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!