Early TV days speak to collective self-reliance

At the end of April, the Valemount Entertainment Society celebrated 30 years, and the celebration unearthed some interesting stories of early TV in Valemount.

We heard stories from Garry Forman about going door-to-door in the late 70s raising money for a satellite dish so they could pirate TV signals, in order to watch something – anything – other than the single CBC channel that was on air.

When confronted about breaking the laws of the CRTC, Forman blithely noted the whole village was involved.

“They’ll have to put us all in jail.”

This comment sums up perfectly a concept I’d like to re-introduce to Canadian politics: collective self-reliance.

I get tired of listening to typical conservative rhetoric of “self-reliance.” It should be obvious to everyone that some people have it easier than others, and it should not be every person for him or herself. Who wants to live in a box disconnected from everyone else? Not me.

But collective self-reliance – that really sums up what makes it awesome living in a community and a progressive country. We look after one another. When there’s a problem, we get together and solve it. This idea simply doesn’t square with “every person should be self-sufficient.”

If people here had had that attitude, they would not have gotten more TV signals when they did. I’m pleased to say this collective self-reliance that is still alive and well in the Robson Valley.

During the early TV days, the satellite dish was on the top of Canoe Mountain – in wintertime a harrowing 11 KM journey on early snowmobiles (this is before the evolution of the mountain sleds you see today) — Laura Keil

Of course, collective self-reliance doesn’t mean nobody is accountable as Bryan Hannis knows too well.

During the early TV days, the satellite dish was on the top of Canoe Mountain – in wintertime a harrowing 11km journey on early snowmobiles (this is before the evolution of the mountain sleds you see today).

After climbing the tower and adjusting the dish, they finally made it down the mountain. As he walked in the door, his wife told him the phone had been ringing off the hook.

People were mad.

With no way to check the results of their manoeuvers on top of the mountain, Hannis and his compatriots has unintentionally tuned in to the Playboy channel.

Back up the mountain they went.

The next day, a few men asked him casually if Playboy would still be on the air.

Hannis and the other storytellers provided a window to an older time most of us can barely fathom. This was a time of dirt roads, dense pine trees and pre-internet.

But in many ways the stories are familiar.

Let’s not lose that collective self-reliance.