Cosway’s Corner – September/October/November/December 2020

 In November of 1995, Toronto rock and roller Jay Telfer transitioned from a pop performer to publisher of a new Ontario antiques and collectibles newspaper called the Wayback Times.

        Jay had gained fame as a singer, songwriter and musician with A Passing Fancy, formed in the 1960s and popular for I Believe in Sunshine and other releases before he went solo in the late 1960s.

        A Passing Fancy did reunite in 1988 for a lone concert in Yorkville Village, but otherwise it was a mixed life of performing and recording as a solo artist and writing music for television.

        Fast-forward to the 1990s, when Jay’s interest turned to publishing a newspaper for the Ontario antiques and collectibles crowd.

        The 12-page November/December 1995 debut issue of the free newspaper was dedicated to the “Dedicated Collector” and the “Curious Traveller” and provided “All the OLD news that’s fit to print.”

        Illustrated articles about antiques and collectibles in the first issue included one about “the magic of fountain pens,” written by Henry Gostony. Richard J. Piller wrote about Aladdin lamps; Mary Anne Neville wrote about the appeal of Ontario museums; Frances Botham penned a piece about primitives.

        And on Page 2 (see right), you could find Jay’s editorial, containing a mix of personal and business observations.

        There were 51 display ads in the first issue. Twenty-five years later, owner/publisher Sandy Neilly says Smith’s Creek Antiques in Port Hope is the only advertiser today that placed an ad in Volume 1, Issue 1 in 1995.

        Smith’s Creek Antiques is at 27 Walton Street overlooking the Ganaraska River and the Clay and Carol Benson mentioned in the first ad are still at the helm. They were in Whitby in the 1960s before moving to Port Hope in 1971 as C. Benson Antiques.

        Clay and Carol sold from their Port Hope home before moving, in 1985, into 27 Walton Street, an 1847 building they had restored after the 1980 flood. Their 5,000-square foot store is located on two floors of the building in downtown historic Port Hope.

        Jay was in ill health in the mid-2000s when, as publisher and editor of the Wayback Times for a decade, he put feelers out for a possible buyer. An early bird was Sandy Neilly.

        “My husband, Peter, and I opened Meadow Creek Barns Antiques in 1995, the same year the Wayback Times was started by Jay,” says Sandy.  “He went to shows to meet vendors and sell advertising for anyone who was interested and had a shop. He would also take photos at shows to publish in the paper.

        “We discovered that any time he took a picture of something in our booth at a show, we would get a call from someone who saw it in the paper and wanted to buy the item. Obviously, people were reading it.”

        Sandy says she and Peter started to advertise Meadow Creek Barns in the paper and “we were very pleased with the buyers the ads brought in. When Jay found out I could take photos (thanks to selling on eBay), he would ask me to take pictures at any shows we were doing – and also take bundles of papers.

        “Although Jay had a driver who did most of the huge, cross-Ontario route, he enjoyed doing the local deliveries and chatting with everyone he took papers to. His dog, Molly, usually came with him and when he stopped at Meadow Creek we would chat on the deck so I could keep my eye on the shop while Molly checked out the property.

        “In his editorial in the March/April issue 63 in 2006, Jay wrote, “Cindy and I (mostly Cindy) have decided that I can no longer do the Wayback Times all by myself. I have great writers, great contributors, great photographers, but I cannot do it by myself. Make me an offer!”

        Sandy says a good friend, also in the antique business, read Jay’s appeal on the first day of deliveries in late February 2006 and emailed her.

        “She enjoyed the show coverage that I did for Jay, apparently, and thought the business might be just the thing for me. After about a week of research, discussing it with Peter and meeting with Jay, I purchased the Wayback Times from him.”

        (James Deans Telfer was 60 when he died on May 20, 2009, at the Trillium Health Centre in Mississauga following a lengthy illness.)

        Peter was working full-time selling contracts for Sears Canada, as well as operating Meadow Creek Barns Antiques when Sandy decided to purchase the paper from Jay, but he always found time to be supportive by writing columns (ie: Out to Lunch) and delivering most of the papers.

                Sandy’s first issue was published after some collaboration with Jay and positive feedback from the antiques and collectibles community. It had 28 pages and was in black and white.

                “My first issue wasn’t until July/August 2006 as I didn’t feel confident enough about what I’d  learned to put out the May/June issue that year – it was all completely new to me.”

                Fourteen years later, Sandy’s dedication to the paper and its purpose is reflected in the current issues, which have more than tripled in size and has been printed in full colour since 2010.

        It has been an eventful 25-year journey for the Wayback Times, its writers, advertisers and readers and Covid-19 times couldn’t keep its 25th anniversary from being marked.

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