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Digby County: A Journey Through Time

 

 

Mrs. Edith Wallis- Digby Courier- October 29,1979 Digby Courier & Wallis Print Ltd.Question: "When did the Digby Courier begin, and when was it first published?"Answer: "Well, I'm very pleased that you had asked me for this interview about The Digby Courier & The Wallis Print Ltd., but before anyone is mislead by me doing this, I should like to say right here, that Mr. Roy Mailman of Bridgetown, is now owner of the Digby Courier & The Wallis Print Ltd. He purchased the business from myself, Edith Wallis, & my two daughters, Janet Garnham & Ruth Chapell in 1973. Mr. Mailman also owns the Bridgetown Monitor & The Annapolis Spectator. However, now that we have that straightened out in our minds, why we can go back to the year 1874. That was the year that The Digby Weekly Courier was established. The Digby Weekly Courier, by the way, was not the only, nor first newspaper in Digby town & county. The first weekly newspaper was The Weekly___________, which began publication about sixteen years before The Courier. It was in the year 1858. Of course, The Courier was the only paper in the county which survived any great length of time, yet it is now 105 years old. I do not know how long The survived, but records seem to say that he was forced to discontinue because of insufficient subscribers. Then there was The Acadian, started in the same year as The __________. It was started by Ingram Gidney of Sandy Cove, & Albert Dobbs, of Annapolis Royal. But the plant for The Acadian was destroyed by fire, so after that was The Weekly Examiner, which lasted for about two years from 1865- 1867. And the for seven years Digby County was without a weekly newspaper, up until this 1874 when R.S. McCormick started The Digby Weekly Courier. The Courier was an independent paper under Mr. McCormick, but under the Editorship of W.T. Ford, when he came to take over the Editorship, it became a liberal paper, showing liberal support, so the conservatives had to find a paper, so they put out The Canadian, edited by J. Lee Jones, who was a medical doctor, and Charles Herman. But The Courier, of course, turned independent again and it has remained independent all the years so far. For awhile, The Courier carried a column in French. It was supplied by the Rev. E. Holme, I think it was, Pastor of the St. Vincent's Church in Salmon River. Editors of The Digby Courier, as you mentioned there through the years were, Mr. McCormick who started it, ford with whom I mentioned & Aubrey Fullerton. There was Oakes Dun, George Chisholm. There was Eugene Stratland, R.C. Mill, J.J. Wallis and myself.Question: "When did you first become the Editor?"Answer: "It was 1955 when I became Editor, after the death of my father-in-law, J.J. Wallis. Through these years, there had been different owners of The Digby Courier, for example, there was Clarence Jamieson & Frank Jones, a lawyer. And it was about 1931, when Mr. Wallis became the principle owner of the paper & that is nearly fifty years ago. But I should like to mention my late husband, James McNaughton Hurbert Wallis, who was associated with his father in business and was associate Editor until his death in 1949. It was then when I became associate Editor and later became Editor after the death of my father-in-law in 1955, which would be exactly 25 years ago in March of 1980. However, I had started working at the Courier in 1947, when my husband took ill."Question: "Did you obtain any particular training or education for the special business or profession?"Answer: "No, I'm afraid not. Unless school teaching prepares you for that type of work. I taught school, elementary and high school, for about ten years. And after I was married I rarely helped at the office, although I was willing to do so but my husband and my father-in-law, felt that taking care of two children was enough for me to do. In fact I knew so little about the business before 1947, when I started to work there, that when I was in Saskatchewan the ______________ wrote me off as one of the Editors who didn't even know the circulation of her husband' paper, which by the way is now, approximately 4,000."Question: "Where did the name Courier originate, or why was The Digby newspaper called The Courier?" Answer: "Really I wouldn't know, except that the word means 'a carrier' or 'a messenger' and the newspaper carries the news and delivers the message. There are several papers by that name or the name Courier included in the title."Question: "Can you explain what procedures were like concerning the printing and editing of The Courier when you first became acquainted with this Wallis Print Ltd?"Answer: "Well, when The Courier first began, the type was set by hand. Each letter, just a little tiny stick of metal with the letter inscribed on it and every letter for all the words in the whole paper, usually eight pages of it, had to be handled individually and out into place. Then came along