In the June 30,1956 issue of the Courier Newspaper, telephone numbers in the ads had two digits and the new Eaton’s catalogue order office had just opened for business. At Brady’s in Grand Centre, large tubes of toothpaste cost 29 cents, Campbell’s Tomato soup was two for 27 cents and Gold Seal canned Tuna would set you back 38 cents. The Roundel Hotel on the shores of beautiful Cold Lake featured 45 modern rooms each with hot and cold running water. Pavement was something every PMQ housewife dreamed of.
Fast forward 65 years, the world is a very different place. The Courier News is a fully digital online newspaper, with the staff putting the paper together by internet and email.
The 1956 Editor of the The Courier claims the paper started in 1954 as a four-page mimeographed newsletter. Officially The Courier opened its doors in October of 1955. The paper shut down sometime in 1958/1959 but was reopened in 1967 as a Centennial project. In the early days, 1950s and 60s, some of the content was a tad inappropriate by today’s standards. I’m not sure how they got away with it but that was a different time. In July of 1968, The Courier began laying out their own issues. Previously, content had been sent to a printer in St. Paul to be designed and printed. In August 1975, a Compugraphic typesetter was purchased making The Courier the go to place for designing creative publications with several choices of fonts. In January 1992, The Courier became a weekly publication and after 24 years of producing the Courier with a staff of volunteers, paid staff began doing the job.
By 2002, when I joined the Courier team first as the reporter, later as the editor, the paper was still being physically laid out. Ads, articles, photographs, everything was produced on computers, printed, cut and pasted onto layout sheets all before Friday at 6:00 pm, in time to get the layouts on the Greyhound bus to the printer. I do recall some down to the wire Fridays and even more frantic drives to the bus station.
I have had the pleasure of browsing through a large number of Courier issues. I always enjoy reading some of the fascinating stories and learning about events found in the pages. There is a 1954 story about Major Dan Cooper, a comic book hero drawn by Albert Weinberg. Major Cooper is a member of 441 Sqn; some cartoons even show him wearing a checker scarf. The Air Force museum has a copy of the book. Or the New Year’s Eve when it was so warm the Courier front page had a picture of people wearing bathing suits and fishing. I had a chuckle when I read the article printed in January 1992 about a raise in Family Allowance amounts, the rise in rates meant families would receive between $27.60 and $50.10 depending on the children’s ages. Or the story from March 1992 about a military member who saved the life of a two-week old baby after it stopped breathing. The member was a neighbour of the baby’s family and used her first aid training and instructions from a dispatcher on the phone to save the child and in June 1996, a story was printed about Maple Flag participants from Germany volunteering their weekend to join in the search for a downed bush pilot.
My own career with The Courier is full of hilarious moments like Black Tuesday, the day we bundled stacks of newsprint for the entire morning resulting in our hands being as black as the ink on the paper and teaching the new staff to speak in acronyms. Their blank stares at staff meetings was priceless, acronyms are a language all their own. Later, I provided all new staff with a list of acronyms currently being used, it made things easier.
My greatest pleasure was the Office Decorating Challenge, the time, effort and creativity each section put into the challenge made the event a great success and something a lot of people looked forward to every year. The staff created their own version of being a little bit cheeky by publishing the judges’ preferences in Christmas baking treats. Some even had skits, some hilarious and others so realistic it gives you chills. My favourite would have to be a WTIS display of a soldier deployed to a combat situation during Christmas; I still get goosebumps.
The greatest experiences of my career was covering several Ex Maple Flags. Spending media day on the runway during launches, rain or shine, meeting and interviewing military personnel from all over the world and flying a mission in a refueling tanker for a refueling mission. Plus, I have had the thrilling experience of doing a helicopter river run (doors off) over Beaver River, loved it. And who can forget 2007, when Jetstream came to town, one of the first shows in reality TV. I followed the crews around like a puppy dog, it wasn’t my finest moment.
Cold Lake has had its fair share of notable visitors. Canadian astronaut Chris Hatfield visited twice in March 1996 and again in January 2006. Some say it’s not true but I have documented proof that The Queen Mother stopped by for a quick visit. Bad weather in Edmonton prevented the Queen Mother’s aircraft from landing so the crew divert to CFB Cold Lake to wait for the weather to clear. She stayed for two hours and was entertained at the Officers’ Mess by the Base Commander and his wife. Rick Hansen visited in March 1987. I have met and interviewed several famous people. Comedian Ron James, The Trailer Park Boys, Tom Chochran, but my favourite has to be Mike Holmes in 2008. He was just as nice and just as large in person as he is on TV. I got a hug.
Today, The Courier News morphs into another better version of itself. The Courier News will be your up-to-date, as the news happens source for information. There will be no more weekly news edition to wait for. Also, the staff will be launching the Courier News Facebook and Instagram page in the next couple of weeks. The Courier News will also be launching a weekly newsletter that people can subscribe to free of charge.
Corporate Services Manager, Janae Wandler, confirmed, “We can now be current and on top of local and national news as it happens! I’m excited! While it is sad to say goodbye to a classic form of delivering news as a newspaper, we are also ready to evolve and be able to stay relevant for the future.”