Jim Hume: At 90 going on 91, a great ride ends (at least in print)

One day I was just lazing around claiming to be thinking about my next column; the next I was contemplating what I would do when I no longer had a column to write.

I had just received an email from the editor-in-chief informing me a higher power had ordered a curb on expenditures for freelance writers. My name was on the hit list — a decision to which I am sure some will respond: “About time, too.”

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It has to be admitted that half a century of bylines — more than 60 years if we reach back into the mid-1950s when I was a “stringer” reporting from the Alberni Valley for both the old Victoria Daily Times and the Daily Colonist — must have been an endurance test for TC readers, as well as the writer.

A long journey with a fair share of triumphs and disappointments, but always with my lifetime genuine boast that my job was so enjoyable I never did a day’s work.

I don’t intend to permit being benched from the Sunday lineup to change that enjoyment. Within hours of receiving my “stand down” notice, I was asking youngest son Nic to set me up with a web page. It should be fully operational after my next round with a nuisance prostate gland scheduled for April 14 at Victoria General Hospital.

Readers interested in following my post-newspaper career and post-operation condition should be able to find both at www.JimHume.ca — but with a reminder “the site is still under construction.”

Hopefully, the outlet will give me the opportunity to fulfil my long-held ambition to match the legendary Bruce Hutchison’s longevity record. Bruce, who readily gave me time and journalistic advice in my early legislature press gallery days, wrote editorials and comment until he was 91. As admitted years ago, I could never match his talent, but I could, with a bit of luck, tie or beat his 91 years at bat.

I’m vacating the field nine months short, but maybe a year on “the Net” will qualify to tip the scale.

The first premier I interviewed was Byron Ingemar Johnson (1947-52), who was the father of health care in B.C., although it was W.A.C. Bennett who brought it into full bloom. I was driving a bread delivery truck at the time and freelance-writing with limited success. I never did sell my “Boss” Johnson piece.

It was 1954, eight years after arriving in B.C., that I got my first full-time writing job as sports writer/editor/columnist/court reporter/feature writer for the Nanaimo Daily Free Press. Then came a move as bureau chief for a Free Press news outpost in the Alberni Valley and from there to the Okanagan as managing editor of the Penticton Herald.

A few years later, it was on to the Edmonton Journal as assistant city editor, later legislature reporter-columnist. Salvation from Edmonton’s eternal winter came in 1965 when Les Fox, then managing editor of the Victoria Daily Times wrote “it’s time you came home” and offered me a job as No. 2 man on the B.C. legislature beat. It was 40-below the day I got the letter. The response was easy and instantaneous.

And here I’ve been ever since — except for a brief spell when mid-life insanity persuaded me I could find happiness as an information officer with the Capital Regional District. A mistake so bad that when the late Clare Copeland offered a job in his CFAX radio newsroom, I was gone in a flash. Another bad mistake, 20-second sound bites proving anathema to an old print reporter.

In the early 1970s, Richard Bower and Fred Barnes, publisher and managing editor of the Colonist, called to ask if I would be interested in returning to newspaper respectability as their press gallery man. Another easy decision. Twenty years later, I was granted life membership and remain the gallery’s longest-serving member.

It has been a wonderful ride that has taken me to just about every corner of B.C. and a good portion of planet Earth. I have sipped cocktails and chatted with Queen Elizabeth on the royal yacht Britannia, talked with British prime minister Jimmy Callaghan in No. 10 Downing St., dined at the Quai d’Orsay in Paris as a guest of the French Foreign Office, and lunched with lords and cabinet ministers on the Embankment, guarded by Big Ben.

Just a short list of highlights to remember along with few awards, among them a treasured Webster — the 1994 Bruce Hutchison award for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism; and the Queen’s medal of 2002 for contributions to public life.

None measure in importance with TC readers I now reluctantly leave with a “thank you for so much encouragement over the years;” and the same to the publishers, editors, sub-editors and colleagues who sometimes hindered but mostly helped along the way.

And that, as we used to end all stories when I started in this business, is:

–30 –

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