It was 1977. I was working at the Fairview Post, a small weekly newspaper in northern Alberta. While finishing high school, I started with the paper in grade 11. An earlier stint at the IGA grocery store was fun and customers liked me (second place for the town’s Annual Most Congenial Clerk Award) but given that I could never balance my till, my ever-optimistic boss Joe Dobrich took me to the paper to ask for a job on my behalf. With no change-making skills required, my writing career was born.
Fairview’s new hospital complex opened that November and Premier Peter Lougheed was there to cut the ribbon. I got assigned to the interview. I was 18 and terrified and I don’t know what the editor could have been thinking.
It was my first big interview with someone “famous” and my heart was in my throat as I knocked on the hotel room door. Yep, an interview with the Premier in his hotel room. Like I said, it was 1977. His aid ushered me in and I remember thinking that Mr. Lougheed, a small man, had a big beautiful smile. He took my hands, seated me on the edge of the bed and chatted for a few minutes about how pretty the town was, how happy he was to be visiting. He asked about me and was pleased to hear I grew up on a farm. I’m sure he saw how nervous I was, clutching my note book with my well-rehearsed list of 4 questions. He was gracious, took my faltering attempts an the interview in stride and made me feel like each question was intelligent and insightful. We talked for probably 20 minutes and he thanked me warmly when it was over. He invited me to call his secretary and whenever I could make the trip, he said he would like to give me a tour of the Alberta Legislature. I never did. I wish I had.
Premier Lougheed died last week. Now he lies in state at the legislature in a flag-draped coffin as mourners pay their respects. People all over the country were calling in to CBC’s Cross Country Checkup to talk about a man who, even if they did not agree politically, was always a gentleman. He treated everyone with respect and good manners, just as he did with a fumbling nervous 18-year-old on her first big assignment. Thank you, sir.