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Bob Edwards

Robert C. Edwards was a Western Canadian entrepreneur most famously remembered for creating and publishing Eye Opener, a wildly popular newspaper available from Calgary during the early 20th century. In his honour, the annual Bob Edwards Award for excellence in journalism was created. Gwynne Dyer and Rick Mercer are but two of the notable recipients over the past 30 years.

MacEwan describes Edwards as "one of Alberta's outstanding personalities"; his work was enjoyed by thousands who recognized his humour and candor. After working for the Free Press in Winnipeg, Edwards quickly realized he needed to be his own boss, unconstrained by deadlines and guidelines. In 1902, he headed to High River, south of Calgary and at the very heart of cowboy culture. The Eye Opener made its first appearance on March 4, 1902, his fifth publishing venture in the West. The Eye Opener was a one-man publication that soon became Calgary's top entertainment. On July 29, 1922, Edwards published what proved to be his last issues of the newspaper. He died only months later.

MacEwan is not so much interested in the content of the Eye Opener as he is he with the personality of Bob Edwards. He chooses to write on Edwards because of his unique contributions to the development of West at the turn of the 20th century. Edwards had a  complex and, at times, confusing character. He was a man who seemed to live by a series of contradictions: he was at times a heavy drinker yet supported the temperance movement; his writing was often low-brow and roughneck yet he was a cultured scholar and a student of classical literature. Edwards, it seems, wrestled with trying to adapt to a Western lifestyle, difficult to achieve because it was always on the verge of change. He was a quiet man who communicated best with his pen. MacEwan describes him as an eccentric who frequently stirred up controversy, and reveled in it. In many ways the Eye Opener mirrored Bob Edwards-it was an unusual newspaper published by an unusual man.

The Eye Opener achieved the largest circulation of newspapers published west of Winnipeg. Its success can be directly attributed to Edwards's personality. MacEwan labels the newspaper as borderline ridiculous: it had no subscription list, no printing plant, and followed few guidelines. MacEwan summarizes the absurdity best when he states, "the newspaper was classified as a newspaper yet carried little or no news."

Edwards's unique approach, in fact, contributed to his newspapers sweeping success and tremendous influence. Political parties sought the support of the paper during elections, and R.B. Bennett once blamed the newspaper for his defeat in 1905. Calgarians considered the Eye Opener as the city's best form of entertainment-they learned about local events by way of Edwards's witty and satirical writing style. Edwards was a man with strong opinions, like any good newspaper publisher. He was brutally honest and thus was disliked by many.

Bob Edwards was once considered Alberta's prize personality, even long after his death. Combining intelligence, creativity, and public influence, no one, according to the Men's Canadian Club of Calgary, had more to offer than Bob Edwards.

Resources

MacEwan, Grant. Eye Opener Bob. Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books, 1974.


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