Den Denton: Good ol’ days seem far removed

The other day I wandered into my local watering hole, propped an elbow on the bar and muttered, ‘the usual.’ Moments later I peered down into the depths of my drink, admiring the frothy cream contrasting with the pretty blue of the ceramic cup and knew this wasn’t the bar of my youthful dreams.

The other day I wandered into my local watering hole, propped an elbow on the bar and muttered, ‘the usual.’ Moments later I peered down into the depths of my drink, admiring the frothy cream contrasting with the pretty blue of the ceramic cup and knew this wasn’t the bar of my youthful dreams.

Social mores and trends change, and one of the biggest has been the way we approach drinking alcohol. I was brought up on industry tales of hard-drinking newspapermen who could pound down shot after shot, all the while hammering out faultless prose on their old manual typewriters, or focusing their cameras without missing an image. The truth was that the stereotype often held – well, maybe aside from the faultless prose, but that was what editors were for.

My first night at my first newspaper job I was interrupted from my darkroom work by a veteran reporter, who took me for an initiation drink. I ended up crawling back to the darkroom at 6 a.m. to finish my printing before the day shift and the bosses arrived.

I later spent a summer as a darkroom assistant, with unofficial chores that included going up to the cafeteria to pick up extra large cups of ice so the staff photographers working the night shift could cool down their spirits-and-mixer combinations. The empty bottles were tossed behind the drawers under the vast enlarger counters in the darkroom.

Legend has it that when they finally closed the darkrooms and ushered in the digital era, the photographers organized a secret night-time cleanup. Apparently, many, many garbage bags were needed for the empties accumulated over the years.

This was at a time when the Vancouver Press Club thrived. It was located very conveniently across from the Granville Street building that housed not only the Sun and Province newsrooms, but all other aspects of production, including the printing press.

That led to scenes such as one time when two writers, who were not overly fond of each other, wound up in an old-fashioned scrap in the newsroom. One man apparently pinned the other on his back on a desk, whacking him with the receiver from an old (and heavy) rotary phone –  meanwhile the other combatant tried to push his rival’s head onto the spike used for message sheets.

I also worked for one Alberta daily where every Monday the publisher would trundle out a drinks cart and serve a beverage or two of your choice to the assembled staff.

Those days are long gone.

The suggestion of alcohol on one’s breath after a midday lunch would raise eyebrows in most newsrooms (and truth be told in most businesses) these days.

Which is why I am surprised to realize that my dream of one day hanging around a dive bar called something like The Gritty Shot and complaining to a bartender named Woody or Peg Leg about my life has come true in a certain way.

It’s just that now my local is a café and the bartender is a barista. I pop into Street Level Espresso where Ken (the owner/coffee master) will cast a speculative eye across the counter before serving up an espresso (to stay) or an Americano (to go). We’ll chat about photography and cameras (Ken’s an accomplished lensman, among other things) or the world in general. It’s what he does with most regulars.

When we leave we’re brighter-eyed than when we entered the drinking establishment which, no matter how fondly we view the past, was not usually the case in the old days.

Don Denton is photo supervisor for Black Press South Island.

ddenton@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Co-creatorsAdrianna Hatton and Malcolm McKenzie stand next to the little free library revealed Sunday at 9710 First St. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Literary crowd helps opens little free library in Sidney

Located at 9710 First St., the book sharing box features original art and reclaimed wood

Deep Cove Elementary School principal Shelley Hardcastle (right) and vice-principal Mary Kaercher help to restock Reay Creek with fish – in this case, coho fry – after a recent bleach spill killed hundreds of fish. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
North Saanich’s Deep Cove Elementary School helps to restock Sidney’s Reay Creek

Restocking followed bleach spill that killed hundreds of fish in creek

A new report pegs the annual cost of hiring a third party to monitor use of pickleball courts in North Saanich at $12,000. (Black Press Media file photo).
North Saanich could end up hiring third party to monitor pickleball courts

Other options up for consideration include use of cameras and timed locks

The barred owl is the most likely to be spotted in the south Island. (Ann Nightingale photo)
Barred owls dominate Greater Victoria owl-scape

Western screech owl population decimated, partly due to barred owls

Between June 1 and 7, 168 net unconditional sales were made for properties in the VREB region. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria home sales slightly behind last June’s pace

Benchmark value of single-family home in Greater Victoria tops $1 million

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read