A few of us living at 73 Garfield Avenue South have been trying to find out more about our building’s history. Originally, it was built in the 1917 for Bell Canada to use as a telephone exchange (the second one in Hamilton). Between 1911 and 1917, the number of phones in Hamilton doubled to 10,000, and the Garfield Exchange was needed to pick up the excess. Yes, I realize I was dissing Bell earlier today in this same blog, and recognize the irony that they built my home.
Later, it served as a school for the blind and then as offices for the Steel Company of Canada. In 1960, it was converted into the headquarters for CKOC, Ontario’s oldest radio station.
As part of my research, I contacted the former program director for CKOC, and he told me about a bombing incident that happened here in the 70s.
It was the early Seventies and a rather disturbed member of the HMCS STAR reserve made a bomb utilizing a large coffee can plus gunpowder and assorted goodies like nails, bbs, etc. He wanted to test his bomb and needed a venue where he could set it off..observe the results then get away. At the time this lad was living on Sherman Avenue. He figured the perfect place to do his bombing” would be CKOC on Garfield…because he knew there were two sets of double-glass doors leading into the lobby and at night…noone should be on the first floor. He opened the first set of doors and lit his bomb…stepping across the street to see the results. A massiove blast shredded the glass panels in the doors and blackened the draperies inside. Shards of glass dug into the wooden railing leading to the second floor. Thick black smoke worked its way across the first floor of CKOC and up the stairwell to the second floor. Fortunately …there was no fire. On air was DALE PARKER who heard a loud bump in his soundproof studio and saw smoke coming up from the first floor. He called the fire department and called Program Director Nevin Grant at home. Nevin told Dale to slap on an album and vacate the building….while making sure the news student manning the newsroom also got out. Dale called the Fire Department and headed out. Nevin called the station manager then set out for the station. Upon arrival the place was swarming with firemen and police. The police advised CKOC to play down the blast story and tell the announcers not to discuss it on the air because this could be what a bomber was seeking…publicity. Within minutes of the bomb going off the news student (a girl) had been planning to go home. She would have been on the stairs when the bomb went off…maybe killed. Within hours the police were determining this was an isolated incident, not related to anything the station might have done to anger someone. The bomber was a real kook. He hung around after detonation to join the crowds watching the excitement. He was even quoted the next day in the Spectator. Within a week good police work identified and arrested the bomber. As a funny sidebar … while out on bail awaiting trial…the bomber was arrested again for trying to torch a supermarket at Garfield and Main. It also turned out that he was the brother of a former MISS TEEN HAMILTON winner who would become a minor movie actress.
This program director also sent me a newspaper feature celebrating CKOC’s 30th anniversary, which contained an old photo of the building.
Compare that to how it looks today:
CKOC used this building until the 1990s. It fell into disrepair for a few years, and residents around here say it was a real eyesore, attracting all kinds of unsavoury squatters and drug addicts. Around 2001 it was converted into loft condos, and that’s where I live today. It still attracts unsavoury characters and drug addicts, but at least they drive nicer cars now.