Friday, March 31, 2023



I love magazines. Still do. 

When I was young we did not usually subscribe to too many magazines. Things like Consumer Reports, Women's Day and other were in the house. Others were received them from grandparents when they were done with them. For years that was usually Reader's Digest from my dad's side of the family. We had the the Winnipeg Tribune delivered to our River Heights home and I was a carrier from about 7 years old. Both the Free Press and the Trib were evening papers and the newspaper bundles were dropped off late afternoon and papers were to be delivered after school. Below from the Hulton Archive. See Free Press peaking out.
The 1970s were a busy a time and somewhat of a golden era for print media. A number of new magazines began and  check out stands and book stores were filled with all manner of offerings. People Magazine started in 1974,  Maclean's went weekly in 1975, Starlog in 1976, TV Guide Canada came onto newsstands in 1977, US Magazine in 1977 and Omni in 1978. There were quite a few others.

Our family didn't get cable from Videon till 1971. It was the same year we got a colour TV from my mom's parents. It was a huge cabinet TV and the picture tube was 21 inches. The TV cost about $500 which is $3000+ in today's dollars. The aspect was 4:3 but the quality of the Zenith TV was great. And Videon was about $5 a month. All of this was a lot of money for many families. Even in 1971, many people did not have cable or colour TVs. Cable only came to Winnipeg in 1968. Prior to Grade 1, we had CBWT and CJAY (which became CKY in 1973). The French channel came in fuzzy on rabbit ears as did KCND in Pembina, North Dakota. If they came in at all. To say it was a revolution in 1971 getting colour TV and cable would be to put it bluntly.

As mentioned, we didn't get TV Guide except for fall preview. It really didn't do anything for Canada that wasn't in the newspaper TV listings. By 1969, the Tribune and the Free Press were offering their own TV magazines. The Trib's TV Times was 32 pages. As cable grew across North America, many people looked to the newspapers and magazines to see what what was on TV.

If people got newspapers on Saturdays in the 1970s, they generally got a magazine a week. As it was part of the Southam newspaper chain, the Trib also distributed the Canadian magazine on Saturdays. The Free Press version was the Weekend. The Tribune also put their Saturday comics in magazine form in 1977 and it lasted till 1978. A visit to any friends houses who got newspapers meant seeing a pile of them. I became interested in the nexus between movies, TV and magazines. 

Star Wars came out in 1977 in my last year of elementary school, I had seen a preview in Starlog and had begun reading the Star Wars Marvel comic just before the movie came out. Thus, I was able to be there on opening night and 12 times more that summer for the movie that George Lucas said was aimed at 13 year olds. Like me. Or what age I was less than a year after it came out when I entered junior high.
I did not have the type of budget to get People magazine unless there was something compelling like Star Wars on the cover. The cover below was not even published till nearly three months after the movie became a sensation. I bought this one but alas didn't keep it. I did end up buying many other Star Wars things in 1977 including art, books and the like. I still have them today. But I never kept any of the magazines such as People or Starlog which I regret today.
I was always pretty up to date on current affairs. A kindergarten teacher told my mom that I shouldn't listen to CBC Radio anymore because I was too young to worry about Israel being attacked by surrounding Arab countries. While we had a TV in 1968, it did not factor as much as the radio did and we listened to As it Happens when it first broadcast that year. When we moved to Kingsway, it became a habit to prepare meals with CBC on in the background and through dinner. In 1970, my first year of school, my questions to the teacher on the conflict was no news is good news. My mom took the advice under advisement but the radio stayed on.

The National on CBC started in 1969 but I don't believe I really saw it till 1970 when Lloyd Robertson was the anchor. and we lived on Kingsway. Since the broadcast was at 11 PM, I saw it infrequently as the kids were off to bed much earlier. However, things like church, community club and union meetings often ran till 10:30 PM according to my mom's date book. No lie. There was a reason why the national and local news was so late. It was because 11 PM was the first time parents might be free.

