CBC Digital Archives

Canadian Snapshots: Sights for the eyes and the ears

Just three years after the debut of CBC Radio, Canadian Snapshots "turned the lens of the radio camera" to the wonders and oddities of Canada in half-hour episodes airing weekly on the national network. Chock full of skits and short dramatic pieces, and augmented with actualities (the relatively new phenomena of onsite reporting), Canadian Snapshots brought the "vast panorama" of the country to the airwaves to tempt the tourist's taste. Unabashed in their boosterism, several programs also featured Canadian composers and highlighted their original works with a performance by the CBC Orchestra led by Samuel Hersenhoren. Although the program aired in 1939 and 1940, only six episodes of Canadian Snapshots survive in the CBC archives. All six are presented here; they were broadcast between January and June of 1940. The announcers are renowned CBC personalities Lorne Greene and J. Frank Willis.

Tourists can take their choice - east to west, summer to winter - as Canadian rail service brings visitors to the splendour of Muskoka and the brisk beauty of British Columbia year around. But, as we hear in a dramatic re-enactment, today's tourists won't see what two old prospectors once encountered on the Cariboo Trail during B.C.'s 1863 gold rush in: camels! Shifting eastward by 3400 kilometres, Canadian Snapshots listens in as a local gal's favourite sister visits Glace Bay, N.S., and finds there's plenty to see - from Guglielmo Marconi's wireless station to a mine that isn't just underground, it's several kilometres under the sea! Finally, thanks to a tip sent in by nine-year-old listener Eleanor Henry, Canadian Snapshots goes on location at the legendary Burning Spring in Niagara Falls, Ont.

• In 1940, a standard sleeper car ticket, roundtrip between Toronto and Vancouver on the Canadian National Railway, cost $91. Today, a comparable ticket costs roughly $1,350. That price, according the Bank of Canada's inflation calculator, is only about $50 more than it would be based solely on the cost of inflation.

• Guglielmo Marconi sent the first transatlantic radio message on Dec., 15, 1902 from his Table Head station in Glace Bay, N.S. to his Poldhu Wireless Station in Cornwall, England. Within a few years he decided he needed taller antennas and moved the wireless station in Canada just south of Glace Bay to a site that became known as Marconi Towers. He quickly consolidated a thriving transatlantic commercial service, including a major component for ship-to-shore communications that greatly improved safely at sea. Marconi won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1909. He died in 1937. In 1946, surpassed by advancing technology, the station at Marconi Towers closed. The site of the first transmission in Glace Bay is designated as a national historic site, with a museum run by Parks Canada.

• The first coal mine on Cape Breton Island opened in 1720 to supply the needs of the French building their fortress at Louisburg. The Dominion 1B mine discussed in this program opened in 1924 to extend extraction of coal from the deposit known as the Phalen Seam. The entire working area of the mine was sub-marine and extended 13 km offshore. It closed in 1955. As of 2008, no large coal mines operate on Cape Breton Island.

• The Burning Spring actually ran out of natural gas long before this program aired. The heyday for the spring began in the 1830s and continued until the natural source of gas ran out sometime in the mid-1880s. After the land where it was located was expropriated as part of the new Queen Victoria Niagara Parks in 1888, an effort was made to resurrect the attraction with a man-made Burning Spring, artificially fed with natural gas. Although not the booming success of the natural spring, it was eventually moved up river about two and half kilometres to the tourist centre of Niagara Falls. It attracted visitors there until 1969, when the building that housed it was destroyed by a fire. The re-creation of the spring, featured in this clip, does mirror the original in how it functioned, including the use of a pipe to block the flow of gas.

Medium: Radio
Program: Canadian Snapshots
Broadcast Date: Feb. 7, 1940
Announcers: Lorne Greene, J. Frank Willis
Duration: 30:06

Last updated: October 9, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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