May 18th, 2024

Time to reflect a bit on the years

By Lethbridge Herald on April 26, 2024.

Al Beeber – managing editor

Eight months from tomorrow I’ll be working my last shift in journalism after 44.5 years.

It seems just like yesterday I loaded up my portable typewriter, clothes and a set of weights into the trunk of a two-door Chevy Caprice and pulled away from my dad’s house in the Calgary subdivision of Bridgeland for an adventure far away.

I haven’t had much of a chance to reflect on these decades in journalism as these four months of 2024 have passed and doubt I will in the remaining months. There is just too much work to do and a lot of jobs to juggle here.

But this week I’ve thought a lot about this career, the hopes and dreams I had when I was young and what I may have accomplished over the years.

Clearly, I’ve touched a few nerves with my columns here, which shows at least people are reading me. More so than ever the last couple of weeks I’ve wondered what goes on in the heads of people who feel they’re entitled to an opinion and others aren’t entitled to voice their own. 

Where did that notion come from? When did antagonism and instigating personal attacks over differing opinions become acceptable? If this is evolution, then humanity is taking some big backward steps. 

But that’s the world as we know it and while those types of people have surely always existed, in the era of social media and the internet they’re more vocal than ever because communication is so much easier than the days when people had to sit with pen and paper or a typewriter and put their thoughts to paper instead of just spewing them across the internet anonymously.

Next Friday, May 3, marks the date back in 1980 I said goodbye to Alberta for seven years. 

Having never driven east of Medicine Hat, I knew nothing about what awaited me 1,800 kilometres away except I had a sports writing job that paid a whopping $900 a month which even in 1980 wasn’t great – I was making $1,200 at a feedlot during a summer job – but it was a start. 

Yes, $900, which had to cover rent, groceries, and gas as well as student loan and vehicle payments.

But being young, I wasn’t stressed about the financial implications – getting that first job was just too exciting. And I was fortunate that the educators at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology let me leave early in return for doing a couple of stories for classes once I had started work to fulfill diploma requirements.

I missed our final class get-together before the school year ended and couldn’t return for fall commencement which I initially regretted until learning nobody else showed up either.

Instead, I received a new education in a world far away from what I was used to being a southern Alberta kid for whom cowboy boots were actually workwear, and who could wield a branding iron and whip as well as some hockey players could their sticks.

In Ontario, I made plenty of friends as well as enemies with my columns. In fact, one local bar in International Falls, Minnesota had on their wall a poster noting my departure date, a town where I was warned I shouldn’t go to certain watering holes in light of columns I’d written calling for the federal and provincial governments to ban American fishermen from the Canadian side of boundary waters without paying for provincial fishing licences and staying at Canadian resorts.

It was a hot topic in the 1980s when fishing stocks were being depleted on waters that bordered the U.S. and Canada because of the pressure from American and Canadian anglers, the former who were allowed to fish without paying for a licence as long as they didn’t actually step foot on Canadian soil. 

A similar situation apparently has returned which is causing grief for friends who earn their living in the Ontario tourism industry, resort owners and guides who are losing customers  because Americans don’t actually need to stay in Canada because they can simply stay at a Minnesota resort and fish all they want in our country using an American guide as long as they have a valid  fishing licence.

No need to support Canadian lodges, gas stations, grocery stores or guides. Once again, Canadians are losing out and it’s absolutely unfair. Or even check in with Customs.

For years, American were also allowed to set up camp anywhere on Crown land in Ontario without paying resort owners or campgrounds for the opportunity to fish, which kept valuable dollars out of the pockets of businessmen whose livelihood relied on tourists.

Here in Alberta, I’ve also made an impact with assorted columns – and probably still will – until I finally hand in my key on the last Friday of December.

It’s what I do and I don’t intend to stop. While I’ve forced myself over the years to exhibit some diplomacy, especially since taking over the political beat, I don’t have any intention of keeping my mouth shut until the end.

 Certain subjects inevitably will arise that merit discussion and I’ll be providing one. 

This is what I’ve been doing for 44 years, a career I never had any idea would last this long. 

In fact, by the fall of 1980 when I was so broke I had to live off donated spaghetti for a month, eating once a day and essentially starving while working day and night, I’d gotten so frustrated, I called up the manager of Highway 52 Feeders, Ross Nilsson, and asked if he had any work for me. 

In fact, I basically begged. I was broke, down and felt completely out. and was ready to throw in the towel.

Whether the feedlot had any work for me or not, he didn’t say but what was offered was a piece of priceless advice I’ve never forgotten:

Don’t give up, he said. Don’t ever give up.

And I haven’t. And I’ll be toasting Mr. Nilsson eight months from tomorrow for convincing me to believe in myself when I struggled to find a reason.

He’s one of many who have encouraged me during these decades, all of whom I’m indebted to as the sun begins to set on a career that’s had its share of frustrations and but so many more rewards.

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Always enjoy reading your letters Al! Often they bring back memories of the past!
I noticed you still have a limp from your slip on the ice . . . heal fast so that you can enjoy a well deserved retirement!

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