In 1977 Town Council and Mayor Lou Hollinger felt that Swan Hills needed a newspaper to call their own, citing that a local newspaper was a good way to let residents know what was happening in Swan Hills, therefore, the lines of communication would be opened within the community. Terry Clements of Barrhead Printers and Stationers worked with the Mayor and council to set up a paper on a six month trial period with the Town of Swan Hills partially subsidizing expenses of the operation.
“We needed our own newspaper and the agreement with Mr. Clements will make it possible.” said Mayor Hollinger. “The paper will be called the Grizzly Gazette in honor of the old School Newsletter everyone used to enjoy reading a few years back.”
After finding a location to host the newspaper, hiring staff and hashing out content details, the first edition of the Grizzly Gazette rolled off the press on May 17, 1977 with a per copy price of 15 cents.
The Grizzly Gazette went through many changes and staff over the next 5 years and on January 27, 1982, the Grizzly Gazette was bought by Phil Rutherford, an Ontario publisher, who also became the Editor. Staff came and went, columns written and ads were placed by local businesses; but the philosophy of the Grizzly Gazette continued to be “the voice of the community” as local news filled the pages of the small newspaper.
In 1983, Al Blackmere took over as Publisher of the Grizzly Gazette. Though it is not clear how and/or when ownership of the Grizzly Gazette came under the Barrhead Leader; it is very clear that under Al Blackmere and the Barrhead Leader, the Gazette flourished and continued to bring local news to Swan Hills.
One more ownership change, took place in 1990, when then Editor; Carol Webster was given the opportunity to purchase the newspaper and bring the entire publication back home to the hills. Carol enlisted the help of her parents; long time residents Gorden and Phyllis Webster; and the Grizzly Gazette returned to Swan Hills as the Websters began a long journey in the media industry. Carol had limited experience, having only started with the paper less than a year before, quickly moving up the ranks from typesetter to reporter to editor. More of an opportunity of circumstance then actual experience and knowledge, Carol quickly fell in love with the business. Gorden continued working for Amoco Canada and Phyllis began working with Carol at the Gazette. “We had a lot to learn.” Carol commented. “Mom and I had no idea how to run a business much less a newspaper. I have to give thanks to Al Blackmere and Carol Farnells, who both took me under their wing and tried to cram as much information into my brain as they could before setting me loose as Owner/Publisher of the Gazette.”
10 years after taking over the Grizzly Gazette, the Websters decided to open a gift store after the closure of the community’s only flower/gift shop. “We himmed and hawed for almost a month before we finally decided to go for it.” Remembered Phyllis. “After a couple years of running a stationary store, which we decided to close as sales could not sustain the operation, we were very gun shy. But the community had lost a great service when The Corner Store closed. Gorden was the block we had to overcome, but Carol gave him a look from those puppy dog eyes, said “please daddy” and he melted like he always did.”
Continuing to operate the newspaper while opening a gift store proved more than a challenge. “We were so out of our element.” said Carol with a smile. “After 10 years of writing articles, selling advertising and barely being able to publish one mistake-free issue; we had to be out of our minds.” But the family had made a decision and they were determined to stick to it. “We hit the Alberta Gift show and there were so many shiny, pretty things to stock a store with, we didn’t have a clue what to choose.” Said Carol. “We walked, and walked and walked the isles of the gift show and ended at one supplier that had everything we liked, so we bought the entire display. Not sure if that was such a good idea but it gave us our start.” Timeless Treasures was opened in November, 2000; just in time for the Annual Swan Hills Lite-Up event. “We knew we had made the right decision when Lite-Up arrived and locals were lined up down the street waiting to check out the new store.” Phyllis chuckled. “Gorden had the shock of his life when he was trying to fill the shelves and was carrying a wolf tea light, to place on a shelf, when a gentleman asked him where he was going with the item. Gorden told him he was going to put in on a shelf. “No your not.” The man replied and took it from him and headed to the till. Gorden just stood there with his mouth gaping.”
Next came fresh flowers. “I knew right then and there, we had completely lost all sense of reality.” Carol joked. “But the gift store had taken off in a way we did not expect, so the next logical step was the flower shop. Thank goodness mom and dad loved flowers; I however, did not.” So Timeless Treasures expanded to include flowers. Now the operation included a weekly newspaper, gift store and flower shop. Sadly we lost Gorden in 2003 after he lost his battle with cancer, but the girls persevere.
Today the Grizzly Gazette publishes every Tuesday with local and area news; hosts a weekly “Coffee Break” section for readers to take in their horoscope and relax with both a crossword and sudoko puzzle; a monthly calendar that lists as many events as the newspaper is informed of, and highlights advertising from local and area businesses. Having added a printing business early in their ownership, Grizzly Gazette (1990) Inc. provides printing services with full color photocopying, custom paper products from business cards, invoices, forms, flyers and booklets.
“It is thanks to this wonderful community that we have had the privilege of bringing the news to Swan Hills for over 25 glorious years.” Carol and Phyllis both commented. “To our readers and customers, thank you for your trust and support.”