First Words

An old friend happened to mention Watershed’s launch party that took place in our barn 20 years ago. My mom and dad danced to their favourite song that night. I remember fireflies and Vera Lynn’s voice wafting over the soft June air, “There’ll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover.” Sadly, Mom and Dad aren’t around to share in the 20th anniversary of Watershed. If only my dad were here to read Roger Thomas’s story on bluebirds in this issue.

Roger is just one of the many characters who make the magazine so special. Our story actually began twenty-one years ago, when a group of friends sat around my kitchen table and imagined – yes imagined – a magazine that would tell the stories of our community. John Delacour, who became our crusty circulation manager and Martha Robinson, a brilliant artist who designed our logo and our first front cover, have passed away, but in many ways they are part of the foundation of the magazine. Mary Jane Tonello, another cornerstone contributor of Watershed, moved back home to the Ottawa Valley a few years ago. We still miss her.

In a recent note to Watershed, Catherine Stutt described Meg Botha, our art director, as the “gatekeeper” of the magazine. Meg has been part of the magazine since the beginning, bringing endless malapropisms and humour to all our lives. Her ability to seamlessly meld advertising into the magazine and to bring stories to life is remarkable. Together, we have laughed until we cried, and we have cried until there are no tears left. Meg’s children are like my children.

At Watershed’s 10th anniversary party, her son Matt, who was 11 at the time, stood up in front of the crowd with all the confidence in the world, and told everyone how his mom and Jane had caged him and his twin sister Megan under the computer desk during production of the magazine. What I remember is rocking two beautiful babies to sleep in our arms as we worked to get an issue off to press. And we have always made it to press on time.

In the early years, Stephanie Campbell, Meg and I supplemented the Watershed coffers by working with Prince Edward County to create the region’s first ever Taste Trail guide. We toured the County backroads, checking out the fledgling wineries and restaurants, sipping our way to success. Stephanie, an extraordinary communicator, always made sure that things didn’t go off the rails – and she still does.

But life goes on and can throw the occasional curve. Jeanette Carter, who has been our amazing sales director for over 10 years, has a 92-year-old mom in England whom she hasn’t seen in over a year and a half because of COVID. Many of our advertisers haven’t seen our faces since the beginning of the pandemic, but we have done our best to support one another. Audrey Whittaker, our delightful new sales director in the Quinte and Prince Edward County area, can’t wait to meet new faces and get to know her clients in a post-pandemic world.

Chris Cameron is a brilliant addition to the Watershed team. As our new editor, he’s fallen into the natural rhythm of calm amid chaos as if he’s been around for the past two decades, stickhandling his way through Zoom meetings with a bunch of laughing Watershedders like Bobby Hull on Hockey Night in Canada. My eternally patient husband John emerged from his new “at-home office” to tell me that he’d never heard so much laughter in a so-called meeting in his life.

It’s the same laughter that I hear when the tailgate truck carrying 25,000 magazines arrives in my driveway. The Watershed team is there waiting to unload and reload about 12,000 pounds of magazines into the waiting vans. The voice of Sam Cooke singing of “Workin’ on a Chain Gang” is our theme song. Lorne Aronson, a retired corporate trader leads the team. He rarely escapes the barbs from Roger, who questions everything from his math to his muscle. Tom Groot, dapper as always, who has quickly changed his proofreader’s hat to his delivery hat, is also on site. The gals ignore the banter and simply look beautiful and load the vans. Roger and his wife Gayle are the first to leave the scene, en route to the County. Micol Marotti, the Italian dynamo who lives just down the road from me, is off to the Grafton Post Office with the subscriptions an hour later. John Delacour’s legacy lives on. And I could go on, but it’s time to finish this note or we will miss our press deadline for the first time in twenty years.

Thank you to all the people who have supported Watershed since that first issue in June of 2001. To John Jeronimus, Meg’s dad, who proofreads the magazine from cover to cover and will be turning 93 just as this issue rolls off the press – thank you.

To our advertisers and readers: you are the community that sustains and inspires us. Thank you.