Gordon first heard radio at a neighbour’s house when he was six years old. He recalls “Reception was not very good; there was static and a hetrodyne whistle”. Now clearly, he didn’t know those terms then, but he certainly did know that there was room for improvement! His fascination with radio engineering was launched.
In his early teens, Gordon built a crystal set. By the age of 18, he held his amateur radio license with the call letters VE4DG. When he was 19, he completed, by correspondence, the Radio and Television Diploma Program of the National Radio Institute in Washington, D.C., with a specialization in radio communications. Then, when he was 22, he was off to Toronto to study at the Radio College of Canada to earn his Commercial Radio Operation Diploma and, at the same time, to be licensed by the Canada Department of Transport as a Commercial Radio Operator. During this time, to pay for his room and board as a Radio College student, he worked at CKCL in Toronto, an affiliate of the Mutual Broadcasting System, where he was Special Events Operator. He covered Big Band performances during the week and, on Sundays, church broadcasts at five different sites.
Returning to Edmonton in 1943, Gordon went to CFRN in the CPR Building, looking for a position. They needed someone, but the Chief Engineer was on vacation and no-one had the authority to hire. He then walked down the street to CJCA, and was immediately hired as a Studio Operator. In 1957, Gordon became Chief Engineer. He says that his career was filled with experiences and highlights too numerous to mention. He recalls such events as covering several Royal visits; all Provincial and Civic elections; the transfer of the Alaska Highway from the U.S. military to the Canadian Forces; Lester Pearson’s campaign; performances by the Edmonton Symphony and Lee Hepner Pop Concerts; a Joe Louis Golden Gloves Boxing event; and football broadcasts coast to coast. Gordon was part of the Golden Years of broadcasting — it was a young and exciting industry — everything was broadcast live, and people relied on radio for up-to-date, accurate news, and for family-oriented entertainment. Radio had everything to offer for someone like Gordon: it was fast-paced, fun, constantly changing, allowed for creativity, and provided a valuable service to the community.
During his career Gordon strove constantly for excellence in broadcasting through dedication to his work. He supervised the construction of two studio buildings and two new transmitter sites for CJCA. Also for that station he installed a 200KW ERP FM transmitter, and managed the increase of AM power to 50KW.
Gordon worked with his colleagues in informal and formal ways to share knowledge within his field. He collaborated with other Edmonton-based Chief Engineers to organize professional development educational seminars for radio personnel, incorporating new transmission and technological theory and practice. Through his professional involvement with the Western Association of Broadcast Engineers (WABE), he chaired all Executive Offices of that organization, some several times! In 1993, Gordon’s contributions to radio were recognized when he received the highest WABE award: the R.W. Lamb Award for engineering excellence, personal achievement of the highest order and contributions to the continuing success of the Broadcast Industry.
In his career and personal life, Gordon gave his all. The Royal Canadian Legion recognized his achievements and contributions on their behalf by naming him a Meritorious Life Member of the Royal Canadian Legion, which is the highest award available to a civilian.
Gordon married Dori in 1945. Their two sons and two daughters look upon him as the perfect role model for everything that is good and loving. They, too, try to recognize all he has done and who he is to them, by continuing to live out his principles in their own lives.
Ann Marie Wilson, Ph.D.
Gordon Skutle CJCA Radio Scrapbook from infoese.ca