January 14th, 2015 ~ Vol. 85 No. 2
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Looking Back - John Kinnear
Stories from Alberta’s Weekly Newspaper
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
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Wayne Arthurson's History of Alberta's Weekly Newspapers
Last summer while at the annual Eckville 50’s and 60’s Dance Jamboree I found myself wandering around their quaint little town looking to support their businesses by buying things of interest (aside from Kokanee Beer). In a second hand shop I came across a display of a recent publication on sale called “Alberta’s Weekly Newspapers – Writing the First Draft of History” and knew I just had to have it.
It did not disappoint and its author Wayne Arthurson led me through the fascinating history of the printed word in Alberta’s weekly newspapers from its Chapter 1 beginnings in Edmonton in 1880 to the last chapter in 2012 where the Canadian Community Newspaper Association (CCNA) voted Alberta’s St. Albert Gazette the Best Community Newspaper award. I found it kind of interesting that, in a town like Eckville which had endured the protracted business of the famous Keegstra affair, I would find a book that peers into our sometimes, somewhat raucous past.
Keegstra, of course, was the former mayor and teacher from Eckville who in the 1980’s caused such a firestorm with his anti-semetic teachings and stance on the holocaust. It did not go unnoticed by me as I read through Arthurson’s book that Alberta has had its share of stormy issues that local newspapers tackled with panache and sometimes with bigoted and racist comments.
It is always interesting to review old newspapers and contemplate their arcane and unusual use of language and see what their editorial take was on issues as they arose in pioneer towns. Case in point. During the Great Depression that ugly entity known as the Ku Klux Klan crept into Alberta from Saskatchewan. Area newspapers such as the Drumheller Mail and the High River Times openly criticized the Klan and their attempts to recruit here.
In Chapter Nine Arthurson used the following hilarious piece from the November 28, 1929 issue of the Drumheller Mail to illustrate this. It reads: “ I’m either a degenerate or a Jesuit according to R.C. Snelgrove (a Klan organizer from Saskatchewan), who told a slim audience on Saturday that only Jesuit Romanists, bawdy-house keepers, bootleggers and other low-down creatures were opposed to the Ku Klux Klan. Possibly R.C (please pardon his initials) overlooked communists because I can name a half dozen who are opposed to the Kluck Kluck Kluck.”
The Mail went on to say: “And R.C. (why doesn’t he change his initials) said the Klan was misunderstood; that it had been dragged through the garbage by the R.C. (the church not the man) and the boys didn’t wear nightshirts anymore or pillowslips and I gather from his speech that every time a Klansman was thrown in the hoosegow that it was a persecution whereas if an adherent of the Pope got pinched, it was justice.”
continued below...


It was no surprise to read that the KKK burned a cross on Mail editor Archie Key’s lawn some time after that. Charles Halpin of the Lacombe Western Globe also took them on in 1930 after the KKK tarred and feathered a local blacksmith there. You have to admire the gusto with which he stood his ground when he wrote: “ These hooded hoodlums hide their faces at night so that the world may not know them (as they must consider their work disgraceful) and during the day they mingle with respectable citizens, masquerading as men, which they are most surely not...”
Halpin did not relent in his editorial attacks even though they threatened to burn his house and business to the ground. He continued to verbally fight against their presence and after four of them were convicted two years later of the tarring and feathering incident and their leader J.J. Maloney was convicted of break and enter and insurance fraud, it pretty well marked the end of the KKK in Alberta.
Probably the most remarkable chapter in the book is called Enemy Aliens and specifically tells the story of Water Koyanagi who was born in Acme Cannery, a community of Japanese-Canadian fisherman on Sea Island, B.C. (now home to Vancouver airport!). Walter was among the 21,000 of Japanese descent that, despite being Canadian citizens, were declared “enemy-aliens” in 1942. Walter, his parents and two brothers and two sisters were forced to move to the sugar-beet fields of Southern Alberta. (Ironically Walter’s uncle died in France fighting for Canada in the First World War.)
They were not well received in the Taber area and the following is part of a Taber Times editorial comment on March 12, 1942: “ For long years the Japanese have been a great problem in British Columbia and now these districts are being faced with a similar threat. Do you, the people of Taber and districts want an influx of Japanese in these districts? To lower the standards of living—to be a national problem in times of strife and to usurp the opportunities of our boys who are offering their lives to fight for each of us and to save us from such atrocities as have been committed in Hong Kong?
Now this is where it gets interesting. Walter landed a job in 1950, at of all places the Taber Times, working for the very editor/publisher Arthur Avery who had demonized Japanese enemy aliens in many wartime editorials. It wasn’t incredibly until 1949 that restrictions were lifted off the Japanese but Walter’s family had nothing to go back home to. Walter told Arthurson in an interview: “I worked in the back shop, running the linotype and as an all around handy man and printer, I worked in the front as an accountant. I did everything you could think of”
Avery sold the paper to George Meyer in 1966 and Walter remained as an employee until 1970. In George Meyer’s book A Prairie Publisher he tells of having a nightmare in which he loses Walter and valuing him so much promptly offered him a partnership in the Taber Times the very next day. So it was that this: “former enemy alien became a partner in the Taber Times, a paper that had at one time painted people of his descent as treacherous and a threat to the way of life in Taber.”
Doesn’t get any more ironic than that! He went on become its publisher and he and partner Meyer invested in new web-offset technology and the Times eventually printed most of the local newspapers in Southern Alberta. The CCNA honoured him for “outstanding service” to weekly newspaper journalism in 1980. Walter retired in 1987 and passed away last June at the age of 93. I would have loved to have met him!

Editor’s Note: The first place to print the Pass Herald was the Taber Times.
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January 14th ~ Vol. 85 No. 2
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