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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.