From a printer’s devil to the local editor

Reflections of Ponoka - keeping an eye on local history

Among the favourite memories of my final years up at the Ponoka Comp included writing essays and getting my only ever ‘A’s in English 30 class, as well as being the roving sports reporter for the P.C.H.S. Quill and Shield and getting to ride to all the road games with the cheer squad. When I left school in 1960, I had a real yearning to get into the newspaper business, and thanks to Ernie Jamison and Ken McLean, I became a staff member of the Ponoka Herald.

I will never forget that very kind and friendly staff, who also included Audrey McLean, Gordon Galbraith, Sid Jones, Griff Jones, Ray Cook, Bill Lorimer, Jack Kelly and others who would come on board over the years. They were so patient to put up with my bad jokes and constant nattering about all sorts of subjects, but as the new ‘printer’s devil’ I got an exciting opportunity to learn every facet of the business, as well as being constantly covered in ink. My day-to-day jobs included working in the back shop among the printing machines, getting to run the huge, old newspaper press and folder, assisting the rambunctious paper boys and girls, sorting and inserting papers, helping the front office, delivering completed print jobs, heating up and pouring the hot lead in the metal pot, shovelling snow, drinking lots of coffee and on and on.

It wasn’t long before my dream of being a ‘cub reporter’ started to come true, as veteran photographer Sid Jones taught me how to use the big black flash camera where you had to slide the plates in and out, and never to forget to focus before you push the plunger. With the very wise and cigar smoking editor Jack Kelly giving out the daily assignments, I got to go out and cover many events in and around the community, as well as getting advice on how to write good editorials, and to not be to ‘long winded’ with my stories. When our first compugraphic machine came into the office a few years later, I got to set lots of copy and then print it all off in long white strips that were used to make up the plates that had replaced the heavy lead pages.

During my adventures as the Ponoka Herald ‘cub reporter’, I got to cover all sorts of games and generations of local sports teams and individuals, rubbed shoulders with Stampede queens and rodeo stars, as well as meeting so many amazing celebrities and real characters. It was a real treat and honour to attend banquets/pie socials/ BBQs/pancake breakfasts and special events where both the food and the company was great, and then later got involved in covering local politics and writing editorials, while always being reminded by my old teachers that my spelling was still terrible. After a very enjoyable 10-year stint with the Town of Ponoka Recreation Department, I returned to the Ponoka Herald, which had been purchased by the Adviser Publications of Red Deer. After working in the editorial department and print sales for several years, I was given the exciting opportunity of becoming the editor, which I loved and served until 1995 and really enjoyed working with such great staff members as Lannie Swark, Chrystal Webster, Donna Steffler, Patty Davidson, Judy Dick, Joanne Bootsman, Gord Avison, Shannon Bowles, Frank Ryan, Karen Robinson and many others. In 1995, I started a new career as a staff member of the Ponoka Rising Sun Club House, but always stayed in touch with the crew at the Ponoka Herald office, which closed forever in the late 1990s after faithfully serving as popular community weekly newspaper for close to a century.

After retiring in 2003, I was asked to join the editorial department of the Ponoka News, which had been the always friendly opposition of the Ponoka Herald for many years. Due to a later staff change at the News, I once again got to serve at the editor’s desk for a few years, after which my wife and I moved to Red Deer. Since that time, over the last ten plus years, yours truly has been most grateful to the great staff of the Ponoka News for encouraging and allowing me to continue to write the Hammer’s Column as well as the Reflections and Remember When features each and every week. Sincere thanks also to the congenial staff of the Fort Ostell Museum and to so many other fine folks from in and around our community who have so kindly provided me with the great historical information, story ideas, photos and inspiration to allow me to keep my favourite hobby and ‘keyboard rush’ going for over 50 amazing years, and counting.