A world of promise

“By our age, all of our thrills are vicarious,” said Dic Doyle, editor of the Globe & Mail (a once-respected Toronto daily). Or, Mop & Pail, to its inmates. This was more than half-a-century ago.

Mr Doyle was then not quite fifty, himself; but speaking to me, then barely sixteen. For I was once a copy boy at the Mop, and a very successful one. They’d leave me in charge of the telegraph room when dear old Vern was having trouble with a bottle. They’d let me read out-of-town papers, on behalf of the Exchange Editor. I’d even reported a Rochdale drug-bust story, that found its way onto the front page. (It was just over two inches in length; but I got a five-dollar bonus because it contained a fatality.)

I had written a long memo to Mr Doyle, which I naughtily cc’d to a Mr Davey — some thirteen pages as I recall — arguing for the already-discarded system of journalistic apprenticeships. It opposed the Mop‘s fresh newsroom policy, of hiring only graduates of “J-schools.” I expected to be fired for having any opinion, but no, Mr Doyle said my memo was well-written. Too, that he would be vicariously thrilled, to watch my career advancing.

Upon learning that I had lined up a job at the Bangkok World, he said, “Ah, youthful enterprise! I was going to suggest the Chatham Daily News.”

By now, Doyle has been dead for nearly eighteen years. Gentle reader will guess he was one of my heroes. He could match me in education: we had both completed Grade Ten. The last chief editor of the Mop who was capable of loyalties — he would not have a word said against Christ, or the Queen — he promised to hire me back when I had acquired some experience.

He was, as ever, as good as his word. But I declined his kind offer of a desk job, more than a decade later, after chatting with several potential colleagues. I observed that they were all commies.

“Ah, you noticed. In the old days we used to have a token Marxist on the editorial horseshoe. These days we just have a token journalist.”

Doyle was now approaching retirement.

I am afflicted with these distant memories, in Toronto again,¬†under lockdown. My mind often flies down pneumatic tubes of nostalgia. It is illegal for me to visit, or be visited by, another human being. After my son dropped by to fix my computer, recently, a neighbour — one of nature’s more enthusiastic snitchers — promised¬†that if she suspected I had another visitor in my flat, she would call the police. A diligent researcher, she told me that the fine could be “up to $100,000,” plus “up to one year in gaol.”

Rather than argue, I quietly smiled. I was reflecting that it would also be illegal to tie her up with a telephone cord, and slide her off the balcony.

A lot of things are illegal today: after all, Canada is no longer a free country. We still have newspapers, however, which are unlike Pravda, because Pravda didn’t carry supermarket flyers. Whoever that token journalist was, at the Mop & Pail, circa 1982, I daresay he has expired.

But no one yet has tried to stop me from reading all day, and for the moment these Idleposts seem to be still appearing.