Welcome to COTRA--the Canadian Old-time Radio Alliance!
After you've read through these pages, come join us in the audio chat room. We have created a chatting event, in which you can discuss all aspects of Canadian old-time radio. Mark your calendars for Sunday evenings at eight PM Eastern, and head over to the Canadian OTR chat room. To participate fully in these chats, you'll need a working microphone connected to your computer. If you don't have one, there is a text area for you to write your comments and questions. When signing in, we ask that you use your full name, rather than a nickname, as we'd like to get to know you better. Skip the password field and leave it blank. Come join us! However, if you simply can't join us for the chats live, there is the page of downloadable archives, thanks to our chat hosts.
If you would like to discuss old-time radio, other than that which was produced in Canada, then visit Thursdays at eight PM eastern, for our old-time radio chat, using the same software. I've linked to their main page, rather than to the room, since I'd like you to be aware of the other features this web site offers.
Along with the information you're about to read below, and within the following linked pages, be sure to visit our listening room, as there are some unique features which are exclusive to this web site.
Also, please join us on our e-mail discussion list. To join, send a blank e-mail to
Follow the returned instructions, either by hitting reply and then send, or clicking on the link and filling in the visual verification. In order to use the advanced web features of the group, you'll need a Yahoo profile. You can elect to do this, or just recieve the e-mails without getting into the web features. Either way, please join us!
If you're over fifty, you will actually be able to recall a
time when the presence of a television in the home was a luxury,
rather than a foregone conclusion. You will be among those of us
who can remember such notable quotes as "The Shadow
knows," "Oxydol's own Ma Perkins," and
"'tain't funny, McGee." Thankfully for those of us who
have incurable cases of nostalgia, many of those American
old-time radio shows are now available for purchase, either on
cassette, mp3 computer format, or CD. Sadly, however, Canada
doesn't provide that same assurance.
One might be tempted to assume that Canada didn't produce any programming which was worth saving, but nothing could be further from the truth. After lunch every weekday, people flocked to their radios, just waiting to hear:
Knock knock knock.
"It's The Happy Gang."
"Well, Come on in!"
On Saturday nights, they waited to hear the familiar voice of Foster Hewitt say:
"Hello, hockey fans in Canada, the United States, and Newfoundland."
Children back then looked forward to Kindergarten of The Air, Just Mary, Cuckoo Clock House, the Rod and Charles Show, and Maggie Muggins, with the same fervor as today's young ones anticipate Sponge Bob. For comedy, there was nothing like Wayne and Shuster, and for soap opera addicts, there was Brave Voyage, Laura Limited, Aunt Lucy, John and Judy, and the families featured on CBC's farm broadcast. For drama addicts, there was the Stage series.
When television burst onto the scene in the early 1950's, radio was largely abandoned, and some of that material was either lost or destroyed. Fortunately, there were a few individuals who had sufficient foresight, and enough appreciation of good talent, to gather up samples of those programs, and store them for safe keeping in archives housed either at the CBC in Toronto, or Concordia University in Montreal.
Eventually, countries such as the U.S., England, Australia, and South Africa came to their senses, and allowed their citizens to share in that part of their heritage, but the same can't be said of this country. Clips of some of that material can now be found on the CBC archives web site, but much of it can't be downloaded, and almost nothing is available for purchase.
There is now an organization, the Canadian Old-Time Radio Alliance--COTRA, whose members are advocating for the release of some of those shows. Until that dream is realized, however, there is this web site.
Here, you will be able to find information on many of the wonderful programs we listened to in the '30's, '40's, '50's, and yes, even the '60's. In some cases, you will be able to listen to clips of those programs. Whenever possible, you will see links to sites where those programs can be listened to, downloaded, or purchased. When possible, there will be links to actual interviews, some of which were done back in the 1980's. We also have a calendar of births and deaths of the individuals who brought us such unforgetable entertainment.
Because Canadian old-time radio is still so difficult to access, this web site is a work in progress. If you have any information, or clips that you would care to share with us, we'd love to hear from you.
You can contact COTRA president Devon
Wilkins for further assistance. (Because of the amount of
spam, make sure to take the "at" out and replace it
with the @ symbol.)
For now, allow your mind's ear to take you back to a time when radio was king ... back to a glorious time in this country's history, when the best screen of all was your very own imagination.
Performance And Theatre
Since there was a wide spectrum of programming on Canadian old-time radio, some of it doesn't fit neatly into these categories above. So, here's a miscellaneous page, which offers variety in scope of programming.
The following page, along with the pages connected with it, offer you the history of news on Canadian radio.
Also, don't miss the page devoted to the man who is largely credited with inventing radio: Canada's own Reginald Aubrey Fessenden. This web site gives very comprehensive info, along with allowing you to listen to a play about his life.
If these pages aren't enough, take a look at the books page, and possibly pick up one of the books which feature Canadian old-time radio. The links point to the Canadian version of the Amazon site.
So where can I get some of this old-time radio? Well, as we've said, Canadian OTR is hard to come by, though that's not the case for American OTR. Go to the Where To Get It page, and there will be a sampling of just some of the vendors who sell old-time radio listed there.
Are there any problems or questions about the website? E-mail the webmaster, Matthew Bullis, and I'll take care of them. (Because of the amount of spam, be sure to change the "at" part to @ in order to get the mail to me.)