by Joan Champ
Definition of “passage”: A way of exit or entrance, a road or path by which something passes; the action or process of passing from one place, condition, or stage to another; or, a brief portion of a written work that is relevant to a point under discussion.
Well, it hasn’t been very long, not even a full year, but it is time for me to make my exit. This will be my final PAssages column for the Prince Albert Daily Herald.
When my husband Gordon Brewerton and I moved to North Battleford in December, I thought I could continue to write this column for Thursday’s paper. Distance – even though not that far – has proved to be too much of a challenge for me, however. I miss my regular access to the back issues of the Herald, and I just don’t get to the Bill Smiley Archives, housed at Museum, as much as I would like to. Because PAssages is a history column, not an opinion piece, I need to research my stories – something that can’t always been done online.
It has been very fulfilling for me to share stories of Prince Albert’s past as reported in the pages of the Herald. I especially enjoyed writing about things that I remember from my girlhood years spent here in the city – playgrounds, snake dances, the Lion’s Band, short skirts for girls and long hair for boys – all things that brought back great memories. Being an old-fashioned historian, however, I like to know what the facts are before writing. That requires research.
Since I started writing this column back in June, I have learned a lot about Prince Albert’s history. Some stories just popped out of the back issues of the Herald – like the one about RCMP buffalo coats being made in Prince Albert (September 7), or the stories about northerners John Albrecht and Nan Dorland (September 28, January 18), two interesting people that I hope to learn more about – I see more writing in my future!
I enjoyed connecting the story of Northern Wood Preservers with the larger story of rural electrification in Saskatchewan (October 5) – something I knew a fair bit about from my days as a researcher at the Western Development Museum. I had planned to write about other Prince Albert businesses, including Burns Meat Packing Plant and Sick’s Bohemian Brewery, but further research was required.
Stories about Prince Albert people just fascinate me. For example, I loved learning more about Johnny Bower, one of the greatest goalies in hockey history. The life and career of world champion blind golfer, Phil Lederhouse, is absolutely remarkable. There are so many other PA people I would have loved to write about, but again I needed to do more research.
Thank you to the Donna Pfeil and Peter Lozinski at the Prince Albert Daily Herald for giving me this opportunity to write a weekly history column. I especially appreciated the opportunity to go through old copies of the Herald in the building’s upstairs “morgue.” Thanks also for regularly allowing me to exceed 700 words, the traditional length of a newspaper column. I did my best to edit my columns down, but I didn’t always succeed!
Thank you to the wonderful folks at the Prince Albert Historical Society – Michelle Taylor, and volunteers Jamie Benson and Ken Guedo – for opening the archives to me in my quest for information and photographs. I am pleased to know that the old issues of the Herald have been moved from the newspaper’s morgue and are now being looked after by the Bill Smiley Archives. With over 12,000 photographs, 300,000 negatives, and 12,000 documents, this archival collection is an incredible resource for the people of Prince Albert and area.
To those of you who regularly read my PAssages column, and enjoyed it, thank you. To those who read it and disagreed with some of my writing, thank you for your thoughtful civility. I love researching and I love writing. Even though I’m not particularly good at it, I hope to take another crack at writing, perhaps in the form of a blog, before too long.
Finally, thank you to my family. My husband Gordon is the reason I started writing this column in the first place. He encouraged and supported me every step of the way, and I am so grateful. My mother, Mary Perkins, was probably my most loyal reader. She read everything I wrote and phoned me right away with her supportive feedback. Thanks Mom!