SPECIAL CORRESPONDENCE: WESTPORT, N.S. / NANTON, AB / VANCOUVER / REVELSTOKE
Revelstoke, Nanton and Tiverton don’t have a lot in common, only that they are each three small Canadian towns, loosely connected through this paper you’re reading.
Last summer, I published a miniature newspaper in Nanton, Alberta. One morning, I got a call from a woman in Vancouver telling me that I didn’t publish Canada’s littlest newspaper as I claimed. That, she told me, was Tiverton, Nova Scotia’s Tiny Tattler circa 1933.
“—which makes mine Canada’s biggest miniature newspaper,” I noted.
The kind and soft spoken woman on the other end of the line introduced herself as the proprietor of the Turtle Press. She printed mostly letters, postcards and most recently A Tribute to the Tiny Tattler on a 1920s Chandler & Price platen press in her Kitsilano basement.
I was cordially invited to the Turtle Press’ 21st annual wayzgoose. I said thank you but declined and we hung up. An hour later I called her back to ask: Wait, wayzgoose? Whatza wayzgoose?
After one too many fires, printers were officially zoned the hell out of London.
According to English professor Ted Bishop, a wayzgoose (plural wayzgooses) is a printing tradition that dates back almost 400 years. However, exactly what year is unverifiable. (You’d think bookmakers would be better note takers.) A time, anyway, when presses made their own ink by process of bringing linseed oil to spontaneously combust and buring pine to make soot for pigment—all in all, risky beeswax.
After having one too many fires break out, printers were officially zoned the hell out of London. Thus began a tradition for bookmakers to sojourn to the big city for an Enlightenment Era pub crawl followed by frying fritters in a vat of oil. Or what I call a solid weekend.
What I initially imagined as some sort of a drunken pagan frenzy turned out to be fairly normal get-together of septuagenarian books-lovers.
That’s about all we know. Even Wikipedia, which details the plot of all 7th Heaven episodes, is uncharacteristically scant on W.T.H a wayzgoose is.
That said, what I initially imagined as some sort of a drunken pagan frenzy turned out to be fairly normal get-together of septuagenarian books-lovers at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club. Nevertheless, a group of brilliant collectors and professors of whom I was now somehow part of thanks to my own frivolous miniature newspaper.
It was at the wayzgoose I learned more about fellow miniature newspaper editor Ivan Shortliffe, who printed the Tiny Tattler from about 1933 to 1943. As I said, the Turtle Press printed a Tribute to the Tiny Tattler (photo, right) and inside was an October 1933 classified ad reading WANTED: The Tattler needs a Westport correspondent.
As a tribute to A Tribute to the Tiny Tattler, in September, I ventured to Shortliffe’s hometown of Tiverton, N.S
As a tribute to A Tribute to the Tiny Tattler, in September, I ventured to Shortliffe’s hometown of Tiverton, N.S. He died half-a-century ago but his name and the Tattler are still remembered fondly.
Publisher of the Tiny Tattler, Ivan Shortliffe. Photo undated.
Shortliffe was far more successful in the mini news biz than myself, and from a depressingly younger age too; he started his own press at 14 and in a short time it garnered international renown (below); Elizabeth II even heard about it.
For no good reason other than that I enjoy whimsical journeys—and because like wayzgooses, I apparently like to honour things I don’t understand—I a replied to that 82-year-old classified. I took the ferry to Westport, a village at the far knuckle of a finger of islands on Nova Scotia’s north coast, to correspond.
There, local Westport historian Dorothy Outhouse filled me in on the past seven or eight decades and how they’ve not be kind to the area.
Westport in Shortliffe’s time was a vibrant shipping and lobstering hub as well as home to Joshua Slocum, the first man to sail around the world solo in 1895.
Alas, despite all its big dreamers, a once-thriving economy and natural beauty (whales, mostly, and a big column of balancing igneous rock) this tiny island village has all but bit the proverbial dust—everything that isn’t dead or a cemetery is for sale. Even the church.
Ending my correspondence, I conclude that special little towns are better with special little newspapers, which is what I intend to deliver.
Incidentally!—the man who quite literally wrote the book on ink, professor Ted Bishop, was also at said wayzgoose. He provided me with much of the background info as to WTH exactly they are. You can buy his book here—in Revelestoke!—from the lovely Vanessa at Grizzly Books on Main Street (below). Incidentally again, when I told her about the book’s connection to the wayzgoose in Vancouver she said: “Wayzgoose—what the heckza wayzgoose? …”