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ROTHENBURGER – Kamloops Daily News building had more years to give

I WATCHED the demolition work at the old Kamloops Daily News building for a couple of minutes the other day.

The sign says “Daily News Site – Demolition.”

It should say, “Daily News Site – Demolished Dreams.”

From the newspaper company that gave up on its daily paper, to the failed vision for a performing arts centre, to the City council that couldn’t see past a parking lot — this building hasn’t gotten a fair shake in recent years.

And now it’s being hauled away in pieces.

I remember when we moved into that building over the August long weekend in 1992 from the former Woodward’s department store — now the B.C. Lottery Corp.

The press was hauled over from the other building and loaded through the front windows on Victoria Street and lowered into place in the basement, and we didn’t skip a single edition, a fact we all took pride in.

Seymour Street businesses were thrilled to see the old Bay building occupied. The renovation brought new life to a somewhat neglected part of town, creating its own pedestrian traffic between Victoria and Seymour as staff and public went back and forth.

It was a sort of community gathering place. The street people liked it, too, and would frequently come in asking to talk to a reporter about some grievance or other. Stepping over a slumbering body in the alley-door alcove off the parking lot in the morning or late at night wasn’t uncommon.

No babies were born inside the KDN, and nobody died there, but there are many memories. It was a place where everybody worked hard at jobs they enjoyed.

As a newspaper building, it had its limitations. The boiler was a finicky old thing from the ‘50s, and space heaters were the order of the day during the coldest days of winter. The noise from the HVAC system was something awful at any time of year.

The only way to get rolls of newsprint in, and the printed newspaper out, was via a slow-as-molasses freight elevator.

Part of Kamloops Daily News newsroom, looking towards the editor’s office.

Somehow it worked, though. My office was shoved in a back corner of the first floor, so I insisted on a window looking out into the newsroom. If I craned my neck, I could see through to the street. Most of the time, all I could see was reporters.

There was never a slow day — there was always a deadline to meet.

Fire drills always seemed to come at inconvenient times. One day, when the fire alarms went off, everybody in the newsroom kept working.

When the fire department guys showed up and told us to leave the building, we told them we weren’t going. It was a drill, not a fire, and we had a deadline to meet. They weren’t happy, but they left us alone.

The first harbinger of doom came when Glacier Media, the paper’s owner during its last years, shut down the presses, laid off the press crew and started sending the paper to Vernon to be printed.

The last night our presses ran, I shouted “Stop the presses!” for the final time.

And then, in 2014, about a year and a half after I retired, Glacier Media suddenly announced the Kamloops Daily News would stop publishing. Glacier cited lack of financial viability as the cause. It wasn’t that the community stopped wanting a daily newspaper; the problem was not enough people wanted to keep paying for one.

Ultimately, City council had the last say about the fate of the building. Some of them tried to save it, to look at new options for the PAC or other uses, but they didn’t try hard enough.

People say buildings are just bricks and mortar, but they’re the places we create to live, play, heal and work. The bricks and mortar at 393 Seymour gave Kamloops a lot of good years, and could have given more.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops, former school board chair, former editor of The Kamloops Daily News, and a current director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He was awarded the Jack Webster Foundation’s lifetime achievement award in 2011. His editorials are published regularly on CFJC Today and he appears Wednesdays on the CFJC-TV evening news with his Armchair Mayor commentary. Contact him at mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

 

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About Mel Rothenburger (5132 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

9 Comments on ROTHENBURGER – Kamloops Daily News building had more years to give

  1. I know we’re in the minority, Mel, but I also appreciated the minimalist facade. I hope that marble material was salvaged.

  2. I agree with your statement…”Ultimately, City council had the last say
    about the fate of the building. Some of them tried to save it, to look
    at new options for the PAC or other uses, but they didn’t try hard
    enough.” I would add that “it takes a community” is another statement
    that could be made regarding a few major issues in this City. This
    version of Council especially, needs to hear clearly and strongly from
    concerned residents, ahead of the curve not after the fact. I will welcome some
    good ol’ rational poking any day over a politically correct Mr./Ms. nice
    guy approach.

