A journey through the past (and present), thanks to the local newspapers

My pile of reading last weekend. It doesn't get much better than that.

My pile of reading last weekend. It doesn’t get much better than that.

I love local newspapers. For as long as I have been old enough to travel, I have made a point of buying the local newspaper wherever I may be; you learn so much about a place that way. I have pored over local newspapers in big cities like Paris and London and San Francisco and Edmonton and Vancouver and New Orleans and Boston; but far, far more interesting are the local newspapers in much smaller places, like Gallup, New Mexico, or Deer Isle or Kingfield or Kennebunk, Maine, or Stratford or Kitchener-Waterloo or Haliburton, Ont., or Sherbrooke or Quebec City or Stanstead, Que., or Burlington, Vermont, or Hudson, New Hampshire, or Galveston, Texas, or Nantes, France. When you read about the town-council meetings and the latest efforts to attract tourists and how the high-school basketball team is doing and what the big social events were in the past few days, you really get a sense of a place and its people and how things work there.

So you can imagine how much I love the local newspapers that get delivered to the Manse. There are two weeklies, both free (though I’d pay good money for them): the EMC and the Community Press. The former is independently owned, as far as I can make out (though I stand to be corrected on that), and the latter is part of the Quebecor empire. And I must also mention the Tweed News, which is a weekly that one has to pay for, but that is well worth it and that Raymond and I seek out every time we visit.

I’ve written before about how much I love arriving at the Manse and scooping up the papers from the mailbox and catching up on all the local news. But last weekend when Raymond and I were there for the first time in almost a month, it was a particularly rich haul. And here’s the thing when it comes to local news in Queensborough and environs: it’s not just an insight into the local area, but, for me, a journey though the past. (Phrase courtesy of a great Neil Young song.)

It’s because those little regional community papers cover the whole geographical span of a very large chunk of my life: central-south Hastings County (where I lived from age 4 to almost 15, at the Manse in Queensborough); eastern Northumberland County (where I lived from age 15 to when it was time to leave home for university and career, in Campbellford – they call it Trent Hills these days, but don’t let that fool you); and even western Northumberland County (where I lived, off and on, from age 21 to age 37, in Port Hope). You can just imagine how many names I recognize when I read those papers! People who were my teachers, my classmates, parishioners of my father’s churches, friends, colleagues… I am constantly reading sections out loud when people I know or remember are mentioned, and Raymond (who couldn’t possibly know or remember any of them, having met me after I’d left Ontario) is very patient at listening to my recollections of what this now-middle-aged person did when we were both in Grade 4, or what I thought about that highly successful small-town businessperson when we were both just gawky teenagers in high school.

The haul of news from last weekend’s visit was particularly rich. I learned about how the Municipality of Tweed is talking about bringing in clear garbage bags (so people can no longer hide the stuff that should be in the recycling) and how some people have “privacy concerns” about it (get over it, people); about how not everyone thinks the change in title of the head of the Tweed municipal council from the time-honoured “reeve” to the rather presumptuous (for a small municipality) “mayor” is a good idea (I am with you); about a thrilling Silver Stick Tournament victory by the Centre Hastings McConnell Funeral Home Peewee Grizzlies, after having had to win four games in overtime; about the death of one of the many kids in a big Irish-Catholic family whose various siblings attended school with my siblings and me, and also that of a stalwart and much-loved member of one of the congregations my dad once served; of plans to restore and turn to exciting new arts-oriented uses the historic Town Hall in Campbellford; of concerns by all the communities along the Trent-Severn Waterway about the federal government’s plan to increase the fees boaters must pay to use it, all the while cutting waterway staff; and on and on and on and on.

And of course I learned about the monthly crokinole parties for the Eldorado community, which I wrote about here.

It can be kind of overwhelming, all this “news from home,” so to speak. Especially when you see photos of people you remember as young and thin and beautiful 16-year-olds and they are (like yourself) middle-aged and pudgy and – well, changed. Older.

But speaking of old, and to end this on a happy note, I absolutely must share the very best thing that was in all the local newspapers I read last weekend. It was the story of the 99th-birthday celebration of twin brothers, the Hardys, in lovely little Warkworth. And the brothers’ names are: Ewart and Stewart. Really: how great is that? Happy birthday, Ewart and Stewart!

