Closing of rural papers sparks memories

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/05/2020 (866 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

With the lifting of many COVID-19 isolation rules and the opening of shops and restaurants imminent, life will begin again — at least it will seem that way.

However, for some rural newspapers, the pandemic has proven to be the end of an era. Late last month, PostMedia announced it was closing the Altona Red River Valley Echo, Carman Valley Leader, Interlake Spectator, Morden Times, Selkirk Journal, Stonewall Argus & Teulon Times and the Winkler Times.

This is sad news. I remember working as an intern for the Stonewall Argus one summer long ago. For me it heralded a new beginning. I was enrolled at Red River Community College in the 1980s and envisioned a new career in creative communications.

Supplied photo CPR trains regularly carried beach-goers from Winnipeg to Winnipeg Beach 100 years ago, when few families owned their own vehicles.

Merv Farmer was my congenial employer and gave me a free hand. I lived at Winnipeg Beach and commuted throughout the interlake searching for interesting stories and photos. I had turned overnight into “Lois Lane, girl reporter” and I loved it.

Country communities are laid-back and friendly but I really had to search to find interesting tidbits. With persistence, I usually found them. There are a lot of artisans living in Sandy Hook and the various beaches along Lake Winnipeg. Working in assorted media, they are talented, creative folk who quietly ply their crafts. I found their work innovative and newsworthy.

It is always a delight to visit Gimli. The restaurants specializing in fresh-caught pickerel are amazing and the town is a hive of activity in the summer months. There is always something to write about. The Islendingadagurinn Icelandic festival attracts people from far and wide. That year, the Lord Selkirk docked in Gimli harbour and I had a chance to interview the captain regarding its history.

There is also a Ukrainian museum at Winnipeg Beach which documents the early difficult years when Icelandic and Ukrainian immigrants married and worked together to tame the land and lake. Descendents of these blended families still live and fish in the area. That provided a few good stories.

In many ways, Winnipeg Beach in the 1920s through the 1950s was very different from what it is today. It had wide, sandy beaches covered with people seeking the sun. Old pictures depict fun and frivolity. There was a hotel, a dance hall and, much later, permanent shops, rides and a ferris wheel.

The CPR trains played a huge part in developing the interlake.

In summertime the famous “Moonlight Special” carried passengers to and fro on weekends. I recall many trips. For a city kid it was an education as we sped past fertile fields of grain and clusters of farm animals. Inhabitants of the area remember the past and love to talk about it.

Part of the charm of rural living is reading the town’s newspapers. Everyone is interested. That’s where community life is depicted — sports, fairs, meetings and who was born, married or passed away.

The country paper is where I honed my “nose for news.” Other people’s stories have always proved fascinating. So far, curiosity hasn’t kill this cat.

Freda Glow is a community correspondent for the North End.

Freda Glow

Freda Glow
North End community correspondent

Freda Glow is a community correspondent for the North End.

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