I’m almost at the Tagish Bridge when 106.7 CFET kicks in and the truck is flooded with Estonian pop music. I’m on my way to interview the fellow that makes this happen.
I spent some time growing up in Tagish, and it’s there that “Radio Rob” Hopkins continues to be a close neighbour to my family and a friend to me. He is also the person responsible for the first commercial FM radio station in the Yukon.
It’s been going strong since Labour Day, 1997.
But it all started back in 1992, when Rob needed to send a fax to Thailand. He had to drive all the way into Whitehorse just to send said fax to a fax machine on the other side of the world that may not even have been turned on — and therefore would not receive it. Not one to be held down by earthly limitations, Rob started TagishTel — linking Tagish to Whitehorse with mountain top repeaters — that same year. Finally, he could send faxes from home.
I remember the summer that Rob put a 70-foot communication tower up in his yard, which he found in the dump.
Rob first came to the Yukon as a professional hobo/scavenger/ train hopper; he came north to poach a ride on the White Pass & Yukon Route. The day he arrived was the day that the White Pass shut down.
One of my favourite things in Tagish was Rob’s “cabinet of curiosities”. It was a vintage glass and stainless steel sterilized surgical instrument case from the old Whitehorse Hospital. It’s contents fed my imagination like nothing has since. A few of the objects I can remember offhand were a shrunken head, Burmese leaf money, a Nepalese skull cap, a wooden chain, trade beads, and petrified dinosaur poop — a personal fave of mine, obviously.
While Rob and I talk about all these awesome things he tells me that once he visited Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum in Niagra Falls, Ontario and saw all of these rare items on its shelves. Super cool.
I asked him where his full-sized mammoth ivory tusk is now; he tells me that it’s in storage with his collection of old Yukon restaurant menus.
Before Rob got into the world of communications, he had an import-export business and spent six months of every year overseas in Thailand, China, and the Philippines scoping out silk scarves and such to sell at the store he had in the old No Pop Shoppe (Antoinette’s current location).
He exported such delicacies as maple syrup and smoked salmon back to Asia. This subsidized his travel adventures and bike trips from 1989 to 1993.
Since then, Rob has done communications for PolarCom, set up cellular networks in the Yukon and the NWT for Ice Wireless, and has been broadcasting Rock 101 CFMI from Vancouver in Tagish for 12 hours a day.
The things that I’ve come to love in my adult life — burlesque, body art, doing what I want, and classic rock, to name a few, are direct influences of Tagish’s own “Radio Rob”.
Thank you, Robert.