— 30 —
You no doubt noticed the “—30—” heading on this week’s ‘Stew’. In the publishing business that’s the editorial symbol for “the end”. And that is exactly what it means for ‘Stemp’s Stew’.
I started writing ‘Stew’ back in the 1960s when our company acquired the Lake Simcoe Advocate in Sutton on a bad debt. I travelled to Sutton several times a week. Sold ads, covered council meetings and other news events, and middle of the week delivered the paper to the many outlets we had in Georgina Township. It was the beginning of our chain which eventually grew to 11, including the Uxbridge Times-Journal. A real success story for my partner Bill Keyzers and myself.
For me who loved the newspaper industry long before I started at the Times-Journal it was a dream come true. Two uncles – Bill and Ted – both started their newspaper careers as apprentices at the TJ, and when they visited and told stories about being printers I knew it was exactly what I wanted to do. I was ecstatic when the late Harold Cave hired me as an apprentice at $6 a week. It was all I ever wanted to do and when Dad gave me the green light to leave school at 14 and work for TJ, I was in seventh heaven. At the time I also spent a lot of time at the arena. A rink rat, cleaning ice, etc., for free admission and a hot dog.
Everyone ribbed me that I worked for the Times-Journal, which carried no sports. I told Mr. Cave that it was a laughing matter around town that the paper carried no sports, and that I didn’t like that they were laughing at the newspaper where I worked. He sucked on his curled pipe and said, “Well, what do you want to do about it?” I said I would cover sports for the paper. He sucked on his pipe and said, “Okay, but I won’t pay you for it.” I said that was fine with me but every article had to carry the byline ‘by Harry Stemp’. I didn’t want him to get credit for my work. He agreed and the rest is history. I soon had a full page of sports and a personal column. Later I wrote for the new owners Peter and Leila Hvidsten – but they paid me.
By the time the Lake Simcoe Advocate became available, I had been writing for several years and was well-equipped to handle the editorial end as well as sell advertising. I soon made friends with town councillors and business people and the paper quickly grew. It became a real success in a short time. Arriving in Sutton early mornings, I made it a point to visit the local coffee shop to mix and get to know the business people and councillors who hung out there. One morning when we were swapping stories, Sam Nasello, who ran a fruit store at the time said, “You’re always telling us these entertaining stories about life, etc. Why you don’t write a weekly personal column? I think your readers would enjoy it.” This was the start of ‘Stemp’s Stew’. It became a huge success, and it wasn’t long until it ran in every newspaper we bought. I could tell by the comments and the letters to the editor that it was being well read.
It was called a ‘Stew’ as I didn’t like long columns on one subject, although some, like writing a full column sometimes (like on the deaths of my mother and father), were considered some of my best. ‘Stew’ means a bit of everything tossed into the mix. The readers enjoyed it and I enjoyed writing it. Much to the chagrin of my two growing boys, Dana and Ryan, many columns carried funny anecdotes about what was going on at home. ‘Stew’ ran in the Times-Journal, until it and our other papers were eventually purchased by Metroland, owned by the Toronto Star. They were not interested in ‘Stew’ so I shut down the typewriter and took a few years rest, missing the interaction with the people. One day, relaxing in Barbados, I got an email from Conrad Boyce who had started The Cosmos. Would I consider writing ‘Stew’ again, as he thought it would add interest to his paper? Starting a newspaper and operating on a shoestring left no room in the budget for a columnist, but I didn’t care as I was so anxious to get back in the saddle again. I agreed. I continued when Lisha Van Nieuwenhove took over the paper. She’s been doing a great job of keeping our only truly local newspaper coming out every week for our enjoyment.
Having just turned 81, spending more time out of Uxbridge than in, and trying to stay on top of local happenings is not easy. Having said this, I feel it is time for the ‘Stew’ to be retired. This has not been an easy decision, but all good things must come to an end. The editor in me is saying the time is now. I took pride in ‘Stew’ always being an ‘in your face’ type of column that urged residents to do their best for our community. ‘Stew’ supported all of the events organized by hard-working residents and if I saw something I didn’t like, prodded them to get off their butts and do something to make it better.
I want to end by saying a big ‘thank you’ for all the support I have received from my hometown readers for so many years. And a special ‘thank you’ to both Conrad and Lisha for giving me the opportunity to write ‘Stew’ for an additional 10 years in the community where I was born, and have loved to the fullest for my 81 years. To all the newcomers I want to say ‘welcome’. Hope you learn to enjoy Uxbridge as much as I have. Right now I am going to have a ‘cold one’ and go relax on the beach.
Adieu everyone – until we meet again.