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Author: Tom Barrett

The Grant Notley Plane Crash

The Grant Notley Plane Crash

Every reporter wants to cover the biggest story of the day, the week, the month, or best of all, the year, even if it’s a story that breaks their heart. If they would rather that someone else cover it, they’re in the wrong business. Sometimes tragedy is part of the journalistic experience, whether it’s the victims of an angry grizzly bear, the gross mistreatment of a foster child, or a terrible accident – like the Humboldt bus crash. In those…

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Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation

It was November, 1971, and after two months of hitchhiking around northern Europe and having wonderful experiences, I realized it was time to head south like a migrating bird as winter closed in. It took me three days to cross France and when I reached the Spanish border, I headed west on a whim along the north coast of Spain, instead of due south towards Barcelona, Madrid and the Mediterranean beach resorts, as virtually all the other remaining backpackers did….

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Stumbling Into a Career

Stumbling Into a Career

Along with marriage, the choice of what occupation to follow is likely the most important decision we make in our lives. People often spend 40 years in a particular line of work, approximately 40 hours a week, so it is crucial that they actually enjoy what they are doing or at least don’t hate it. I’ve known many people who realized from a very young age what profession they wanted to work in someday and quite a few others who…

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Posters, Passports and British Snobs

Posters, Passports and British Snobs

I had a fascinating, if occasionally scary time in Northern Ireland in 1971, but I was relieved to leave (London) Derry and cross into County Donegal in the Irish Republic. My experiences in Belfast and especially the No Go areas of Free Derry were eye-opening and unforgettable, but I was now entering the part of Ireland I had really looked forward to travelling in. I made sure to find a somewhat disinterested Irish border official to stamp my passport because…

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The Grant Fuhr Story

The Grant Fuhr Story

Like many journalistic investigations it began with a tip. Edmonton Oiler star goaltender Grant Fuhr apparently has a long-term serious cocaine problem, I was told. The Hall of Famer had also spent some time in a drug treatment centre recently and his frustrated ex-wife may be willing to talk about it, the person added. My source was impeccable, but second hand, so there was a lot of work to be done to confirm or disconfirm the story because in Canada,…

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Adventures on the Malawi Trail

Adventures on the Malawi Trail

Our family’s thrilling four-hour adventure scrambling down a steep path from Malawi’s Mulanje Massif in a violent thunderstorm just whetted our appetite for more exciting experiences. After two months of backpacking in Africa, our children Sam, 6, Danny 9, and Rachel, 10, were still having fun. We returned to Doogles Backpackers Lodge, our home away from home in Blantyre, Malawi, for a few days before heading north on some dreadfully wretched buses and one totally crazy ride on a pickup…

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A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall

A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall

The violent thunderstorm erupted without warning. It seemed like one minute our family was walking happily in the sunshine, admiring the lush green meadows and brilliant wildflowers on Malawi’s Mulanje Massif, the highest mountain in central Africa, when suddenly angry black clouds came pouring in, transforming the massif’s bright rolling hills into dark, featureless mounds. “Quick, get out our rain gear,” my wife Philippa shouted, as we pulled off our day packs, slipped rain ponchos over our three children and…

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Backpacking in Africa With Kids

Backpacking in Africa With Kids

Many of our friends thought we were being wildly ambitious, if not outright irresponsible. Why would you want to take your young children on a 12-week backpacking trip to east and southern Africa, they asked. How can you justify them missing three months of school? Aren’t you going to dangerous places? What about the health risks? Are you guys nuts? Edmonton Journal librarian and friend Deb Dittrick was the frankest. “If someone told me I had to go on a…

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A Stranger in a Strange Land

A Stranger in a Strange Land

I was having a great time hitchhiking around Europe in 1971, interacting with locals and other backpackers in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Oslo and various places in Scotland. Virtually everyone I met was friendly and every place I visited was interesting. One fellow traveller I got to know in Inverness advised me, “If you like Scotland, you’re going to love Ireland.” I hadn’t thought much about Ireland but since almost all my ancestors came from there I thought it would be fun…

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The Killer Bear of Whiskey Creek

The Killer Bear of Whiskey Creek

It was the year of the bear. It seemed like there was a serious bear attack on a person in Alberta virtually every other week in the summer of 1980. It was so bad that it became a joke around the Edmonton Journal newsroom that the paper should establish a Bear Bureau, just to keep up. One enormous and ferocious grizzly bear deservedly drew most of the attention in the end with three savage attacks that severely injured four people,…

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