The late Charles Edward Russell was born at Bay Roberts, Newfoundland in 1877, the youngest of eight children of Charles Russell and May Ann (Drover) Russell. In 1884 the family moved to St. John's where the elder Charles Russell died in 1887.
Young Charles Russell acquired his yearning for journalism when, at the age of nine, he began selling The Evening Telegram on the streets of St. John's. The type for The Telegram at that time was completely composed by hand and the paper was rolled off the press by hand-power. It was the custom of those days for the paper boys, while waiting for their papers, to make themselves generally useful around the office. So it was that Charles began to acquire a general knowledge of the mechanics of the production of a newspaper.
It was not long when Charles Russell became a member of the staff of the Telegram, under the watchful eye of the founder, the late William J. Herder, until the age of seventeen when, with his mother and other members of the family, he moved to Toronto. With a glowing letter of recommendation from Mr. Herder, it didn't take long for Charles to find employment -- firstly with the T. Eaton Company catalogue department and then with the Methodist Publishing House (later known as the Ryerson Press).
After a number of years in Toronto, the family moved back to St. John's where Charles worked for a time with Ayre & Sons Limited, then, in partnership with Kenneth Barnes, printed and published a weekly newspaper called The Citizen. After a few more years Charles decided to return to his birthplace, Bay Roberts, and in 1909 he bought a small printing plant from Harris and Wesley Mosdell, two Bay Roberts boys, who for a number of years published a weekly newspaper called The Bay Roberts Outlook. The printing office was situated on the site where Bay Roberts Seafoods Ltd. now operates (formerly R. Churchill). Charles moved the plant farther west on Water Street, and on 09 July 1909, the first issue of the Guardian rolled off the man-power-driven press. (Incidentally, part of this printing equipment was acquired from the late (Magistrate) Jabez P. Thompson, who printed a newspaper called The Vindicator at Brigus, around the turn of the century.)
Just after the founding of The Guardian in Bay Roberts, the Western Union Cable Company of New York became interested in acquiring a site in Conception Bay for their Atlantic Cable Relay Station. The Guardian was very instrumental in persuading the promoters into selecting Bay Roberts as their site. Eventually, some ten trans-Atlantic cables were landed here -- among them the fastest in the world at that time -- and hundreds of employees, both local and world-wide, passed through the doors of the Bay Roberts station. During two world wars, it necessitated a company of army personnel to guard the property from possible enemy action.
The Guardian also played a very conspicuous part in reporting events of the two world wars, chiefly the events pertaining to the many local volunteers in the various services. Many headlines read: "Killed in Action", "Died of Wounds", "Missing in Action at Sea", and so on. Also on the lighter side were the reports of receptions on the occasion of homecomings and letters to loved ones at home, and the happy news of the Armistices. Other events that made interesting headlines were: "The Loss of the Swallow" which was an account of the loss of the Coley's Point fishing vessel, The Swallow, owned and mastered by John Bowering and his crew, all from Coley's Point, who were driven to sea in the Atlantic during a hurricane in September, 1915. After many days adrift they were rescued from their sinking vessel by a passing ocean liner and brought to England, and after being given up for lost, they arrived home on Christmas Eve that same year. Then there were all the minor events, general elections, etc., leading up to the earthquake and tidal wave of 1929. There was loss of life on the Burin Peninsula due to the tidal wave. Then there was the "Viking Disaster" in 1930 when the sealing steamer Viking sank at the icefields following the explosion of her powder magazine. The transition from Responsible Government to Commission of Government was another important event that got much coverage.
Other events of a more local nature were: the many serious fires involving business premises in Bay Roberts and nearby towns; the death of a mother and six of her children in a house fire at Butlerville; the death of Robert Dawe in a motor-car accident at Joy's Crossing in Holyrood.
Social and sporting events in Bay Roberts and area in the '20s and '30s seemed to have been much better organized than what we see today. There were quite a number of brass bands, debating clubs, drama groups, orchestras, choirs, societies, and well-organized clubs, such as hockey, football, cricket, tennis, billiards, rowing, and boxing. The great depression of the 1930s put a damper on a lot of these activities, and then the outbreak of the Second Great War, after which the enthusiasm that was in evidence before failed to materialize at war's end. The pages of The Guardian gave full coverage to all these events, as well as chronicling the births, marriages and deaths of the citizens of the area. The letter columns were also availed of and there were occasions when some spirited correspondence on public matters was quite in evidence, also quite a number of local and St. John's correspondents made use of its columns to pass on some lively topics of the times.
