The Daily Colonist

Off-hours fun: cruise ships, tennis, cricket

In the late 1960's and early 1970's, luxury cruise ships were not as numerous as they later became. So when some stopped at Victoria, it was big news. Many of the ships held lavish receptions when they arrived in port, and news people were invited to them to help publicize the cruises. There were not a lot of these parties, but they were one of things that made being a journalist in Victoria unique.

Cruise ship party Colonist tumbler

THE SPIRIT OF LONDON luxury cruise ship arrived in Victoria in the summer of 1973, and on June 11, held a gala press reception to which Colonist news people were among the invited guests. Around the table are, from the left, news editor Dave Brown; standing, Jim Ryan, photographer; assistant city editor Ted Burgoyne; Island editor John Hogbin; legislative reporter Ian Street; the back of the head of deskman and financial editor, George Gibson. Right, I quaff from a tumbler specially issued for the occasion. It had the Colonist masthead imprinted on it.

Plenty of time for outdoor activity in a winter-less city

In a part of the country where there is no real winter, many Victorians, including Colonist staff members played golf year-round. The newspaper sponsored an annual Christmas Day golf tournament, which was almost never snowed on.

Tennis was another year-round recreation. A bunch of us from the Colonist newsroom played regularly on courts in a downtown park. Because the Colonist was a morning newspaper, most deskmen started their shifts at 4 p.m. or so, leaving early afternoons free for tennis matches.

Then there was the Great Cricket Tournament between the Colonist and the Times. It was held on August 19, 1973 at Windsor park. A few of the news people on each newspaper were from the U.K. and knew all about cricket. But most of us were more familiar with North American baseball. There was a quick rundown of cricket rules, and the matches started. I played wicket keeper for the Colonist side, and actually managed to score seven runs during my turn at bat.

Colonist batsmen

Meanwhile, back at the Colonist newsroom ................

The publisher of the Colonist at this time was Richard Bower. The managing editor was Fred Barnes, who had an office of his own and didn't normally work on the floor of the newsroom. But when his news editor was sick or on holidays, Fred would take over his duties on the main newsdesk.

The news editor was Dave Brown. His asssistant and copy taster was John Jones who had been city editor until I took over that job. Other deskmen included Ray Kerr, George Inglis, Erith Smith, George Gibson (who also became financial editor) and Art Westdorp. The assistant city editor was Ted Burgoyne. The editor of the Island section was John Hogbin, who also filled in at other news desk positions.

Brown was the undoubted leader on the news desk, but the "star" during the first couple of years I was at the paper was Bruce Lowther, who put on a nightly performance as the "slot man." Lowther He was the editor responsible for news material not destined for the front page, deciding on the placement and treatment of the stories, then distributing the material to the other editors on the "rim" for handling. That included headings, and Bruce delighted in catchy, offbeat ones. He often substituted his own headings for ones done for him by his deskmen (especially me), usually accompanied by loud laughter, wisecracks and derisive comments. Bruce was not very tall, had slicked-back black hair and wore light-rimmed glasses. His usual office attire included an open-necked, tieless shirt with the sleeves rolled up. He worked at a frenetic pace, one leg often tucked up under him on his chair. And as he worked, he kept up a rapid-fire stream of jokes, puns and trivia. On the side, he wrote a regular television column for the paper. I lived in nightly fear of Bruce when I first started at the Colonist as one of his copy editors, but later, as we got to know each other better, we became good friends. Bruce eventually gave up the "slot" and became the paper's police and court reporter.

Reporters at the time included: Don Gain, Saanich council; Hubert Beyer, Victoria council; Nancy Brown, Oak Bay council; Bill Stavdal, education; Ian Street, provincial legislature; John Matters, medical and science; Pat Murphy, general; Diane Janowski, environment; Bill Thomas, arts and entertainment; Bob Pethick, police; Don Collins, humour and general; Barbara McLintock, general; Jim Brahan, general; Desmond Bill, general; Bill Barringer, general; Jon Ferry, general; Bill Lever, general; Helen Morris, general; Claude Adams, general; Ray Dykes, legislature; Chris Bird, general; Brock Ketchum, general. The copy clerk was Graham Boardman, who also wrote movie reviews.

Dorothy Wrotnowski was the editor of the women's department, later re-christened the family department. When she retired, Leslie Drew took over, and later became city editor after I left the paper. Edward Ward-Harris wrote editorials and book reviews. Gorde Hunter was the current affairs columnist. Mike Hughes and Lon Wood were the Canadian Press staffers in the Colonist newsroom.

Smith Drew Street

Jones Burgoyne

The sports department was led by editor and columnist Jim Tang, assisted by Jim Reid. Other sportswriters included Alec Merriman (outdoors); King Lee and Stan Cooper.

King Lee Jim Tang Stan Cooper Jim Ryan

A group of extraordinarily-talented photographers worked for the Colonist at a time when all Victoria news photography was in black and white. Probably the most well-known was cigar-chomping "Big Jim" Ryan, a man of considerable girth and height who could move with surprising speed and delicacy to get a good picture. The other photographers were: Ian McKain, Bill John, and later, Alex Barta, who came from Czechoslovakia. The Ryan picture I remember most was a closeup of a water drop frozen among the petals of a blooming rose. It made the front page of the Colonist around Christmastime one year during a rare cold snap.

Gibson and me Art and me Don and me

AT WORK AND WINDING DOWN: On the left, me and financial editor George Gibson, about 1971-72, in the newsroom. In the centre, I relax after my shift with a tableful of draught beer at the Red Lion pub. That's deskman Art Westdorp hiding behind all the glasses. Right, I help reporter Don Collins make a pile of sandwiches for a picture to go with a humour column he was writing. About 1969-70.

MY TIME AT THE COLONIST was the last newspaper job I had after more than 20 years in daily print journalism. I left the Colonist in November, 1973 and switched to television news with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, starting in Toronto. I spent the next 23 years as a producer with the CBC in various parts of Canada, retiring to Nova Scotia in 1995.

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This page was started May 29, 2005. Last updated August. 24, 2009