It was long ago, before the Internet, email, Facebook, the Twitterverse. the Whateverse even. In the mid- ’70s I was a new mom, new to the Glebe. Marnie Johnstone, then Glebe Report editor, invited me to join their production team and write articles. Thus began an adventure in community building that informs me still.
I met staff and volunteers, mostly women, at the paper’s small office in the Glebe Community Centre off the northeast corner of the Main Hall. Here submissions were typed (yes! on Selectric typewriters), proofread, then “cut and pasted” onto waxed pages. The finished product was sent by bus to press in Renfrew. Days later, 7,000 bundled Glebe Reports arrived back and volunteer carriers delivered them to all Glebe homes and businesses. Two weeks later, we started again.
Open office windows caught summer breezes to cool us. In winter we endured the ominous offbeat symphony of clanking radiators. A laughable part of our esprit de corps during the day, this proved unnerving when working alone after dark. One memorable night, the clanking paused and a tuneless whistle commenced, then new clanking and dragging!? Dousing the light I waited, terrified. Finally, mustering the courage, I peeked through the mail slot. There was the caretaker serenading himself as he dragged metal chairs into the Main Hall.
Equally unnerving was the mumbling of “the Pink Man,” a tall, elderly, rawboned veteran. He roamed Glebe streets and would slip into the Centre to hide and shelter overnight. Eventually, a new alarm system prevented both his and real nefarious entries.
Our office moved upstairs, above the Main Hall, to a long, narrow room that perfectly housed our workstations and production team. Computers and word processing were now used. I became editor in 1987 and very much enjoyed all my co-workers and the many interactions with our community, GCC and The Pantry staff. As my family grew, so did my activities. Working in the Glebe Co-op Playgroup, joining school councils, the Glebe Community Association and GNAG deepened my knowledge of healthy community. I understood and promoted the critical role that the Glebe Report – our homegrown newspaper – played in providing equal opportunity for our public to communicate and share. In 1997 I resigned as editor to run for City Council. I won and served as Capital Ward City Councillor until the end of 2000. As corporate “community papers” proliferated I fought to retain city support for the real ones.
The Glebe’s biggest challenge when I was Glebe Report editor and city councillor was Lansdowne Park re-development. My success mandating open public consultation was curtailed in 2000 when Ottawa and regional councils voted to hand Lansdowne Park over to the region, critically diluting any future Glebe influence on its development. All communities in amalgamated Ottawa now suffer the same diluted ability to manage change locally. They struggle to learn of city-approved development in their areas, to have a place at the decision-making table, and get access to city proceedings. Can community newspapers play a role to change this? The Glebe Report’s new website has potential. Unlike the monthly paper, it will have 24/7 capacity to notify and inform the community of important events. This is an invaluable option to consider.
Happy 40th anniversary Glebe Report! Congratulations to all who have built and will continue to build your success!