CHWK's Genial Man Behind the Mike: Bill Wolfe
Bill Wolfe "on the air" at CHWK Radio Station.
This photo from Bill Wolfe's Party Line Digest
Produced by CHWK Radio (circa 1963)
Chilliwack Progress: Community Portrait.
The words "friends and neighbors" come tripping easily off the tongue of Bill Wolfe as he chats with his radio audience each day on "Party Line."
It is more than an idle phrase for Bill thinks of all his listeners in Chilliwack and other parts of the Fraser Valley as truly "friends and neighbors." It is part of his genial philosophy of life.
"Most people have a lot of good in them," he comments "Even bad people have 95 per cent good in them. It's that the other five per cent is showing."
Bill, who has been with CHWK Radio ever since he finished his post-high school technological training, has conducted the Party Line show since about 1956. That makes over 2,300 broadcasts of this highly popular program. Main function of the program is to exchange ideas and information ...
and the subjects can range anywhere from a lost Siamese cat to the dress habits of teenagers.
Bill admits that he likes to sink "Party Line's" teeth into some meaty social questions, feeling that the exchange of different viewpoints all serve to broaden people's perspective.
Although born in Altona Man., on August 2, 1927, he has been a Valley resident since the age of four when his family came to Yarrow.
Innately fascinated with anything to do with gadgetry and applied science, his interest in radio and communication began when he had barely started school. Before long he was building radio receivers and transmitters. As he grew older, he acquired a beautiful chemistry set which developed into what Bill refers to as a "real laboratory."
In his mid-teens, he rigged up a two-mile line from his home to the raspberry field so he could listen to his home radio and pick rasps at the same time, He even established a three-subscriber telephone circuit, with about three miles of line.
Not unnaturally, his interest often gravitated to the local radio station, then located above the Fashion Bakery.
"I guess I became a regular little nuisance around the station," Bill declared. But, nuisance or not, station owner Jack Pilling saw the young man's overwhelming interest in radio work, and encouraged him to develop it.
After he had graduated from Chilliwack Senior Secondary School and finished his one year technical course in Vancouver, Bill joined CHWK in l948 as night announcer.
Despite a tempting offer from television, he has remained with CHWK ever since and has acquired a part-interest in the ownership along with Murdo Maclachlan and Bill Teetzel. Along the way, he learned all the different aspects of radio work, including announcing, looking after t h e record library, interviewing, selling and writing commercials. "You name it." says Bill, "On a smaller radio station, you have to be a jack-of-all trades."
It was in 1950 that he married she girl-across-the-street, the former Audrey Eastham. They now have three daughters.
Bill's tour of duty as night announcer was followed by eight years on the early morning shift.
Recently his schedule has undergone another change with his appointment as manager of Valley Televu Ltd., a new company which is setting up cable vision service for Chilliwack. Although Bill will continue to spend his mornings with CHWK and the popular Party Line program will continue, afternoons are being spent working in co-operation with rack Pilling and others to start the new service.
Work is coming along well and the four tower sites have been selected and leased. It was an exhaustive job to find beat location for the master antennae which will pull in Channels 2, 4, 5, 6, g end 12 as well as the complete FM spectrum- A map of the tire area was gridded as Jack and Bill drove from place to place testing with a television receiver and a field strength meter. Peculiarly enough, all the best sites are located in the valley rather than in the mountains. Bill comments that on the top of Chilliwack Mountain there were virtually no signals at all, except for Channel 12.
Next phase is the laying of about 40 miles of cable on B.C. Telephone Company poles to serve the city and fringe area. Forecasts are that first subscribers will be able to receive cablevision by August or September.
Ask Bill Wolfe about his hobbies, and he has any number of them. But his favorite pastimes include something in the nature of a busman's holiday ... working in his well equipped electronics shop at home. Other interests include a woodworking shop, flying radio-controlled model airplanes, photography and playing bridge.
"You name it, I enjoy it," he said.
One major ambition is to travel the world as much as possible. He and wife Audrey developed an enthusiasm for globe-trotting when they went on a trip to the Caribbean, Panama and Venezuela.
Here they came face to face with attitudes, emotions and traditions entirely different from those in Canada, some charming and intriguing, others frightening. In Venezuela they captured something of the feeling of revolution... of machine guns poised as the plane came in to the airport, of bullet holes splattered across the wall of a supermarket.
