From the Archive: ‘Changing times’ in Slave Lake in late 1975

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

We’ve mentioned a few times the gaping hole in the archive of the Lakeside Leader. Except for two or three issues, there’s a 12-year gap for which we have no copies of The Leader. Not even the first one, which would have come out the second week of November, 1974.

We don’t have that one, but we do have the last issue of the Northland Free Press, which is what this paper was called for its first three years of existence.

So here’s a glimpse into what was current in early November of 1975.

‘Changing times’ was the big front-page headline in the Nov. 4 edition. It was a sort of news story/editorial by outgoing owners/editors John and Kay Stillwell.

‘Northland Free Press, recently acquired by Slave Lake resident Jerry Wallsten, will become the Lakeside Leader. Readers can look forward to technical improvements in the publication as new equipment is put into use.’

The new equipment included a Compugraphic typesetting machine. It was one of those early computerized behemoths – about half as big as a house – that did in fact result in a cleaner, more professional look for the paper. All it took to get it here was a red-eye drive to Kansas City Missouri and back (or so the story goes).

What else was changing in late 1975 was sod-turning for a new Legion hall – the one that now graces the corner of Main St. and Stu Lafoy Way in downtown Slave Lake. Jerry Barton was the contractor. He appears in a photo along with Legion president Ken Gatzke, town councillor Valerie Meredith and a few other local luminaries of the day.

Other front-page news on Nov. 4, 1975 included pictures of the award winners at the Gilwood Golf Club wind-up event. That was when the golf course was on the south side of town, on either side of Sawridge Creek. Notable names in golfing that year were Bob Hutchison, Herman Kreutzer, Ron Frelich and Darlene Frelich. Also Vi Baird, Elva Bruce, Deanna Schweitzer, Frances Kreutzer and Speed Hutchison.

TV reception was a big issue in 1975. It wasn’t good enough, and MLA Larry Shaben had presented the matter to a cabinet committee.

In sports news, Peter Moore was elected as president of the Slave Lake Minor Hockey Association; Floyd Kennedy was vice-president and Don Mahura was secretary treasurer. Bud Karst was appointed referee-in-chief. The new executive voted in favour of making mouth guards mandatory.

The bulk of the news in the Nov. 4, 1975 edition was a single article, on the history of Slave Lake. Prepared by members of a visiting group called ‘Canada World Youth,’ it featured an impressive array of photos from the early days of the community, plus a story, covering five pages in total. The authors were John H. Creces and Lloyd T. Nelson. The photos were provided by Mrs. Nash, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Eben Sr., Elizabeth and Rennie Hall and C.J. Schurter.

That was the end of the Stilwell era. The next week began the Wallsten era of this newspaper. He sold it to the current owners in the early 1980s.

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