July 16th, 2024

Kind readers have helped to smooth a bump in the road

By Lethbridge Herald on July 5, 2024.

Al Beeber – Managing Editor

A couple of encounters with readers late last week and a phone call from another on Tuesday had me reflecting on this journey of journalism the last few days.

I had been feeling really melancholy until these chance encounters.

The first was a phone call from a reader who called at 6 a.m. trying to reach me just to let me know how much he appreciated my work here. I never got in this business because I wanted praise, I just wanted to write which was about the only thing I was ever decent at doing.

So when this person took the effort to call as dawn was breaking, I was absolutely floored. That type of kindness really touched me and it made me feel that in these past 44 years and two months of being a professional writer, perhaps I’ve actually accomplished something positive.

A couple of hours later I encountered two women walking in Indian Battle Park and after questioning them if they’d seen the fire department rescue boat on the river, one noted who I was and engaged me in a conversation about my work.

That was equally as touching and humbling and I needed to take a moment to compose myself because I wasn’t expecting it. And nor did I expect the encounter outside a drug store on Wednesday when a person recognized me and wondered what will happen to the paper when I’m gone.

On Saturday morning , while I stood in others’ way at a store, our MP Rachael Thomas told me I’ll be missed which also struck a chord with me.

On Tuesday morning, another Herald reader called and told me I can’t leave, that the city needs me in this office. It seems to be a growing theme since I announced in January that I was my leaving at year’s end. I’ve been approached numerous times at stores, on the street, at assignments I’ve covered by strangers and acquaintances alike they don’t want me to walk away. 

Forty four years ago, I couldn’t imagine myself in this position but now starting I’m starting to wonder if maybe my work has actually made an impact on others’ lives and the communities I’ve served.

At 21 years old, completely immature, shy and possessing zero self-esteem thanks to the home environment I grew up in, I was pretty much a walking disaster except for the fact I knew how to construct a sentence. I had a long hair, a poor excuse of a mustache and I wasn’t exactly a flashy dresser. Except for an ability to drive fast and slam beers quick on the back roads of the Milk River Ridge with my buds, I pretty much possessed no social skills. 

But I could make friends and I made a lot within weeks of setting foot in Ontario. 

I look back at those days now when I would sit on the floor of my living room overlooking the mill yard with a portable typewriter I’d asked for as a Christmas present in Grade 9, and pound out letters to now former SAIT classmates I’d left behind in Calgary and I remember what an adventure I was beginning.

It was a new experience in a new province, a place with water everywhere, provincial ministries instead of departments and of course, the Beer Store, where you can only buy that particular beverage. 

And as I learned quickly in Ontario when I started getting invitations to barbecues and other events, you don’t bring a six-pack which is a horrible insult. You take a Two Four, otherwise known in Ontario as a case. Not a 12-pack case here, but a Two Four. And you don’t pick it off a shelf yourself, you ask the kindly person behind the counter to fetch one, which at least back then was brought out from a massive cold room and down rollers to your eager hands.

I remember my car suffering a leaky radiator hose at a fastball tournament in Emo and being rescued by members of the Midnight Tokers who somehow nursed it to a farm outside the village of Devlin where an astute home mechanic did a quick fix while we all drank Labatt Crystal and chowed down on barbecued bear meat. And yes, their logo was what you are imagining it to be. Maybe still is.

As I shared my experiences with Alberta friends, I know one of the things I wrote about was that people actually wore their seatbelts, which nobody I knew did here even though it was law.

And I’m sure I wrote how friends on the town police force would warn me when the provincial vehicle inspection teams were in town so I could hide my beat-up and abused Chevy Caprice from view lest it get taken off the road.

And I’ll never forget the fear when I was pulled over for what I thought was speeding, quickly latching my seatbelt only to be told by the officer that he was going to be late for bowling that night and to let the rest of the team know.

I quickly learned in Ontario about Grade 13 and being on the U.S. border how Americanized people were. The town had a prom for its students, Halloween had gate night which was the night before the trick or treating when kids would roam around town egging homes and cars, or whatever was in throwing distance.

And nobody talked about Christmas until after American Thanksgiving was over.

I enthusiastically embraced the culture, getting recruited within weeks to help coach a pee wee hockey team and a women’s fastpitch team – why I don’t know – and I joined a mens fastpitch team which gave me the opportunity to spend a lot of time at tournaments throughout the Rainy River district and in Minnesota, the best for mens and womens teams perhaps being in the small community of Littlefork.

As I wrote those letters, which I wish I had copies of, I had no clue how long this career would last or where it would take me. I just knew that I was a lifer because writing is what I did.

For many in this world, we don’t choose our careers, the careers choose us. The ability to write, like the ability to sing or play instruments or paint, or excel in sports or mathematics or chemistry or science is a gift.

And people who truly understand the value of the gift they possess, make the most of it and go with the flow because they know in their hearts they don’t have a choice. Every single one of us gets frustrated in our daily lives, – it’s part of life, but when you’re on a path that has chosen you, it’s impossible to get off no matter how rough that path can be.

Thanks to my encounters with these readers these last two weeks, I’m feeling more secure that I’m glad I stayed on this path. And a little less melancholy. 

Thank you.

Share this story:

Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Thank you Al . . . you will be missed, but you deserve to relax in retirement, although I am sure you still will be busy.
When I walk around downtown or the pathways in the riverbottom, I often run into great people out enjoying our city, some are from other countries and recently, from Ontario, working in Toronto, now retired in Parry Sound region, they came for an event in our great city.
We have a lot to offer and it is why I look forward to getting our city back . . . Downtown has a lot of great businesses/owners and the DBRZ is working hard to attract people downtown to prove that. You probably know this city better than I and have many interesting stories.
We are seeing such a change in media . . . a negative change and the Herald hasn’t seen those changes yet.
Sad that you can no longer trust the Canadian Press and Associated Press articles from the Middle East, which for the most part reflect a bias for the terrorists and the truth is ignored even though there is plenty of tangible evidence.
Thankfully that type of journalism has not hit the Herald. I still miss Terry Vogt, from CTV, but again, his retirement was well deserved.
We will miss you!
Stay Well


Yes, Labatt Crystal – whether it was a School-boy Six, a 12, or a 2-4, they were all cold at the Beer Store, even on the Friday of a summer long weekend!

Last edited 8 days ago by TJohnston

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x