Reflections of a publisher after 25 years of bringing you the issues
My daughters, Amy and Molly Newborn, then 7 and 5, gave out the first issue of The Senior Times in October 1986, at the Van Horne Shopping Centre. I asked them to give the 12-pager to “anyone with grey hair.” What did I know? I was only 36.
I sold my first ad to Alymer Must Nursing Services. I had called at least 50 potential advertisers and was about to give up when when Ms. Must said, “Put me in.” I cried. I didn’t know much about collection in those days. I took my kids, got in the car, and drove around to my advertisers’ offices to collect the money for the ads. I drew the bowling pin in the ad for Rose Bowl lanes in the first issue. There were no graphics to borrow from in those days, or I didn’t know how to get them.
I lost $400 for a quarter page ad for Griffith McConnell, when we printed “infra-red light in all pubic places.”
Jacquie Soloway, then 23, waited for an interview with me outside my office on Victoria Ave. after the first issue was out. She had seen my ad for salespeople in the Suburban. I was late for the interview because I was teaching at McGill. She worked with me from 1986 to 1992 and then left for 13 years. I’m so glad she’s back as our sales manager.
Jacquie and I had worked into the wee hours at Studio Apostrophe. I had attended Jacquie and Ivan’s wedding and watched their children, Ryan and Chelsea, grow up. Jacquie is like a sister to me. Thanks for supporting me all these years and moving in to the city from D.D.O., Jacquie Soloway Cons.
Brian Topp, now a candidate for the NDP leadership, was my first typesetter. Brian was the first Montrealer that I know of to get into “desktop publishing.” His Studio Apostrophe on St. Hubert, over a bar, was the site of many long nights, with flats of the pages and our tired bodies strewn on the floor along with a litter or two of kittens. Small-screen, first-generation Mac Classics churned out the copy and ads, which were pasted on “flats.” Mistakes were corrected by pasting letters or words over copy. Veloxes, glossy printout ads were sent to the printer, then Quebecor. Once a half-page border came out with the words, “X ad goes here” in the middle of a very large, blank space. Thanks to Peter Wheeland and Brian Receiver, who worked tirelessly into the nights, the paper came out, usually with all its fingers and toes.
Speaking of fingers and toes, when the first issue came out, it was like a kind of birth. I quickly realized that I would have a new baby every month!
June Grant walked into my office one day and asked if she could write a column. She had been an ad copy writer and wanted to write in her “retirement.” I suggested a cooking column, but June said she didn’t cook. I said, “Write a column about how you don’t cook.” June penned Salt and Pepper, a wonderfully biting and humorous column featuring alter ego Marge for more than 10 years. She also had a radio gig with CBC when she retired from The Senior Times.
Thanks to Pat McDougall, a genuine artist who drew the most brilliant illustrations to go with our articles. Pat would come to Studio Apostrophe and simply start drawing after he had read the article. My favourite was the back of an older gentleman walking down the 401 toward Toronto and one of the multi-faceted Joe King with limbs in all directions.
We’ve had many wonderful editors, among them Renée Joette Friesen who, before she moved to Winnipeg, brought honesty, sensitivity and professionalism to the job, and Ellen Lechter, who saw the paper through some of its roughest and most prolific early times until she left in 1993. Our new copy editor, Hayley Juhl is just that, a jewel. Hayley brings a wealth of experience and understanding to the job, an expert at writing, editoring and communicating a sense of excitement to our columnists about each upcoming issue. And she comes up with the most creative and witty headlines.
Some of my favourite columnists who are no longer with us: Tracy Ludington (Update On Seniors), Lolly Golt (That’s Entertainment), Joe McDougall (I Remember When)— you adorned our pages with your wit, experience and memories.
As Associate Editor of The Senior Times for five year in the ’90s, Joe King had his kingly head in every conceivable subject including antiques, Montreal celebrities (he among them), books, old and new, and bathrooms.
He was the genius behind our Montreal Resource Directory, coming up with an idea that has become an annual event. Joe had a wisecrack for everyone and everything, never missing a beat. The King of one liners, a radio man, author of all things Jewish and Montreal, Joe King is a living legend. Thanks, Joe for all your ideas and contributions over the years.
I started The Senior Times on $3,000, part of an inheritance from my grandfather, William Levit, a Russian artist who established Levit Neon Signs, the first neon sign company in Winnipeg and taught me what it means to live life to the fullest. He died in 1986, at age 92. Zaida Levit was my first mentor. From him, I inherited my painting talents and sense of artistic design that I contribute to my paper every month and that is the basis for what I teach my students at Dawson about Writing in A Visual World. If I could credit one influence on my creation, The Senior Times, it would be Zaida.
In 1991, we published an insert titled The Senior Crimes, which featured as its only writer Ellen Lechter’s Zaida, his picture in every column and article. The lead story was “Publisher to spend nine months in space.” It was about my young family going into outer space, a kind of spoof on a year long sabbatical we took to Israel. Well, wouldn’t you know it, some readers actually believed it and sent me congratulations on being chosen by the SPS agency (Send our People to Space) headed by none other than Lane Boritsky, (Ellen’s grandfather, not his real name). Other articles in this section included “Reformed con man speaks out,” and “Rollover your mistress? Tips on duping the gov’t and your wife.” We have been afraid to do another spoof issue since them. Should we try it again?
Thelma Gearey was a student in my business writing class in 1994. I gave her a lift home one evening when we realized she lived across the street from me and The Senior Times. Thelma has been our indispensable office manager for 12 years. She is the gears that keep The Senior Times running. Thanks for all your devotion to me personally, Thelma, and to our 25-year-old baby, The Senior Times.