Right in the centre - Something will turn up!


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

My father used the expression “Something will turn up!” many times. He did so with good reason, because in his 80 years on this earth from 1907 to 1987, he had many occasions to despair but he usually chose not to do so.

He usually explained that the phrase came from the book, David Copperfield. While dad didn’t have a lot of years of formal education, he was an avid reader and he had indeed read the book.

A quick bit of research shows that Wilkins Micawber is a clerk in Charles Dickens’s 1850 novel David Copperfield. He is traditionally identified with the optimistic belief that “something will turn up”. His name has become synonymous with someone who lives in hopeful expectation.

I have a teacher friend who states hope and optimism another way who says, “There’s always a way.” He teaches it to his students, his kids and his hockey teams.

It is no surprise that we all follow advice and philosophy from our parents, grandparents and friends. So it’s no surprise that I have adopted my fathers’s “something will turn up” idea. I have followed it up for years, perhaps all my life.

It’s only recently that I have put that saying into a business philosophy. The latest version is “My task in running a business or organization is to keep the door open so that the opportunities have a place to walk into.”

It has stood us in good stead, albeit there have been some severe struggles. We have had a number of successes, and we have only had to shut down one venture in 55 years of being in business. I would like to think a number of organizations have benefited from applying our business philosophy as well. 1986, we had to shut down our farming operation. A combination of drought one or two years, flooding another, 23 per cent interest on our operating loan plus a few bad decisions by myself spelled the end of the road for our farm. That experience was devastating to us all but probably worse for my wife and our two sons. The farm shutdown really hurt both sets of our parents as well.

But that’s the past. The farming thing was a learning experience, even the shutdown. There have been many happier experiences. One is the paper you are holding in your hands right now. 

If it’s the The Rivers Banner you are reading, it’s now owned by our grandson Micah Waddell. Nearly 30 years ago, the Rivers Gazette-Reporter closed down for a number of reasons. It looked like the end of a newspaper in Rivers, but my wife and I decided to buy the name, the archives and the equipment from the bank. We may still have one or two tables left from that era, but just about all the outdated equipment was sold off or went for scrap. 

So, Rivers Gazette-Reporter became the Rivers Banner (Gazette-Reporter). Just as a side note, the Rivers Banner was saved from a fate that has befallen many small town newspapers. The newspaper death-list is lengthy and includes the Carberry News-Express, Melita New Era, Deloraine Times and Star, Reston Recorder, Souris Plain-Dealer, Westman Journal, Altona Red River Valley Echo, Selkirk Journal, Carman Valley Leader, Winkler-Morden Times, Stonewall Argus and Interlake Spectator. Almost all the failed papers listed above, failed due to the faraway corporate ownership model. That model just doesn’t work. Local ownership is the only way to go.

Another reason these papers failed is that too many times, advertisers expected to get free ads. It’s ironic that we get requests, even this week, from governments and corporations asking us to print free posters and ads for events. The answer is a polite, but firm “no”.

If it’s the Neepawa Banner & Press you are reading, here’s another “Something will turn up!” story. While we were phasing out our farming days in the 1980s, I became a columnist for  Grainews, a popular farm paper. That re-awakened our interest in newspapers and as we were already spending a fair chunk of money on ads for our auction business, we asked the owners of the Neepawa Press if we might have a chance to buy the paper. For a number of reasons, it didn’t work out and the local owners sold to a couple of partners who then ran the Neepawa Press for many years. We did start the Neepawa Banner in 1989 on a shoestring and hundreds of times we had to say “Something will turn up!” It was a tough go for sure. 

In 2010 or so, the remaining Neepawa Press owner sold to a major corporation and I can unabashedly state that it didn’t go well. We bought the failing Neepawa Press in 2015 and a year or so later, made it into the Neepawa Banner & Press.

Yes, there is always a way or as Wilkins Micawber said over 150 years ago, “Something will turn up!”

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being the view of the Banner & Press staff.