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Niagara-on-the-Lake
Sunday, October 2, 2022
A fond farewell: Sunset reflections on a little town
Evan Saunders, award-winning Lake Report reporter, is
headed to Vancouver with his partner Eva.
Evan Saunders, award-winning Lake Report reporter, is headed to Vancouver with his partner Eva.

Waiter, waiter — percolator! 

Ah the sweet sound of Bill Kenny’s voice. Oft the Ink Spots have been the background music of my days in The Lake Report’s newsroom on Mississagua Street. Kenny’s affinity for the java bean very much mirrors my own.

I’m not sure what it is – an old-school profession goes well with old-school sounds and bitter black coffee, perhaps?

Well, that is certainly the case today, Wednesday, Aug. 10. It is my last day with The Lake Report and my last day (for now) working in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

My byline is now a Lake Report collectors item, for anyone interested in NOTL ephemera.

And maybe that is a little arrogant of me to say but so what? As the great trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie told Charles Mingus, “It ain’t arrogance if you can back it up!”

I am leaving The Lake Report proud of my hundreds of contributions since I first submitted an article in February 2021, a hungry freelancer looking for a chance in the biz.

Town lost $719,000 worth of water in 2019.” Good memories. I fondly recall hammering out the story on a typewriter (it seemed like the right thing to do) in my barren bachelor apartment in Oakville listening to, lo-and-behold, the Ink Spots.

My apartment was at the corner of Allan Street and Lakeshore Road. For those familiar with Oakville, that is right at the terminus of the downtown district. 

Oakville had recently completed a transformation of its downtown strip. All the storefronts were pushed back so the main street could be widened and pedestrian crosswalks with giant flashing yellow lights installed along the road.

I remember talking with a woman at my favourite coffee shop in the area, Croissant Express, who expressed her dismay at the destruction of the once-quaint downtown.

A premonition, little did I know, of many of the stories I would find myself writing about this wonderful little town and the amount of time I would spend ordering black coffee at Victoria’s Teas & Coffees.

Wonderful indeed. Working at The Lake Report, interacting with and telling the stories of literally hundreds of the town’s residents has been the professional highlight of my life thus far. 

Whether it be that first time going door-to-door to ask people how they felt about the now-cancelled development on Parliament Oak, countless hours watching town council, walking the empty pandemic streets to speak with store owners or finding myself publicly insulted for exposing an illegal private school, the stories and excitement seemed never to end.

But all things do.

If you have met me and we’ve talked about the town you have most likely heard a variation of my common refrain: “It may be a small town but it produces big news.”

Our coverage of the pickleball fiasco reinforces that. Recently, a woman from a suburb of Los Angeles reached out to tell me she had been closely following my stories on the situation.

But now I am preparing for a new adventure 4,000 kilometres away, across the Great Divide, on the western side of the Rocky Mountains in cloudy Vancouver.

Cloud cover never bothered me and I have a Melvillian love of the ocean, though I am sure I will miss Ontario’s varied weather and NOTL’s lush vineyards and flat horizon.

These days I feel as at home in 30C as I do in -30C. Nothing a trip down the California coast or up the mountains won’t remedy, though.

I can’t write a goodbye screed without sharing some thoughts on the people I have worked with. As a newspaper, The Lake Report can take some flak.

It is the nature of the business – if someone doesn’t like a view represented in an article they usually take it out on us. It’s part of the fun.

But I can say, sure and certain, that Richard Harley and Kevin MacLean, the driving forces behind The Lake Report’s quality and success, have NOTL deeply ingrained in their hearts.

They both want the paper to be a forum for the town to improve itself through honest reporting, public discussion and the juxtaposition of competing views. 

I learned more from these two than I think I would have had the CBC or National Post picked me up. Not only did they push me professionally and personally to produce the best work I could, they quickly became close friends and gave me their hospitality, kindness and confidence that I could live up to their high expectations for quality journalism.

I will miss them greatly. The same goes for my other wonderful co-workers, particularly Ross Robinson and Megan Scott Vanderlee — two veritable living institutions of NOTL themselves.

And I have to say thank you to the wonderful inhabitants of NOTL. On countless occasions you welcomed me into your homes and trusted me with your issues, tragedies and triumphs, hoping I would do them justice in print.

I hope I lived up to your expectations and I offer a sincere thank you to everyone who took the time to engage with me and ensure the stories of NOTL are not left unsaid.

So, as the sun rises on this morning’s paper, I hope you sit down with a nice cup of java, turn on the Ink Spots and enjoy the best local journalism the entire province of Ontario has to offer (and we have the awards to prove it).

Viva La Lake Report!