In my 25 years with The Packet, three events stand out
Wow. Fifty years serving the region.
I was privileged to work at the Packet for 25 of those 50 years.
I began working for the Packet in the fall of 1987. My first big event to cover was the annual Labour Day slo-pitch tournament. Teams from around region and the province converged on the town for four days of competition.
There were no digital cameras back then. It was aim and shoot photography and the hope that you captured the shot.
At the end of the day it was back to the office to spend an hour or so in the darkroom developing the film.
I have a lot of fond memories of my time working at the Packet. I covered many events over the years.
Three stand out.
The Clarenville Caribous senior hockey team winning their first Herder championship at Mile One stadium over the Conception Bay CeeBees.
The atmosphere was electric.
The arrival of the Matthew in Bonavista in 1997 was spectacular. The eyes of the world were on our province.
Hurricane Igor left a big imprint on my memory. I'll never forget my editor assigning the editorial staff to various areas of our region that were heavily impacted by the hurricane.
My assignment was the Little Heart's Ease area and all communities in between. Roads had been washed out all along Southwest Arm. The only access was by boat. Private boat owners were quick to offer assistance.
Before I left the office I had invitations from people to stop in for a cup of tea or stay for supper. These were people without power, flooded basements and cut off from the rest of civilization and yet still offering a welcoming hand.
In the face of adversity it was typical Newfoundland hospitality at its best.
Keep up the great work.
Your life can change in the strangest moments
It’s a beautiful September day in Clarenville, but I’m in Barb’s small office with Roz Smith, being interviewed for a reporter job with the Packet. A job I really need at this point. The interview is going well, when they glance at each other. I recognize the look. This is it. The question they use to make or break interviewees.
“One of your responsibilities will be delivering newspapers on Monday. Do you have a problem with that?”
“Great! We’ll be in touch.”
Seven years of post-secondary education, a year working overseas and freelance writing gigs, but it’s my experience delivering the Evening Telegram at 10 years old that puts me over the top.
Your life can change in the strangest moments, my friends.
My life improved the moment I started working with the Packet. Not just as a reporter, because no one can be around Barb for long and not become significantly better at the job. I just became a better… person by being at the paper and working with five remarkable women. Sometimes it was by watching and learning. Sometimes it was through gently phrased threats. Often it was by them teasing the foolish townie in their midst.
One last thing. The Packet has always been ahead of the curve. The small warehouse of awards is proof of that. But at a time when women are justifiably standing up and taking power more than ever before, it was a lesson I learned on my first day on the job, almost 20 years ago. When I went to use the only washroom in the office I was greeted by a sign:
And underneath, on a sticky note:
I never forgot who was running the joint. And I was better off for it.
Craig Welsh was a reporter, associate editor and general nuisance at The Packet from 1998-2001. He currently lives in Iqaluit, Nunavut.
Proud to have played a small part in Packet history
I joined the Packet in September 1996. When I think about my time there, it’s perpetually autumn, with Clarenville and Shoal Harbour cloaked in burning golds and reds against navy blue skies and the choppy white waves of Smith Sound.
Every town, cove, tickle, bight, sound and harbour I covered in Placentia, Trinity and Bonavista bays over the next two years stole my heart. And the people, some of the kindest and most interesting I’ve met, freely shared their stories with me, happy or sad, for better or worse.
One thing always struck me about this part of the island: behind every postcard vista and warm welcome was something of a hard edge. I think it came from living lives built on relentlessly uncertain industries in harsh conditions and landscapes – rock-hard, back-breaking, ice-cold work.
That feeling was etched into every field and cliff and bay, always reminding you that a person could be content here, but only if they were tough enough; a wonderful, inviting place that suffered no fools.
The Packet was like that too, the embodiment of your friendly community newspaper brimming with heart-warming stories about neighbours and friends, their achievements and endeavours, wins and losses.
But make no mistake – the Packet was then, and remains now, a tough-minded newspaper, brave and unflinching when necessary, fair and balanced always.
I learned a lot there about resilience, courage and fairness, and I learned it the hard way from Barbara Dean-Simmons, Kathy Gosse, Anne Barker, Roz Smith, Ruby Boone and Bonnie Goodyear.
When I think of what it took for us to get the Packet into readers’ homes – from news-gathering to writing to literally delivering bundled newspapers to stores and carriers – I still wonder how we managed it, humour intact and fuelled by tea, Co-op store bread and truly terrible puns.
But we did it gladly, week after week, as “Packeteers” have been doing for 50 years now. I’m proud to have played a small part in that history.
Proud to have contributed to The Packet
As a freelance reporter with the Packet, I have been so proud to be able to contribute to the Packet’s 50-year collection of local stories (and local history).
Out of the countless community summer events I have covered, I have the best memories of Dunfield’s first Come Home Year in August 2012.
It was a typical Newfoundland grey foggy day, and just about everyone involved took to the narrow streets for old-fashioned fun and games. I remember being guided up an embankment to a grassy field called Kitty’s Meadow where a huge crowd of men, women, and children of all ages enjoyed a game of softball.
Their umpire was then 77-year-old John Humber, who had supervised many school and community softball games in years past when the adults were in their youth. He was brought to the field via side-by-side and I think everyone was as happy to see him manage the game, as they were to play it themselves.
That same day, I tried my hand at bicycle rim racing for the first time, as I watched participants (including senior citizens) whiz past me. You would lose sight of them behind saltbox houses and sheds, and catch glimpse of them in-between structures as they raced with children alongside. It was very colourful to watch.
Then there were the go-cart races.
During one of the runs, a young boy lost a wheel off his handmade cart in middle of the track. Then a crowd of men, beer bottles in hand, surrounded him and carried him and his car to the Finish line.
I didn’t want to leave and just barely made it home before dark.
Such moments may never ‘go viral’ or be mainstream news, but they will always be important to Packet readers like myself.
Congratulations to the Packet and its staff, former staff, and freelance contributors on this 50-year anniversary. Here’s to 50 more years of recording these local events.
It reminded me how important local newspapers are to a community
I arrived in Clarenville on a cold winter night in December, 2012. One month before I was living in London, UK, one of the world's biggest and busiest cities, and with my visa expiring, I was happy to find a job in journalism back home in Newfoundland.
I had worked in Gander with the Beacon years before, so being a community reporter in a small town was nothing new to me. I moved into my Bayview Road apartment and was happy to discover out my window there was a seaside view of the bay. I spent my first Friday night taking photos of the moon reflecting off the water over Random Island. The lights from the homes on the island were just barely visible over the sound.
Over the next few months I got to know Clarenville and the region by talking to its people – the fishermen, politicians, police, teachers, students, retirees, cashiers, construction workers, and whoever else was willing to speak to a reporter with pages to fill. The best way to learn about a town or city is to be a reporter, because you get to ask questions you would never normally ask people you would never normally speak to.
Working with the Packet reminded me how important local newspapers are to a small community. If your community council is not doing what you want it to do, you can make your voice heard by contacting your local paper. There is no point in having elections if the people elected aren't responsible to the people who voted for them. It was really satisfying to play a small part in making a community work. Then there were the friends I made and the times we had together. Throwing the baseball around at lunch break with Chris the sports reporter, starting an open mic with Kevin, watching the 2014 Olympic gold medal hockey game with Jonathan, talking about Newfoundland politics with Barb. These were great times that made me happy to be there.
Everything happens for a reason. I came to the Packet pretty desperate for whatever kind of journalism work I could get. Over the next two years I learned skills that made me a better professional, did a job I believed in and made some memories that I'll keep with me forever.