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The Balfour Bugle

Updated: Nov 20, 2018

At the bottom of this page is a rare copy of the debut issue of The Balfour Bugle, the newspaper published by and for convalescing soldiers at the Balfour sanitarium.

The facility operated between April 1917 and December 1920, when the 25 remaining patients moved to Tranquille, near Kamloops, despite their objections. This amazing building opened in 1911 as the CPR’s opulent Kootenay Lake Hotel, but only operated for a few summers before war intervened and tourist traffic plummeted. It was torn down in the late 1920s, with much of its lumber salvaged to build homes along Nelson Ave. in Nelson. Some of the hotel’s foundations remain on Upper Balfour Road.

The postcard says Procter, but it should read Balfour. (Greg Nesteroff collection)

The Balfour Bugle debuted on Oct. 1, 1919, coinciding with a visit by the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VIII.

Although I was aware of this newspaper’s existence, I had never seen a copy until Peter Bartl recently produced a photocopy stamped Kootenay Outlet Reflections — the history book of the Balfour area originally published in 1988. An expanded edition that came out a few years ago reproduced some ads from the paper.

I have no idea how many editions were published — it was supposed to come out monthly — but apparently at least one is in the ProQuest database of trench journals and unit magazines of the First World War. (If you have a University of Alberta library card and can look it up, let me know.)

What surprised me was The Bugle’s irreverence. Its motto was “Wherein We Blow Our Own Horn” and it promised “Nearly 18 pages.” In fact, it’s only four pages, but the second through fourth pages are numbered 6, 13, and 18.

The front page contains the “Bugville social gossip” and notes “Mr. and Mrs. George W. Tubercle, of the Kentucky Tubercles, are spending a few weeks here with friends” and “Mrs. S. Trepto Coccus is reported to be in an interesting condition.”

The letters to the editor consist of a purported dispute between the institution’s orderlies and dishwashers about who ranked higher on the social ladder.

An ad on the back page explained The Bugle was produced by the Cursed Publishing Company and suggested you could make $500 per week selling subscriptions.

Little Willie Jones of Proctor, BC did it. Why not you? In two years, besides a wife and three cows, Little Willie Jones has managed to soak away $30,000 in the bank. Working in the evenings after an honest day on the farm, Little Willie who two years ago hadn’t a cent now has piles. He did it selling subscriptions to The Balfour Bugle.

It carried a price of 10 cents — 60 cents in the US.

It was printed by the Nelson Daily News, and the day it appeared, the News ran a story about it:

Exemplifying a wealth of literary talent and replete from cover to cover with bright and breezy humor, the first issue of The Balfour Bugle was placed on sale yesterday … If there is anyone who is of the opinion that the patients at Balfour are inclined to the ‘Blues’ a glance at the Bugle will alter that opinion.”

The Bugle’s masthead listed editor E.C. Sheppard plus associate editors G.S. Godwin and E.A. Corbett, business manager J. Armstrong and advertising manager A. Street.

Corbett, who arrived at the sanitarium in 1919 after being injured in France, provided insight on the Bugle’s driving force in his 1957 autobiography, We Have With Us Tonight.

[T]he creative instinct took possession of me, egged on by my roommate, Capt. Ned Sheppard, only son of E.E. Sheppard, founder of Toronto Saturday Night. I had been introduced to Ned Sheppard on the night of my arrival at the San. He occupied a big double room facing the lake, complete with private bath, etc. When the matron took me up to his room and knocked on the door, a voice from inside shouted “Friend or enema?”

Sheppard explained that he’d been told that he had a hole in his left lung as big as a beer mug and had been trying to keep it filled ever since.

This was my brilliant and fascinating roommate for nearly a year. He was a dying man, plagued by frequent hemorrhages, but his cheerfulness and courage made our room a rendezvous for doctors, nurses, and a number of up-patients at all hours. He occupied himself with the publication of a weekly newspaper called The Balfour Bugle, which he typed out himself … It contained each week one brilliantly written major article, news notes and ribald rhymes and jokes. The 175 patients waited eagerly each week for its appearance.

Edmund Culver Sheppard died in Kamloops on Oct. 18, 1921, age 31. The Vancouver Sun ran this obituary the next day, which revealed that despite his young age, he had been the Sun’s managing editor. He was also quite a boxer in college.

On the images below, the first page is cut off at the right margin, but it’s like that on the photocopy. I don’t know who has the original.

Updated on Nov. 20, 2018 with Ned Sheppard’s obituary.

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