Crews are dismantling the former Radio Canada International transmission towers near Sackville.
AMHERST – A piece of local history is slowly disappearing as crews dismantle the former Radio Canada International transmission towers on the marsh near Sackville, N.B.
The towers, erected prior to the Second World War, were declared obsolete in October 2012 after the CBC ended its shortwave service because of changing technology and the use of the Internet and satellite radio.
When no use was found for the facility the decision was made to have the towers dismantled.
“It’s really sad to see it coming down, there are so many great memories working there,” said former manager David Horyl, who spent more than 35 years working at the facility on the marsh. “It’s really going to change the look of thing over there. It’s quite a landmark.”
Horyl arrived in Sackville from Cape Breton in 1970 and remained there until his retirement in January 2006. He started as a technician and worked his way up to assistant manager and manager.
“It was an interesting place to work,” he said. “It was a gratifying job. I worked as a technician and with the troubleshooting and maintaining the equipment you never knew what you were going to run into. There were obstacles to deal with upgrading the equipment and getting it to work.”
At its peak, he said, there were up to 40 people working there, including five riggers, who were responsible for maintaining the field and the towers – the tallest of which exceeded 430 feet.
When he retired, there were only 17 working onsite.
Horyl has many fond memories of working there, including being stranded there during bad weather and listening to the howling marsh winds. He also remembers the upgrading of technology from analog to digital in the final years before his retirement.
Ray Bristol managed the facility for five years. He said it’s sad to see it go.
“They put a lot of money into that place in new equipment not too long ago,” Bristol said. “They completely revamped the place and put new equipment. Now five or six years later they’re tearing it all down.”
Bristol said he understands why the towers are being dismantled because it costs a lot of money to maintain them.
Amherst historian John McKay said the towers have been a dominant part of the marsh landscape for 70 years. He remembers stories of workers climbing the towers and finding geese on the ground that had flown into the antennae wires.
He said the towers were braced by many guy cables and were actually seated on single huge ball bearings that allowed the towers to sway at the whim of the marsh wind.
McKay said during the Second World War all the overseas shortwave broadcasts from London arrived in North America via CBC Sackville, including all the broadcasts relayed to the American broadcasting system.
“The station was so strong that we youngsters using a set of earphones and a thin wire probe on a piece of sulphur crystal imbedded in lead could easily pick up the news and music broadcasts,” McKay said. “It was often said that with an earphone and a thin wire probe you could pick up CBC Sackville on the oven door or through a tooth filling.”