How the news gets around

Simple and effective: a sign at the centre of town gets the word out that volunteers are needed for a bee cleaning out brush by the river, to make way for a new park.

As I was reading in the shade on the Manse lawn around lunchtime the other day, my old friend and neighbour Graham Gough wheeled in to say hello. We had a good old chinwag about area schools (Graham is a teacher), how his mum and dad are doing, and of course the local news. Which included the fact that Graham’s next-door neighbour had been taken away by ambulance the previous evening; Graham had not yet heard what the upshot was, but of course was worried.

And that’s how news gets around in a tiny place: person to person.

That evening as Raymond and I were heading out of town, we stopped by the home of John and Anne Barry because I had some lawn-mowing business to discuss with John. Anne was out front chatting with another Queensborough resident who had stopped by on her way back into town after being away for the day. It turned out the visitor was the sister-in-law of the man who’d been taken to hospital, so I of course asked if either of them knew how he was doing. I learned that he had suffered a fall, but it didn’t sound like things were at all dire, so that was good. But I found it interesting that neither of the women even questioned how I would have acquired this very recent information. It seems like it’s just taken for granted that people will know and take an interest in what’s happening in town, and care about the well-being of their neighbours.

Graham’s visit with the news about a neighbour’s health situation made me think of the old days when my father was the minister and our family lived in the Manse. You never knew who might come and knock on the door with news. And all kinds of news came in that door, believe me: sometimes happy news, but more often it was an unfortunate – or even tragic – situation where the minister’s help was needed. Someone had had a heart attack; someone had died; someone had committed suicide. (Pretty much the worst.) A hunter had not returned from the bush, and his wife was sick with worry. (Dad went out to help with the search, and the man was eventually found safe and sound.)

The news in Queensborough pretty much has to travel by word of mouth. Obviously there is no newspaper dedicated to such a tiny community (and if there were, it would probably be a monthly at best). Elaine Kapusta, with a little bit of help from me, is working at getting a Queensborough website up and running, but that will take some time and I don’t know if it will necessarily be a conduit for news – though certainly we would want to post upcoming community events there.

So the word gets out via face-to-face conversations and phone calls, and the occasional sign posted around town. Like the “No Burning” (because of the extreme dry weather) sign that’s currently posted just west of town. It’s old-fashioned, but it gets the message across. Or quite often there will be a hand-lettered sign outside the Community Centre announcing yoga sessions, or a kids’ day camp. And then there’s the sign in the centre of town informing folks about (and inviting them to) a brush cleanup bee for the new riverside park. People might have chosen not to come and take part, but no one could say they didn’t know about it!

2 thoughts on “How the news gets around

  1. I am recalling another way….the party line! (which used to have a wholly different meaning). Did you have shared phone lines in Q’boro? I remember high school phone chats made even more awkward by the quiet breathing of ancient neighbours with little else to do but listen in to 31OW12 Picton exchange – one long, two short rings. (alarming how many people under 50 will have no idea what I’m talking about).

    • Oh my goodness, Lindi, yes: the party line! How could I have forgotten that? You have totally given me an idea for a future post. At 3-2110 (the Manse’s number) it was one long ring. But of course we heard our neighbours’ rings (and, occasionally, however inadvertently, their conversations) too. Isn’t it amazing how the phone number of our childhood home is indelibly imprinted on our memory and we can instantly come up with it? And meanwhile, if you were to ask me my cell (or home, or office) number today, I’d probably have to think a bit and would almost certainly stumble over it.The old memories really stick a lot harder.

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