The East Central Alberta Review: 110 Years in the Making

Written by Terri Huxley

The East Central Alberta Review office based in Coronation as of August, 2021. The Review has been located in this building since 1981. Behind, readers can see the scaffolding work being done to the old water tower as it gets some upgrades. ECA Review/T.Huxley

And just like that, another decade surpasses the calendar date.

For the East Central Alberta Review (ECA Review), often referenced as the Coronation Review to this day, the long-standing weekly time capsule has made it to 110 years as of Sept. 27, 2021.

On September 27, 1921, Sgt. Frank H. Whiteside of the ‘News Review’ had a fire in his belly and started to record happenings in the Coronation area on the day the lots were sold at the new CP site named Coronation. 

He was the proprietor of the neighbouring Castor Advance.

With the printing of this paper’s first edition, it also solidified the birthday of the town itself although it was not declared a town until March 1912.

Since that time, editorship changed hands a few times over the years, now currently under the leadership of publisher Joyce Webster who has been with the paper for 41 years come November 4.

Webster credits the success of the newspaper both past and present to the community.

“It is a credit to the community. As long as there is a community to support a community newspaper, that paper will be strong. If the community fails to support a paper the community will die a slow death and the paper has to look at other avenues of revenue, or it too dies,” she said.

Like any business, the local paper has seen boons and hardships throughout its tenure. 

“We’ve had ups and downs but I’m sure not as hard as what the Dirty 30s would have been like. I might have had to eat a lot of chicken if I was publisher back then, because I know from reading past issues, that oftentimes chickens were given in lieu of cash for subscriptions, chuckles Webster.

“Our best year was 1992, don’t ask me why, but I do know when there is an economic downturn, it takes a couple of good years for the mindset of businesses to turn back to marketing their business. Spending marketing dollars doesn’t give an instant result, it takes time and dollars to build ‘top of mind’.

“Presently social media is the biggest hardship. People really do believe they are reaching their market through social media including our federal government who moved all their dollars to the big U.S. conglomerates like Google and out of our newspapers… And, of course, the pandemic was just about the demise of the ECA Review but, so far, we’ve managed to hang in there.”

Began with a bang

The ECA Review has been interwoven with young Albertan history since the beginning of its inception in 1911.

The woeful tale of our founder, Sgt. Frank H. Whiteside is no exception.

Sgt. Whiteside established both the Coronation Review and Castor Advance, acting as the editor for both papers.

In 1913, he was elected as MLA for the Constituency of Coronation and in the spring of 1916, enlisted with the 187th Battalion as a private and “earned his stripes as Sgt. preferring to advance himself through merit to accepting a commission without first proving his worth” as stated in his obituary.

Whiteside was shot twice Sept. 17, 1916 (105 years ago) between the hours of 10:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. at the Telephone Exchange in Coronation.

He remained in serious condition for five days before succumbing to his injuries.

Founder F. H. Whiteside

The assailant, Thomas Helmbolt, confessed to the deed immediately after shooting the man and was taken into custody.

The death of the public figure and the subsequent trial captured the attention of many people, increasing the population of nearby community Stettler temporarily as many attempted to gain access to the courtroom in town while the trial took place.

The preliminary hearing happened on Oct. 12, 1916 with Helmbolt charged with first-degree murder.

A couple weeks later, the murder trial began.

Six men from Castor, Stettler and Botha were selected to sit on the jury.

Through a statement dictated in the presence of witnesses by Whiteside before his passing, it was said Helmbolt confronted him with a statement ‘that he knew all about this infamy, that his wife had told him all and that he would be given an opportunity to make a signed confession or blow his brains out.’

Mrs. Helmbolt, wife of the man charged, was 27-years-old and was said to be a major factor in the verdict of the case.

Helmbolt was acquitted in the end after the jury deemed he was not guilty.

His Honourable Justice Ives stated, “If Helmbolt believed as he said that his wife was in danger, and if you believe him, he was justified in protecting his wife and if you believe the story to that point then you must acquit him.”

If interested in learning more, you can purchase the ‘Back in Time’ history book dedicated to celebrating the 100th year anniversary of the newspaper.

Editors since

Ever since this shocking case involving our first owner, there have been a few successors that have taken his place.

Mr. E. W. Harris of Vancouver took over as editor and proprietor on Feb. 6, 1913, working with Sgt. Frank H. Whiteside until his untimely death in 1916.

Mr. G.C. Duncan of Drumheller was the Review’s first publisher. He left in 1912.

