Bill Draayer Award 2003

Given in recognition of outstanding personal contributions to the progress and development of the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association.




Oliver Hodge is a man of many talents. Born on a farm 2 miles east of MacGregor, Manitoba, Oliver entered the newspaper business when his mother, fearful of Oliver's desire to join the RCMP, filled out his application for a job called 'commercial printing and reporting' at the MacGregor Herald.

The MacGregor Herald was a weekly newspaper, using hand-set type. Oliver commenced employment at The Herald on November 1, 1945 and soon became fascinated with the various aspects of production.

Two years later, Roberta and Oliver were married and while they were still both 21 years of age they became the youngest newspaper publishers in Manitoba when they purchased the Rossburn Review. The paper was purchased for the grand sum of $3,000 (with a down payment borrowed from family members).

The Review was judged by the association to be number 62 out of a class of 63. It was a matter of considerable pride when they sold the Review some six years later, when Oliver became a candidate for the ministry, that their newspaper was rated number 18 in the Province. Oliver was a member of the Board of Directors of the Manitoba Newspaper Association for several years until the sale of his newspaper in 1953.

As a result of writing editorials on the need for good candidates, Oliver was drafted and elected to town council in an election for which he was paid to print the ballots. Oliver also served on the Rosetown School Board, and while at Bow Island was elected as the Bow Island representative on the County of Forty Mile Education Committee.

Ordained in 1958, Oliver served the United Church in Manitoba until 1962 when he was called to Rosetown, Sask. Oliver and his wife Roberta were reconnected with the newspaper industry in Rosetown when Jack Pinckney, editor and publisher of the Rosetown Eagle, was left without a linotype operator early one Monday morning. Oliver happened to call at his office with a news item that day. Jack said,"Oliver, you've got to help me," and Oliver said, "Sorry, Jack, I can't. I'm chairman of Presbytery, and I've called a meeting at Kindersley for today, and I've got to be there."

Using a number of theological adjectives in a re-arranged format, Jack said in effect, "what am I going to do?" to which Oliver replied, "I'll be home this evening. Maybe Roberta can help you; she operated the Linotype at Rossburn when we lived there, and we can come down for a refresher course this evening if that will help." Jack reached into his pocket and said, "Here's a key; I'll leave the Linotype pot turned on."


Oliver and Roberta lived in Rosetown for nine years, and during that time The Eagle was one of the first weekly newspapers in the area to change from hot metal to cold type and offset. Roberta and Oliver were fascinated by the process. When they decided that it was time to leave Rosetown they thought it would be exciting to live in a small community where there was no local-based newspaper and where there was an opening for a minister. Bow Island seemed to provide the answer, and they moved there on July 1, 1971 with a call from the congregations of Bow Island and Burdett that included a clause giving them the freedom to establish a weekly newspaper in the area.

The first issue of the 40-Mile County Commentator was published on August 18, 1971 in which Oliver announced himself as the new preacher and the new publisher. It did not hurt that an election had just been called and the paper carried a full page election notice ad.

Oliver was elected to the AWNA board in the mid-70s. A dedicated board member, he had a 7-hour drive from Bow Island to board meetings in Edmonton. Oliver got his pilot license in 1979. He could now fly from Bow Island to Edmonton in about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Oliver served as President of AWNA for the 1980-81 term after serving as Director, Vice-President, etc., in the usual way. When Oliver sold the Bow Island Commentator in 1983 he was invited to continue his involvement with AWNA and served as Convention Chairman in 1984 and 1985. Roberta was always his faithful helper. Oliver was made a Life Member in 1991. Many of his closest friends are members of the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association. Oliver started the tradition of welcoming the incoming president of the AWNA with a special song which he composed and at convention was always recruiting members for this special choir.

A man of vision, a man of God, a newspaper man dedicated to his profession and his association, Oliver Hodge is the worthy recipient of this year's Bill Draayer Award.

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