    Our current interim Mayor Arjun Singh is doing his best in his temporary
    visit to the head of the horseshoe. I believe there is a more systemic
    problem on City Council and that is one of a lack of bold leadership
    which results in our City often being lead from the back rooms. I
    believe we need an leader who can set the tone for an exciting and
    vibrant vision of Kamloops, with the clarity to win the necessary
    support on Council. Administration definitely has the education and
    talent to provide the necessary experience for the day to day operation
    of our City, but bold political leadership is not part of their mandate
    or education. A Council should not simply give up on their intent when
    “plan A” fails, any developer knows you need some flexibility and a few
    solid “plan B’s”. Intent, vision and determination are the three pillars
    to success.

    The destruction of what is possibly the most solidly built building in
    Kamloops, likely earthquake proof, while at the same time lacking a new
    bold vision for the future of that prime development property, is pure
    folly. Spending up to $1.1 mil to achieve 69 temporary surface parking
    stalls is short sighted, at best. I do not enjoy eating my sour grapes
    while I witness this building being hauled away in pieces.

    • Pierre Filisetti // September 3, 2017 at 8:53 AM // Reply

      As you know Denis, most on council and senior administrators think they can do no wrong and easily get upset when shown, in plain daylight, otherwise.
      In my opinion there are two issues we need to work on.
      One is definitely the “intent, vision, determination”. The other is the “nuts and bolts” of running the enterprise.
      At this period in time in our city, we need people on council that know what it takes to build and maintain as well as being able to dream.

  3. I agree Mel.City hall failed this town when they made the unsupportable decision to have the place torn down.I believe it was their form of retribution for the failure to get the performing arts center done.When they were asking for suggestions for alternate uses foe the old place I put in the idea of renovating for 80 to 100 low rent apartments .I never saw the idea again.Renovation would have been quite simple and relatively cheap.When I followed up a few weeks later I was told that the contract for demo had already been given . I’ve never heard of a contract that didn’t have an escape clause.(perhaps with a small penalty involved )but the building could have been saved and used for many years ahead.Perhaps city hall didn’t want a concentration of low income folk in the core of the city.Maybe they didn’t want anything from our history lasting longer than they did.

  4. Peter Thornton // September 2, 2017 at 11:38 AM // Reply

    This is so true, and forgotten in the mix is the use it got as a mall home of Peitch Home Furnishings, a seniors center a jewelry store and even a sales barn in the add on for the old Stockmens Hotel room furniture when they did a renovation. All pointing to the possibilities which it seems failed to get explored very thoroughly. And ohh yes it did all of these things while still functioning as a pretty good size parking lot. As Joannie Mitchell sang yup lol Pave paradise – put up a parking lot congrats council on a great IMHOP bungle.

  5. As a child living in Kamloops in the fifties, I remember the Hudson’s Bay building very well. It was the most modern building in Kamloops at that time, the only building with an escalator. My siblings and I entertained ourselves for hours going up and down while our mother shopped.

    Structurally, the building was very solid and durable, and iconic in appearance. I don’t recall the terrazzo exterior of the building ever requiring any repairs or maintenance.I don’t recall it ever even being washed, with the exception of the windows. The terrazzo floors on the main floor were the same.Millions of foot steps later the floor was nearly as good as new. Most buildings today are built with a shorter service life, requiring new flooring, painting, trim, etc, every twenty years or so. Buildings of the vintage of the Bay building were designed for a nearly indefinite service life. It is a design philosophy that is being lost to history,just like this building.

    • Mel Rothenburger // September 2, 2017 at 12:10 PM // Reply

      I absolutely agree about the beauty of the exterior. And those floors never had to be redone – we were still walking on them when the paper closed.

      • Pierre Filisetti // September 2, 2017 at 12:35 PM //

        The beauty of the exterior?
        You sure pushing it now!
        I mean, I understand and feel very sympathetic towards what you wrote in the “editorial” but everything, eventually, goes into irreversible senescence and gets recycled…at least that’s the way nature does it.
        As for lasting beauty…concepts and ideas and sure a PAC would’ve been a fitting tribute to that site. But then there was no plan “B” and plan “A” was without community…

      • Mel Rothenburger // September 2, 2017 at 8:47 PM //

        The backside didn’t have much going for it but I’ve always found the simple marble facades off Seymour Street and 4th Avenue attractive. It was not a typical Victorian heritage building, but heritage nevertheless.

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