Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Workday Wednesday: Michael, the Radio Tech

My husband Michael was employed for over thirty-eight years as a radio technician. He retired on 28 March 2013, three years ago this week.

Michael Demoskoff with his CN work truck in 1981
Michael with his CN work truck in Hope, BC (1981)

I interviewed him about his varied and fulfilling career in which he witnessed technological changes from vacuum tubes to high-density fibre electronics.

For whom did you work?
I was a communications technician for Allstream, an international communications provider.

What were your duties?
I installed, repaired and maintained microwave and fibre optic equipment. I also operated and maintained the Mount Jarvis aerial tramway.

Why did you choose this line of work?
Ever since I was six years old I was interested in electronics. I took apart my Dad’s AM radios and test equipment (like a vacuum tube volt meter and signal generator). Throughout high school, my friends would come to me with their broken record players, radios and TV sets to repair. I enjoyed making things work.

How did this hobby become a vocation?
It was my cousin Allan’s idea for me to sign up for a Canada Manpower Centre-sponsored electronics training course (a federal government program) and then work for him repairing televisions.

What kind of training did you get?
It was a basic electronics course in Terrace, BC. The course started in January 1974 and lasted ten months. Everything from theory, to practical in AM/FM, and some radar and microwave technology.

Did you eventually work for your cousin?
No. There was an opportunity for full-time employment that came up and I took it. During the last month of technical school, both CNT (Canadian National Telecommunications) and BCTel (BC Telephone Company) came to our class and signed up students for employment. Twenty-nine of us, including me, went to CNT and one of us went to BCTel.

CN installation department in Prince George BC in 1974
CN installation department (blue arrow) in Prince George, BC (1974)

Did you always work for the same company?
Yes and no. I was first hired by CNT in November 1974 as an installer in Prince George, BC. I later transferred to Vancouver and then to Hope. Over the years, the company changed hands and changed names (like CNCP Telecommunications in 1980, then Unitel in 1989, then AT&T Canada in 1993, then Allstream in 2003, then MTS Allstream in 2004, then back to Allstream in 2012), but the work I did was still electronics installation, repair and maintenance.

Did you work by yourself or with others?
Mostly by myself, but occasionally with other technicians like on installation jobs or if we went to mountain tops in winter.

Snow-covered microwave tower at top of Mount Jarvis near Hope, BC (1982)

What was your favorite part of your job?
I liked the satisfaction I got from restoring a failed piece of equipment.

What did you dislike about your work?
Sometimes I was called at night for emergency equipment repairs and it usually involved travelling to remote locations.

Did your work keep you in one place or did you get to travel?
I went on training courses in places like Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, and Montreal, as well as Dallas, Texas and San Francisco, California. I also worked in Washington, Idaho and Montana states in the summer of 2003.

Copyright © 2016, Yvonne Demoskoff.

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