In the pages of the Goldstream News Gazette he’s known as G.E. Mortimore. Some simply call him GEM.
At 93, George Mortimore has been writing columns for more than 50 years, a good portion of that with the Goldstream News Gazette.
“I am not sure how long I’ve been writing for the Gazette, I’ve just lost track,” said Mortimore.
Until recently Mortimore was a regular contributor to the Goldstream News Gazette, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Lower Island News.
He is recovering at Royal Jubilee Hospital after surgery to get a pacemaker as well as radiation therapy for a growth on his ear. He hopes to continue his writing after he heals.
It has, after all, been a significant part of most of his nine decades.
As a teen in Duncan, Mortimore got his first taste of journalism covering high school football games in the 1930s. Soon he began cover other community news and events.
“The Cowichan Leader was very different then. It was a community institution with a stationary store on one side and a pharmacy on the other,” he said.
Mortimore remembers a filing cabinet in the back of the newspaper office with information on every group and organization in town.
“Everyone got in the paper whether they did anything or not,” he said.
Mortimore continued reporting for the Leader, now the News Leader Pictorial, until he joined the airforce at the age of 20. He became a navigator and flew around the world helping pilots find their way long before the invention of GPS.
“We flew in a Hudson, the same (make of) plane as Amelia Earhart,” Mortimore said.
Mortimore went to England and was assigned to the bomber command during the Second World War.
“Dad got the mumps so they had to delay him,” said Mortimore’s son Michael Mortimore. “He then went to India to ferry aircrafts … He didn’t get front line command, but 50 per cent of the bomber command never came back.”
After five years in the military Mortimore returned to Duncan and asked for his job back at the News Leader.
“They said they wanted to get government grant money to help train me,” Mortimore explained. Unhappy with that option he headed south to Victoria and was hired at the Daily Colonist.
He covered the hotel beat and interviewed celebrities and dignitaries staying at the Empress and other fancy hotels. To get the scoop on who was coming to town, Mortimore became close friends with hotel managers.
He interviewed the late English comedian, George Formby and participated in a media scrum with U.S. President Richard Nixon.
In 1958 he received the National Newspaper Award for a series he wrote titled The Strangers. It focused on the living conditions of indigenous people.
“The award was given to me by the National Men’s Press Club. Women were very underestimated in journalism back then,” said Mortimore.
Eventually he started to write the column All Aboard which became syndicated across the country.
After 11 years of All Aboard, Mortimore left the Daily Colonist and headed to Toronto to write for the Globe and Mail where he worked for five years as a social affairs reporter.
“I used to write about the social distress and how to fix it,” he said. “I don’t want to give the idea I was big fish at the Globe, because I wasn’t.”
During a series he wrote on violence in hockey, Mortimore travelled by bus with hockey players including Tim Horton, Bobby Orr and Gordie Howe.
After leaving the newspaper business in 1962, Mortimore became an anthropologist and taught at universities in Guelph, Edmonton, Vancouver and Victoria.
When he decided to leave teaching he took a year and filled in as an editorial writer for The Province in Vancouver.
Mortimore remained a writer through all of his life’s endeavours and plans to continue his craft with the public for as long as he can.