Brief History of the Lytton Area Wireless Society (Formerly THE LYTTON AND DISTRICT T.V. ASSOCIATION)Have you ever heard of this association? Some say they have not, others complain because this association is partially funded through taxes, and others are very grateful that it exists. It is essentially a service that Lytton offers to those who cannot or prefer not to pay for cable or satellite It is run by volunteers, with funding coming from taxes, amounting to approximately $18.00 per year on assessments of $150,000, the equivalent of 3 pks. of cigarettes, or $9.68 per year on assessments of $80,000, the equivalent of 5 cups of coffee! It is used by Elders or those on tight pensions, people who rent, or anyone who can not access pay television for various other reasons.
This article is a history of how T.V. first came to Lytton, and how difficult a project it has been over the years. It is a story of the dedication and hard work of many volunteers, still ongoing.
It all started in the early 1950’s. A man named Bill Shaw, who owned Shaw Springs Auto Court and restaurant, decided to see if a T.V. signal could be picked up on the surrounding mountains. He loaded his 4 wheel drive up with a television set, a lighting plant, some T.V. aerials, and away he went. He tried out several spots, and finally, with Art Kent and his Forestry 4 wheel drive, they headed up Botannie Mountain to the Forestry Lookout. They took a group of Lyttonites with them: Annie Kent, Jim O’Dwyer, Laurie O’Dwyer, Lloyd Dodge, and “Heppy’ Hepburn, the lookout man was there, too. They set up the aerials, the lighting plant and the T.V., then sat in the Lookout building and watched ‘Ed Sullivan’! It was the first time some of them had ever seen television.
Now the planning began, and the real work started. It was decided that they needed a power source at the top of the mountain to relay the signals. They acquired a wind generator from Reid Dickenson and some 12 volt batteries. By this time there was snow on the mountain. They borrowed Spencer’s D4 cat, hooked a trailer on behind to carry all the equipment and supplies needed, and started out. Two men, Ted Sheppard and Stan Coles, planned to stay at the site, put up the aerials, and get everything working. We had one station, CFJC channel 11, from Kamloops. ( Later on, they put in channel 8, BCTV.)
This arrangement worked for only a few weeks, before the heavy snow bent the aerial over and stopped the windmill. That was that!
One of the transmitters on Botannie Mountain was given the call sign of CHWS. This was in recognition of the pioneering that William Shaw had done in getting TV to Lytton. The first thought was to call it CHBS, after Bill Shaw, but it was considered that CHWS would be more respectful!
One of the FM stations was called CHRE in recognition of Reg Edgar, who was the man in charge of the CNR repeater station which housed the CBC station.
Another transmitter was given the call sign CHAK after Art Kent, who built the access road to Botannie Mountain.
In the meantime, other communities became interested in our project, including Kamloops (CFCR). The Lytton volunteers put a power line from the top of the mountain down the east side to a creek at the bottom near Botannie road. Two propane generators were brought in, and a shed was built to house the motors. Boston Bar and Lillooet were getting our signals, but Boston Bar signals were very weak. These communities helped with volunteers and machinery.
This system lasted for approximately two years. However, getting propane into the site was almost impossible during the winter, and propane fuel proved to be very expensive, running the motors 24/7. Kamloops came up with the idea of installing a Pelton wheel in the creek at this site. It consisted of a screen intake in the stream, up from the generator site. (This screen loved to collect leaves and other debris in preference to water, at times.) A pipe led from the screen to the generator shack which housed the pelton wheel and the generator. The pelton wheel was a water-driven turbine which ran a belt which turned the generator which made the electricity. This power house was situated by the stream at the bottom of a gulch. The power meters were mounted on a tree at the top of the bank. The power was adjusted by a valve in the powerhouse controlling the water flow to the pelton wheel. If one person was checking the power for the TV site, it was necessary to open or close the water valve and scramble up the steep bank to check the voltage. If further adjustments were necessary, one slid down the bank, adjusted the valve, and scrambled back up the slope to check the meter reading. This procedure was repeated until the proper power was obtained.
