Back on March 18, 1977, the dreams of Hacker Press came to fruition with the completion of a 28,000-square-foot building to house the company’s crown jewel – the Abbotsford, Sumas and Matsqui News.
According to a story published shortly after its creation, the facility featured bright colours, air conditioning and state-of-the-art carpeting.
The previous decades had seen a tremendous growth in The News, as the number of employees grew from nine when Cec Hacker originally purchased the company to over 60 in 1977.
The former location of The News was on Essendene Avenue, but that space was originally created for 20 to 30 employees and eventually no longer became feasible. A study by Cliff and Cec Hacker for a new location was then done, with options including a spot in Clearbrook or downtown Abbotsford, but Cyril Street (now known as Gladys Avenue) was chosen due to its location and large available lot with the potential to expand.
A contract was issued for the new location in the fall of 1976, and the final cost all in of the building was $2 million (including the purchase price of a new 40-page Goss Urbanite press).
Following its completion, Cliff Hacker stated, “We should have done it years ago; it’s exactly what we expected. If the building burned down tomorrow, I would not change any of the plans to any great extent.”
In the years that followed, hundreds of employees came and went and the newspaper business continued to evolve. Photography moved from darkrooms to digital, reporters transitioned from typewriters to computers and sales evolved to include e-mail and social media.
But the one constant in Abbotsford was the iconic building of The News. Considered one of the most notable landmarks in Abbotsford, the building proudly stood on Gladys Avenue and was visible to commuters going up and down Highway 11 (Abbotsford-Mission Highway).
The final chapter of the spot that contained so much local history closed on Sept. 27, 2021, with all employees moving to the new location at 100B – 2860 Trethewey St. It’s a bittersweet ending for those who worked and loved the building, but the potential and excitement for this new journey likely feels much like it did for the Hacker family back in 1977.
The News reached out to past and current employees for their thoughts on the end of an era on Gladys Avenue. Here are some of their thoughts:
Don Barbeau – Sales Manager: 1993 to 2019 (current sales manager Parksville Qualicum Beach News)
I can recall my first impressions of the iconic Hacker Press building in 1993 when my career began at The Abbotsford News arriving from Winnipeg. At that time, the building was at full capacity, serving the various different departments of what it took to publish a paper, with close to 75+ dedicated employees.
It was a precision-like environment and the great building served its purpose as the press facility for our group of Fraser Valley newspapers. Many residents in the community either had a story about themselves or someone they knew that worked in the building at one time or another.
There is a funny story of an apprentice employee who started at The News decades ago, who was pranked by the press hall foreman at the time, to cut the grass at the front of the building.
Of course, the lawnmower was a standard home-style mower complete with 19-inch blade radius!
As many can attest, the frontage grass area of The News is a massive piece of property, which always enhanced the mighty presence of the building itself. What most people do not know is the building’s footprint only extends 15-20 feet from the front of the building and 20 minutes is all it would take to cut the grass belonging to The News. Not the case in this instance as the new employee was tasked to mow the lawn and cut the entire property, which took hours, much to the amusement of the ones responsible for the initiation.
Those were the days when there seemed to be time to let loose and still get the job done!
Randy Blair – Publisher: 1989 to 2006 (current Black Press president B.C. Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island)
I joined the Abbotsford News in March of 1989 and have many wonderful memories of the 17 years I spent working out of the Gladys Avenue location as publisher of the Abbotsford News. I had the pleasure and privilege of working with so many talented individuals who were absolutely dedicated to providing the community with news and information relevant to their daily lives.
Over the years the team at the Abbotsford News has found so many ways to support the efforts of those who are focused on making Abbotsford a great place to live and work.
One story that will always stand out for me was the reporting Trudy Beyak did on the proposed SE2 power plant in Sumas, Washington, and the role the Abbotsford News played in raising awareness of the need to protect the Fraser Valley airshed. The work done by Trudy, the team at the Abbotsford News and individuals like Councillor Patricia Ross changed the course of history for the Fraser Valley, and as a long-term resident of Abbotsford, I will always be grateful for their efforts.
It wasn’t all serious business, though. I remember long lineups of people stretching all the way down Gladys Avenue as they waited to get a copy of The Abbotsford News and the next clue in our “Search for Gold “ contest. That was so much fun and created a huge buzz in the community at the time.
Abbotsford is a vibrant city and The Abbotsford News has always tried to reflect the values and diversity of our community. I’ll miss the building on Gladys Avenue but will treasure the memories of those I worked with at that location. I am looking forward to the next chapter as the Abbotsford News moves to a beautiful new Trethewey Street location that represents the transformation the Abbotsford News has made as one of the leading digital news media organizations in Canada.
