William Edge Mason

Walkerton, Ontario

March 4, 1882

June 22, 1948

William Edge Mason was born on March 4, 1882 in the town of Walkerton, Ontario. He completed his schooling in Bruce County and then began an apprenticeship with the Walkerton Telescope. He became a Journeyman Printer. His first job would take him to Toronto to work as a proof reader and a handyman for the Toronto Saturday Night.

He and his wife Alice Maud Tinlin came to Sudbury in November of 1907 and worked as a printer for the Sudbury Mining News. In January of 1909 Mason moved to a new start-up publication, the Northern Daily Star which would be competing against an existing paper, the Sudbury Journal. Putting out a paper each day proved to be too costly and impractical and the Northern Daily Star quickly fell into a precarious financial position leading to its demise only some six months later. Perhaps some would describe the demise only as a ‘near-death’ experience as Mr. Mason was convinced that it could be reinvented with a new business model that included publishing only twice a week. Existing staff members were behind Mason’s new vision. Through his well-established rapport with the business community Mason found ten individuals who agreed to invest in his new plan. The newfound capital was used to create W.E. Mason Equipment for the purpose of taking over the paper’s management. The rejuvenated publication appeared on doorsteps and newsstands under a new banner, The Sudbury Star. Although the years ahead were not without challenges, the paper grew in its influence, strength and circulation eventually putting the Sudbury Journal and the Sudbury Mining News out of business, in 1918 and in 1922 respectively. Encouraged by the success of The Sudbury Star Mr. Mason purchased a North Bay newspaper, The North Bay Nugget in 1922. By 1924 the Sudbury Star boasted a circulation of 6,500 making it the largest newspaper in the north.

For Mr. Mason, these were humble beginnings as he would go on to build his career and business interests. Through his newspaper he built a large following of readers who agreed with his pro-business and anti-union beliefs, but there were just as many, likely more, who despised him for these and other reasons including his anti-foreign and anti-British stance. In addition to his powerful influence, his paper had a monopoly and any support he harboured for anything on the go was evident by the ‘extra’ front-page coverage and acclamatory editorials. Likewise, if Mason disapproved of some thing or action, the paper gave the matter little to no coverage but was not necessarily shy on printing ornery and dissenting opinions.

Those who were not fans of Mr. Mason took delight in reading front-page news in Mason’s own paper about an arson charge for which he was on trial. The Sudbury Transit building had been set on fire in September of 1931 by John Slotinski who accused Mason of paying him five hundred dollars to carry out the deed. During the arson trial in the spring of 1932 Mason’s counteraccusation was that it was all about blackmail forcing him to drop charges against a former employee, Kero Koleff. Slotinski received a four-year sentence to be served in Kingston while Mason was acquitted in the trial by jury, Mason’s choice over a judge’s decision. His paper proudly published the news of acquittal on June 11, 1932, ending what was described as a bit of a diversion from the Depression.

W.E. Mason has gone down in the Sudbury area history books as being well-known for community involvement. Mason has been described as the city’s leading booster since the days in which he took over the Star newspaper. He served as President of the Sudbury Cub Wolves. They won their first Memorial Cup tournament in 1932. He also served as President of The Board of Trade and Chairman of the Public School Board. The Sudbury Parks Commission was founded as a result of Mason’s tireless efforts. That group is credited with having the foresight to preserve the Memorial Park and Lakeside Park (today known as Bell Park) areas. W.E. Mason bequeathed money so that the children’s wading pool would be installed in Memorial Park.

Another of Mason’s interests as an entrepreneur was the Grand Theatre. People of the area could see the newest movies with the aid of the most advanced technology of its time in the 1930s.

As if W.E. Mason didn’t already possess and exercise his powerful influence, his ‘voice’ would become even louder when he and George M. Miller, Q.C. were granted a broadcasting licence to operate CKSO AM Radio. Signing on the air on August 19, 1935, the radio studio was first located on Elgin Street in Sudbury. This was in the same building that housed his newspaper operation. The station was powered at 1,000 watts with the aid of two 95-foot wooden towers and a transmitter located on 4th Avenue. Mason literally became the ‘voice of the north’.