William Alexander McGillvary and J. A. Housiaux were owners as of Jan. 20, 1921 with Housiaux as editor and manager.

Art Jenson joined the paper in 1923 where he began as editor then climbed the ladder to sole proprietor and publisher on May 28, 1942.

William A. McGillivray at the linotype, circa early 1920s. ECA Review/File Photo

On Mon. Oct. 7, 1968, the publishing firm of M&K Publishing Co. owned by Monte Kieth, who also owned the Sedgewick Community Press and Alliance Enterprise, purchased the Review from Jenson who had been in the printing business for over 51 years.

Mr. Howard Kroetsch became publisher while Raymond E. Matthews became editor at this time.

Gordon Keith, son of Monte Keith became publisher/editor in 1977. 

Hands changed again in 1985 when Joyce and Lyle Webster of Coronation took over.

Joyce Webster has held the title of owner and publisher to present day.

Back to the Future

Starting from humble beginnings, today, the East Central Alberta Review newspaper services 27,500+ homes each week after an expansion to encompass the region in 2011 during the centennial celebration.

Lisa Myers-Sortland is our longtime Graphic Artist who has been creating most advertisements and designs the entire newspaper layout each week for over 20 years.

Reporters include Terri Huxley and Stu Salkeld as well as a few stringers throughout the region to give the best coverage of newsworthy content possible for our readers.

For all of your sales and marketing needs, we have Judy Walgenbach and Yvonne Thulien.

A number of casual positions are created for stuffing flyers within each edition on a weekly basis.

The ECA Review is a biodegradable newspaper that decomposes within two years using high-grade paper.

“We started into it gradually with the Farm Review once a month in 1996 but it grew to what it is today by necessity for the businesses who recognized they had to reach farther than just Coronation and area. It certainly was a success.

“If we were still just serving Coronation and district, I would employ a lot less staff. Many former years of the Coronation Review only saw one or two people employed but by expanding I was able to employ upwards of seven full-time and 11 part-timers. 

“In doing so, I also accessed other avenues of revenue through advertising and flyers. Plus the ECA Review serves a lot of communities that do not have their own newspapers,” stated Webster.

Coverage begins in the north with the highest point in Kinsella, Alta.

The southern boundary ends at Hussar and Iddesleigh at the border of Special Areas No. 2.

In the west, the paper reaches Acme, Clive, Torrington and Daysland which stretches across the region to the Saskatchewan border in the east.

The Review has three offices including the main office in Coronation and two satellite offices; one in Hanna and one in Stettler.

“I like the words of the then editor in 1913 who said, ‘A newspaper is a town’s way of letting outside people know that it is alive . . . a guidepost whereby they can tell the town and the cemetery apart.’” stated Webster.

C.W. Hurlburt, the pioneer physician of Coronation was the first to have his name placed on the Review’s subscription list. The subscription rate was $1 per year.

On Sept. 24, 1941, the Review completed Volume XXX (30) which meant that 1,092,000 copies had been run off the press, folded, addressed and mailed – handling 49 tons of newspapers.

Awards and recognition

Every newspaper has its shining moments amongst associations and even countries.

The ECA Review has been a member of the Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association (AWNA) for years as well as the Canadian Newspaper Association, and the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors receiving many awards.

Most recently, Brenda Schimke, editorial writer for the ECA Review, won one national and two international editorial writing awards.

Reporter Terri Huxley received back-to-back awards in the Sports Action category of Photographic Awards held by the AWNA in 2018 and 2019. She also won first place nationally for her 2018 photo labelled ‘Elnora Bullarama’.

Winning awards is not new to the Review as the first prize mentioned in the pages of the Review was in 1923 – a national award for Overall Best Small Town newspaper.

The first award after Webster took over the paper was a national award in the Best Sports Photo category. It was an image taken by editor Edna Kary in 1985 of local Bill Bedson riding in the Coronation Amateur rodeo bareback event.

The ECA Review has received upwards of 40 awards in a myriad of categories since its inception in 1911.

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Terri Huxley

ECA Review

About the author

Terri Huxley

Terri grew up on a grain farm near Drumheller, Alberta with an eye for the beautiful and uncharted. Living in such a unique and diverse area has helped her become the photographer and reporter she is today.

Coming from the East Central region getting this newspaper on her dinner table growing up, it helped her understand the community she now serves.

In May 2019, Terri was awarded Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association (AWNA) Canada's Energy Citizens Photographic Awards Sports Action – First Place as well as first for the same sports action image nationally with the Canadian Community Newspaper Association (CCNA). Fast forward to 2020, she has won second in the same category for the AWNA.