14 thoughts on “A journey through the past (and present), thanks to the local newspapers

  1. We share that in common. You always pick up on the pulse of the area. When I was travelling out west in the early 80’s in my VW Camper , “Gulliver Guinness”, I’d pop into the general store in each village and buy the local weekly and (hopefully) homecut doughnuts or raisin tarts and enjoy both the read and the munch when I camped for the night. At one particular stop I picked up the Rocky Mountain News at (drum roll) Rocky Mountain House and for reasons unknown was moved to open to page 2 right there in the store doorway. The headline was R M House is saddened at the death this week of long time resident Gordon Beck. True story. I kept the paper and was it co-incidence or as I oft times think , something beyond the pale.

    • Yes, I see EMCs all over rural Ontario, each zoned to that particular area. The one we get in Queensborough is for a region called “Northeast” and seems to be based in Stirling. The paper comes across as extremely local, but I should have known that, given how extensive the network is, EMC is owned by Torstar/Metroland. (Of course as far as I can see there is no mention of that anywhere in the paper. Interesting exercise in branding – or more specifically, not branding – by Torstar.)

      • The editorial office for the Northeastern edition [& maybe the Quinte edition?] is located in downtown Foxboro…just look for the building with a multitude of vehicles spilling out onto the street during business hours. The editor, Terry Bush, has a dwelling [cottage?] in Cooper.

  2. Welcome back to our reality. I too love” local rags.” An interesting point about clear garbage bags. Centre hastings/Madoc Twp. adopted a clear bag policy some few years ago. Everyone whined, especially since clear bags were hard to find in stores (no long range planning there) but in the year after the adoption of the policy, household garbage volume dropped something like 40%! Do you suppose things were being hidden in those black bags? Surely not.

    • Surely not! I would be shocked – shocked! – to think that. I think our area has a way to go when it comes to recycling. (And it’s not the just current controversy in Madoc Village, which I also read about in the local papers, that’s making me say that.) Maybe it’s having lived in the city for a long time that’s done this too me, but I was kind of shocked the first time we visited to Tweed dump (in Stoco) and saw how vast (and stinky) it was. It really makes you think about how wasteful we are as a society. As far as I’m concerned, any measure that will get people to recycle more (or even better, buy and consume less) is a good thing.

  3. I didn’t know that you had spent some time in Campbellford! That is where my husband landed in 1982 – his mother is from the town, and his father, Tom Shanks, had been a banker and later had a tax accounting service there. He just retired and he and Judy still live there. It is neat to read about many of the places that he and his family discuss.

    • Hi, Nicole! That’s right, I remember now your husband’s Campbellford connection. My family moved there in 1975, when my father took up duties as the minister of the United Church’s Seymour Pastoral Charge, four churches in rural Seymour Township, which is the area around the town of Campbellford. (I don’t know if you go back to visit there, but if you do you might know about Church Key Brewing, located in what was one of those churches, at Petherick’s Corners. It seems odd to think of beer being brewed where my teetotaller dad once preached and I sang in the choir!) My parents lived in Campbellford (the Manse was on Doxsee Street North) until 1986, but by the late 1970s I was off at university and, later, working in Port Hope at the western end of Northumberland County. Perhaps we can meet there sometime if you do come to visit – Campbellford is a very nice little town, and holds a lot of good memories for me.

  4. If you subscribe to the Tweed News, it will be delivered by mail and you won’t miss any issues. We find it most informative, and a truly independent, local business.

    • The Tweed News really is a great little newspaper. We especially enjoy Evan Morton’s columns about the history of the area, and The Rev. Bill Perry’s thought-provoking writing. And of course the latest updates (which seem to appear almost every week) on the Tweed Elvis Festival! Thank you for this comment, by the way; it’s given me an idea for my next blog post!

  5. As of the March 7, 2013 edition, the local Northeast edition of the EMC has been re-named “Central Hastings News”. They even have a self-report article about it on page 3.

    • Yes, I saw that! I’d cleaned out the mailbox when we got in late last night, and was surprised and disappointed when there was only one EMC. But this morning the flag on the mailbox was up and there was the new and improved Central Hastings News. A big improvement, in my view – you know immediately what region they are covering. EMC was kind of a stupid name, if you ask me. Now I just have to find some time to read it!

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