Today marks 60 years of community service radio in Steinbach and the southeast. AM 1250 or CHSM hit the airwaves on April 16, 1964, at 7 pm.

Elmer Hildebrand is Chief Executive Officer for Golden West. Hildebrand says there were a couple of reasons, six decades ago, why they decided to try and launch a radio station in Steinbach.

For starters, he says the radio signal from CFAM in Altona, born in 1957, was not very strong in Steinbach. Not only that, but Hildebrand says the commission had already turned down an application for a radio station by a group of businesspeople from Steinbach. Golden West then applied and included several businessmen from Steinbach in its application. The commission then said yes.

"That then covered the Steinbach and southeast area with a great signal," he says.

Hildebrand says a few years later, Golden West was able to provide separate programming between AM 1250 and CFAM. This allowed listeners in the southeast to have their own programming, separate from what was on the airwaves in central Manitoba. Later on, Golden West would add a station in Boissevain, catering to the listeners in southwestern Manitoba. Hildebrand says this three-station network operates to this day.

Elmer HildebrandElmer Hildebrand (middle) celebrates with Chris Sumner (left) and Michelle Sawatzky (right) at the 60th Anniversary of CFAM

According to Hildebrand, people have always been amazed with the Golden West model. He says the reason it works so well is that Golden West keeps hiring local people.

"Local people that know the area and stay in the area; we've been doing that consistently across southern Manitoba," explains Hildebrand. "So, our on-air people understand the communities they are talking about and that's why it works."

Hildebrand says in 60 years of broadcasting across southern Manitoba, there have been many highlights and memorable events. For example, he says when spring floods cover all of southern Manitoba with water, that is a big, big event for the region. Other highlights can include hearing from listeners who express their appreciation towards the religious programming that airs on AM 1250.  

However, Hildebrand says it is very difficult to narrow it down to just one or two highlights or big events over 60 years.

"There have been so many and so it's sort of a continuum and I've enjoyed every minute of it," he says.

Yet, Hildebrand says his greatest satisfaction is seeing young people get into the industry and find a home with Golden West.

"To see young people getting into our industry and then being either news reporters or on-air announcers or salespeople or any of the other things that we do," he says. "That's my biggest joy in life."

In looking ahead to the next 60 years, Hildebrand says he expects AM 1250 through Golden West will continue to evolve. He notes though the concept of what AM 1250 is airing will stay the same, the delivery method will probably only get better through technology.

"But at the end of the day if we have good content, if we have good news stories from Steinbach and area that people want to listen to or see on SteinbachOnline, then we will continue to be able to grow," he adds.

Meanwhile, Hildebrand says in 60 years of providing great service to Steinbach and the southeast, the region has grown dramatically. However, he says AM 1250 has been there every step of the way and witnessing that growth has been fun to see.


With files from Michelle Sawatzky