Commentary – The thrill of the chase

Chris Clegg

Regular readers of this space know that Slave Lake Lakeside Leader editor Joe McWilliams likes to write about history. Last week was another example when he examined a long-lost time capsule containing records.

I am a bit of a history buff myself. I will never match the expertise of noted High Prairie historians Violet Komisar, Donald Fevang and Leonard Sahlin, to name a few. Their passion for history overflows the banks of the Peace River, shall we say. I didn’t say West Prairie River because it’s so small!

As a child, I couldn’t give a hoot about history, but now I find it fascinating. I have no idea what triggered my interest.

I do remember, however, people coming into our newspaper office and looking at our “morgue” books. Morgue books are the big books where all the newspapers are bound. It is fascinating to leaf through the pages and relive history. The only problem is, they sort of stink. Old newsprint and ink is not a good combination over time for the old smelling factory.

I first became aware of morgue books when I became friends with Fairview Post editor Dennis Hegland. It was Hegland who sparked my interest in journalism. As for morgue books, it is what Hegland and Post publisher Peter Schierbeck called them. I have no idea what they are actually called but the name sounded pretty cool so I’ve always used it.

As I started my career in journalism, the morgue books became a valuable source of information. One could go back in time and read about events, meetings, features, etc. I knew many people were interested in history so I began compiling the history by reading every single copy of the old South Peace News editions. I have spent literally thousands of hours reading and recording the history.

I did the same for the Grouard News, which published between 1912-15. I went to the Alberta Legislature Library and copied all the issues. I have them at the High Prairie South Peace News office.

History does come alive in the pages. The little political squabbles are there for all to read, crime, battles between communities. Openings of schools, businesses, sports events.

From time to time I get requests to find an item. If it piques my interest, I might look for it myself. Otherwise, people are free to come into the office and look themselves.

So, recently we had McWilliams looking for an item. In this case, not necessarily in the pages of a newspaper, however. When the item was found he was elated. I know the feeling. It is very satisfying to leaf through page after page after page and stumble across the item you’re searching for.

There is one item that has eluded me. A few people and I are trying desperately to find the Town of Grouard seal. It was not published in the Grouard News but described fully in the Sept. 6, 1913 edition:

“The seal of the new town of Grouard arrived this week and is a very good appropriate one. On the top are the words ‘Town of Grouard, Alberta, Canada’ while at the bottom is ‘Labour Omnia Vincit’ – Labour Accomplishes all Things. In the centre of the seal is the form of a buffalo.”

The search continues. Help!

Perhaps one day someone might get lucky and find the seal. Meanwhile the thrill of the chase continues.

Like McWilliams just experienced, if the seal is ever found, what a wonderful day it will be.

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