Shortly after her move, one idle Friday night, Susan was turning the dial and stopped at 94.9. CKUA happened to be running a campaign, so Susan called in to donate. She asked to hear anything by Ken Hamm – a musician she’d follow from “bar to bar in Thunder Bay when my university friends and I were like groupies” – and 20 minutes after her request, she heard his music played on her boom box. That, she says, was the beginning of her love affair with CKUA.
It took her a couple of years before she was brave enough to volunteer. She thought that volunteering at CKUA was a kind of elite opportunity – and she would have to wait for someone to die before a space would open up.
She started out on phones and “had a whale of a time…in the old days we’d phone out if the phones weren’t busy.” Sometimes she would get pledges from Andrew or Tofield or Mundare, and it would be “Joe Blow on his field – harvesting, or on the fields in spring”.
In 2001 she retired from the Department of Justice, where she worked as a legal policy analyst, and she started a cake business in Edmonton. “I was raised on cake,” she says. “My mom was an at-home mom who cooked real food & baked real baking, so my idea of cake, is cake!” Because she doesn’t use food dye to colour her icing and decorate her cake, she is a “dollar-store junkie…one time I made a cake with a train that actually ran on a track” for a little boy celebrating his birthday. Every campaign Susan creates elaborate theme trays of baked goodies and brings them in for the CKUA volunteers and staff.
A couple of campaigns ago, Susan worked for CKUA in hospitality, where she has stayed on as a regular volunteer, usually signing up for 4 shifts each campaign. Susan says “most hospitality volunteers are seasoned vets. We do it because we like it. But it is a lot of hard work, running up and down the stairs, feeding a lot of people; cleaning out the fridge…” Susan says that her life revolves around the campaigns. This year she scheduled a visit home to her ailing mother around the fall campaign dates. “If I were to win the lottery,” she says, “the campaign would indeed be short and sweet. In the meantime, I’ll do my tiny part.”
Her appreciation of CKUA stems from her respect for the announcers. She is “amazed at the humility – every announcer is an encyclopaedia of music – happy to share, excited to find something new, listener responsive… most announcers asks listeners to send emails.” She continues, “Holger Petersen. – I hear him on air, then I buy some music, it’s from Stony Plain Records, and it’s 4-5 years before I learn that this announcer at CKUA is a giant of Canadian music.”
As a pure listener I have been thrilled from the minute I found the station on the dial, from ‘Oh God I love this’ to ‘Who’s this on the dial’. As a supporter of Canadian and Albertan talent, I don’t think there’s any equal. I never listen to anything else.