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“What would the little old lady on Brock Street think?”

Fri, 06/30/2017 - 15:54 -- Chris Cooke

Jack Fullerton has passed.

He died last month at the age of 89.

He was a rare breed, an old school newspaperman who wouldn’t tolerate our current version of municipal politics.

If he had the ability in his final years he would have used his First Monday column to chastise the current crop of newbies who endorsed the Code of Conduct that destroys freedom of speech and endorses of likes of Integrity Commissioner Robert Swayze, Chief Administrative Officer Margaret Misek-Evans and City Clerk Dianne Gould-Brown.

Jack Fullerton was intolerant of those who would tinker with free speech or curtail the free flow of information. In his mind Swayze, Misek-Evans and Gould-Brown would have been relegated to bottom feeder status.

The very thought that this City would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on the drama spewed out by this Integrity Commissioner and this administration would have them in Jack Fullerton’s crosshairs.

He wouldn’t suffer fools gladly. He would be irritated by the stupidity that is Sarnia City Hall.

His column Up the Creek was appropriately named.

I met Jack Fullerton for the first time on September 4, 1973 at The Gazette building on Front Street. He had a battered hat, a stogie hanging out of his mouth and he was the ultimate rumpled newspaperman banging out a column between advertising sales calls.

In addition to being co-founder and sales manager of The Gazette, Jack Fullerton was a Catholic School Board trustee on the public school board and an advocate for public funding of Catholic schools. He eventually got his way but we disagreed.

We came to blows in The Gazette newsroom after he insisted on proofing and ultimately editing my column.

I shoved him against a wall as he attempted to rip the column out of the old Underwood typewriter. The argument simmered only after Marceil Saddy stepped in and reminded his partner that the column was not his.

The Gazette was a family, and like most families there was a divergence of opinion which we shared liberally every Wednesday.

Former mayor Andy Brandt described The Gazette as a thorn in the side of the establishment and vowed to never pick up the paper unless he had “a good stiff drink in his hand”.

Jack always maintained The Gazette was the voice of the little guy and crusader for the “Little Old Lady On Brock Street”, a fictional character that showed up when he or Marceil believed municipal or education budgets were too high.

“What would the little old lady on Brock Street think?” was the standard cry.

As politicians both Jack and Marceil had a propensity to walk out of public meetings.

At least once a year Saddy would pop out of the Mayor’s chair, describe his Council colleagues as a “horse’s ass” and leave.

I can recall Jack returning early from a Monday night school board meeting where the issue of public funding of Catholic schools became heated. He was banging on the old Underwood.  Why back so soon I asked?

“Idiots, they are all idiots,” was his only response.

I sense he shared similar views about the current Council and if possible would be lobbying voters “to get rid of the entire lot” at the next election.

For four decades politicians trembled every Wednesday when The Sarnia Gazette hit the streets. The paper Jack Fullerton and Marceil Saddy built died with its final edition on August 19, 1995.

By then the feisty tabloid was corporately owned, no longer feisty, no longer viable.

It wasn’t until years later on a visit to Huron Web Printing and Graphics that he stumbled upon First Monday. With the words “I see you are keeping the politicians honest” did the fire in the belly return with the offer of a column, which he wrote for years.

Jack wrote until he couldn’t and we are sadder for it.

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