This is not goodbye : As seen in the May 13th issue of the Meridian Booster

When you read this in print, I will no longer be working at the Lloydminster Meridian Booster.

Now, before you think I’ve taken the route that many other journalists in this city have taken, and left this community to find greener pastures elsewhere, I will invite you to think again.

I like this city, and I will continue to explore the lives and stories it has to offer.  

For a bit of background, I came here fresh out of college, with little experience behind me. Two years later, I think I’ve had a wealth of experiences which I could not have had in any other city except for the Border City.

However, I’ll get back to my main point. I wanted to advance my career, and advance it I have. As you’re reading this column, I will be starting my training at 106.1 The Goat, as their new Reporter/Anchor for the news. This means I will be staying in the community. This means I will continue telling the story of this city, and its surrounding area, on a daily basis. It just means I’ll be doing it in a different format.

I am not the first to leave the Booster in recent days. In this same space, you will have seen the farewells of my former colleagues Taylor Hermiston and Simon Arseneau, the former who is now heading up the Vermilion Standard and the latter who is headed home to Quebec. We each leave behind our respective roles at the newspaper to be filled, and I can tell you, they are indeed being filled.

Already, we have Tyler Marr, a resident of Lloydminster, who has come home to work at the paper fresh after graduation, as well as Phil McLachlan, a graduate of the same program I underwent back at Loyalist College in Ontario. Our committed Managing Editor Taylor Weaver is still on-deck, along with our stalwart Sports Editor Eric Healey, and the four of them will be doing their best to bring you the best RBC Cup coverage possible in the pages of the Booster.

I want to thank each and every person I have encountered in my journey with the newspaper. I have been educated in the ways the press can interact with the community, and that education has come at the hands of those who told their stories to me every day. I am honoured to have had the privilege to put down their words, and their pictures, into newsprint.

I will continue to be honoured to read those stories over the airwaves in the near future.

Thanks for reading. I look forward to you listening.

Colonial Days

This time last year, I was back in Ontario for my sister's wedding, and missed Colonial Days. This year, I didn't.

This is what I shot.

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Banff Trip

I traveled south to the mountains with my sister and brother-in-law to meet up with my family in Banff. It was my first trip to the mountains, and I hope to make it out there again. I shot a lot of photos, but I made a edit for my family shots and an edit for the landscape shots.

Though I'm sure many of these have been done before, this is how I saw Banff in my time there.

Gala Shots

The Booster received tickets to go to a charity event in Lloydminster, and I brought my camera along to get some shots if we needed them for the paper. As it turned out, we didn't, but I still had a good time with the event. I'd never been a guest/covered such a formal event before, so it was a pretty cool experience.

Relay for Life

This is a short photo gallery that has been put together with shots from the Relay for Life event that was held this past Friday in Bud Miller Park. It was a great event to cover, and it was truly inspiring to see the support given to all the survivors who came out to participate by the community.

Article Link:http://www.meridianbooster.com/2014/06/01/day-of-healing-at-bud-miller-park

Video Link:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEuo1JtnS_o


Smoke on the Water

Short photo gallery of a fire that burnt out a fair chunk of land along the north shore of the riverbank this past Wednesday evening.

Heat shimmer obscured the Saskatchewan River near the Highway 17 crossing near Onion Lake. 

Heat shimmer obscured the Saskatchewan River near the Highway 17 crossing near Onion Lake. 

A Paradise Hill water cannon truck blasted at the flames, and managed to keep the blaze confined to the bush south of the road.

A Paradise Hill water cannon truck blasted at the flames, and managed to keep the blaze confined to the bush south of the road.

The Onion Lake Fire Department was out in full force, one of the three crews that responded to the call.

The Onion Lake Fire Department was out in full force, one of the three crews that responded to the call.

The steep sides of the riverbank hills presented a bit of an obstacle for the fire fighters, but eventually they managed to roll hoses down the hill with them to help combat the flames that were deeper into the bush.

The steep sides of the riverbank hills presented a bit of an obstacle for the fire fighters, but eventually they managed to roll hoses down the hill with them to help combat the flames that were deeper into the bush.

Young volunteer fire fighter David Muskego got his visor covered in water as he directed the high-pressure hose at the fire, which had been advancing through the dense brush and fallen trees nearer to the river.

Young volunteer fire fighter David Muskego got his visor covered in water as he directed the high-pressure hose at the fire, which had been advancing through the dense brush and fallen trees nearer to the river.

The smoking remains of the hillsides were scorched and blackened, with only small patches of untouched grass remaining.

The smoking remains of the hillsides were scorched and blackened, with only small patches of untouched grass remaining.

First Month Out

A lot of my classmates are now finishing up their internships, and watching their work get published has been incredible. Its really cool to watch and see what people do, and see where their work goes. Some have put up a running blog of their day to day work, and I figured I would just do a big post with all of my  Booster work I liked from the past month.

