Local authors Jim Dwight and Gary Cullen and South Delta-based newspaper the Delta Optimist have been recognized by the city for their work preserving Delta’s heritage.
On March 7, Mayor George Harvie and Coun. Jeannie Kanakos presented Dwight and Cullen with the Friends of Heritage Award for co-authoring the book Lord Don’t Want Me, Devil Won’t Take Me about the life of colourful Tsawwassen pioneer Pansy May Stuttard.
Dubbed “Pistol-packin’ Pansy” by media in 1958 after she chased down three men who had robbed her, firing her shotgun after them as they ran down the street, Stuttard ran illegal alcohol and prostitution operations out of her “lodge” situated on (or possibly over) the border with Point Roberts during the 1920s and 1930s.
“It’s a very interesting book, I’ve breezed through it,” Harvie said. “I’d recommend reading this book. It’s a delight to look at our history.”
Lord Don’t Want Me, Devil Won’t Take Me is available to purchase at Black Bond Books in Ladner or online at blurb.ca, and all profits from the sale of the book are donated to the Delta Heritage Society.
Harvie and Kanakos also presented Optimist publisherPierre Pelletier and editor Ian Jacques with the Heritage Award of Merit on the occasion of the newspaper’s 100th anniversary and in recognition of its longstanding service to the community.
The Optimist was established in 1922 when Vincent Dunning, then owner of two newspapers in Alberta, was invited by the Delta Board of Trade to start a new newspaper to fill the void left by the closure of the Delta Times (1903-1914) due to difficult business conditions brought on by the First World War, according to a memorandum by city staff.
Dunning set up shop in the saloon of the former Ladner Hotel at 48th Avenue and Delta Street, and the first edition of The Weekly Optimist was published on March 23, 1922. Dunning left the area a year later, however, his family continued to own and operate the paper for more than half a century.
In 1964, Ernie Bexley purchased a 50-per-cent stake in the newspaper and became co-publisher with Edgar Dunning. The Bexley family purchased the remaining shares in 1983 and ran the paper until it was sold in 1990 to its current owner, Lower Mainland Publishing, now part of Glacier Media Group.
The paper, which at one point was also call the Ladner Optimist, ran three editions weekly and an exclusive North Delta edition from the 1960s to the 1990s. Today, it regularly includes a “Throwback” feature highlighting historic photos of individuals, events, buildings and places significant to Delta’s history.
The Optimist is currently based out of the historic Ladner Baptist Church building at 47A Avenue and Delta Street, which itself the subject of the Heritage Award of Merit in 2003.