CANADIAN EPICS IN RADIOCOMMUNICATION
ALUMNI WHO LIVED THE ADVENTURE OF RADIO
WIRELESS TELEGRAPHISTS - SPARKS - RADIO PIONEERS
RADIO OPERATORS - RADIO TECHNICIANS
RADIO TECHNOLOGISTS - RADIO ENGINEERS
RADIO INSPECTORS - SPECTRUM MANAGERS
ÉPOPÉES CANADIENNES EN RADIOCOMMUNICATION
LES ANCIENS QUI ONT VÉCU L'AVENTURE DE LA RADIO
TÉLÉGRAPHISTES SANS FIL - PIONNIERS DE LA RADIO
OPÉRATEURS RADIO - TECHNICIENS RADIO
TECHNOLOGUES RADIO - INGÉNIEURS RADIO
INSPECTEURS RADIO - GESTIONNAIRES DU SPECTRE
Below is my file on Ron Hook, who was the father of the radio network in Northern Saskatchewan and who was recognized by the Telecom Hall of Fame a few years ago.
Back around 1973 I was in LaRonge, Saskatchewan with Charles Feaver and was introduced to Ron Hook. When Ron received the Hall of Fame award Charles showed an interest and a year or so ago he came across one of the original sets which Ron Hook had built (or modified) for the network. We had been trying to find a home for the set. Jack Anderson was helping us find a home and had discovered that the museum in Prince Albert actually had a section dedicated to the Department of Northern Saskatchewan so that would be a natural place for the set.
It has been left to me to work things out with the Museum. With Jack`s passing I will probably ask Ken Leek, who was with me at the JAWS, to act as our local contact. Charles Feaver (a good friend of Ron Robbins) is heading up there in the summer and will deliver the set. (Charles Feaver delivered the radio set to the Prince Albert Historical Museum in May 2012. Click on the link at the bottom of this page for more info)
28 March 2012
Ron Hook: Father of Communications in Northern Saskatchewan
Ron Hook for many years ran the communications network for Northern Saskatchewan out of Prince Albert. He developed and built the northern communications network: made the radio sets, installed and maintained them for some 40 years prior to the mid 1970s when first the Department of Northern Saskatchewan (DNS) and then SaskTel assumed this responsibility.
In August 2002, Saskatchewan Northern Affairs published Northern Saskatchewan – A Transformation outlining the establishment of infrastructure in Northern Saskatchewan.
This document records “[An] area of service to the North where Saskatchewan became an international leader was radio communications. The government created the Radio Branch of the Department of Natural Resources. Until that time, northerners had to rely on primitive radio equipment used by various agencies without the benefit of a formal network of stations to serve the needs of industry, government and individual citizens.
In addition to improving emergency services and introducing a public “radiogram” service, the Radio Branch aided in medical services, forest fire suppression, weather data for aircraft, and logistical support for the many business activities that had developed. Later, trappers and others working “on the land” were rented portable equipment to maintain radio communication links.
In support of improved communications to and among northern communities, the Department of Natural Resources also initiated a daily radio broadcast (“Northern News”) aired on the Prince Albert radio station CKBI. Northerners would faithfully listen to the program to receive market and community information and personal messages – essential communication in the days before telephone service was available to northern homes.”
A Type 15 (one of the radio sets) in Stanley Mission with operator Murdoch Charles, who would chat with all the trappers, and then at night tell them to save their batteries while he told them the news of what was going on in town and an old story or two.
Brian Cousins, Director, Northern News Service Branch of the Department of Northern Saskatchewan in the 70’s writes: “I cannot think of anyone so deserving (as Ron) for [a] nomination. Ron Hook's pioneering work (which was far ahead of what was being done in other northern/remote areas) attracted interest from other jurisdictions and certainly impressed the Motorola company as Ron applied their equipment well beyond what the company had previously thought possible.
It is regrettable that this chapter of Canadian communications development has not received the recognition it deserves - especially the work of Ron and the colleagues he led and inspired. I only worked with Ron during the DNS days, after his initial communications development work had been undertaken in earlier years. But even in the 70s, Ron frequently had to ensure that "newcomers" like me (and the wizards at SaskTel) were made aware of how radio communications worked in the North and the realities of remote communications - technically and socially. 