"People often say, 'we're lucky to live in a country like Canada," said Bill. "But do we sometimes take it for granted?" —J. G. D.
Bill Wolfe, a former co-owner of CHWK, died on June 1, 2005 at the age of 77.
From the Chilliwack Times:
William (Bill) Wolfe fit a lot of living into his 77 years.
A visionary, an inventor, a family man, a successful local business entrepreneur, and a community supporter, Wolfe grew well beyond his humble beginnings in Altona, Man.
On June 1, Wolfe, who had suffered from Alzheimers for much of the last decade, passed away leaving behind a rich family, business and community tapestry.
Wolfe got his start in the community as a DJ and later a program host at CHWK Radio. To learn the trade he took classes at Sprott Shaw Radio school in Vancouver and worked on enunciation which would limit his German accent.
To many, he was best known as the popular host of Bill's Breakfast Bell, Let's Talk and Bill's Partyline which was broadcast in the community throughout the 50s and 60s.
Being the voice of radio wasn't enough and Wolfe, willing to take his chance in business, moved to create Valley Televue of which he became part owner, president and manager from 1965 until 1973.
But while Wolfe dedicated himself to business, he was also a consummate family man with three daughters and a wife at home.
His daughter Marilea Pirie remembers what she calls the three "c"s as being most important in her father's life.
"The first 'c' was his career," she remembered.
Wolfe semi-retired in 1980 and gave of his time as president of the Kinsmen Club, the Chamber of Commerce and a member of K-40.He was a volunteer feeder at Chilliwack General Hospital and on the board of Community Chest.
Marilea further recalled her father as an inventor and a builder. He built a television remote and a crib rocker, and spent much of the remainder of his time fixing various items like appliances around the home and in the community. He also took time for hobbies such as model airplanes, motorbikes, boating, fishing, woodworking and electronics.
Chilliwack Progress Chilliwack, BC
We are saddened by the loss of our dear father, husband and grandfather. Bill was born in Altona, Manitoba on Aug. 27, 1927, and died peacefully on June 1, 2005.
He was predeceased by his mother, Elizabeth; father, Peter; brothers: Peter and Cornelius.
He will be missed by his wife Audrey (nee Eastham) and his adoring three daughters: Deborah (Allan) McLaren, Brenda Wolfe and Marilea (Kevin) Pirie; three grandchildren: Maresa, Scott and Jane; two sisters: Kay Funk and Helen Kaethler; and many nieces and nephews.
The popular radio-man was well known as the host of Bill's Breakfast Bell, Let's Talk and Bill's Partyline on CHWK in the 50's and 60's. He helped pioneer the Cablevision system in the area and became part owner, president and manager of Valley Televue from 1965-1976.
In 1973, he was the Western Chairman of The Canadian Cable Television Assn.
Bill semi-retired in 1980, working part-time as commissioner for the B.C. Utilities Commission. He was President of Western Institutional Television, President of the Kinsmen Club, President of the Chamber of Commerce, and until recently, a member of K-40.
Bill was a volunteer feeder at Chilliwack Hospital and on the board of the Community Chest.
With a group of businessmen, he was President of Edenbank Investment Corporation.
Bill's hobbies were model airplanes, motorcycling, boating, fishing, woodworking and electronics. He enjoyed playing bridge, chess and poker.
Later in his life, he took up the organ and lived to play, mostly by ear. Bill was known as Mr. Fix-It and spent his spare time fixing appliances, radios, etc. for friends and neighbours - continually on call.
He appreciated the beauty of nature while on his motorcycle in the mountains. At home, he spent many hours on his computer, becoming so rapt he would forget about time. He was an excellent bridge player and belonged to several clubs over the years.
Summers were spent at the summer home in Kalamalka Lake (near Vernon), where he enjoyed his Aquacat (boat), being with family and friends. Bill loved travelling and visited many countries.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Community Services, Chilliwack, an organization he was involved with over the years.
A celebration of Bill's life will be held at Henderson's Funeral Home, Monday, June 6, 1:00 p.m. The service will be conducted by Charlie Lenz.
Bill Wolfe attended the Yarrow Elim Bible School, and was a student of Mr. Hermann Lenzmann
Bill had a children's program at 11:30am (in the days before TV), that many children listened to before they were old enough to go to school...
It was still on when Esther Harder's children were very little. Bill played story records. Then TV came and Sesame Street ... and the listeners dropped and the radio station took his program away. Esther's children still talk about Gerald McBoing Boing.