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30th Anniversary
special section

  Andy Donato
Max Haines
Mike Filey
Strictly Savings
Tech News
Story of The Wall

November 1, 2001

5,000 columns later

Sun's birth like a family birthday

By JOHN DOWNING -- Toronto Sun

 Back 5,000 columns ago for me, and half that in editorials, back 30 years ago, and about half that in fun, 62 of us launched a little paper and a million memories.

 And the little tab grew and grew until it became the second largest media chain in the country, long removed from those wacky and carefree days when The Sun made as much news in T.O. as all the other media put together.

 No doubt there are some who are tired of hearing the yarns of yesteryear. After all, the 62 Day Oners have plenty of tales about that Sunday and Monday when The Sun began -- and I don't need the legend to remind me -- in the grimy Eclipse building, and about all the days that followed.

 Sorry, but our stories do sustain us in this our anecdotage as we consider the gaps in our ranks from death, and from retirement, and from pink slips, which are just bureaucratic death. We're much older and weathered, and sometimes our memories betray us. But when I pick up the paper, and I've read every Sun for 30 years, it shows that those of us who have lasted are still grinding it out. I am proud of my 5,000 columns, which may be the most of a Sun writer, but two or three columns a day can flow from Peter Worthington before he finishes his morning coffee.

 Consider the Day Oners beside Peter and me who are still producing three decades later: Andy Donato, Bob MacDonald, Chris Blizzard, George Gross, Glen Woodcock, Doug Fisher, with Kathy Brooks, Jim Thomson, Mary Zelezinsky, Bruce Borland and Paul Gillespie running around behind the scenes. You can see we could put out a paper all by ourselves, as we think we used to, and some like MacDonald are still trying to do so.

 The Sun's birth is like a family birthday. I was the assistant managing editor who put out the final Telegram on Oct. 30, 1971, and the nameplate metal and the mat mould to produce the final front page hang in my home. A Tely street box sits outside my bathroom. They remind me of my 13 years with that great paper, and the birth contractions of the tabloid that followed one day later. There was no long gestation period in our birth.

 My youngest son was born just before the Tely went under. We were having a helluva adventure growing The Sun but I must confess to sleepless nights worrying about feeding Mark and the rest of my family.

 Sure the pop machine had beer in it, and there weren't enough desks, meaning Paul Rimstead and I shared a typewriter and took turns writing our columns for Pages 4 and 5, a page at a time, while Paul insisted I take turns with his liqueur too, and we seemed to have more than our share of kooks, like the reporter who wrote threatening notes to herself and ...

 Then one day I woke up and it was 30 years later. And the family was grown and The Sun had been a great provider. And the beer machine and the Rimmer and the kook reporter haven't been around, damn it, for too long.

Celebrating 30 years of the Toronto Sun

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