Mr. W.E. Mason passed away on June 22, 1948. He was predeceased by his wife. They had no children. His will was filed for probate later that summer. The bulk of Mason’s estate was to be left to the W.E. Mason Charitable Foundation. It was said that the estate held over two million dollars and was to be used for charitable purposes including religious, educational and sports organizations. The Ottawa Journal reported in its December 22, 1950 edition that Mr. Mason had named a number of beneficiaries including Sudbury hospitals, the Civic Hospital in North Bay, the Canadian Red Cross Society for its poliomyelitis rehabilitation centre, the Sudbury Library and Sudbury Community Centre. Other funds were earmarked for scholarships set up by Mr. Mason. In fact, the Sudbury community at large became the beneficiary of the W.E. Mason Foundation as hospitals, libraries, schools and many charitable and sports organizations were included as recipients.

Mason’s will however, did place CKSO Radio in a rather sticky situation insisting that all profits from the radio division were to be distributed to charity. This model was in defiance of Canadian broadcast rules at the time decreeing that licences could only be held by commercial organizations. Mason also insisted that CKSO Radio was to be completely divested of the Sudbury Daily Star.

Sudbury area businessmen George M. Miller, Judge James Maxwell Cooper and W.B. Plaunt Sr. purchased CKSO Radio and The Sudbury Star from the Mason Foundation. When the corporate paperwork was completed the radio station would be licensed to CKSO Radio Ltd. with G.M. Miller, as President and W.J. Woodill as Secretary-General Manager. Woodill had been General Manager for a number of years. Still in possession of The Sudbury Star, the owners would seek out a buyer and in 1955 the paper, considered to be one of Canada’s largest daily newspapers with a circulation of 23,925 readers was finally sold to the Thomson Company Ltd. The announcement, published in a CP news item dated May 10, 1955, came from J.R. Meakes, who was the general manager of the paper at the time. The new owners were slated to take possession on August 5, 1955 with no change in management, staff or polices announced. The news item went on to quote George Miller of CKSO Radio Ltd., who said the sale of the paper consummated Mr. Mason’s intentions that “the paper would be operated in the interests of this district and that the management be in the hands of those personally interested in the welfare of Northern Ontario.”

W.E. Mason was described in a CP news release, June 22, the day of his death, as a “thick-set, white-haired publisher who loved a fight whether it was in the field of politics, business or sport”. The news item appearing in various newspapers stated that Mason found the tension of the Ontario election that year was too much for him. Just one day after the Progressive Conservative Party was returned to power, Mason entered the hospital. He had been very active in his support for the party and rallied almost daily. Mason had been considered powerful behind the scenes of both federal and provincial politics. Mason had suffered an attack of coronary thrombosis earlier in June of 1948.

W.E. Mason was considered a “tough” boss, known for his hot temper and described as ruthless and blustery, but he was also credited with molding many men who gained prominence in journalism. In 2009 the Sudbury Star celebrated its 100th anniversary with several articles. A January 10, 2009 item quoted Leslie McFarlane who came to work at the paper in 1920. McFarlane said in reading the riot act Mason told him, “‘When you work for The Sudbury Star you,’ he said, leaning back in his swivel chair with his thumbs in his waistcoat pockets, ‘you begin with the understanding that we are entitled to your services 24 hours a day. If you don’t like that idea, you can quit right now.’”. Although McFarlane worked as a reporter he would become famously known as the original author of The Hardy Boys, writing the first of the series, “The Tower Treasure”. It is said that he wrote in a cabin on the shores of Ramsey Lake, but under the name, Franklin W. Dixon. He would later prove himself as a television screenwriter.

W.E. Mason was 66 years of age at the time of his death and his passing marked the end of an era. Whether loved or detested, Mason’s newspaper having nearly a 40-year run was indeed Sudbury-centred. Mason seemed to be ‘the’ link to Sudbury’s past, but the W.E. Mason Foundation would immortalize his nature as a philanthropist dispersing funds and real estate to community projects. In 1949 the foundation turned over land on Mackenzie Street to the Sudbury Public Library Board for the purpose of erecting a library building. Before his death Mason had given land to the Sudbury Legion for the purpose of establishing its own building. In a 1965 ironic twist the Legion’s dwindling membership led to the sale of the building to an organization Mason despised, Local 6500 of the United Steelworkers of America.

William Edge Mason is interred at Park Lawn Cemetery, Sudbury, next to his wife Alice who predeceased him in January of 1945.

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