Ward 9 News survives, but just…

(From Left) Cathie McGhee, Tim Kadry, Sheila Blinoff and Gladys Kadry discuss future of the paper in February, 1973.

Last issue we reached the end of 1972, and almost the end of the paper itself. In its first 10 months there had been 19 editions consisting of four or eight pages.

The great coup for unpaid editor/business manager Doug White and his team was to pull off a 20 page issue on Nov. 23 just before a municipal election. He interviewed the three main mayoralty candidates, including David Crombie who won the election, ushering in an era of reform at City Hall with emphasis on strengthening neighbourhoods, improving social services, and curbing unrestricted development. Also elected at that time was Sheila Cary Meagher, who began the first of her two long stints as the area’s public school trustee. Dorothy Thomas, former president of ForWard 9, joined Reid Scott as a Ward 9 councillor.

By the end of December 1972 Doug and his wife were loading a pick-up truck in preparation for a new adventure. These city-dwellers were moving to PEI for two years to try their hand at farming. Doug, a Bingham Avenue boy, said that he had learned everything involved with running a newspaper and had had the opportunity of working with some fine volunteers. (He had also covered some of the printing costs, and the paper owed him $1,414.  It must have seemed to him that the chances of repayment were remote.)

Before leaving, he had applied for a LIP grant for the paper. This program, a child of the Trudeau years, provided jobs for local groups that offered a worthwhile community service.

The good news appeared in the four-page edition on Jan. 17, 1973. The paper had secured a grant under the Federal Government’s Local Initiatives Program to hire three people  – at $100 per week each – starting in early February 1973 for four months (it was later extended to six months).

One position was to co-ordinate volunteers who would plan, write and assemble each issue.  Cathie McGhee, who had herself been a volunteer alongside Doug, was hired.

The second position was for a circulation manager to organize and extend existing home delivery.  Gladys Kadry, who, with her husband Tim, had been recruiting carriers and expanding news coverage in the north end of the ward, was hired. (Gladys is still part of the team, delivering 275 papers each issue in the Coxwell/Danforth area.)

The third position was for an office manager, whose role would include  keeping a close eye on finances, and taking over billing and collecting of advertising revenue, instead of waiting 60 days for the agency handling ad sales to hand over the money. The exclusive contract with the agency ended in February. All the time that I spent dropping into the YMCA offering to help, typing the calendar and stories for Doug, and delivering the paper on my own street was unexpectedly rewarded. Being hired was one of the luckiest days of my life.

You’ll notice there is no mention of a paid editor! Joan Latimer, who had helped out in earlier issues, took on this volunteer role, and in June when Cathie McGhee left, joined the paid staff as editor and organizer of volunteer submissions. Joan, a Ryerson journalism grad, brought a new degree of professionalism to the paper. She stayed on for the next 22 years.

At the paper’s AGM on Jan. 31st, 1973 president Tom Howlett, vice-president Norm Houghton, treasurer Bill Peters, and secretary Nicki Clarke were acclaimed. The paper had had some administrative problems, said former treasurer Al London, giving him little information with which to prepare a proper financial statement. However, since the newspaper staff would now directly bill advertisers, the situation should change. It was agreed that priorities would be producing a profit and loss statement, ensuring that sufficient revenue would come from advertising sales, and increasing circulation from 15,000 to 20,000 copies.

The new staff was assisted by a band of enthusiastic volunteers. Typical of these was Carole Howlett, who saw boarded-up stores on Queen Street and wanted to figure out a way to make it a thriving business area again. She felt it was important for stores to have an inexpensive way to reach potential customers, and tried to convince the weary merchants to take out ads in Ward 9 News.

Dianne Davison, one of the original carriers, heard that Doug was leaving and wanted to do her part to keep the paper going. She took over delivering on Victoria Park Avenue  until she could get her own block on Scarborough Road (which she still does today 39 years later). Pushing a child in a stroller, she went along Kingston Road trying to sell advertising. Her husband Peter Davison became one of the newspaper’s volunteer photographers.

Every second Wednesday evening,  anyone could come to a public meeting at the YMCA, the newspaper’s free headquarters at 907 Kingston Rd.,  and decide what would be published. All the submissions were passed around (this was pre-xerox days so it took a while for everyone to peruse each item).  Authors – or anyone – could bring friends to vote. When the priorities had been thrashed out, the group then decided where the stories would appear. It was a very long night.

The following Sunday evening enthusiasts returned to arrange the stories on the pages, following the directives from the Wednesday night meeting. The pieces had been proof-read and counted for length – 30 words to a column inch. This was eons before the days of desk-top publishing. There were eight to 12 tabloid-size pages with columns where stories, headlines and pictures were arranged, pondered over, and redone. No one left before midnight.

The pages and the copy – handwritten or typed, along with the pictures  – were then taken to a printer for typesetting.  On the Wednesday morning (yes, we published on Wednesdays in those days) the papers arrived at the YMCA.

As a new employee, one of the early surprises was on Feb. 14, 1973, the first time for me when the papers arrived at YMCA parking lot.  The driver would not unload the truck until he was paid in cash. Fortunately the president, Tom Howlett, covered the early issues, and eventually we were able to sell enough ads to pay back both him and Doug.

Stories in 1973 included a report on a family of four, the Copases of Buller Avenue, who were part of a nutrition study, and ate for a week on $27 instead of their usual $40-$50. Alex and Bessie Napier, who had lived at 106 Victoria Park Ave. since 1913 wrote of their early days in the area.  A proposal to extend the boardwalk 1500 feet from Silver Birch Avenue to the R.C. Harris Plant was shelved until there was a show of public enthusiasm. A crossing guard outside St. John’s Catholic School, William Garland, was killed but managed save the life of a child whom he pushed out of the path of a station wagon.

The fight to stop the Scarborough Expressway continued. A letter to the editor claimed the Beach area was going to the dogs. Officials from the Ontario Jockey Club met with local councillors and residents to discuss problems with noise, parking and Sunday racing at the Greenwood Race Track. Glen Ames students visited the Great Whale Inuit community. Les Kovacsi wrote on recycling as an alternative to garbage disposal. A new style of policing – community officers – had arrived at Division 55.

One of the ongoing themes was how the paper would continue when the grant finished in July. The grant had paid for salaries and office supplies. Advertising revenue had covered printing, and any money left over had to be returned to the government.

So, at the end of July 1973, the paper had experienced staff but no money.  This was yet another time when the paper could have gone under.

I will tell you how this crisis was handled next issue.

If you or anyone you know was involved in the early days of the paper, please contact Sheila Blinoff at 416-698-1164 ext. 24 (admin@beachmetro.com or 2196 Gerrard St. E., Toronto, ON M4E 2C7). She would love to hear your memories.

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