Windsor - March 2, 2013 - A couple of months ago, on a Friday afternoon, I grabbed my camera and went for a walk downtown. It was shortly after the Windsor Star had relocated to its’ new digs in the former Palace Theatre, and I wanted to get a few pictures of the old building. As I framed my first shot I started to recall many happy memories of my time inside the Star’s hallowed walls. My dad Jim worked there for thirty seven years, as a copy editor, reporter, and columnist, and once in a while I would take the bus and go to visit him after school.
In those days you went through the Ferry Street doors, up the stairs, and passed by the giant black and white aerial photo of the city. When you got to the top of the stairs, you went through the doors that opened into the newsroom. There was always a blue haze in the air from the innumerable cigarettes that hung from the lips of the reporters as they cranked out their stories. The teletype machine chattered away in the background, as story after story came across the wire. I’d wander over to Dad’s spot, where he sat smiling and waving at me. He’d get up from behind his desk, the gray, steel one, with the rounded corners, piled high with papers, and we’d make the rounds around the newsroom. Many of the reporters’ names escape me, but I do remember business writer Bill Shields, and the hip, cool, John Laycock, who wrote about rock music. Then there was the bearded Spiros De Bono, whose booming voice would greet me with “Hello there, Cornett junior!”
As we got closer to the sports department, there it was. The unmistakable smell of Jack Dulmage’s pipe.Dulmage, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1984, was my favourite sports writer in those days. Every once in a while Dad would bring one of my Toronto Maple Leafs stories to him for a critique. While I can’t remember if he thought they were any good, I do remember him letting me look through the stacks and stacks of wire photos, telling me to “take whatever you want, we’re done with them.”
Next stop was the photo department, where the affable photographic duo of Cecil Southward and Walter Jackson would let me watch them print their pictures, as long as I promised to stay out of their way. It was there, in the Star’s darkroom, that I watched an image appear in the developer for the first time.
In later years, you had to use the Pitt Street entrance to get to the newsroom. That was ok with me, because it gave me a chance to talk to Charlie, the security guard. I would sign the visitor’s log book, and he would ask me about school, then tell me to “go on up, Timmy, you know where you’re going.”
Many years have passed since those days, but I will cherish the memories forever. I stood at the corner of Ferry and Pitt on that beautiful, warm December afternoon. I had tears in my eyes. They were tears of joy. I could almost smell the ink, the newsprint, the darkroom chemicals, and Jack Dulmage’s pipe. And I could see my dad, sitting at his gray, steel desk. The one with the rounded corners.
He was waving at me. And smiling.