Press-Republican

Black

February 24, 2012

The town the colonel built

My wife's grandfather was a newspaperman in Montreal who accumulated a mountain of books during his career.

Several of them came into our possession a while back, including one with the letters WGN embossed importantly on the cover.

That book, published in 1922 to mark the 75th anniversary of the "World's Greatest Newspaper," offers a glowing history of Col. Robert McCormick's fabled Chicago Tribune.

That history covers the great tide of events in America from the lead-up to the Civil War to the aftermath of the Great War, in which the colonel saw battle in France. (It would be 26 years before the WGN ran the unfortunate "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline, with which some of a certain generation would come to remember the WGN.)

This year, there's another WGN-related 75th anniversary being celebrated, in the Quebec town that Col. McCormick built. Baie Comeau, the colonel's vision of a model company town, rose in 1937 from the wilderness on the spectacularly scenic North Shore of the St. Lawrence River.

McCormick's insatiable hunger for newsprint for his growing newspaper empire compelled him to expand his Canadian timber territory and, with the ready agreement of the Quebec government of the day, set up a massive operation on the North Shore to feed a paper mill.

The bustling town, incorporated in 1937, featured all the amenities and facilities, from swimming pool to library, to provide the kind of healthy family life the colonel promoted.

McCormick was a regular visitor to Baie Comeau and had built a sumptuous manor to accommodate him and his entourage. He even arranged to have radio broadcasts from Baie Comeau on his Chicago-based station, WGN, and brought in famous performers.

The colonel was also responsible for much of the industrial expansion on Quebec's North Shore. The massive dam he built in 1951 to supply power to his paper mill begat an aluminium plant, which, in turn, sparked further hydropower development in the region. The construction of the deep-water port necessary for the industrial plants attracted the massive Cargill grain silo installation.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Black
  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Big shift in Quebec vote

    Being a man of science, Philippe Couillard, premier-designate of Quebec, chose to use a geological term (though his field is actually medicine) to describe what happened in Monday's election, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Trench warfare in Quebec elections

    I've seen many a Quebec election in my day (I'll skip the "by cracky"), writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    April 4, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Dr. Phil's election prescription Philippe Couillard is a brain surgeon, not a psychiatrist, so his expertise is not necessarily understanding the collective mind of Quebecers, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    March 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Party's charter flight to majority

    It's not surprising the political maneuvering in recent weeks in Quebec City has been dubbed the "winter games," writes Canadian columnist Peter Black

    February 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Joe Ryan's mountain vision

    Eventually someone surely would have taken the initiative to turn what the Algonquins called Manitonga Soutana and the locals called Mont Tremblant into a popular outdoor recreational destination, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    February 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Montreal's Genie on the courts

    In a land where raquettes de neige (snowshoes) are more popular than raquets (tennis), a young Canadian with classic California surfer girl looks is turning heads on the court.

    January 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Columnist's Canada in 1954

    I will depart from my usual discreet journalistic anonymity just this once and offer a few personal reflections on my life as a Canadian, writes columnist Peter Black.

    January 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • peter_black.jpg Prime minister's hockey history

    By my count, President Barack Obama has written three books under his own pen, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    December 27, 2013 1 Photo

  • peter_black.jpg Quebec City displays Holy Door

    It's the first and only such thing in North America: a Holy Door, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    December 13, 2013 1 Photo

  • peter_black.jpg Rouge et Or Tide rolls on

    Much like I probably will never understand the system by which Americans choose their presidents, what with primaries and the electoral college and all, I likely will never understand how Americans decide the best college football team, writes Canadian columnist Peter Black.

    November 29, 2013 1 Photo