Inducted: November 14, 2017
Jack Beardall founded the first privately owned radio station in Ontario that became vital for weather information for the farming community, and later for in depth farming information.
Jack was born on November 13, 1896 in South Shields, Durham, England, son of George Brown and Mary Anne (Baikie) Beardall. He married Ruby, daughter of Joseph Montgomery (Chatham), on September 11, 1923. They had one daughter, Eleanor E. (Michael Alexander), and one grandson, Michael Ian Beardall Alexander. Jack died in 1969 in Chatham, Ontario.
Although Jack attended the Canada Business College, he left to join the Royal Flying Corps in Toronto after the outbreak of the First World War. While serving as a member of the ground crew for the RFC, Jack was exposed to telegraphic code, i.e., Morse code, and the emerging miracle of wireless voice communication.
After returning home at the end of the war, Jack began tinkering with wires, circuits and batteries in the basement of his home. Jack and some friends founded their own radio society, the Western Ontario Better Radio Club, and people with radio receivers could pay a fee to receive radio broadcasts directly from Jack's basement studio.
By 1925, Jack had been appointed the Radio Inspector for the Chatham District for the Department of Transport and had created the largest radio club in Canada with 2,000 members.
In 1925, Jack built a short-wave radio station and received a government license to broadcast experimentally, and a year later was granted a license to broadcast as 630 AM, one of the first privately owned stations in Ontario. Through a contest, a Chatham woman coined the call letters CFCO which stood for "Coming From Chatham Ontario."
As an early technological leader in the field, Jack built the first station-based weather instruments in the country in 1938. While other stations took their weather reports from local airports, Jack could keep southwestern Ontario listeners, especially the farming community, on top of the latest local weather developments.
Around this time, Jack invented the first AC-DC conversion device which helped make the station signals stronger and more reliable. He also made radio history when he created radio crystals that were accurate within one kilocycle.
In 1937, the CBC and BBC chose CFCO to provide a segment of the live annual worldwide Christmas Day broadcast from the BBC. CFCO was the only private Canadian station so recognized.
As the station expanded, it took up residence in the William Pitt Hotel, with towers built on top of the hotel to relay signals to a transmitter house and three larger towers located on 40 acres on the outskirts of Chatham. The signal of the station stretched from Chatham to Ohio and Michigan.
From its inception, CFCO programming had strong local roots. In 1926, the station christened the nation's first Home and Farm Hour, which was broadcast daily. Eventually, this gave birth to Harold Smith's legendary Farm Report. Jack also featured a weekly Sunday church service, and weekend servings of Scottish, Irish and classical music, and during the week carried popular USA shows. He also had his own Sunday morning program, the "Chatter Period," where he answered questions from listeners, always signing off with his signature phrase, "Don't be late for Church."
After 36 years, of broadcasting, Jack sold the station to Great Lakes Broadcasting in 1962.
Jack was one of the founding members and past Chair of the Quarter Century Club, limited to those who were owners in the broadcasting industry for 25 years or more, and also a founding member and director of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters.
Jack was also very active in the community, serving on the Public Utilities Commission and, the Committee of Adjustment; he also served as an elder in his church, a member of Rotary, a member of the Amateur Radio League and, as honourary president of the Chatham Camera Club. As well, he held the position of Director with the Chatham Red Cross, the Chatham YMCA, the Chatham Chamber of Commerce and the Chatham Horticultural Society.
In retirement, Jack continued experimenting with communications and operated one of the most powerful ham radio stations in the country, VE3MJ.