Neil Corbett – Reporter: 1995 to 2012 (current Maple Ridge News reporter)
I remember the Christmas parties held in the press hall for a few years. The press hall guys hung bulbs on long lines to try to decorate for the season, and caterers brought us in a Christmas dinner for lunch. And Randy handed out some long-service awards.
When the internet was invented, we had one little desk with a computer for everyone in the building in a corner upstairs. If you wanted to do some research, you had to wait your turn.
Editorial was upstairs. The place was big enough, and full enough of people, that Kevin Mills could walk in each morning, drop his Blackhawks jacket on his chair, and then go out the back door. He would head to the corner store to buy his Sports Action tickets and some bonbons, and get back without anyone realizing he had left the building. In Mission, I bet they can track him down pretty quick.
I remember the tiles under the vending machines in the lunch room were destroyed from Mills rocking the machines when his chips got jammed. Probably hurt the sale price of the building.
Carly Ferguson – Publisher: 2017 to present
Preparing for our move in the last month has stirred up a lot of memories made in the iconic Abbotsford News building. While I’ve not had the long history as an employee others have had, the Abbotsford News and that building has always been a part of my professional career.
It was a place I came to count on when I worked at Big Brothers, United Way and Prospera Credit Union. When I joined Black Press, it became a place where I learned and sought advice from other Black Press professionals and leadership.
The day I came to the building as publisher of the Abbotsford News is one I will not forget, but even more memorable are the people I’ve worked with, the businesses and organizations I’ve gotten to know and the events that have happened in the past four years.
While our location has changed, the heart of the people that work and represent The Abbotsford News has not. We continue to support non-profit organizations that need our help now more than ever. We are developing new marketing solutions to address the increasingly competitive environment our clients face. And from our office on Trethewey Street, we remain committed to delivering more news than ever before at all times of day and night to email inboxes, online at abbynews.com, on all of our social media accounts and in print as we have done for the past 99 years.
Ken Goudswaard – Editor: 2017 to present
It’s those signs. Those two incredibly large, visible-from-the-other-side-of-the world, white-lettered The News signs that always caught my eye anytime I drove past the building on Gladys Avenue.
They are just as iconic as the view of Mt. Baker as you drive southeast down the same street. The News has always been synonymous with quality journalism; after all, it’s one of Canada’s leading community newspapers.
Vikki Hopes – Reporter: 1991 to present
I remember when the building, which now houses about 15 employees, had more than 100 people working there. This included around 12 or 13 newsroom staff, of which there were three photographers, compared to the three reporters and one editor we have now. The place was always buzzing – almost like what you see in a TV or movie newsroom.
In the days when our press hall operated from there and we published three days a week, as well as publishing several other papers in our chain, the building would shake when the press would run, but you just got used to it. It became part of the rhythm of the newspaper.
Of my 36 years as a journalist, I have spent 30 years at The Abbotsford News – all of them out of the former building. I have so many vivid and great memories of the staff I have worked with and the bonds we formed over the years. It makes me feel a bit sentimental to think about that place and having to leave it, but it’s just a building. The memories will remain and there will be new ones to create.
Andy Holota – Editor: 2009 to 2017, Reporter/Photographer 1976 to 1984 (current Black Press editorial director)
To every end there’s a beginning, and so it is with my lifetime of work in journalism, which literally began through the lens of a camera, focused on behalf of The Abbotsford News. A devastating shopping mall fire in downtown Abbotsford in 1976 suddenly changed my photography hobby into a full-time job, which I could never have imagined would develop into a career spanning 40 years as a journalist and editor.
The News operated out of a tiny building and a trailer on Cyril Street then, but the newspaper was on a major expansion path, and in 1977, we moved into the large, new building on Gladys Avenue. At the time, The News was owned by the Canadian division of the Liverpool Post and Daily Echo, a British publishing company, and eventually became part of the major community media enterprise built by David Black of Victoria.
It was an exciting time to be a young photographer and reporter, recording the news of what once was a small, primarily agriculturally oriented town growing into a major Fraser Valley urban centre.
The local politics were heated, the news non-stop, and the changes in the industry monumental.
I was privileged to be part of the watershed technological transition of the newspaper world into the digital realm, when desk computers replaced typesetters, and the first mobile phones were on the verge of revolutionizing communications.
It all took place in The Abbotsford News building, which holds countless memories of strong leadership, great camaraderie, many laughs, and long hours willingly worked to consistently create an award-winning community newspaper of which we were all fiercely proud, and remain so today.
I left the ‘mothership’ in 1984 to take my first editorship, in Hope, followed by others, and eventually returned in 2009 as the editor of The Abbotsford News. I departed again in 2017 to take on my present role as editorial director of Black Press Media in Western Canada.
