As I noted in my last column, this year marks my 30th anniversary as a journalist in Orléans — coincidentally, it’s also been three years since I bought The Orléans Star on Nov. 1 2016 — and what a long strange trip it’s been.
I mentioned that my first column was a satirical piece I wrote about abolishing Hallowe'en which was published on
Oct. 24, 1989 and buried on page 24.
In that same issue, I wrote my first news story for The Star, which is still among my all time favourites, about a guy who was caught trying to break into the Mac's Milk store at Jeanne d'Arc and Youville Drive when he got stuck trying to crawl in through the heating duct.
When the manager came in to open the store, she heard soneone crying for help from the ceiling. At first she thought it was a prank and then realized it was an actual person in some distress.
It took five or six firefighters to dislodge him and hand him over to the police.
The best part about the story was that I managed to track down the accused in the phonebook after his name was released by the cops. Thinking, "Hey, why not try to call him?", I did just that and much to my amazement, he not only answered the phone, he granted me an interview, which has never, ever happened with any other accused before or since.
The poor man told me that he was stuck in the heating duct for over seven hours and that it was a terrifying experience.
As bizarre as the interview was, the best part about the story was the punch line at the end provided by the manager who told me at the end of her interview – "It's a good thing I didn't have the heat on, or else he'd be barbequed." Pure gold. Still the best quote I've ever written.
During my 30-year tenure as a journalist in Orléans, I have been truly blessed with some amazing coworkers over the years.
People like my first editor James MacArthur and my first publisher Gord Brewerton.
The staff in those early days were a tight knit group. The sales team included Linda Isham, Val Xavier and Jan McNeil. The hilarious Denis Grignon was on the production team and my fellow journalists included Bernard "Dr. Love" Noonan and Frédéric Wallace who would serve many years as the editor of the L’Express.
I soon had a regular column opposite the late, great Lori Nash.
A lot of people came and went over the years. Marcia Nash joined the sales staff at one point. Michael Curran, who is now co-owner of the Ottawa Business Journal and the Kitchissippi Times, was an early hire as a full-time reporter and would eventually become editor.
I owe Michael a lot for keeping me on as editor of The Star when Transcontinental bought The Weekly Journal in 1997.
Michael left The Star to start the Journal in 1995 with Caroline Andrews.
Part of the deal when Transcon bought the paper was to keep Caroline on as publisher and Mike as the managing editor. Unfortunately that meant Valerie Xavier, who was the publisher at The Star at the time was shown the door which was a massive travesty.
On the bright side, Michael kept me on for which I remain eternally grateful.
I’ve been blessed with some truly wonderful mentors over the years. People like John O'Meara who came to The Star after a career as the long time editor at The Suburban in Cote St. Luc.
Once, after I had spent eight hours painstakingly working on a quarter-page column, John, who was fourth generation Montréal Irish from Pointe-Saint-Charles, told me... "You know what your problem is Sherwin? You're enamoured with you own prose."
Others like former L’Express editor Jean-Marc Tréppanier and my old friend Gérald Poulin taught me everything I know about the history of Orléans and the legacy of the francophone community.
There are so many people to thank I would need a double page spread to name them all, but at the top of the list would be Lionel Laurin, without whom there never would have been an OrleansOnline.ca
and I never would have gone on to buy The Orléans Star.
There are others like Jean and Estelle Laporte who believed in me from the beginning and James Locke who was a huge supporter of OrleansOnline.ca and helped me organize the first few Canada Day events on Petrie Island.
Last, but by no means least, I need to thank Louis and Nicole Patry without whom I never would have been able to start the L’Orléanais and my dear friend Heather Jamieson who has put up with me for more years than either one of us would dare admit.
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