At the death of Charles E. Russell on 30 October 1937, the name of The Guardian was changed to The Bay Roberts Guardian. Charles R. Russell, eldest son of the Founder, who at the time was employed with The Humber Herald in Corner Brook, assumed the position of Editor, and Arthur S. Russell and David B. Russell became Associate Editors, as well as news gatherers, linotype operators, pressmen, and everything else in the production of a weekly newspaper. Another brother, Wilson E. Russell, went to Corner Brook to work with The Humber Herald following his brother's leaving the printing plant to work with Bowater's.
Charles R. Russell died in 1943 and Arthur died in 1944. David B. was left to carry on alone with the assistance of Langdon Critch, Philip Moore, Russell Cave, Bill Delaney, Ed Joy and others at various times. For a number of years during the war, David, with the help of his assistants of the time, also set into type all the manuscript for the publication of The Bell Islander, which was printed at Bell Island, with Addison Bown as Editor-owner. This was with the cooperation of Albert Littlejohn, local taximan, who brought the material back and forth to a St. Johns - Portugal Cove taximan who transshipped it to Bell Island.
The distribution of the newspaper after printing and folding was also quite an operation. The paperboys, fanning out from the office on Saturday afternoon, each carried from ten to fifteen dozen papers (at 2 cents each), to Bay Roberts Central, East and West, Coley's Point, Country Road and Shearstown. Then there was the preparation for mailing approximately 1200 copies to subscribers in the U.S.A., Canada (mainland), England and a few in Europe. Each paper was wrapped, an address label affixed, then brought to the Post Office where a 1-cent stamp was put on each paper. There was also a fair subscription list in St. John's and Nfld in general. The papers were addresed and sent in bulk to each town where there were five or more subscribers. Others were sent separately. The subscription rate was $1.00 local and $1.50 mainland, postage paid for 52 issues.
In the early days, up until 1920, The Guardian was produced by handset type and, on many occasions, printed on a 5-ton press driven by manpower. Following 1920 when an automatic typesetting machine was acquired, called a linotype, and a new 8-ton press installed, the operation became more automated, with all machinery electric-driven.
The Bay Roberts Guardian continued publication, with the exception of a short interruption in 1919-20, for 40 years: from Friday, 09 July 1909 to Saturday, 09 July 1949. At that time, the Editor-Publisher, David B. Russell, became ill and for two years the plant was idle. Then, in the fall of 1951, with the assistance of Langdon Critch, the plant was reopened and an operation of general commercial printing has been carried on ever since (as of 1982). The firm is the oldest business in continuous operation in the Bay Roberts area.
The Guardian never held on to any particular political persuasion. In each election, though not always on the winning side, it supported the group or party it thought would be most beneficial to the people. It never deined the use of its columns to those of opposing views. During the National Convention and Referenda (1948-49) a Pro-Confederation policy was adopted, but at the same time the cause of those supporting other alternatives was given equal coverage.
Other notable events recorded in the pages of The Guardian were:
All of Charles E. Russell's children took an active part in the production of The Guardian and its commercial printing operation. Gladys M. (Russell) Cave contributed many serialized stories and poems during her lifetime. She held a position as instructor of the Creative Writing Dept. in the University of Michigan, after moving to Flint, Mich., where she married William M. Cave (of Bay Roberts), an employee of General Motors. She died in Florida in 1981. Charles R. Russell, George E. Russell and Arthur S. Russell were all valued members of the staff until their passing, in 1931, 1943 and 1944. Wilson E. Russell went to Corner Brook in 1938 to work with the Humber Herald, afterwards transferring to the Western Star, after that newspaper took over the plant of the Herald. He was president of the Humber District Trade and Labor Council and a member of the Corner Brook City Council. Daughter Winnifred (Russell) Walker was also a valuable member of the staff until she went to the mainland.
Edgar A. Russell, son of Charles Russell, worked for a time in The Guardian office, printed and published a weekly tabloid-form newspaper for a number of years, was in the commercial printing business at Corner Brook and Clarenville, and was Editor of the Fisherman's Advocate. Son James (Dr. James E. Russell), Director of Dental Services, and daughter Lydia (Russell) Milton were also on the production line for a time. None of Charles E. Russell's grandchildren took any interest in the printing business.
Charles E. Russell, as a boy of 10 in the 1880s was a newsboy selling the Evening Telegram on the streets of St. John's; his great-grandson, Keith R. Russell, sold the Evening Telegram on the streets of St. John's in 1980.
