Odd Thoughts: Opportunity parlayed into 38 years

How do you sum up 38 years as a reporter and editor at the Langley Advance in the few lines offered by this meagre space?

The simple answer is, of course, you don’t.

I came to Langley after a few years of studying agricultural science at UBC, where I had first enrolled with an eye to becoming a teacher.

I grew up on Vancouver Island in the Alberni Valley, at that time a thriving, progressive fishing and logging community dominated by sawmills and a world-class pulp mill.

My dad and all my oldest brothers worked in that pulp mill, and they have all done well with their lives.

Nevertheless, it was not a future I envisioned for myself. 

I discovered in my first year at school that I had a natural bent for the written word. I enjoyed learning each letter, and I loved the way they came together to form words and captured thoughts. 

My handwriting was abysmal. It was the basis for many, many nasty notes penned on report cards that were otherwise dominated by glowing reviews of my fervour for reading. 

But the reading was for me, none the less, all about writing. By the time I got through Fun With Dick and Jane, I was thinking mostly about the people who wrote that stuff.

I wanted to be one of those people.

But the world I was in then was far different from the one we’re in now. In those days, as you got into high school, your career options grew progressively narrower.

And the only serious career options I had been exposed to by the time I got to Grade 12 were working in the mill, like my dad and brothers, or going into education and emulating some of my favourite teachers.

It’s funny. My mother was always proud of the marks I brought home, and she bragged that I was on the university track at school.

But forever after I announced that I was not going to work in the pulp mill, but would go to university to become a teacher, her favourite derogation for me when I got her angry (I was a teenager) was a derisively intoned, “Student!” 

I did work in the mill. I worked there for a year – and ensuing summers – to make money to go to university.

And after I was done with UBC (or more accurately, after UBC was done with me) I worked as a construction labourer before stumbling into a job as a reporter at the Advance.

Jim Schatz, then editor, publisher, and owner of the Advance, cautioned me at the outset of my job interview, “You’d better love this work, and you’d better love to write, because it’s not about the money… you’re not going to get rich in this business, but if you’re unlucky enough that the printer’s ink gets into your blood, you can’t find a better way to make a living.”

Within a week, my blood was saturated with that dastardly ink.

I had found my niche – purely by accident, only because Jim was the father of a friend I had made in 4-H.

Not only was I blessed with the opportunity to write for a living, but better still, it was exactly the writing that I realized I had always wanted to do.

I got to meet and talk with and write about people I would not otherwise have met – people like Art Brooks and Bill Blair and Arthur Easthope (whom I interviewed twice on his 100th birthday four years apart… a whole other story) and Jock Lindsay and Muriel Arnason and Reg Easingwood and Iris Mooney and Bill Poppy and Alex Hope and… gosh!… literally hundreds of others!

Holy cow, it’s been a heck of a write!

Thank you, Langley! See you around.

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