Polehugging.

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[The pole.]The pole in question, not unlike the one depicted here, is a piece of Canadian timekeeping and radio history.

Ten years before the CBC picked up the official time signal -- still the longest-running program on CBC Radio -- astronomer J.P. Henderson broadcast it himself, from his own property. The antenna lived upon this pole.

This was in the 1920s, and this is also how CHU got started.

Over the years, the signal wouldn't change much. A whistle, then a whistle-like beep. The announcement would remain relatively static (varying only by time zone and, in certain places, date). I've posted about the signal before; it's a beloved and entrenched thing, something oddly sentimentalized for all of its pragmatic nature. When the CBC lockout was on, the use of a time-delayed time signal succinctly illustrated matters: management went through the motions, but the motions just weren't right.

Nowadays, a radio-based time signal to set your watch by can seem kind of pointless -- if you need something precise, you sync a networked device with an atomic clock; otherwise, you go by television or what your neighbour's watch says or something. That's a fairly recent development. Disconnected from one another, communities tend to set their own clocks, more or less. But how do you write a railway schedule, say, to accommodate everyone's variations?

You don't. You standardize, and others follow suit. Radio's a pretty good way to make sure people in remote areas have something to go on.

The signal has long since been broadcast elsewhere. We don't need the pole anymore, but that doesn't make it any less important of a symbol. The pole is where it started. The pole should continue to exist. Unfortunately, there's a move to have the pole taken down for safety concerns.

There is also a campaign to save the pole -- to move it someplace else, preserved as is. (Prior to this, there had been an offer to make the pole into benches; this seems to somehow miss the point.) Given that the signal's changed hands several times over the years, without ever disappearing or significantly changing shape, this would make some kind of sense. The pole doesn't have to live where it's always lived.

It just has to live.

21 Comments

Seems pretty cool, the idea of preserving it as a symbol. Clearly, it's already a symbol of continuity over time, over decades during which everything else changed.

After 10+ posts on the topic, I think I'm starting to get the hang of this.

Okay, so this CBC... it's a Canadian thing, right? Involving radios?

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/la Soci»t» Radio-Canada is Canada's national public broadcaster. English-language concerns of theirs include CBC Radio One/Two/3, Radio Canada International, CBC Television, CBC Newsworld, CBC Country Canada, and CBC on Demand.

I've always vaugely concerned about this habit of preserving odd bits and pieces of everything. Seems like by 2525 you wouldn't be able to tred on any place on the earth without it being someone's monument to historical significance...

Weds: Yeah, this sort of stuff happens all the time. The site of Big Ear, the radio telescope that picked up the "Wow!" signal, got turned into a golf course in the 90s.

Sem: Well, you can't save *everything*. But it's good to save *some* things. Campaigns like save the pole help determine what stuff people care about enough to keep around. Toss the rest in the trash for future archaeologists.

Considering that there's obviously interest surrounding it, and very little reason for bringing down (fear that children might climb it?) and making it into benches, I would say that the pole is already saved. Important or not (I'm, uh, not from around here), it's not really high maintenance.

I also tried to post this without the obvious Serenity reference, but CAN'T STOP THE SIGNAL.

Ah, the CBC time signal...Canada's Big Ben. I used to hear it almost every day growing up. Didn't know about the pole, though. Thanks Weds. But I'm a bit confused, are you a Canadian presently living in Europe or a European who just happens to like the CBC?

Sempiternity, I think you miss the point of preservation. I'm an architectural historian/historic preservation consultant, so the concept is very important to me personally.

There is no such thing as a tabula rasa; everywhere you go has a history. In some places, vestiges of it remain, whether in historic buildings or artifacts or archeological sites. In others, that history has not survived, and in many cases, it has been stamped out in favor of new development or redevelopment.

Development is a necessary aspect of cities growing and changing. Unless a city is facing economic decline, it's not going to cease. Places are always going to be reinvented to some degree. But it's also important to keep in mind that development is profit-driven - it's about maximizing, or at least increasing, the value of a piece of real estate. Preservation is a necessary counterforce that attempts to ensure that things that are truly significant to a community (or in the instance of this tower, a nation) aren't wiped off the face of the earth.

Fortunately the developers of this subdivision had the foresight to leave the tower in place. Hopefully it will find a new home rather than face demolition.

CBC = the poor man's BBC.

*runs and hides from Weds and other Canadians*

1. Wednesday is Canadian and living in the UK for reasons I have yet to hear. Possibly has something to do with Wallace & Grombit. (I really need to see this movie and purchase a wheel of English cheddar just for the heck of it.)

2. Tabula rasa? Isn't that Latin for a clean slate?

3. I'm going to bet by 2525 there will be less "historically significant" places from 1980-2009 than there will be from 1960-1979. Just a hunch. (Anyone remember an old Pepsi commerical where archeologist from the future can explain everything from our time period except an old Coke bottle?)

4. Hey, Eric could expand his John Stark series to include other National Historic Monuments! Maybe he could even get the National Parks to pay a pretty mint to have him advertise going to lesser known National Momuments and Parks. Talking History, with Eric Burns.

I must be the only person in the world who doesn't much like the Beeb. Yeah, okay, Dr. Who and Coupling and all that. But BBC Radio Four is mindnumbingly tedious up against CBC Radio One, I don't care about any of the other radio stations, and anything I'd like to watch on BBC One or Two always seems to be pre-empted by the snooker or the cricket or the footy, &c. (Three and Four are mainly of use when something vaguely interesting from One or Two is rerun. Sorta.)

Plus, they fired Angus Deaton from Have I Got News For You for being a coke-snorting whoremonger. On any other channel in the country, this'd be a virtue. What happens next? They get a constant stream of politicians in to do Angus Deaton impressions. Given the occasional state of British politics, dude, what? This is like giving Preston Manning John Morgan's old job.

Just one thing: that picture isn't the actual pole. I have to borrow a camera this weekend and get a proper picture -- will upload it when I do.

Spoke to Kate, the property owner yesterday -- she seemed really surprised at all the attention, and was happy that I proposed relocation over preservation. "I had visions of Alex Munter sitting on the top of the pole when I heard this story!"

Gah! I'll, uh, pull this picture now, shall I... (This week can stop being this week now. Sweartogod.)

(Or, better still, amend the text temporarily until the picture does exist. YAY, RETROEDITING. TEHDRAMA.)

Weds: Across the pond, they fire you for using coke. In Quebec, you just get more more and more popular.

No idea if Andre Boisclair is a whoremonger, though.

(For reference: cleaned up a triple-post/linkweird for escapegoat there. It's cool.)

Quebec... in Quebec, *flesh-eating disease* is a political advantage. I gave up on Quebec years ago. You know this. :)

Thankee.


Heh, I know Lucien's cousin -- in fact, she lives in my building. She is one of the smartest people I know and has helped me out of a few jams.

Cool!

The world, she is too small.

"There's one thing I love about Canada... Wherever you go in the world, people are judged by the colour of their skin. But here in Canada, it's different! We have Quebec, so we have to wait for some people to start talking before we hate them."

In other news, the CBC is good.

BTW, here are my pole pix from Saturday.

IIt's one honkin' huge pole -- now consulting with arbourists to avoid root damage.

Russell, BTW, is the owner of the camera.

"The long dash following ten seconds of silence will indicate 11 o' clock, Central Standard Time."

beep
beep
beep
beep
beep

BEEEEEEEP

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