So, here we go.

Rick Hansen and the interim premier of Alberta came to Lloydminster for a fundraising event at the local college. This was my very first day in Lloyd, having just gotten off the highway and then immediately jumped into things with shooting this event. This shot didn't run, but I preferred it to the other photos I got from that event.

Rick Hansen and the interim premier of Alberta came to Lloydminster for a fundraising event at the local college. This was my very first day in Lloyd, having just gotten off the highway and then immediately jumped into things with shooting this event. This shot didn't run, but I preferred it to the other photos I got from that event.

This is a local food bank/outreach service coordinator in town, whose organization I was tasked to profile as part of Volunteer Appreciation Week. I did the legwork and the phone interviews, and figured a portrait would go nicely. Don't ask me why she chose to hold pickles though.

This is a local food bank/outreach service coordinator in town, whose organization I was tasked to profile as part of Volunteer Appreciation Week. I did the legwork and the phone interviews, and figured a portrait would go nicely. Don't ask me why she chose to hold pickles though.


Had to go shoot a ballet recital off in Vermilion, the community located 45 minutes west of Lloyd. Once I was there I was told I couldn't shoot in the actual auditorium where the dances were happening, and was sent to the cafeteria where the dancers would warm up instead. I think it turned out the best it possibly could.  

Had to go shoot a ballet recital off in Vermilion, the community located 45 minutes west of Lloyd. Once I was there I was told I couldn't shoot in the actual auditorium where the dances were happening, and was sent to the cafeteria where the dancers would warm up instead. I think it turned out the best it possibly could.  

The eclipse that was supposed to have been seen across Canada was obscured by cloud and light pollution in downtown Lloydminster, so I improvised. This was taken at 2 in the morning, on top of the roof of a local coffeehouse. 

The eclipse that was supposed to have been seen across Canada was obscured by cloud and light pollution in downtown Lloydminster, so I improvised. This was taken at 2 in the morning, on top of the roof of a local coffeehouse. 

Dance recitals and end-of-year events were rampant in the past month, so I shot a fair amount of dancing. I had never shot dancing before coming out here! It's really fun, depending on the lighting.

Dance recitals and end-of-year events were rampant in the past month, so I shot a fair amount of dancing. I had never shot dancing before coming out here! It's really fun, depending on the lighting.

This girl was the best, I think. Only three years old or so, and just did not care about anything that was happening. The crowd loved her.

This girl was the best, I think. Only three years old or so, and just did not care about anything that was happening. The crowd loved her.

This was a common occurrence.

This was a common occurrence.

As was this.

As was this.

Second portrait! This was of the head of the MS Society chapter in town. They have an annual walk-run event, and registration was low, a fact which I did a story about. I always like to put a face to a name, and went out to get her photo. The office background was annoying to work with, but I think I got the point across.

Second portrait! This was of the head of the MS Society chapter in town. They have an annual walk-run event, and registration was low, a fact which I did a story about. I always like to put a face to a name, and went out to get her photo. The office background was annoying to work with, but I think I got the point across.

Weather features are a thing, and the last gasp of winter was felt pretty heavily in Lloyd. I went downtown and found this guy out with his stroller, and this was the best shot out of the set. I later found out he was heavily Norwegian and was visiting his daughter who now works in Lloydminster. He was taking his granddaughter out for a walk. Classy Viking grandpa.

Weather features are a thing, and the last gasp of winter was felt pretty heavily in Lloyd. I went downtown and found this guy out with his stroller, and this was the best shot out of the set. I later found out he was heavily Norwegian and was visiting his daughter who now works in Lloydminster. He was taking his granddaughter out for a walk. Classy Viking grandpa.

This shot is from a feature I did on the two remaining video stores in Lloydminster. They both do a brisk business, and the owners were very nice people. The pair here is a husband and wife team, Dolores and Ed. They run D&E Video, and have been for the last 20 years or so. Ed suffers from Alzheimer's, so Dolores keeps him around the store to make sure he doesn't get into trouble.

This shot is from a feature I did on the two remaining video stores in Lloydminster. They both do a brisk business, and the owners were very nice people. The pair here is a husband and wife team, Dolores and Ed. They run D&E Video, and have been for the last 20 years or so. Ed suffers from Alzheimer's, so Dolores keeps him around the store to make sure he doesn't get into trouble.

Miss Quincy came through town and performed at a local cafe. I had never shot live music before so this was a new thing to me, and I had a couple other shots I could have gone with. I went with the wide because I felt as though the energy from the whole band was captured here, rather than just the lead singer.

Miss Quincy came through town and performed at a local cafe. I had never shot live music before so this was a new thing to me, and I had a couple other shots I could have gone with. I went with the wide because I felt as though the energy from the whole band was captured here, rather than just the lead singer.

