Jamie Woodman is one of the most talented people I know. We worked together for a number of truly satisfying years at an independently-owned community newspaper called The Haliburton County Echo. I started out in the editorial department as a reporter/photographer but gradually weaseled my way into the production department where Jamie produced award-winning ads and lay-outs. When I say award-winning, I'm not kidding. Back then the Echo was the newspaper to beat all across Canada. It won more awards than any other community newspaper. And that was crazy because Haliburton is a tiny village, a two-traffic light town, a speck! It still doesn't even have a Tim Horton's, that's how small it is! Somehow, this miniature village hugging the scenic shore of Head Lake attracted some of the finest newspaper talent in this country. Everyone who worked there was talented, driven and dedicated. Part of it was due to the leadership of Editor Martha Perkins, a powerhouse writer and editor and a dear friend. But part of it was definitely Jamie. She gave the paper its "look." She gave it soul. Whenever anybody needed an idea, Jamie was the one to ask for help. Her mind was like a virtual Fort Knox of ideas.
Good things don't last forever, unfortunately. Publisher Len Pizzey retired from the business and sold the Echo to a big company that promptly tore it apart. One of the first orders of business was firing all the production staff, including Jamie, and sending its ad work to be done in India. It might have saved a bit of money, sending work overseas (nobody at the Echo was well paid, I can attest to that), but what it might have saved in money, it lost in quality, originality and heart. The paper went downhill like an Acapulco truck driver. People in the community that once loved the Echo were now up in arms about it. A new newspaper was started and it became increasingly popular to the point that I would say the once mighty Echo is now a struggling underdog.
It makes me sad, a little bit, to see the state the Echo is in. But the newspaper I once knew and loved is nothing but a distant memory. It was a place I loved to go to, every single day. The office was in an old house overlooking the lake. The walls of the production room were painted a peaceful turquoise hue and trimmed with beautiful original wood. The big windows facing the lake were old and imperfect and gorgeous. I'd get there, and say good morning to everyone. Jamie was already there, wearing her warm wooly socks and her Birkenstocks, eating porridge or some godawful healthy crap. The radio was playing Canoe FM or CBC, and the other production team members were already hard at work, churning out amazing ads and making each other laugh.
How we used to laugh. One of the other women who worked with us, Donna Brohm, oh, she was a spitfire and a shit disturber and one of the funniest people I'd ever met. Sometimes she had me laughing so hard that I could barely breathe. That's what I loved the most about that place. The laughter. The creative energy. We all felt like we were part of a team and I didn't realize how incredibly special that was until it was gone.
It's been years since Jamie and I worked together. Like all friends separated by distance and time, we don't see each other much.
Today Dave's driving me to Haliburton. I have a doctor's appointment – a pre-op before my cataract surgery. After the appointment, we're going for coffee at Jamie's house. I think Donna's going to be there, too. I can hardly wait.
I wonder if Jamie's still wearing her Birks.
I wonder if Donna is gonna make me laugh until my stomach hurts.
I don't wonder at all about how much I miss them.