Volume 12 Week 5

Saturday, March 25


Posted March 17

Posted Feb. 16

Posted Feb. 17


Orléans Ward
Bob Monette

Beacon Hill,
Cyrville Ward
Tim Tierney





Looking back at the
good old days at the
Orléans Star

A few weeks back I wrote a column celebrating how open and inclusive Canada is when it comes to welcoming new arrivals from other counctries, and how proud I was to be Canadian. And then I read a recent poll which indicated that one in four Canadians think that we should institute the same sort of Muslim ban being trumpeted in the States. (Pun intended.) So perhaps were not as enlightened as I had thought.

The early day at the working at the Orléans Star were some of the best years of my life. I was 28 years old and had the world by the tail.

Actually my tail was tucked firmly between my legs. I had just returned to Ottawa from Montréal, where I was among the first people to get laid off
from the Montreal Daily News, which was heading for oblivion.

The ill-fated paper would be shut-down two months later after 18 months in existence, but that’s another story for another day.

I had returned to Ottawa from Montréal in a midnight move and was living in my parents’ basement. James MacArthur was an old drinking buddy and he had just been appointed editor of The Star.

I’m not sure why, but he took a flyer on me and let me write a guest column. It was a tongue-in-cheek piece, arguing in favour of the abolition of Hallowe’en.
It generated about a half-dozen letters to the editor and so I stuck around.

Those were heady days back then. I was filled with piss and vinegar and would write about whatever moved me at the time.

The other day I was going through bound copies of The Star from the early 90s and I started reading some of my earliest columns.

Part of the secret to my success was the idea that I didn’t think anyone actually read them. It’s very liberating when you don’t think anyone is reading what you’re writing.

My favourite subjects were former Prime Minister Brian Coburn, my girlfriend, then wife, then ex-wife and our children. I used to tell people that my column was part political commentary and part personal pageantry.

There were a lot of great people work-ing at the paper back then. Besides James, Denis Grignon was working in the art department. Denis would go on to have a career as a stand-up comic and CBC radio personality.

Gordon Brewerton was the publisher. He gave us free reign over what we put in the paper. The sales reps were Linda Isham, Jan McNeill, Lori Nash and Val Xavier, who would eventually replace Gordon as publisher.

Frédéric Wallace was the editor of the Express. He would go on to have a lengthy career at the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport in Montréal as communications manger.

Bernard Noonan, aka Dr. Love, was one of the full-time reporters.

I was only there two months when we had the infamous Christmas Party that will go down in infamy as the greatest Christmas Party ever. James and I rented a limo with a few of the other staff members. I believe we had a few drinks before we got there and things got out of hand very quickly. Things degenerated so badly that Gordon asked a bunch of us to leave before desert was served.

Ahh, those were the days.

Shortly after I got there, John O’Meara was hired in the art department.
John was a former editor and colum-nist of The Suburban newspaper in Côte Saint-Luc. He was the editor of the paper through the Quiet Revolution, the mail box bombings and the rise of the Parti Québécois. He was also one of the best newspaper men I’ve ever met.

Besides designing ads, he began writ-ing a column that ran next to mine. We used to have some great discussions. I’ll never forget the time I was having trouble trying to finish a column and was agonizing over using just the right words and he said to me, “You know what your problem is Sherwin? You’re enamoured with your own prose.”

It was the best advice I ever got. In later years I would work with some amazing people like former Express editor Jean-Marc Trépanier, and later, Gerry Poulin, who taught me everything I know about the history of Orléans.

Michael Curran and I worked closely together for the better part of six years and we have remained good friends to this day. David Sali was a real beauty as well.

In many ways they were the best years of my life. They will stay with me forever.

(If you wish to comment on this or any other View Point column please write to Fred Sherwin at fsherwin@magma.ca)

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