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

Sofia Watts, Charlotte Magill and Harriet Knight were among the KELSET Elementary School students releasing salmon fry into Reay Creek May 7. (Ian Bruce/Submitted)
Saanich Peninsula elementary students help restock, clean up local creeks

Salmon fry releases took place at Reay Creek and Tetayut Creek

The City of Victoria hopes to improve its cultural spaces this year and it wants non-profits to help. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Grants up to $125,000 open to Victoria non-profit arts and cultural organizations

Victoria Cultural Infrastructure Grant applications close at the end of May

(Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich health and safety manager named one of Canada’s top 40 women in safety

Canadian Occupational Safety magazine celebrates women leading safety sector in 2021

North Saanich has started the design of a crosswalk at the intersection of Mills and Littlewood roads near Garden Child Care Centre, whose owner Tracey McCullough has been calling for such a sidewalk. As such, she has been echoing a previous appeal by the building’s owner, Heather and Cory Hastings, standing respectively with seven-year-old Jack Hastings and five-year-old Felix Hastings. (Black Press Media File)
North Saanich moves ahead with crosswalk near child care centre

Crosswalk proposed for Littlewood and Mills roads parts of approved active transportation plan

Colwood city council did a last minute adjustment to this year’s budget, dropping the planned property increase to five per cent. Last year they didn’t increase taxes at all. (Black Press Media file photo)
Colwood agrees to 5% tax increase for 2021, deferring some expenses to next year

Last-minute changes will save the typical Colwood homeowner $56

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Most Read