Wilbur J. "Wilf" Woodill

Toronto, Ontario

March 4, 1909

September 20, 1997

Wilf Woodill takes his place in the history of CKSO and Canadian Broadcasting as being an innovator. He is also highly regarded for his endless dedication and commitment.

Born March 4, 1909, Wilf started in radio at just 17 years of age. His successful strategy was making himself useful to the people who had already established themselves in the business. He was only about 10 years old when he built his first crystal radio set. Before his instrumental part in establishing Canada’s first privately owned television station, CKSO, Wilf proved he could do it all. He worked as an operator, announcer, sportscaster, writer, program director and radio station manager.

A big impression and mentor in his life, hockey broadcaster Foster Hewitt, picked up on Wilf’s ambition to become a hockey announcer. While Foster was doing play-by-play on the Toronto Star station, CFCA in the early 1920s, Wilf would carry equipment into the old arena. Working alongside Foster, the two became friends. Wilf also established alliances with other CFCA staffers. It was Foster who suggested Wilbur adopt the name “Wilf” and from then on, the industry and public came to know Woodill simply as Wilf.

By 1929 Wilf was in Regina at that city’s first radio station CHWC which had been established by the owners of a department store three years earlier. Interestingly, the station shared the same frequency and time throughout the broadcast day with another station, CKCK which was owned by a Regina newspaper. While one station was on the air, the other needed to turn off its transmitters and vice versa. Wilf was described as the ‘spark plug’ in the operation of CHWC. He handled the roles of program director, announcer, station manager and hockey broadcaster. Most of the programming was local and live and with only one control room and a studio, much innovation was required on Wilf’s part in converting a hotel room, arranging for the use of foyers in theatres and ballrooms for live broadcasting. His next best ambition of becoming a second Foster Hewitt came true with his opportunity to handle the play-by-play of the hockey games at the Regina Stadium.

Poor wages in the depression discouraged Wilf and he decided to open up a radio repair shop. Before background music systems were even heard of, Wilf conceived and installed a sound system throughout the Army and Navy Department store piping in music and shopper information.

Wilf was back in radio within a year at CJRM in Regina, later to become CKRM, but when the manager, Vic Neilson, moved to CKSO in Sudbury, Wilf followed him. In 1939, Wilf was in management. He left in 1944 for service overseas with the United States Information Agency (U.S.I.S.) in London and Paris as a construction supervisor. He had observed much in the way of technological development in Germany following the war. A man of innovation and farsightedness, Wilf Woodill came home with what he had learned and was anxious to return to broadcasting. Years later in an interview, Woodill commented, “I had a great belief in television. I could see where it was going to be a great communication between people.” Woodill had then returned to CKSO with less than ten years before it would sign on its television transmitter.

Wilf WoodillIn its early years CBC was not able to financially bring TV to every significant market like Sudbury, and so the network opted to accept applications for private TV stations to affiliate with the government network. CKSO would become one of the first successful applicants. Wilf was committed that CKSO TV would be the first private Canadian station on the airwaves, and it was! In control of the operation, Wilf’s dream was realized when they went on the air, October 25, 1953 as a private broadcaster. Even better, the station found itself in a ripe, viable market and was operating in the black before the first 12 months.

By 1961 Wilf seemed content that he had met his goals and accomplished some great feats in the rising years of radio and television. He moved to Florida, but was not so ready for retirement as he may have thought. Wilf needed to keep busy and he found himself doing radio news on a part-time basis at a local station, WNOG AM 1270. This kept Wilf busy for a few years although he did become involved in real estate. It was not all work for Wilf as he filled his spare time with boating, fishing and golf. At age 72 Wilf accomplished his first hole-in-one.

Wilf Woodill passed away on September 20, 1997 in Ocala, Florida.

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