CKLW brings down Ma Bell!

CKLW used to run telephone contests that could literally bring the telephone systems of Windsor and Detroit to their knees. Of course, when you are giving away prizes like thousands of dollars in cash or automobiles, people tend to grab the phone and try to win. Apparently a LOT of people did this, all at once, and the phone systems of those days just couldn't cope!

[Hitline Phones] I can remember being in Windsor one summer day (on Ouelette Avenue not too far down the street from the CKLW studios), and listening to my portable transistor radio when a contest was announced. I guess I thought that since I was in Windsor, I might actually have a chance of getting through, so I grabbed a nearby pay phone, dropped in the requisite Canadian dime, and got a VERY trashy sounding dial tone. I proceeded to dial only about the first three or four digits of the number, when suddenly I found myself connected to about ten other people, all of whom were apparently also trying to reach CKLW's contest line (one girl screamed "did I WIN?!?!" in a very excited voice - I guess when she heard other voices on the line, she thought she had actually managed to get through!) And there were so many clicks and pops on the line that I thought that the old step-by-step telephone switching equipment that was used back then by Bell Canada was going into meltdown! Even the pay phone itself started making clicking noises (and on one of those clicks, it collected my dime)!

I hung up and was going to try again, but couldn't even get a dial tone at that phone for another half minute or so. And CKLW sometimes ran these contests at least once an hour. I will just bet that the switch technicians at both Michigan Bell and Bell Canada must have heaved a collective sigh of relief whenever CKLW stopped running those contests. The photo shows the room where the contest calls (and "hitline" request calls) were answered.

Back to The Classic CKLW Page

  This site was last modified on Eastern Time.