For Jim Thomas, it was an event he’ll never forget — induction into the 2023 Ontario Community Newspaper Association Hall of Fame.
The ceremony took place at Hockley Valley Resort near Orangeville. He was accompanied there by his wife Jean and daughters, Susan, Cathy and Mary-Lynn. The presentation of the engraved trophy was made by OCNA president Gordon Cameron.
A graduate of Markham High School in 1949, Thomas began his seven-decade newspaper career while still attending business college. He responded to a help-wanted ad in the Stouffville Tribune and was hired by publisher Chas Nolan as a part-time sports reporter to cover baseball and hockey games. To attend, he would hitch-hike from Toronto to Stouffville, then back to his parents’ Markham farm on Ninth Line.
Copies back then were handled differently; written first by long-hand and later by typewriter, all from home. Completed stories were then placed in a roadside mailbox, picked up by a courier in a horse and buggy and delivered to the Stouffville newspaper office.
“Mr. Nolan obviously saw something in me that I hadn’t seen in myself,” Thomas recalls. In 1951 Nolan requested I join his full-time staff and I jumped at the chance. My salary was $30 a week.”
In 1954, Thomas’s career took a major turn. With the money he had saved, he purchased a Crown Graphic press camera priced at $150 and a brand new car costing $2,300. With the camera and car, he was able to cover stories and take photographs at the same time. News of this capability attracted the attention of six area police departments, who willingly paid $1 for each picture. His portfolio increased again when two Toronto dailies, The Telegram and Globe and Mail sought his service. On occasions, he would sleep overnight at various police stations and then drive to Toronto with film the next morning.
Thomas made himself available 24 hours a day. “When police cruisers and fire trucks would go, I would go,” he remembers,” sometimes arriving at accident scenes before an ambulance. Because of this, he adopted the nickname ‘Scoop.’
In the 1960s, his regular sports column was shifted to the newspaper’s editorial page to make it more visible. It was then called ‘Roaming Around.’
Although official retirement occurred in 1989, his column-writing continued until August 2023.
His newspaper employment spanned seven decades with most of his time spent working in Stouffville, but also included four years as publisher and editor of the Markham Economist and Sun. He is now 94.
Despite his busyness, Thomas has found time to create tributes to others in the Stouffville community including the Citizen of the Year; the Sports Personality of the Year and the Music Town, Ontario award recipient. He remains actively involved in the Student Music Scholarship Concert held at Stouffville District Secondary School and the annual Sacred Music Night at St. James Presbyterian Church. But nothing, he says, “can compare with the OCNA award and the engraved trophy that holds a special place in his Rupert Avenue home.”
Main photo: For Jim Thomas, it was an event he’ll never forget — induction into the 2023 Ontario Community Newspaper Association Hall of Fame. (Photo courtesy of Jim Mason).