I’ve Loved Newspapers Since I Was a Boy

151

The small Northern community where I live had limited access to the Internet — basically limited to those who can afford it. Prior to last fall, I had to borrow the service to do my writing. Sometimes I would go to the nearest town and use the library’s computers. 

I inherited some money last summer which allowed me to purchase a computer, Internet service and the whole shebang. 

When I borrowed a computer, it was basically do my writing projects and that was it. I never accessed social media. I had forgotten all the incredible things a computer with the Internet can do.

My passions have always been writing and reading. I grew up with newspapers, from being a newspaper carrier to getting involved with our high school newsletter. 

My best friend’s father worked as an editor and illustrator for the town’s weekly newspaper. After school, my buddy and I would go and hang out with his dad and watch them put the paper together. It was cool to see people we knew getting their photographs or stories into the paper. 

This was when newspapers still printed local stories and featured local people. It was pretty much the same as what the Saskatoon Express is doing today, except back then coloured ink was expensive, so everything was black and white.

I would love to have seen some of those stories and photographs in this paper because they would be in full colour and, in essence, given a new life.

When other kids my age were reading comic books, I was reading newspapers. I would go to our local library and read the newspapers and news magazines. My favourite times were when Macleans, Time or Life magazines came out.

The news is a never-ending story. At times I could feel the anger, pain or whatever the story was trying to convey, but also the excitement of finding out what happened. 

I was about 12 when I found this old abandoned house by a river. It had to been one of the first houses built in the area because it was originally a log house. 

At some point someone drywalled the inside. I could tell it was used as a party house because there was graffiti all over the walls. There were no windows in the old house. 

I noticed someone tried to put their fist into the wall. I took a closer look and thought the guy must have broken a knuckle or two when he hit the logs. Then I noticed a newspaper wedged between the logs and the drywall. I started to rip the drywall off, which was so old it basically peeled off.

Whoever had drywalled the interior had used newspapers for insulation. I ripped down a good portion of one wall and laid out all the newspapers. Most of the stories were about what was going on in the late 1930s to the Second World War. 

It set off my wild and young imagination like never before. It was like going back in time. I could picture myself in a dog fight with the enemy in my fighter plane. Or I would be part of a brotherhood of Canadian soldiers fighting off the enemy.

This old log house was a treasure trove. It was one of those if-these-walls-could talk moments, because that was exactly what the exposed logs were doing to me.

One other thing I noticed about the old newspapers was the featured stories about local people. It was the most horrifying time in our country’s history, but the paper showed life was still going on and people were still sending their children to school. 

There had to be a sense of normalcy in a world gone mad. I remember reading a story about a tape that was water resistant and held ammunition in a straight line for quick use. The tape turned out to be what we know today as duct tape. 

My friend and I spent almost the entire summer taking down the drywall and reading the newspapers. We didn’t destroy the place. 

We piled all the old drywall outside and exposed the logs. We would read the stories and talk about them. It wasn’t only the stories, but the storytellers that caught our attention. 

We started to notice our favourite writers — not keyboard warriors, but people serving with our military or struggling to keep a farm alive in dust-filled fields.

The first thing I did when I finally had my computer and Internet hooked up was watch the news from all over the world. 

One thing I noticed is today, it’s the people who control the news. The people now have the power in the palm of their hands.

It is now up to the people to decide what to do with this power. Will they use the written word for the better or make a frivolous attempt to misinform those who grew up with newspapers?

I believe in the goodness of people. Their desire to see a better world will overshadow those who propagate hate. 

The world of communication has changed rapidly in last couple of decades. I look forward to what’s in store for the future.