For National Day of Mourning there was a small ceremony at City Hall at around 9, and a lot of local workers and construction people were gathered to watch the flags be lowered to half-mast. I didn't want to have a photo of the mayor pulling at some rope, as I felt that would have missed the entire point of the event. Having two workers framing the flags made it work for me, and this shot ran front page.

For National Day of Mourning there was a small ceremony at City Hall at around 9, and a lot of local workers and construction people were gathered to watch the flags be lowered to half-mast. I didn't want to have a photo of the mayor pulling at some rope, as I felt that would have missed the entire point of the event. Having two workers framing the flags made it work for me, and this shot ran front page.

This was taken at another photo-op event, with the mayor kicking off a "clean-up week", at a local school in Lloyd. The shot that City Hall wants you to get is the mayor sweeping with kids, and I got that, with it running front page as well. However, its not the best photo, and I don't really like photo-ops in the first place. Once I had the safe shot, I went looking for something a bit more visually interesting, and found this kid working like a machine.

This was taken at another photo-op event, with the mayor kicking off a "clean-up week", at a local school in Lloyd. The shot that City Hall wants you to get is the mayor sweeping with kids, and I got that, with it running front page as well. However, its not the best photo, and I don't really like photo-ops in the first place. Once I had the safe shot, I went looking for something a bit more visually interesting, and found this kid working like a machine.

So this was my first month of work at the Booster. I'm headed into my second, and the year stretches on from there. It's still hard to grasp that this a full time position, and that I'm being paid regularly to do this work. Three months ago I was fairly certain that this would probably never happen.

But I'm here now.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Two weeks ago, I arrived in Lloydminster, Alberta. I came here to work a staff job at the local paper, and after crashing in my friend's basement for a few days, I moved out to an acreage about ten minutes south of town.

I'm happy that I managed to get out of Lloyd proper. The trains move in and out unceasingly, moving oil and grain in and out the elevators and refineries that drive this town. Basically, I went from this,

This train yard is directly across from my friend's place. The trains are daily.

This train yard is directly across from my friend's place. The trains are daily.

To this.

Amigo and Bailey. Amigo is the one attempting to eat me.

Amigo and Bailey. Amigo is the one attempting to eat me.

It's a nice place, and always great to come back to after kicking around Lloydminster. However, living here brought me the closest I've ever been to the oil industry I've ever been in my life.

About five days ago, the field just across the road got really busy. Trucks, mobile offices, dust getting kicked up, the works. In short order, a long rig had appeared on the horizon, lying on its side. A day later, and it had elevated itself up a few degrees. Then it started drilling.

It was lit up brightly at night, and shone directly into my window. Trucks would go back and forth every single night, carrying away the final product of the machine. It was a landmark, sticking up from the prairie and clawing the oil out of the ground. 

When I came home from work today, it was gone. The rig, the blockhouses, the trucks, everything.

The tracks from all of the trucks are ground into the mud and half frozen.

The tracks from all of the trucks are ground into the mud and half frozen.

The only thing left behind was a long blue bin of parts, and the pipe driven into the ground towards the oil. All around the pipe, the ground was covered in a mix of oil, water, and mud, which clung to my boots as I walked around the orange fencing that blocked access to the well.

Fencing is reflected by a filmy pool of oil and water near the pipe.

Fencing is reflected by a filmy pool of oil and water near the pipe.

Scraping the ground near the muck, I could expose the dirt underneath the caked layer of mud and oil.

Scraping the ground near the muck, I could expose the dirt underneath the caked layer of mud and oil.

Footprints of the oil workers were still in the ground, gathering water and slowly disappearing.

Footprints of the oil workers were still in the ground, gathering water and slowly disappearing.

A sheen of oil clings to my gloves.

A sheen of oil clings to my gloves.

This was my first real encounter with oil extraction. Though on a small scale compared to the industry in other parts of the province, getting up close and personal with an extraction site made it real for me. This is how fuel gets made, and it's right across the road from me.

I'll have to get used to that.

The Bell Ringer

When you open the door to Bridge Street United Church on a Sunday morning, there are many things you could hear. Voices singing hymns, the organ reverberating throughout the building and the shuffling of papers and slight coughs during the weekly sermon from the pulpit. Very occasionally, however, you can hear bells.

Bridge Street has one very large bell inside its tower. To reach it, a series of rickety staircases must be climbed past piles of pigeon droppings and the occasional nail sticking out at a rather unsafe angle. Once the bell has been reached, not much can be done with it. It is automated, and will ring only when triggered by a small button in the church office.

However, there are other bells that ring in the air of the church sanctuary. Handbells, played by dedicated church musicians, lend their chimes to the torrent of sound that echoes around the church each year. But these bells can’t be automated. They need hands, and Judy McKnight has been playing the bells at Bridge Street since 1998.

