My Memories of a “Great Family Journal” - By Frank Leslie
No one passes through this life without mentors – and in my case, I had two beloved ones. My Dad Bruce held almost every position at The Review over his lifetime. And my Grandpa F.H. Leslie would impart many words of wisdom that he’d learned during his long career as a newspaper publisher. I literally began learning the business at my Dad’s knee. When I was a kid back in the 1940s, I recall he’d often come home from covering yet another city council meeting and talk about missed deadlines at the paper. Deadlines have always been the bane of newspaper folk – and unreliable equipment doesn’t make their lives any easier.
Unfortunately, the cranky old press at our dilapidated Review building on the corner of Park Street and Clifton Avenue (now Zimmerman Avenue) was often acting up. The late papers that resulted caused consternation for all…carriers, readers and particularly the Leslies. With the old Park Street building running out of room – and the department heads running out of patience with the old equipment, the decision was made to open a new building on Valley Way in 1952. Founded by my Grandpa and Dad, it was state-of-the-art at the time. Further additions followed in the late 1960s as we acquired five additional lots and continued to expand the building. New technology was also adopted as it became available – all signs of a growing, prosperous paper. I began my Review career back in the summer of 1956, filling postcard orders and delivering printed orders for F.H. Leslie Limited – a commercial printing business, and the lifeblood of most daily papers in their early years. It was a pet business of Grandpa but not Dad and I – and we eventually closed the operation in 1967 when we needed more space to expand the newspaper. After learning the ropes in the editorial and advertising departments, I would join my Dad as a manager in 1964 while my aging Grandpa kept a steady interest in our activities. My dear Dad preferred the news and editorial side. I gravitated to the business side. We were a great team for quite a few years. Each day, we would run editorials on Page Four. Most would be the paper’s opinions on matters that affected Niagara Falls and the area. Our editors made sure to keep the paper’s own views separate from the news. Back in those days, we had City, Fort Erie and Regional sections and a Fort Erie office on Jarvis Street. Like most family-owned papers, we ran more local news than our corporate cousins. While the bottom-line was important, it was not the chief motivator. The Review also had a November promotion called “Niagara Falls Days.” Some editions in the 1960s contained over 100 pages of advertising from Queen Street retailers alone! Rosbergs, Eatons and Kents were just a few of the major ones back then. Journalists are the heart of any good paper. We had some who went on to illustrious careers including Tony Fredo, Bill Wilkerson and Marilyn Anderson. Revenue from ads and circulation is the lifeblood that keeps papers alive. We were privileged to have good managers, ad, circulation, press and composing staffs. Publishers may claim to be the soul of a paper but that claim is rightly disputed. Sadly, my Grandpa passed away in 1969. For years, he’d referred to The Review as “The Great Family Journal” – and in many ways he was right. Several families like the Lindsays, the Williams and the Parrs all worked at the paper for decades – and working around print led to countless romances and marriages. Even my dear Mom and Dad met during their days toiling in the newsroom at the old Park Street building. After long deliberation, however, we decided to accept the offer of Thomson Newspapers which approached us in 1973 about buying the paper. Selling a business of any kind that has been in a family for three generations is tough decision for anyone. In the end, the mind must rule the heart…and it did. My Grandpa had bought the weekly Review in 1904 with $1,200 in borrowed money, and Thomson Newspapers paid us much more than that. During the negotiations, I met with Ken Thomson, then Canada’s wealthiest man, and we exchanged correspondence for many, many years. I have great hopes for the future of The Review in its new Queen Street location. The pending sale to Post Media is generally agreed to be a positive one. There’s no doubt in my mind that this grand old paper will be the primary source for local news for many years to come.