Dave Allen, longstanding sales representative with Canoe FM, has decided to retire from his role. /Photo by Jerelyn Craden

Canoe FM’s Dave Allen moves on

By Jerelyn Craden

You may recognize Dave Allen’s dulcet tones on local radio commercials.

Or, enjoy the Canoe FM pen he gave you. Or his award-winning beer chili recipe that he tucked inside your hand. Some say Allen is the voice of Haliburton County. He certainly is Canoe FM’s goodwill ambassador, driving around all these years in his Canoe FM mobile, building career-long relationships with local business owners, and helping new businesses get off the ground. He’s a guy who makes it look easy, while behind the scenes, has worked 24/7 to help build the station from a start-up dream to its present-day status as award-winning and financially stable. Now that he’s moving on, Allen shares memories as both the “advertising guy” and beyond-the-call volunteer.

Jim Frost, past president of the Haliburton & District Lions Club and major community volunteer had this to say: “Dave has been a godsend to Canoe FM, the way he works and deals with people. He does such a great job getting advertisers. In my work with the Lions Club, dealing with events like the Santa Claus Parade and the BIA, I meet a lot of people and they all talk very highly of Dave. Canoe has been lucky to have him.” 

Frost also spoke of Allen’s volunteerism. “It was excellent when Dave entered the parade on behalf of Canoe driving his van with a canoe on top and Gerald McKnight riding shotgun.” He added, “Any meeting I’ve been to where there’s been an auditor or an accountant talking about Canoe’s books, they have all said what terrific financial condition Canoe is in. They have to realize they’re in that position, so much because of what Dave has done.”

Born in Montreal, Allen moved to Toronto in 1971 and spent the next 30 years in the hospitality industry. “My dad and I used to go hunting and fishing every year in the Laurentians, and when I first experienced the Haliburton Highlands in the 80s, it was like coming home.”

In 2002, the Highlands became Allen’s home. “One day, I’m knee deep in a trench installing a heat line when I get a call from Don Cameron, co-founder of Canoe FM. He asks if I’m still interested in the sales position that I had applied for months earlier. I race over there, walk into the station caked in mud, and see astonishment written all over the faces of Don and his two co-founders, Dave Sovereign and Jack Hewitt. After sharing my previous sales background in the hospitality industry, they say to me, ‘If you have any other clothes, you’re hired!’”

Allen shows me a photo of Jack Lowe. “In the early days, Jack was our extraordinary volunteer engineer and was instrumental in getting the station used broadcasting equipment so we could get on the air. He had this fear about running into a bear, so I often had to escort him to the tower in Eagle Lake when there was a technical problem. And Don Cameron would tag me to go to the tower with him when there was dead air, once at four in the morning. We did what we had to do, like tending to a baby. The station was our baby.”

Always looking for ways to better promote the station, Allen thought how great it would be for its phone number to be the same as its on-air call numbers: 100.9. “So, I dialed, 705-457-1009 and a fellow answered and said we could have the number for 109 cases of beer. Fortunately, I persisted and not long afterwards discovered that the line had been disconnected which we immediately obtained.”

When Canoe started a popular segment called Pet Detective that reunited owners with their lost pets, Allen had three cocker spaniels of his own who would run off on a regular basis. He said, “Long time on-air host, Paul Cameron, remarked on one of his Sunday afternoon shows, after I called asking listeners to keep an eye out for my dogs: ‘Dave, why don’t you just record this message so we can play it every weekend?’”

Ten volunteer presidents and revolving boards later, Allen feels especially grateful to stalwart Canoe volunteer, Mike Jaycock. “With a radio and advertising background, Mike helped me in many respects, particularly with writing great scripts which enabled me to spend more time on sales.”

One of Allen’s favourite volunteer activities was to help set up Jaycock’s version of Garrison Keillor’s, “A Prairie Home Companion” – “The Highlands Radio Almanac” featuring local musical talent and personalities, broadcast from all four corners of the county, which put Canoe FM on the map in the summer of 2007. 

Whatever is on Allen’s horizon, it is with utmost certainty that his shoes at Canoe FM will be very hard to fill. Terry Gregorini, owner of Canadian Tire in Minden, will attest to that: “I’ve been involved with local advertising for nearly twenty years and by far, Dave Allen has been the best and most consistent provider of such services which led to (C.T.) being a major sponsor for Canoe FM’s annual radiothon fundraiser for the past several years.”