I wave a very fond farewell as The News building gives way to inevitable progress, and takes its place in the community’s dynamic history. It was ‘home’ for me and my work family for many fine years.
Dan Kinvig – Sports Editor: 2005 to 2014
The Gladys Avenue office will always be special to me, as it’s where I started my first “real” post-university job, as sports editor at The News back in 2005 (and continuing through 2014).
The memories I made in that place could fill a book, and I formed enduring friendships with so many co-workers.
The story I want to tell, though, happened maybe two months into my tenure. It was a Saturday, and I stopped by the office for some reason – maybe to check my email (back in the pre-smartphone days) or to conduct a phone interview. At any rate, the building was otherwise closed, I was the only person on the premises … and I noticed the red voicemail light on my phone blinking.
I lifted the receiver, punched in my passcode… and was treated to the most over-the-top angry voicemail I’ve ever heard in my life. It was a club coach, extremely critical of the fact I’d covered the same sport in the previous issue, but at the high school level. WHY ARE YOU IGNORING OUR CLUB? OUR KIDS WORK SO HARD! The message was six minutes long, which was the limit – it cut off mid-sentence at the six-minute mark. The entire time, this person was literally yelling into the phone, almost barking, just relentlessly irate.
I hung up a bit shell-shocked … I was pretty rattled. I fired up my computer to learn more about this club (from whom I’d never had so much as an email), and discovered they were scheduled for games that afternoon, in Abbotsford. So I took a deep breath, grabbed my notepad, hopped in my car, and arrived during pregame warm-ups. I walked over, asked for the coach by name, and introduced myself.
“I got your voicemail – hadn’t been aware you had teams playing this afternoon. Any interesting stories?”
I was nervous, but let me tell you – this coach backpedalled faster than a juiced-up Lance Armstrong stuck in reverse. Apologizing profusely, clearly embarrassed … and then we ended up having a nice chat, and I wrote a terrific (at least in my memory) feature on a couple of their athletes.
It was a formative moment for a young journalist on how to defuse conflict and build relationships.
But every time I drive past the old building, there’s a little bit of lingering PTSD … not just thinking back to deadline days, staring at a 500-word gap on a page with 15 minutes to press, but to that blinking voicemail light!
Larry Krause – Sales Rep: 1994 to 2002, 2006, 2016 to 2017 and 2020 to present
Inside the building for Sept 11th , 2001.
Arriving at the office, we had knowledge of the twin towers, the Pentagon and the field outside Pittsburgh.
We knew that thousands of lives had been taken and The News staff sat quietly, occupying a solemn workplace as the messages were broadcast over the scanner.
The borders closed, the airport locked down and the community placed on alert – all the results of the attack.
One co-worker asked, “Do you think this could be the end of the world, the Armageddon?” Other co-workers simply sat in silence gathering their composure.
Shake it up: The News gets rocked by an earthquake.
Earthquake hit The News 20 years ago, shaking the furniture, wall fixtures and staff.
Most Abbotsford News staff just shrugged off the five-second tremour as being on a fault line but started the staff on a safety protocol and the first of a series of earthquake drills, including a routine of random dropping to the floor and tucking under desks.
Gord Kurenoff – Sports Editor: 1981 to 1983, Editor: 1991 to 1998
My first newspaper office, in Yorktown, Sask., was on the lower floor of a mid-budget, three-storey retail shop. Our neighbour to the left was a men’s barbershop; the neighbour to the right an electrolysis shop for women; and the neighbour across the hall was a denturist. You can imagine the endless jokes about hair and teeth and ink.
I moved from that crowded office 4 years later to Abbotsford and it was love at first sight seeing The News building. Wow. I sent all my friends, relatives and former colleagues pictures of the spacious place — we didn’t have Facebook, Twitter, FaceTime or cellphones back then.
The News was the envy of many a reporter and publisher. When we travelled to award and newspaper conventions people often talked about “the glorious building” on Cyril. I was so proud to be a reporter, sports editor and managing editor there, surrounded by fun and extremely talented and motivated people.
We had weekly tours of the press hall, newsroom, production, photography and administration departments. It was pretty neat to see the kids’ eyes light up, especially in the press hall when pages were being printed.
Besides all the “glory years” of reporting and breaking news before social media interrupted, I got a bit part in the movie Miss Bear, shot in part at The News where we all “pretended” to be newspaper types working with actor Ed Begley Jr. Actor Shaun Johnston said we were “so lucky” to work in such a nice place and he was so right.
Speaking of luck, we often had special section meetings with the advertising department and while we joked news and advertising shall never meet, I met sales rep Lisa Hill there and, well, like The News building, the rest is history — we celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary on Sept. 23. So The News has a special place in my heart.
