Social Notes and Love for Community Newspapers —Linda Knight Seccaspina
Yesterday I was looking for information in newspaper archives about a local cave I will be writing about, and ended up reading years of local social columns. Who knew that after decades some of the old Eastern Townships social columns would be posted for the world to see.
They were all from small local newspapers: The Sherbrooke Daily Record, “The News and Eastern Townships Advocate ” and the “Granby Leader Mail”. These social notes found their way into all the newspapers on small bits of paper – typed or handwritten, and at times with very odd spelling.
Here are some I found about my family:
“Mr. and Mrs. Arthr Knight with their little girls, Linda and Robin spent a week’s holiday in Montreal.”
Actually, it was just another week in 1961 for my mother to see the specialist, Dr. Gingras at the Darlington Rehabilitation Centre in Montreal. My father decided to bring us along to give her something to smile about. She played the piano one day in the common room and I danced around to the “Waltz of the Flowers”. Several Thalidomide afflicted kids came in to enjoy the music and my bad dancing.
One tried to dance with me, gracefully waving her hands that were somewhere near her armpits. I stopped in shock, and my mother glared at me. I took off my black Mary Jane shoes and gave them to the girl as I knew she had admired them. She was my hero, and so were all the other afflicted kids in the Darlington Rehabilitation Centre. That was the day I learned to respect everyone no matter what — as we are all the same.
“The Brownies closed their season of 1959 with a Doll Exhibition at the Parish of Nelsonville Church Hall.”
The paper said that Judy Clough and Linda Lee Pratt won out of the 30 entries. My beautiful Miss Revlon doll did not even place. Seems the second judge ratted to the others that my mother had sewn the doll dress. I never forgot that lesson. Don’t lie about doing things you never did.
“Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Knight held a party last Saturday night at their lovely home on Albert Street in Cowansville.”
What they did not read is that Linda Knight, their daughter, could not sleep. She joined the party and sat in a circle of adults as they played a sort of musical chairs with a huge bag of women’s underwear. When the music stopped, the one holding the bag had to put on whatever they picked out. Did I mention they were blindfolded?
What was that all about?
There was also no mention of the woman that had way too much to drink and had sat on the open window sill. Somehow she fell out of the window into the bushes below with a paper plate of pineapple squares in her hand.
After all these years I have learned never to divulge a name and am eternally grateful I have never fallen out of a window while eating squares.
“Mr. and Mrs. Murray Wallet and their children Sheila and Gary spent a week at their summer cottage in Iron Hill.”
I used to love going to my best friend’s cottage. It stood in all its glory partially hidden by lilac trees. There isn’t a week that does not go by that I don’t think of it.
There are nothing but wonderful memories of walking along the stream that came down from the mountain top. We also used to make evening gloves on our arms with the mud from the hole in the earth that was called their swimming pool.
We toasted marshmallows and hot dogs in a bonfire, while the fireflies buzzed around us. To get water we had to shake the hose that ran up the hill to the underground water source. We were always unsure if a bear was going to pop out. The best of it all was sitting inside sipping cocoa, and laughing at stories while the rain pounded down on the tin roof.
No amount of descriptive words in any newspaper could do it justice.
To this day I still remember and will never forget. Some memories are meant to never be forgotten.
Professor Beth Garfrerick from the University of Alabama wrote a thesis on how social information was distributed through the ages. I read a lot of small town newspapers from the past on a daily basis to try and get bits of information to piece community history together. Contrary to what some believe, it takes hours, and sometimes days, to get something interesting enough to entice readers.
A lot of my historical information comes from what Ms. Garfrerick calls “Ploggers”. Those were the local “newspaper print loggers” who played an important role in recording births, deaths and everyday happenings. If these were not online I could not write these community stories. But, I was pleased as punch that Professor Beth Garfrerick quoted me on page 12 of her thesis:
Canadian blogger Linda Seccaspina believes that small-town newspapers continue to publish the news that most residents of those communities want to read. She wrote, “Who does not want to know who got arrested at the local watering-hole or whose lawn-ornaments are missing that week? Even though large newspapers are losing money, the local weekly small-town newspapers still manage to survive. Why? Because the local population depends on their weekly words and supports them.”
This year my New Year greetings include the support for the Sherbrooke Record. It’s an honour to write for the same newspaper my family read when I was a child. One of the biggest differences between larger newspapers and community journalism is that the staff have to face its audience every single day. Feedback is immediate. A community without a small newspaper is nothing more than a local media desert, and sadly there isn’t one that isn’t struggling economically.
So, in this coming year of 2023, buy a subscription to your community newspaper where you live. Like the Sherbrooke Record I write for– place an advertisement, tell a business you read about them in your community newspaper. Engage with your newspaper and tell the politicians that our local press is a priority. There is no substitute for a local newspaper that has been doing its job for all the Eastern Townships population for generations and generations. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Happy New Year and see you in 2023. Can’t wait!
There is no substitute for a local newspaper that has been doing its job for all the Eastern Townships population for generations and generations. PLEASE support them.
The History of the Sherbrooke Daily Record– click
The Sherbrooke Record
6 MallorySherbrooke, QuebecJ1M 2E2
Record archives pulled from the flood
Let’s face it, most everyone went to High School and somehow it doesn’t matter what you did and where you were, everyone pretty well has similar memories. Thoughts about growing up, music, the clothes, and your fellow classmates in the 50’s to the late 60’s are not just for class reunions. There isn’t a day that does not go by that I don’t have flashbacks like in the film Peggy Sue Got Married.
This book would not have been written had it not been for the former students of Heroes Memorial and Massey Vanier in Cowansville, Quebec, Canada joining together on Facebook to create these memories. It was nothing but joy for me to compile these bits of conversation and add some of my own stories to do some good for the school.
Proceeds from this book will go to either a breakfast or anti-bullying program at Heroes Memorial and this book is dedicated to every single one of you that lived in my era, because you know what? We rocked!