the linotype, the most complicated machine. It is operated similarly as you would operate a typewrite. This process made half metal slugs which would be set up fresh for each issue of the paper, and could give the paper a much cleaner appearance and beside, it saved an awful lot of time. If you can imagine handling one little letter at a time to make up all your words in the newspaper. But, you'd have to see the linotype machine operate in order to understand at The Courier. Maybe somewhere in the late 1920's or the early 30's. and other linotypes have been added since. However. Linotypes are used very little. They are just about out of style. The Courier is now printed with that we call the offset method. This uses cameras as the basic process and for that purpose, for the past five or six years the paper has been printed in Mr. Mailman's plant at Bridgetown, The Mailman Publishing Co."Question: "There certainly are some changes that have taken place through the years. Was the office of Wallis Print Ltd. always in the area it is now?"Answer: "No, it wasn't. When I first came to Digby, The Courier office was on Water Street, the main street of Digby, about where the Kaywin Restaurant now stands and the job printing plant, The Wallis Print Ltd., was in a small building on first Ave. That would have been right back of the other place where the newspaper was printed. That building is still standing there. The building here at what use to be know as _____________, was purchased by Wallis Print Ltd., from MacDonald Motors Co., and had been built by the late Reginald Weir, originally. And just within the last few weeks, Mr. Mailman has purchased the building next door on the north side of this building. He purchase it from Jack King. It used to be known, I think, as the Willbur Vantassel place. And Mr. Mailman has made two fine offices, one for the editor here, and the building is still undergoing renovations for some of the commercial printing machines will be moved to that part of the connecting buildings too."Question: "So it must be quite an expansion coming?"Answer: "Yes it is. It really is."Question: "How many people were employed at The Wallis Print Ltd. when you began working in this business?"Answer: "Well, I remember when our staff numbered thirteen. A fair size industry for a little town. At that time of course, we printed the paper on what we called a flat bed press, which printed four pages at a time. You went through the same process for printing the next four pages on the other side of the first four that were printed and you kept that up until you had printed eight pages or ten pages or twelve pages or more. It's just according to the amount of news and advertising space that had to be accommodated that week. And that took quite some time. The press was slow and now that the paper is not printed at this plant, you see, there will be fewer needed in the staff, so we have about ten, I thin, I counted on staff. The news is gathered here and a copy is sent to Bridgetown to be said & the pages are printed and mailed out from there so there's not a need of so great a staff."Question: "What were some of the earliest prices that you can remember of The Courier and how they raised through the years?"Answer: "You asked about the early prices of The Digby Courier. Well, the subscriptions at first were $2.00 per. year and some places I've read they were $1.50 per year, but on the first volume of The Digby Courier. I noticed the price was $2.00 per year. We have different prices now for local and for foreign subscriptions, because of the high postage. Local rates are $7.50 a year, which is far from $2.00 and the U.S. for instance is $15.00. as with everything else you see, the cost and the wages have gone up and so must subscriptions and advertising and printing prices. Question: "It's not as high as I would expect it to be, you know, $2.00 how was The Courier first financed and how is it financed now?"Answer: "Well, I suppose you mean by that, form where does it get it's Revenue. Subscriptions alone you know, will never support a media in survival. You must have the advertising revenue or you'd never live. But there is a relationship. Advertisers want to reach a good segment of the population so the greater your subscriptions the more advertising you can demand. So generally the method of financing in 1874 was the same as 1979. But quite frequently in the older days too, a bag of potatoes would pay for a subscription to The Digby Courier or some other commodity would be exchanged for a subscription. This does not happen at all today."Question: "In it's early days, how far did The Digby Courier circulate? Did it go to Bear River, Barton and the Island?"Answer: "Yes, it went that far for sure. It took in the area to Weymouth, the Islands, Clementsport, Bayview, Victoria Beach and places in between during all the years. Few householders in areas do without the weekly paper today. We, however, have some circulation in the Annapolis