The Scope of Ron’s Contribution
The scope of Ron’s responsibilities, then at the end of his long career, is captured in the Department of Northern Saskatchewan’s 1973-74 Annual Report.
“..the Radio Communications Division (transferred from the Department of Natural Resources in April 1973 under the supervision of Ron Hook). The objectives [of the Division] were:
-to meet the radio communications requirements of the Department of Northern Saskatchewan, the Department of Natural Resources and individuals and groups in northern Saskatchewan where alternate communications facilities are not available.
-to foster improved communications and information exchange among northern communities, the department and the public.
-to recommend effective use and development of media in the north.
Effective communication is essential in northern Saskatchewan to co-ordinate forest fire suppression, resource administration and other department activities and to contribute generally to daily life in the north.
Ten key or control stations, which serve as clearing centres for the handling of radiograms, were operated at Uranium City, Stony Rapids, Brabant Lake, Cree Lake, Buffalo Narrows, La Ronge, Divide, Beaver Lake, Prince Albert and Hudson Bay.
The Departments of Northern Saskatchewan and Natural resources use the radio communications network extensively for general administration purposes. Other government departments and agencies, such as the Northern Municipal Council and the Northern School Board, also use it for communication in the north.
The entire forest fire protection and suppression program in the north and in provincial parks and recreational areas is carried out through radio communications using portable, mobile, air-borne and base station equipment.
Radiogram message facilities and rental of radio equipment was made available to the public and the various government agencies. These facilities were used extensively by trappers, fishermen, Indian bands, tourist outfitters, logging camp operators and residents of the north.”
Ron’s retirement celebrations in 1977 tell something of his contribution.
“Ron Hook, the man responsible for the communications network in northern Saskatchewan, has retired after 40 years of service.
Born in England, Ron moved to Canada and in 1937 began work for the Saskatchewan government as a tower-man at Thunder Mountain. Then he got interested in radio communications and began building radios which could be used under northern conditions. He salvaged parts from older radios and built the parts he was missing. The network eventually linked all parts of the North and includes forest fire fighting communications and radios in the southern provincial parks.
As part of the retirement celebrations, all the radio operators from across the North met inn Prince Albert for a one-day conference. It was the first meeting held since the network was established and some of the operators had been talking to each other on the radio for 30 years but had never met face to face.
At the retirement party, Ron was presented gifts by the radio technicians, the radio operators, DNS and the provincial government. DNS Minister Ted Bowerman, Deputy Minister Marcel L’Heureux and former deputy Wilf Churchman all addressed the crowd of about 150 people.
Ron and his wife have decided to spend their retirement in Prince Albert and area.”
Following on the pioneering work of Ron Hook, Northern Saskatchewan – A Transformation was able to report that “Over an eight-year period to the end of 1981, the provincial government had developed an impressive list of northern achievements [including] the extension of SaskTel microwave service from 24 per cent to 97 per cent of the population helping to increase access to CBC radio and television from 15 per cent to 96 per cent.
Graham Guest, Archival Historian, Northern Saskatchewan
Through Graham Guest, a friend of his named Tom Roberts, who worked for DNS in the early days, said to call John Kushneryk who had he worked with Ron. Graham called John who said Ron is his neighbour! Graham also spoke directly with Ron Hook.
Brian Cousins, Previous Director, Northern News Service Branch
Mr. Jim Hutch P.ENG, (Ex-President Saskatchewan Research Council)
Maureen Matthews and Charles Feaver, Winnipeg (knew Ron Hook at La Ronge)
Don Ching- until last year Pres/CEO of Sasktel now Pres/CEO of Areva Canada
7 May 2007
 This nomination draws from communications with people who have lived and worked in Northern Saskatchewan. Additional information is available from the N. Sask Archives which has a large collection of print materials and photos from the Dept of N. Sask days. DNS prepared annual reports that updated the activities of the Radio Communications Division each year. Amongst the DNS slides there are several photos of Ron and the activities of the radio division. Denosa also contains several articles featuring the radio operators on the network.
 email from Brian Cousins to John Gilbert, 14 Dec 2006
 Denosa, November 1977