It was 61 years ago that I was hired by The Chronicle Herald. I had been writing sports for the Evening News in New Glasgow during my six years in high school and university.
The provincial paper was on the verge of opening a news bureau in Pictou County and I was tagged for the assignment — but not before some specific exposure on how a bureau worked.
That put me in Truro, where a true newspaper veteran had been operating a bureau in his basement for 20 years. Clarence B. Johnson — he preferred being called by his initials CBJ — was the man in charge. It didn’t take long to discover who was boss.
I recognized him immediately. I used to see him and another man noisily supporting the visiting team whenever the Truro Bearcats were in Stellarton to play the Albions in the Halifax and District Baseball League.
Quickly I found out about CBJ and his sports affiliations. He was one of those who kept the Bearcats in action until the H&D loop folded. He was involved in minor baseball, minor hockey, the building of Colchester Legion Stadium. For his endeavours, he was one of the first persons inducted into the builders category at the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame.
I learned plenty under him — how to properly take newspaper photos, how to develop the photos in my own darkroom and get them to Halifax, how to approach and treat people in the community who would be vital contacts for a reporter.
One thing he emphasized over and over during my three months under his tutelage has stuck with me for six decades.
Just three words: “Persistence pays off.”
I assure you, when he had a goal to achieve, he was persistent if nothing else. You didn’t take “no” for an answer when you needed someone to say something about some story. He was as persistent as anyone I ever dealt with. A lot of stories were developed because of his determined attitude.
I learned from the master.
Now, reaching my 67th year in this racket, I still think of CBJ’s advice. Persistence pays off — not just in journalism, but in any occupation or role.
When I began preparing for this column, I had no idea what the subject would be. That happens from time to time.
But I got up last Tuesday morning and things started taking shape. An idea was forming in my mind and, for some reason, CBJ’s lesson about persistence started sneaking into my thoughts.
That day, examples were everywhere.
I discovered stories developing online and television that the federal and provincial governments were finally seeing the light. Their insistence that a review, not an inquiry, was the way to handle April’s horrific shooting rampage that cost 22 Nova Scotians their lives was suddenly reversed. There’d be an inquiry.
This time an angered public won out. The province, then the feds, made a 180-degree turn in their plans. Persistence by Nova Scotians and Canadians won the day.
Being from Pictou County, having been a cottager in Pictou Landing the first 30 years of my life, I’ve followed the struggles between the pulp mill at Abercrombie and the Nova Scotia government for all the years the controversy has lingered.
I’ve always remembered the date November 14, 1967 — and not just because I was getting married 11 days later. I remembered because I was there, still the Herald’s bureau chief, covering the opening ceremonies at Scott Paper.
When things began going wrong — criticism of the mill, the situation at Boat Harbour and the other negative developments — I was supportive and proud of the stance taken by the people of Pictou Landing First Nation. They were victims, but they were determined and, yes, persistent to right a wrong.
Last Wednesday’s Herald had three stories on its front page — the inquiry announcement, the mill story update and the arrival of the frigate HMCS Fredericton into Halifax Harbour from a 190-day mission in the Mediterranean.
It wasn’t just another arrival of another ship. It was the coming home of a crew devastated by the loss of six of their colleagues in the helicopter crash that shook Nova Scotians and Canadians to the bone. The frigate’s crew didn’t just count their losses. They undertook an exhausting search for more than a week, ending only when all six bodies were recovered.
That’s true persistence.
Think of COVID-19 and the professional sports that were forced to shut down. It took months, but the leaders of those leagues worked and worked hard to find solutions Now we’re seeing teams back in action.
Again it was persistence.
The afternoon I heard there would be an inquiry into the murders in Colchester County, my phone rang.
It was a member of the group known as the Stellarton Memorial Community Centre Association. Phyllis Porter Baker wanted to make sure I knew of the positive development that town council had agreed to sell Memorial Rink to the association for a loonie — a reversal of the story four months earlier that made it seem the 73-year-old rink was doomed.
Though I covered the opening of Scott Paper 53 years ago, I didn’t cover the rink’s opening night. It was 1947 and I was just nine years old. But, yes, I was there that night, seeing the first hockey game played in the new building.
I’ve had many, many enjoyable times in that building and, unlike the earlier decision in New Glasgow that spelled the end of John Brother MacDonald Stadium, it will be wonderful if the Stellarton facility lives on in a new role.
Again, persistence won the day.
Clarence Johnson passed away many years ago but, wherever he’s organizing sporting events nowadays, I hope he realizes this old writer hasn’t forgotten what he taught me in the autumn of 1959.