Valley, Halifax, Meteghan, Ottawa, Toronto, and other Ontario cities and the U.S. Especially the New England states. People travel or are formerly from here and they want to keep in touch with their home by subscribing to The Courier, so we have circulation in wide areas. However, our concentration is really around the advertising areas which Digby County itself, you see."Question: "How did you get news from the different areas in Digby County?"Answer: "Well, strange as it may seem, the earlier scenes of The Courier had very little local news except for some around the Digby neighbourhood maybe. The whole front pages were filled with news from N.B., the U.S., London, Eng., and other foreign sources. Features were on front pages, and fiction stories were there. I suppose there was a lot of the lack of means of communication that kept them from being able to get the local news. But today, nearly every village in Digby County and the Annapolis area has a representative correspondent supplying the news to The Courier. Seldom do we use world news mow. Unless they have some bearing on this area. But we try to fill in the news gap which the radio, the T.V. And the Daily's do not cover in which we know the people want to hear about around here. We have I would say about fifty faithful correspondent's who send news to us regularly each week. Then we have, of course, staff reporters who cover the town,"Question: "Is there any other information that you would like to add? That's all the question that I had thought of. Now we were once talking about if there were any other newspapers. What do you know about this? Other newspaper existed in Digby County at that time."Answer: "Oh, Yes. Besides The Digby Weekly Courier, there was The ______________ and the Canadian, The Acadian and the Weekly Examiner, which I already mentioned in this interview. And in 1887, Valentine A. Langry and a man by the name of A.A. Corn, published The Evangeline which continues to live today, by the same name but it lives in Moncton, N.B. It had amalgamated with another Digby County Weekly, The Weymouth Times, Which began in 1888, under publisher Eugene Hangar. Then there was The Weymouth Free Press, started around the same time which ran until 1904, and as I understand, the staff problems in the Weymouth Free Press resulted in splitting that paper into two other papers, known as the Sissiboo Echo and The_____________. That was about 1900, but they died in 1901. Then there was The Telegraph established in Digby by John McBride. And the record in Weymouth from 1908-1909, so you see, we had a lot of different papers and then there is The Weymouth Gazette also, from the years of 1906-1909 and some 22 years later The Gazette was again revived, but it lasted only then from 1931-1934. But we must not forget about Bear River papers, because Bear River is in Digby County too, part of it at least. There was The Telephone in Bear River, established in 1896 by a man by the name of Fred Malhowe, in Lawrencetown and later this paper was acquired by The Bridgetown Monitor. And there was also The Bear River News. Many people have heard of The Tiny Tattler, I suppose you have. That was published at Central Grove on Long Island and it was founded by the late Ivan Shortliffe When he was about 15 years old. It was said to be the smallest weekly newspaper in the world. Ivans' father, over 90 years, still lives in Central Grove. And before we finish this story on the newspaper in Digby County, more generally, of course, The Digby Courier, we would be amiss not to mention the publication put out by The Digby Weekly Courier in 1897. There was one edition only. It was known as The Digby Weekly Courier Illustrated Magazine. Few copies are available, but of the few which are around, some are being used right now by the industrious people in Bear River who are utilizing the information contained within the magazine pages to keep in mind some history of their own scenic and historic village of Bear River."Question: "I think that was very interesting and I never realized there were so many smaller newspapers. I was just thinking that The Digby Courier would be the main one throughout the whole Digby County, and I didn't even realize there were a lot, you know, smaller papers. But they didn't last that long did they?"Answer: "No, they didn't. And The Digby Courier is the only one that really lasted any length of time at all, of course, we also have now another newspaper and last few years. Operates from Yarmouth and it's in this area too. It's Not totally a Digby paper, it's the valley paper, so we can't classify it as the Digby paper."Question: "That's very interesting and a lot of information you know, that, which I know a lot of people wouldn't know of, and we are very pleased to have it anyhow, and I thank-you very much."Answer: "Well, you are quite welcome. I'm really happy to do it. I'm sure there's a lot more than that to be learned about Digby."

 

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