Charles Russell first entered politics as an independent in 1919, unsuccessfully. He was appointed Minister of Public Works by the Warren Government in 1924 -- elected on the Monroe ticket in 1924, member for the District of Harbour Grace, and given portfolio of Minister of Public Works when four others resigned from the Government in May 1927 upon the issue of general disagreement with the policies of the administration, especially the neglect of the fisheries and general productive enterprise. He was a member of the Church Lad's Brigade when it was first established in Nfld, and became the founding President when a branch of the C.L.B. Old Comrades was established at Bay Roberts. He was a member of the following societies and clubs:
He was a Justice of the Peace and a Commissioner of the Supreme Court. He acted as chairman on many local and district committees during the years, including King George V. Silver Jubilee and the official visits to the town by various governors and other dignitaries.
In partnership with Fred J. Winso, Charles Russell operated a carbonated beverage plant known as The Gem Bottling Company and also operated the first movie theatre in Bay Roberts prior to and during the First World War. It was in the silent film days and the movie house was located on the second floor of a building he owned and was situated immediately east of the present-day Mercer's Cycle Shop. The admission was 5 cents and 10 cents. A number of the old films were inadvertently destroyed not many years ago. He also owned one of the first motor cars in the Bay Roberts area.
An interesting fact of Charles Russell's association with The Evening Telegram -- during his sojourn in Toronto, the linotype typesetting machine was invented in New York (by a German national). It was not long after (in the middle 1890s) that a number of the machines began arriving in Toronto newspaper offices. Those that he had occasion to see in action were installed in the Toronto Telegram office. On a visit back to St. John's he called on his old employer, Mr. W.J. Herder of The Evening Telegram and explained to him the advantages of having one of these machines. On his return to Toronto, Charles Russell, although not an agent of the company, nevertheless negotiated the sale of the first two linotype typesetting machines to the St. John's Evening Telegram. These were the first ever in Nfld and began a new era in the production of newspapers, periodicals and general commercial printing in this province. This was around the turn of the century. Charles Russell was given a substantial rebate on the purchase price of a new linotype he purchased for The Bay Roberts Guardian in 1923. For a number of years previous to the purchase of the linotype he was producing The Guardian on a second-hand "intertype", a competitor's typesetting machine.
Also of interest is the fact the David Russell is still using the 1923 linotype as well as two press and other equipment purchased from The Bay Roberts Outlook in 1908. Some of the lead type used to print The Vindicator in Brigus before the turn of the century is still a valuable asset in the production of printed material by D.B. Russell Printing. Also in the D.B. Russell plant is some of the type used by his father in the production of The Citizen in St. John's in 1906-07.
The old Guardian office was situated on Water Street immediately west of the A. Spencer and Co. property before locating some 18 years ago just two doors east and on the north side of Water St. The 8-ton Hoe newspaper press has long since been sold to the foundry for scrap. Just about all the other equipment is as it was in 1923.
Some of the personalities who graudated from the old Guardian office include:
Photostat copies of The Guardian and The Bay Roberts Guardian from 1909 to 1949 (with a few issues missing) may be viewed at the Newfoundland Archives in St. John's; also, all these same issues, in their original file form are bound in book form (mostly 52 issues and random copies) and may be seen or loaned to responsible parties at D.B. Russell Printing, Bay Roberts.
David B. Russell was born at Bay Roberts, Nfld on 29 July 1916, son of the late Charles E. Russell and Frances M. (Pike) Russell; was educated at Snowden Hall Methodist (later U.C.) School. Married in 1937 to Dorothy B. Jones (deceased 1967), daughter of Ambrose and Mary Jones of Brigus.
Has been in the printing business for 52 years, a member of the Patriotic Assn. and War Comforts Committee during World War II, was member of the Bay Roberts Road Board, served 12 years as a member of the Bay Roberts Town Council, former member Bay Roberts Kiwanis Club, was active with Red Cross, Canadian Cancer Society and Ndlf T.B. Association, took an active part in all local sporting events. Was present at Harbour Grace Airfield on a foggy morning in June 1930 when Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith stepped from his monoplane Southern Cross after making the first successful crossing of the Atlantic Ocean from East to West; was also present at the same airport and witnessed the arrival and departure of many flights, very few of which ever succeeded in reaching their goal -- a crossing of the Atlantic West to East. Up to that time, Lindberg was the only one to make it solo. Has been sole operator of The Bay Roberts Guardian and D.B. Russell printing since 1944, and has been associated with the operation, in every capacity, since 1930.