As mentioned, my interest in current affairs was strong. One of the first books I read at the school library that I read was the Battle of Britain. There were so many veterans back then as the war was not even 25 years in the past. The Korean War was a mere 15 or so years past. I was already aware of conflict in Israel and by 1968 was aware of the Vietnam War. In 1972, the series MASH started and lasted 11 seasons surpassing the Korean War by 8 years in duration. All of this meant was that there was a keen interest in the Canadian public in general about the world around them.

This was reflected in the magazine racks at grocery and convenient store checkouts first placing magazines at cash checkouts. In Winnipeg that was in the 1950s and by the late 50s, Canadian magazines like Chatelaine and Maclean's would compete with space with Harper's and Saturday Evening Post. Archie Comics would also be a mainstay at checkout counters.

At 7/Elevens the checkout featured Time, Newsweek and Maclean's along with Rolling Stone right at the counter. On one horrific week, four magazine covers reflected the same tragic event in the same picture.
In 1978 all the newsmagazines including Maclean's, Time, Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report all had the same picture on the cover. Not sure I've seen the same event use the exact same picture ever since. It was very eerie and there it was at every checkout counter at every store in the land.

While young people watched other programs on other stations, ABC was a favourite American channel for many of its programs such as Three's Company, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat and Happy Days. One show, the Partridge Family from 1970 to 1974 on ABC, was both a music show and family show and star David Cassidy was a staple of magazines like Tiger Beat. My sister would often get for Christmas or birthday a Tiger Beat which started in 1965 and would be end up in pasted pics on walls all over North America. The first teen publication was Seventeen and could be found at most newsstands in Winnipeg. Another Cassidy struck fame with an ABC show when in 1977, the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries series starred Shaun Cassidy. This resulted in a new wave of Tiger Beat covers in our home.

Towards the end of the 1970s our family would subscribe at different times to People, Time, Newsweek, Chatelaine, Women's Day and National Geographic. These were the result of subscription deals and the fact the pretty much every kind of the family was working while going to school and could afford both newspapers and magazines. Sundays were free days with work in most retail and businesses closed, a day of rest meant being able to read newspapers, magazines and books. And we did a lot of reading in our family.

In the 1980s, this tradition of various magazines being in the house along with newspapers continued. All through highschool in the first three years of the decade and up till graduation in 1988, we had various news magazines as well as the Beaver and several urban city publications befitting one of my majors in school. The 7/Eleven on Academy Road also carried USA Today and Toronto Star which I often got for a different perspective. USA Today boxes were all over the city. including Academy Road.

I left for Japan in 1989 and survived on Canadian news in greater detail from Maclean's and Free Press that my mom packed in about once every two months care packs. In Japan, I got the Japan Times, Tokyo Weekender and Tokyo Journal for my newspaper and magazine combos. The latter two let me know what things to do and see in Tokyo whether it was shows, sports, theatre and everything in between. I would get an Economist but it would take me a week to read of various train trips or at the office.
Upon return to Canada, I resumed some of magazine subscriptions such as Maclean's and by end of the 1990s our family often had four newspapers in the house. Today, I still love print magazines but digital has allowed me today to enjoy the occasional Atlantic or Vanity Fair issue among many others. And some magazines are entirely digital so I can enjoy them that way too.

Still, all things being equal, I do love a print magazine especially for the pictures which look great on paper. Some magazines have discontinued over recent years including beloved Starlog. Newsweek has moved totally online and by all accounts this has been successful financially for it. One thing I miss over the years are more Manitoba magazines.

Today, I still get a few print magazines a month at home and will likely do so for as long as it is possible. The long form journalism, the great photographs or graphics and the investment in reading something that is not standard news but a deeper look at a subject is always compelling. I have dropped much of social media but it lacks context, nuance and substance. It can be a useful business tool but only insofar as promotion. It can give immediate headlines or links to bigger stories but it isn't a debate most of the time, it is a bun fight. Give me a magazine with something to chew on every day.

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