Former Revelstoke Herald publisher Clay Stacey has penned a memoir of his 50-year career in the newspaper business, which included more than a decade in Revelstoke.
Stacey moved to Revelstoke in 1971 where he founded the newspaper after scraping together some used typesetting equipment. “It was tough going, to begin with,” he told the Times Review in an interview. “We just stuck to it and it paid off in the end.”
“I absolutely loved Revelstoke,” Stacey reflected on his decade in town, which included the birth of his two sons Dean and Dennis in 1972 and 1974.
While here, Stacey was firsthand witness to some of the more notable chapters of Revelstoke’s colourful history during the the Revelstoke Dam construction, when the town’s population swelled dramatically.
He writes about several of the colourful episodes in The Inquiring Reporter, a 256-page book written in very brief, episodic chapter format.
In one Revelstoke tale, the RCMP launched a full-scale manhunt after losing face when they let a bank robber escape their cells. “That one was certainly legendary,” he said.
A gullible rookie cop was conned by a robber, who promised to show him where the loot was hidden – if they could take a ride in the cruiser together. The police were not amused, and they spared no expense getting their man back. “For a while we thought we were in a war zone there,” Stacey tells me. “There were helicopters in the air and light planes buzzing around and two police dogs were brought in. Oh, God, it was unreal.”
The Revelstoke tales share several anecdotes: Which restaurant had whiskey-laced Chinese tea, memorable hockey brawls, a chapter entitled “I’ll Shoot All of You!” recounting a rivalry between the police and fire departments – to name a few.
He also shares what a tough go it was keeping the paper afloat. It often meant sacrificing to the point of having little to eat at the start.
The paper eventually did well, especially during the dam boom. The paper couldn’t survive the one-two punch of the dam construction end and the recession. He knew where it was headed and pulled out in 1982 before he could get into debt he couldn’t dig out of.
Some of his fondest memories are from here: “The people there were so special that it was a good place to be a reporter.”
Stacey remembers many old friends from his time as a volunteer firefighter here – Donnie Hawker, Chief Mike Martiniuk, John Scarcelli, Don Gillespie Sr. – to name some.
Stacey’s decade in Revelstoke was only one chapter in his 50-year career, which started in 1960, when he started at The Killarney Guide in southwestern Manitoba. From there, he worked in British Columbia (in Golden, Lillooet, Kamloops and Revelstoke) and Alberta (at the Calgary Albertan), then in Saskatchewan (with the Moose Jaw Times-Herald and Fort Qu’Appelle Times before becoming editor and publisher of The Senior, with readers across Canada and beyond).
The stories in the Inquiring Reporter span the entire career, including and early mentorship while working for legendary B.C. editor Ma Murray. The B.C. & Yukon Community Newspapers Association’s annual awards are named in honour of the opinionated, witty, down-to-earth columnist for the Bridge River-Lillooet News. “It was great,” Stacey says of his apprenticeship as a cub reporter. “In describing a spade, she referred to it as a bloody shovel, and so did I.”
“I have interviewed prime ministers and provincial premiers and skid row drunks,” Stacey writes. “I’ve been on the scene and reported on horrific accidents, devastating fires and an array of other tragedies. Through my writings, I once filled a cupboard with donated groceries for an apparent destitute family – and then discovered they were a fraud.
“I helped a Native couple seek justice over a land dispute with the federal government and helped raise funds to send a dying child to a faraway city for cancer treatment. In a front-page story, I took a restaurant owner to task for refusing service to a couple of Native ranch workers for no other reason than the colour of their skin. There has been so much more,” he adds.
“I’ve been hustled, lied to, laughed at, scorned, ridiculed, embarrassed, cheated, cursed – and had a small fireproof safe stolen from my office,” Stacey writes. “There have been trials, tribulations, grief, sadness, sorrow, joy, happiness, success, and much love – for and from my family and my newspaper career. It has been quite the journey.”
The Inquiring Reporter
By Clay Stacey
256 pp; $26.95
The book will soon be available at Castle Joe Books and the Revelstoke Museum & Archives gift shop.