The first actual day we didn’t have to put any work into our next issue of the Similkameen News Leader was actually our last office day. It was Tuesday, July 26 and to help ‘celebrate’ the end of an era, my wife, Brenda and I hosted an all-day, drop-in open house from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM with coffee and goodies. The visitors were many and the stories shared were heartwarming.
A ‘farewell celebration’ was planned the evening of Thursday, July 28. The original planning of this event dated back several weeks when I was approached by Princeton Museum & Archives Society President Rika Ruebsaat in my office. She told me the group wanted to honour Brenda and I for our years of dedication to the community, promotion of history and culture and for our years of community service. I was stunned.
I contacted Brenda to see what kind of dates we could come up with as the first date was in mid-July. I wanted to push it into the last week of the month – after the publication of our final newspaper issue – as I did not want coverage of it in my last issue. My personal reason for that was because I did not want to appear as if we were trying to capitalize on the final issue of our newspaper to go on and on about a celebration honouring us. I didn’t feel good about that. However, I had no problem with promoting a lot of the other things we had done in the final few issues. I just saw the ‘farewell celebration’ in a different light and wanted to keep it that way.
When Brenda and I arrived at the venue – the third one selected that I was aware of – we were not the first ones there. There was a fairly steady stream of residents who arrived in the first half hour and then a number of speeches were given. Part way through them I started to realize that although I knew we had had an impact on our community, I did not realize the huge size of that imprint. Each speaker indicated how much of a loss our independently-owned newspaper would be to the community and how much of a loss our personal contributions would be.
There were times when the evening speakers turned comments into a ‘roast’ and we all had some laughs at my expense. It did always come back to the point for the gathering and some very nice, touching things were said by people I did not expect such things from. I have joked about how we all rarely say nice things about other people until they have passed away. This evening event was sort of like that, but Brenda and I were there to hear and accept all of it. It was a fitting memory for me to forever remember that the Similkameen News Leader, Brenda and I had left our marks in the history of Princeton and the Similkameen Valley that will set standards others may be measured against.
The next day, Friday, July 29, both Brenda and I were downtown running errands and decided to stop somewhere in the downtown core for lunch. We drove by our office more than once but did not need to enter it. We will begin emptying it out in the next couple of weeks to prepare the space for a new tenant on September 1st. Brenda suggested two different locations for lunch. I chose her second suggestion using a rather odd criterion – they had advertised with us at least once. So we sat down, enjoyed a tasty meal and when I went to pay the server told me it was “on the house.” She said it was her way of thanking us and the Similkameen News Leader for all we had done in our community.
The final week in business for me has become anything but a sad memory. Instead, through various acts of kindness acknowledging our contributions I have been able to work though this time of uncertainty with the knowledge that we did something good and something right while in business. It means a lot to us to be seen this way. It means even more to us to be told while we are still around to experience what that feels like – to be viewed as part of something greater than just another business struggling in the downtown core.