May 28th, 2024


By Lethbridge Herald on January 9, 2021.


Al Beeber
Lethbridge Herald

And then there was one. With the dawn of 2021, I find myself in a strange position in The Herald newsroom — the last person who was working in my department back in 1987 when I started here.
When I came to the paper in August of that year from the Fort Frances Times in the heart of northwestern Ontario’s spectacular and well-named Sunset Country, I was 28 years old with seven years of newspaper experience under my belt covering sports and outdoors issues. I’d started my career three days before my 21st birthday and with no phone, it was the loneliest birthday ever.
I was the new kid on the block here, hired by the managing editor, the now-deceased John Farrington, who departed shortly after my arrival. I, along with Barry Lyn Ens, had been hired within a couple of weeks of each other. But the class of ’87 also included such talented writers as Craig Albrecht and Ron Devitt who worked together in the sports department with Randy Jensen.
Now, Jensen, who most recently served as The Herald’s city editor is gone as is longtime page editor Dave Sulz, both ending their careers here on Dec. 31.
Several years ago, Craig and I were the only members of the 1987 newsroom crew to receive our 25-year rings, a huge milestone that I was honoured to celebrate with him.
On my 30th anniversary three years ago at Christmas, I stood on the podium alone with Craig having departed a few years previously. Now only Bruce Friesen in the advertising department and I remain from the class of ’87.
When I started, I shared a computer with Carolin Vesely and worked across from agriculture editor Ric Swihart and business editor Ron Watmough, who both welcomed me with open arms to the newsroom.
I had a lot of coffee breaks and shared a lot of laughs downtown with those two and photographer Elwood Ferguson when I started. All three were great friends, with Ric and Ron being two of the finest journalists I’ve ever worked with.
Also here when I began were young talents like Sherri Gallant — whose Instagram food photos are beyond appetizing — and John Grainger. Our photographers included the incomparable David Rossiter and Kevin Kooy.
Grainger, Albrecht, Devitt and I became part of the Herald hockey team which first started playing afternoons at Henderson Lake arena when someone managed to book a prime Saturday afternoon hour. I’ll never forget Grainger smacking his head into the boards and having to be rushed to emergency where we all huddled in deep concern around his hospital bed — with cold beers smuggled into the hospital for our fallen comrade. It was bonding at its finiest.
That time slot became ours for many years and our team eventually over the years before I retired from hockey at the age of 40 included fellow newsroom staff like Jim Haskett, Gord Smiley, and if memory serves me right, Rossiter and briefly Cam Yoos who also is recently departed from the paper.
Many Saturday afternoons were spent at the rink with that crew and with some of them on the ball field during summers at the old Allan Watson school diamond with the likes of Terry Horri who ran the team. Sulz was a member of those slowpitch teams and was an amazing talent at the plate and on the field.
Craig and I have remained relatively close over the years. When we were here after he became city editor, we were always the first in the newsroom with me at my desk regularly by 6 a.m. and he before 7; we bonded well when we first met and made a lot of memories together, along with my good pal Dave Rohovie, on hockey and baseball trips.
When I first sat down at my assigned desk, I discovered in a drawer the office handbook with the name of Brent Lannan inscribed inside. That made me feel I belonged because Brent, who died several years ago, was one of my classmates at SAIT in the late ’70s along with the Macleod Gazette’s Frank McTighe.
In the early 1980s, those two made one memorable winter trip by train to visit me in Ontario. I and a friend named Bill Toffan, who is now a CCMA-award winning country music radio announcer based in Hamilton, picked them up at the Dryden train station in the dead of night with temperatures around -40. The northern lights were in fully glory and as we headed two hours by car to Fort Frances, Brent noticed there was no traffic on the desolate Highway 502 and asked what would happen if we got stranded.
“We die,” I told him, nonchalantly.
We didn’t though, because I’m here to tell you that story. Here alone from The Herald’s newsroom class of 1987.
I hope that Randy and Dave, who I am proud to call friends, enjoy life after the newspaper business. I am truly honoured to have spent so many years working alongside them both. Their names will always be remembered as being among this newsroom’s finest and I wish them the best. They’ve earned it.
Follow @albeebHerald on Twitter.

Share this story:


Comments are closed.