UNLOCKING THE PAST: A look back at Cessnock radio’s 'fiery' history

The opening of Cessnock’s own radio station, 2CK, on January 9, 1939 was a grand affair held at the Regent Theatre.

After the station was officially declared ‘on air’ it was followed by a dazzling concert with entertainment provided by singers, tap dancers, a comedian and even a performance from the not-to-be-missed Kurri Kurri Mouth Organ Band.

2CK was established by the Coalfields Broadcasting Company Pty Ltd. When it opened the station was located on the first floor of the building now occupied by Ray White Real Estate in Vincent Street. The station’s transmitter was on Neath Hill.

It was a well-designed modern station, housing three studios, one specifically dedicated to live broadcasts of in-house concerts complete with its own in-house grand piano. But despite being much loved by local residents the station had its challenges and a (literally) fiery history.

In the early hours of December 8, 1940 the entire broadcasting studio was destroyed by fire in a spectacular blaze. But 2CK was unbeaten and was back on air at 9am that day, operating from a temporary office in a Vincent Street shopfront. The cause of the fire was never established.

POPULAR: An advertisement promoting 2CK Radio Station.

POPULAR: An advertisement promoting 2CK Radio Station.

Disaster would strike again 12 years later. By this time the station was located on the corner of Vincent and Cooper Streets, occupying the first floor of the Cessnock Co-operative Store building. On June 21, 1952 the studios, offices and all of 2CK’s equipment went up in flames. Again it was in the early hours of the morning. A particularly poignant loss was the extensive record library of 12,000 LPs.

Unconfirmed stories later emerged that the fire started when the last announcer for the night left in a hurry, eager to catch the bus home to Maitland. In his haste an electric heater may have been left on, with disastrous results.

Once more 2CK was down, but not out. The station was broadcasting again later that morning playing music from records held in storage at 2CK’s transmitting station at Neath. Other radio stations came to their aid with 2KO at Newcastle and 2HR at Maitland sending cases of records to their sister station in its time of need.

After being on air for almost 15 years 2CK closed on December 31, 1953. A business decision had been made by the owners to amalgamate 2CK with 2HR and form two new stations from this amalgamation, 2NM Muswellbrook and 2NX Newcastle.

The station’s 50-metre mast, which had spent a decade and a half on Neath Hill, was last seen in a paddock outside Muswellbrook.

Kimberly O’Sullivan is the Local Studies Librarian at Cessnock City Library

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