After 54 years, Don Olds is back in the news in Hay River.
On Sept. 23, Olds – one of the founders of the community’s first newspaper The Mackenzie Press – donated a collection of copies to the Hay River Heritage Centre.
That was during a quick trip to Hay River, where he had not been since 1964.
Olds helped found The Mackenzie Press in 1962.
“I guess we considered ourselves kind of pioneers and there was no media. There was no paper,” he said. “The radio had just started as a matter of fact, just early in the 1960s. So we thought a paper would be a good idea.”
The Mackenzie Press, a weekly, survived for about two and a half years.
“And then we ran out of funds and the whole thing shut down,” said Olds, who was a teacher at the Federal Day School.
There were three main people – all teachers – involved in founding The Mackenzie Press, along with a group of volunteers.
Olds said the copies of The Mackenzie Press have been sitting in a box and he hasn’t even counted them.
“Some are old copies that I mailed to my parents back in Manitoba,” he said. “So it’s a pretty rough collection.”
However, Olds hopes they will be useful for the museum.
“I certainly hope it fills a niche,” he said, noting there is even a first edition in the collection.
That first edition was published on Feb. 22, 1962.
Kirk Vander Ploeg, manager of the Hay River Heritage Centre, welcomed the donation.
Vander Ploeg noted Olds contacted the museum in the summer to advise them that he was coming to town and would be making the donation.
“There was a box load,” said Vander Ploeg. “I would say there could be as many as 60 here.”
That means a big increase in the number of the papers at the museum.
“We had a couple copies, but not as many as this,” said Vander Ploeg. “So it’s a nice addition to our collection, for sure.”
The donation also included some copies of the Tapwe newspaper, which started in Hay River in 1963.
Olds lived in Hay River from 1960 to 1964 and also lived in Fort Smith in the late 1950s, for a total of six years.
His return visit in September was a family trip with his wife, Joyce Olds and his daughter Beverly Olds.
“It’s because our daughter Beverly was born in the Hay River hospital in 1961 and she wanted to see her birthplace,” he said. “Our daughter is entirely responsible for this.”
During the visit, the family also travelled to Fort Smith.
Olds has many memories of the North.
“We love the North and I’ve spent the rest of my life telling stories about what a wonderful time we had there in those six years,” he said. “They were the beginning of our married life.”
Olds was living in Hay River during the flood of 1963, during which his wife and two children were evacuated to Fort Smith.
“It was quite devastating,” he recalled. “I stayed throughout the flood. There were about 100 of us left just to provide security and that sort of thing. We were lucky. We lived just down from the old hotel and we weren’t flooded out. Our home was OK, outside of having a lot of muddy footprints in it.”
Hay River has changed a lot since Olds left in 1964.
“We lived in three different homes on Vale Island and none of them are left,” he noted.
The 87-year-old now lives in Mission, B.C.
“I will always have a spot in my heart for the Northwest Territories,” he said. “It’s a very special part of the world.”