It was found that two people were needed to eliminate the hill climbing routine. The noise from the pelton wheel, generator, water overflow and the stream made voice communication all but impossible, so a system of hand signals was devised. Now, one person stood outside the powerhouse at the stream, the other read the meter and by frantic waving of arms, asked for more or less water. The lower man would interpret the gestures and turn the valve and then return for more instruction. Further gyrations and adjustments would eventually get the power plant to produce the proper level of power. One wonders why there wasn’t a meter in the powerhouse!
It worked for quite a while, but there were problems keeping the leaves and debris from clogging up the system, and also with rodents chewing up the power lines, which were just laid on the ground.
Finally all concerned decided to run a power line down the west side of the mountain, to 6 mile on the Lytton/Lillooet road and hook up to hydro. Lillooet volunteers came down and put in the power line, which was (and still is) approx. 10 miles long. The power line was a little larger in diameter than a lead pencil. It consisted of a strong steel wire to provide physical strength, and several aluminum wires wrapped around this steel core to carry the electricity. This bundle was covered with a plastic insulating coating. The wire was strong and springy. The power line from Botannie Mountain to 6 mile was laid on the ground, starting at the mountain top. The wire arrived at the transmitter site by pickup truck. The large spools of wire were set up in the truck box so that they would unwind the wire when it was pulled. Two volunteers each took a wire and started down the mountain. A third man was stationed at the truck to ensure that the wire would continue coming off the reels at a walking pace to assist the wire pullers. This worked very well. The wire continued to unroll smoothly at a reasonable rate. However, the men pulling the wire had encountered some difficult terrain which slowed them down. The wire continued to unroll at the agreed rate. Out of sight of any of the workers, the weight of the wire continued its steady pull, winding great coils of wire around rocks, trees, stumps and what ever else the mountain had to offer. The rest of the afternoon was spent untangling this mess.
The power line could only be laid in relatively short lengths, as the weight of the wire made it impossible to pull more than a few hundred feet at a time. When the pulling got too hard, the line was cut, the spools of wire were moved as close as possible and a new section was strung out. The pullers returned to the end of the preceding line and spliced both lines together. The splices used to join the ends were tubular in design. The bared ends of each wire were pushed into the tube and the tube crimped. This produced a linear splice. The shear weight of the wire sometimes pulled the wire end out of the tube. Changes of extreme heat and cold caused wire movement and contributed to line breakage.
The two lines were laid on the ground, several feet apart. On steep slopes the lines were anchored to trees to support the weight of the wire, which caused the wire to slide on the ground. At these anchor points extra slack was left in the line above the anchor point to eliminate the pulling effect of the wire.
The wire, lying on the ground, was easily accessible by porcupines and other small animals. The attraction seemed to be the plastic insulation which was reputed to have a salty taste – to our knowledge no one ever tried to prove this! These critters would sometimes strip the insulation from a wire for a length of several meters. One wonders if they got a charge out of the 600 volts running through the line.
The Kamloops crew put up another shed, at the top of the mountain, north of the Lookout Building, so that the receiving aerials could be out of the weather. A 40 ft. mast was installed with aerials pointing north and south, to service the areas towards Boston Bar and Lillooet.
No record of the Association would be complete without attention given the countless hours that volunteers have spent maintaining the service. Power line trouble brought out several volunteers and snowmobilers. There were many hairy trips up the Forestry access road, much worse now since the Forestry abandoned the Lookout Station. Supplies for repairs often had to be carried up the last section of road, which was impassable even for snowmobiles in the deep snow. This site is now being used by the Ambulance, R.C.M.P, and Search and Rescue radios, but they don’t contribute to the maintenance of the site by road, they just hop into helicopters! This solution is way out of our budget.
Now that the work had begun in earnest, licenses needed to be applied for. First, the lease for the land at the top of Botannie and the land over which the power line would run must be applied for. A society, The Lytton and District TV Association, was formed. Using a one time grant, Licences for two television stations and one radio station were obtained. Separate licenses were required for each piece of transmitting equipment from the CRTC (1970?). Each channel, either TV or FM had to have the CRTC licensing procedures followed. Each had to have a set of engineering drawings and specifications provided at considerable cost to the local committee. (Interestingly each set was literally a carbon copy of the previous one.) The forms for our repeater stations were identical to those required by a big city station with control rooms and studios and such. Most of the blanks were completed N/A. We needed dedicated volunteers, especially technicians. Dedicated volunteers like Joe Chute, Val Ablett, Marie and Peter Heaster, Dorothy and Lloyd Dodge, and technicians Bill Bell and Vern Gollmar and many others made the system work. Funding was always in short supply.
