The Outpost: A voice from the margins

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In 1975, the residents of Ruskin were so unhappy about the poor roads, poor lighting, vandalism, and lack of water in their area that there was talk about secession from Maple Ridge. At a meeting called by the Ruskin Ratepayers Association at the Hoof Beat Corral, a roadside restaurant in Whonnock, the members present decided that one way to be heard would be a newsletter, a forum for the residents, bringing “factual reporting on controversial issues in the Whonnock and Ruskin areas, as well as news and sporting activities.”Local businesses assured financial support by advertising.The first issue of The Outpost, numbered “3” for the month, came out in March 1975. The monthly started as any neighbourhood newsletter: the usual letter-size, hand-typed, cut-and-paste bulletin.  But by the end of 1975, it had grown into an eight-page, professionally typeset and printed tabloid with a circulation of 3,000. It offered a rich choice of subjects. Aside from a garden column by Wes Frank, it had a “Sportsman’s Corner,” a “Fisherman’s Corner,” and there were tasty “budget-beating” recipes, invitations to join the “out of shapers,” announcements of school and community hall activities and tidbits of the goings-on at city hall. A Webster’s Corners column, written by Betty Bagley, was a regular. Charles Miller, local historian, and others provided interesting vistas into the past of the community of Ruskin. Preparations were underway for the Ruskin Reunion, the memorable Diamond Jubilee celebration. Public transportation or the lack of it was one major concern. The Maple Ridge Amateur Astronomical Society had plans for an observatory at Stave Falls. There were also plenty of letters to the editor from people wanting to speak their mind, some fearing that with municipal water, desired by so many, would come development, destroying a cherished rural lifestyle. All these pages bring back a not-to-distant past:  the worries, joys, interest, and activities of those living in the rural outskirts of Maple Ridge. Turning out The Outpost month after month put a heavy burden on a handful of unpaid volunteers and after a year of hard work the offer by a young man with a background in newspaper work, Steve Woodruff, to run The Outpost was gladly accepted. To assure that The Outpost would continue to be a voice of the community, Marjorie Houghton, actively involved as from the first issue, remained on the staff. Consequently, The Ruskin News Company took over from the Ruskin Ratepayers Association as from May 1976. Woodruff immediately doubled the circulation of The Outpost to 6,000 copies and published two issues each in May and June, but in July he returned to the monthly schedule. The paper now claimed to reach no less than 18,000 homes from Pitt Meadows to Matsqui and, having acquired new production equipment, The Outpost was produced entirely in Ruskin by its staff members, except for the printing. The December 1976 issue still showed circulation of 16,000 and a wide distribution from Pitt Meadows to Mission. That proved to be unsustainable. As from May 1977, the Ruskin News Company is no longer displayed as the publisher, and from the September issue we learn that The Outpost committee would meet at the Hoof Beat Corral to discuss “the survival of this paper.” What was now called The Outpost Examiner struggled on until a final March/April 1978 issue. By that time, Woodruff and his wife, Camille, had left Ruskin and returned to Michigan, and “hopefully to greener fields,” in the words of  Houghton, who remained actively involved with The Outpost until its final issue.Copies of all the 1975 and most of the 1976 issues of The Outpost have survived, but only a few copies of the issues of, in particular, the second half of 1977 and of 1978 are known to exist. I am trying to complete the series of this little newspaper that tried so hard. It’s so full of tidbits that bring back the recent past and that are worth preserving. It would be nice to have a complete set of The Outpost in the archives and there are plans to reproduce the paper on microfilm for the libraries.Fred Braches is a local historian who lives in Whonnock.