Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Memories of Art

Updated 03/12/08
Remembering Art Holland, the Toronto Sun's Day One office manager who died Saturday at 94:

Les Pyette, retired Toronto Sun CEO who was city editor in the 1970s:

"Art was so important to the growth of the Sun; he kept things orderly in the early days and had a hand helping set up the offices in our new papers in the west.

"I once spilled red wine (on his office white rug - please don't ask for details) in the old Sun building on King St. West. It was late at night and no place for a young city editor to be parked . . . Anyway, he scolded me for 20 years before we kissed and made up over dinner at my home in Calgary.

"He was a great guy with a quick wit. We should all be so lucky to enjoy life the way Art did."

Andy Donato, a Day Oner and veteran political cartoonist:

"Art Holland was the best building manager we ever had. He was a real gentleman and just a great guy.

He loved to paint and when his art teacher packed up and left Toronto, he asked me if I could take the group I was teaching at the time and combine them with his group.

Art arranged for me to rent his church's basement and I taught the group for about four months.

P.S.: You should find someone who knows the old Art Holland half a memo story."

John Downing, a Day Oner and former editor/political columnist, now retired:

"Art Holland is seldom mentioned in the glory stories of the Tely and Sun. But Art, a quiet, infuriating nit-picker, was our secret weapon, our shield against the treasuries of the Star and Globe.

He stood, perplexed, between old and new journalism, between paste pots and proof readers and computer layouts. But because he was a decent man, horrified at the drunken stars around him, he did his damndest, and most days, it was the best solution that could be found.

Art was the second person I met after Art Cole hired me in 1958 and to me was the chap who controlled every part of the job, from hours to assignments. Only later did I realize that he was a mirror of Cole's wishes and of the news events of the day. And I may be one of the few that know how he was to the Tely matching the greater resources of the Star. After all, I took over his job and always felt that I was perceived to be a success but he had done the job better.

Doug Creighton replaced Holland with me because Doug understood Art's value but wanted it done with a little more dash. Too bad, because Art never missed anything in his day file of bookings and I was a little more unorganized.

Under Doug, I was both assignment editor and his second-in-command, and no reporter or photog in any part of the Tely was not assigned by me, with the exception of sports. Art didn't have that much power or reach, but he did a wonderful job anyway.

Every day, he filed away every remand, every court date, every funeral, and everyone started the day with a sheaf of clippings and memos from Art. He sure could have used a computer.

At the Sun, he was a mysterious office manager who had his finger into everything. If you wanted a shelf in the washroom to put your glasses on while you washed your face, you went to Art, and he turned you down because he didn't think it was worth the cost.

Oh yes, he could make you furious, but the Sun prospered under his cranky stewardship, and Creighton, the great spender, appreciated how he kept expenses down. He watched everything, and drove us all nuts with his common sense mixed with petty frugality.

He was a loyal member of a church in Scarboro and after I gave the sermon one day on the boat people, he never mentioned that I had been long-winded. I'm glad he lived to 94. He deserved to, because he was so misunderstood.

Art went to war and he rose from copy boy by hard work. He became a respected cog in two weird organizations. And he was never appreciated. It must have hurt him when all the young studs bitched about him, often deliberately so he could hear.

But like old T.O. and its unthinking prejudices, he evolved and worked longer and harder than anyone around him, doing the donkey work, crossing the t's and dotting the i's of the flamboyant around him, and finally fading away at a newspaper that didn't resemble his birthplace of journalism at all.

"I'm sure things are better organized in Heaven now that he's there, and all the spelling mistakes in St. Peter's log have been corrected."

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