The News represents A LOT to me. It was Western Canada’s top community newspaper for decades, thanks to the Hackers’ community-first vision. It was among Canada’s top newspapers at a time when newspapers were still the place to turn to for breaking news, good reads, great photos and news that mattered.
Mark Rushton hired me to be sports editor; and many years later I replaced Mark in the editor’s chair. His witty, must-read columns lit a fire under my own style. He was a great teacher and leader and I owe a ton to him for all the success that followed.
On funny and final note: We had “a flower guy” come in once a week to replace, cut and-or replace flowers and plants in my corner office. Those plants took a regular beating as readers, colleagues and friends brought in their young kids and pets to visit. The flower guy never said a word until my last month there.
“I hope you don’t mind me asking, but why do the flowers in your office die more quickly than everywhere else in the building?,” he asked.
“Too much hands-on love,” I cracked. “Maybe we should try an aquarium instead, you know something tougher than flowers and plants!”
The shocked look on his face was priceless. Pretty sure he was happy when I left.
Ben Lypka – Reporter: 2015 to present
I’ll never forget making my way up Highway 11 for a job interview at The News and being blown away by the incredible building I saw rising in the distance. This was the big time – this was The Abbotsford News – and when I first walked in, it felt like I was in a movie. Everything was so big and grand, but you could feel (and often smell) the history sweating out of the building.
After I got the job I immediately took a picture of the outside of the building and sent it to my mom – explaining how proud I was to be there.
One of the funnier memories was the day I came outside to some sort of large rodent running around the parking lot. To this day it’s still a mystery what kind of creature it was. Some say a muskrat, others a beaver. Thankfully, I documented it for the world to never forget.
It was a challenge to step into a role with one of the top community news organizations in the country. There were so many skilled journalists occupying those same seats and walking those same halls before me and many times I felt that pressure and the ghosts of the past.
John Morrow – Photographer: 1970 to present
Whirring sound of the massive newspaper presses and the smell of ink used on those behemoths brought life to the stories and photographs used not only in The Abbotsford News but also across the Black Press chain of community papers.
The new and more powerful technologies brought on stream at the plant on Vantage Way in Delta resulted in the old presses in the back of The News building being decommissioned. Over the next few months staff adjusted to the eerie silence and fresher air. This was yet another chapter in the evolution at the Abbotsford News.
Rick Rake – Editor: 1998 to 2009
What I remember most about the big brown building with the huge white letters “The News” on what once was Cyril Street is the ebb and flow of people in what felt like acres of space for the 100 or so talented employees.
When I arrived at the newspaper as a reporter in 1982, I knew I was going to be part of a state-of-the-art centre with the latest technology. The hum of the press centre for Valley newspapers, the busy advertising department, the unique scent of the darkroom, the piles of press releases (before email), and the lively upstairs newsroom debates are never to be forgotten.
Every person I encountered there in the 27 years I spent with Trinity International Holdings and later Black Press offered so many laughs, serious conversations, valuable knowledge and pride. We were more than winning major awards, meeting tight deadlines and holding court in our stylish boardroom with the movers and shakers, and the characters of the community.
When people walked into the building, they experienced a sense of awe, a sense of respect for what we were doing in a fair and honest way for the readers, be it through stories or newspaper deliveries.
Now, as The Abbotsford News moves from a building which once echoed with the glory days of newspapering, there is a sense of sweet sadness, but hope for the media of the future.
— Rick Rake (@RickRake) September 25, 2021
Harv Toews – Apprentice/Creative Services Manager/Pre-Press Manager: 1969 to 2019
My memories of The News building start with numerous support piles being driven down into the ground before the building could proceed. Then, as the original News building was a short drive away on Essendene Avenue, I recall many noon-hour visits to the site, walking through the wood frame construction, trying to visualize where the various departments would be located. The excitement was mounting as we moved into our new surroundings. The main floor housed circulation staff, classified advertising, accounting and press administration. The advertising department, newsroom, creative services and administration offices occupied the second floor. A renovation years later relocated the departments to accommodate the changing needs.
The sound of the press running was a welcome sound which permeated the building. The one constant that I enjoyed immensely was change, as the latest production technologies were regularly employed. The biggest change was digitizing the workflows in all departments. From ad creation, to the finished pages, and to the plates that were used on the press, every element of the process was digitized and automated using the latest technology of the day.
The best memories, however, involve planning and collaborating with the many dedicated and talented employees, bringing the numerous projects and editions to print.
Anne Williams – Sales Rep: 1990 to present
The printing press at the back of The News was a sight to see. Huge, noisy machinery and giant rolls of paper stacked along the wall. When the presses were running the building had a hum to it, like being on a large airplane. I would often go back there just to watch the newspapers flying off the press. I miss it.