“I was raised in the Salvation Army, so there was lots of music there” says McKnight, with her hands clasped in front of her in the basement library, near the church kitchen. We are seated at a small wooden table, and the sound next door of the rest of the congregation drinking tea and making conversation after the Sunday service is muted by the wooden walls and bookshelves that surround us. McKnight is a tall woman in her sixties, with blonde hair cut short, deep brown eyes, and glasses that are almost frameless. Her voice is soft, but strong, and a feeling of stability and calm radiates through the room as I conduct my interview.

McKnight is a native of the Quinte area, born in Belleville and raised in Trenton by parents heavily involved in the Salvation Army, and the music that is a cornerstone of the organization. “I sang in the Songsters and played in the timbrel brigade,” she says, recalling earlier days. Marches would be held, and tambourines would ring through the streets of Trenton. McKnight would sing in numerous choirs, and would continue during the summer by heading off to Roblin Lake in Prince Edward County. Her eyes lit up when she spoke about the camp and its place in her life. ““I went several summers to the Roblin Lake Salvation Army Camp, both as a student at music camp and then as a counselor”. The music camp was a focal point for her love of music and eventually led her into her work at Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf.

Sir James Whitney sits along Dundas Street West, one of the main roads for the Quinte region. For travelers going down its length, the school looks quite different from its surroundings, a grand building built of brick and glass, with a broad field and sturdy walls running along its perimeter. McKnight would see the school quite often. ““When I was a teenager, we were driving to Trenton from Belleville to church on Sunday mornings.  I would see this long parade of deaf students going from school to the various churches in town. They would come and worship in a church here with someone interpreting for them, and then they would go back to the school”. This provoked a curiosity in McKnight, one which would only be increased when she worked as a counselor at Roblin Lake. One camper in particular would prove to be a catalyst. “One of my summers when I was a counselor at Roblin Lake camp, we had one of the deaf students as a camper. His name was Tony, and he was profoundly deaf, couldn’t speak a word. Couldn’t hear a thing, but he worked very hard to fit in with the other kids, and I just became very interested in deaf kids”.

The interest that started at Roblin Lake led McKnight to spend thirty-four years as a high-school level teacher at Sir James. She taught many students, and still runs into a few them after having been retired for ten years, though her signing is slightly rusty. “When I meet some of my former students on the street, I can carry on a conversation in sign language with them, but sometimes they have to correct me (Laughs) they think its fun that they can correct the teacher”.

Her life as a teacher had its ups and downs. “In my second to third last year there, I had a young lady who was very bright, but she was a very troubled student. She did everything she possibly could to disrupt things in the classroom, she was always looking for a fight, and I eventually had to ask to have her removed from the classroom.”

McKnight pauses here, her eyes looking past me to the bookshelves that line the room. “At one point, the other kids in the class came to me complaining about her. I had heard through the infirmary that she was being put on a different medication, a new mood-altering drug. I told the kids to cut her some slack, give her a chance, she’s on a new med and they’re trying to see how it works to stabilize her moods”. Looking back at me, she goes on. “It got back to her very quickly, and she came roaring down the hall at me and thought she was going to kill me, and another teacher intervened and stopped her.”

From that point onward, McKnight was more careful with the way she spoke to her students about classroom matters, and for the most part the end of her career went smoothly. Throughout her time as a teacher, she maintained her musical talents by singing in the church, and later on playing the bells. The church journey, however, also had its ups and downs.

Her first marriage had ended in divorce, which led her to leave the Salvation Army with her one-year old son in tow and spend three years in the Anglican Church. However, her church at the time did not allow for women to join the choir, so she started going to Holloway Street United, on the west bank of the Moira. She rose to both sing in the adult choir and conduct the youth choir at the church, but later on left after many young families in the Holloway congregation moved on to another church. She found herself at Bridge Street United, and has stayed there for the past thirty-four years, meeting her second husband and blending their families together. Though her husband has since passed away, she has her children and grandchildren to keep her occupied, and always she has music.

“Music is always the thing that probably touches me most”. McKnight is more relaxed now, hands folded in front of her on the table. Her eyes are lit up and the excitement shows in her voice. Works such as Handel’s Messiah and Haydn’s Creation were a great joy to take part in producing, and with every new work and every song that she sings, McKnight feels as though her spirit is fed. “It’s not just a musical discipline; it’s a spiritual food as well”.

As the interview concludes, the noise of the congregation gathered in the church basement begins to swell, and McKnight begins to gather her things and get ready to go socialize. Bidding me a good day, she turns and walks out the door to go drink tea and coffee with the other choir members. The sounds of Bridge Street, be it of bells, hymns, or the voices of the congregation gathered in fellowship, continue to echo throughout the building. Judy McKnight will add to that chorus, and she will enjoy every minute of it.