We’re trying to develop a routine, because it’s been kind of a culture shock,” Deer said. “We’re trying to find a home for everything. It’s like creating a whole new system. Every day brings up a new idea, a better way to run some things. There’s just a lot of space that we’ve never had before.”

K103 station manager Cheryl Deer being interviewed on air on the new building's first day.

K103 station manager Cheryl Deer being interviewed on air on the new building’s first day.

The new studios are the biggest change. They’re much more spacious and have brand-new equipment. The fact that more people have offices is also a definite plus. As are little things like the new washrooms.

Here’s what it all looks like:

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There are parts of K103’s history in the new building as well. Photos of the station’s founder and first station manager Conway Jocks, who died in 2007, as well as former on-air personality Jesse Deer, who died in 2009, hang on the wall.

And there’s this, honouring those in the community who helped make this possible:

A sign that donors during the radiothon were invited to sign hangs in the lobby of the new building.

A sign that donors during the radiothon were invited to sign hangs in the lobby of the new building.

The K103 radiothon raised the equivalent of more than $10 for every resident of the reserve. That says something about this community’s commitment to this radio station — and by extension, to itself.

K103 can be heard over the air at 103.7 FM. Its signal reaches well into the West Island and parts west and south of Mount Royal. It also streams online at k103radio.com. Its schedule is posted here.

One thought on “K103 moves into new building, and says goodbye to 30 years of history

  1. Ted Bird

    K103 is the only radio station in the Montreal area that still serves the community and reflects the community it serves. They deserve all the success in the world.

    Reply

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