The T.V. situation was further complicated by the original agreement that signals would be sent to Boston Bar and Lillooet for rebroadcasting. By providing a signal to these two centers, permission was given to increase the signal strength of the transmitters in order to provide usable signals to feed their local transmitters. This in turn increased the area which the signal covered, and the number of recipients. On the plus side we gained several volunteers from these communities.
We needed equipment, which meant tracking down as much serviceable 2nd hand equipment as we could find. Once a station was set up, the CRTC required that transmission had to be continued to protect the investment of those who had purchased television sets especially to receive the local transmissions.
If it is determined that TV and/or FM signals are no longer required by the residents in the viewing area, or by the satellite communities which rely on our signals, we would suspect that a submission to the CRTC to cancel the licenses would be in order. ( Goodness knows what legal procedures that would entail.)
During the Eighties, hard working volunteers like Kelly Lambright, Ernie Wagner, Jan Polderman and others, set up a second site on the Quinn road site, with the permission of the Lytton First Nations band. Channel 10, Knowledge Network, was added, and with the coming of the large satellite dish, the Association added channel 12 TBS. A second radio station was also added in the lower site. Unfortunately, the equipment on both upper and lower sites was aging 2nd hand equipment. During this period a cable company came to town and provided services to the people in town only.
Again, funding was the main stumbling block. The Association receives approximately $8225 per year, while any given piece of equipment can be approximately $17,000 per channel. Thus it has been necessary to replace what we can with 2nd hand materials. At one point the Association discussed charging membership dues as a way of raising funds. However, this idea was dropped (March 1, 2006) because we felt that users were already paying through taxes.
In the nineties, with the help of technician James Belton, satellite receivers were installed along with six more TV stations. At the lower site channels 3,5,7,9, 13, and uhf 19 were added. The volunteers erected a 75 foot antenna mast at the lower site. This mast now has the antennas for five TV stations and the internet antennas. Later channel 13 was put in Botannie Valley. At the upper site in the early nineties, the B.C.Forest Service left the lookout and the TV Association got the building. Francis Van Dyke took his equipment to the upper site and maintained the road. A group of some 15 volunteers from both Lytton and Lillooet TV Societies put a new roof on the receiving antenna building, and the sending antennas and TV equipment were put inside the Lookout. This was done to protect the equipment from being damaged from snow and ice. In the late nineties the equipment at the top of Botannie Mountain had been in use for thirty ears so it was also replaced. The radio station from the lower site was moved to the upper site. Both radio stations’ equipment have now failed and need to be replaced. It should be noted that the original FM radio station was funded by the Lytton Lion’s Club.
Funding for the TV site operation was applied for from the TNRD, which had the power to impose a 2 mil levy on rural taxpayers for projects which met with public approval. The village also collects a 1 ½ mil levy on local village taxpayers. The funds collected by the TNRD were sent to the Village Council, to be passed on to the T.V. Society. This taxation was to be an ongoing process, meant originally to compensate communities for expenses occurred during the previous year to operate the services, with the tax mil rate determined by the expenditures of the T.V. Society in the previous year, thus making yearly budgets and annual reports from the Society a necessity.
This levy was specifically for the transmission of T.V. and radio signals to a designated area. These funds could not be diverted to another project. Any diversion of these funds to another project would appear to be mis-appropriation of funds in contravention to the original agreement.
While cable TV has entered Lytton, it in no way covers the area covered by the transmitters. Also, the T.V. Association renders a very real service to those who, for one reason or another, can not afford cable T.V.. Seniors, many Elders, and renters in many cases have only the local signal available to them.
In 2003, a survey was attempted by the Village, to see how many users there actually are. Our contention is that our original agreement with CRTC was that so long as only one individual used this service, it could not be discontinued. From the results of that survey, 75% of the survey participants wished to continue to support the Lytton and District TV Association. The Village Council has agreed to the usual funding for 2007, but after that it will be up to the users of the service to convince the Council to support the service.
Lytton Museum and Archives