QUINN: Not even the venerable Vancouver Sun was a match for this Island raiding party

How a small team from Alberni pillaged everything from a B.C. newspaper giant that wasn’t tied down

Former AV Times journalist Shayne Morrow pillages a fire extinguisher from the former Vancouver Sun building to bring back to his Port Alberni newsroom in 1997. (PHOTO COURTESY SHAYNE MORROW)

Former AV Times journalist Shayne Morrow pillages a fire extinguisher from the former Vancouver Sun building to bring back to his Port Alberni newsroom in 1997. (PHOTO COURTESY SHAYNE MORROW)

The mystery of the glass “Sun Editorial” door has been solved.

When the Alberni Valley News moved into our new-to-us building on Napier Street in September, there was a tempered glass door with “Sun Editorial 303” on it, connecting the front office to our newsroom and other parts of the building.

Many people will remember the Alberni Valley Times was located here for many years: John Richardson and Shayne Morrow, who both worked here with the Times, solved the mystery of the glass door.

Morrow was a journalist with the AV Times for a few decades. He shared the story with me, both verbally and by sending me his original tale that was written in 1997 but never published. He’s given me permission to share it.

READ: VIU taking lead in digitizing old newspapers to preserve history

“Why, you may wonder, when you head down the hallway to the editorial department, you pass through a glass door with ‘Sun Editorial’ in brass letters,” Morrow wrote. “Where did all this stuff come from?

“The short answer is, we stole it.”

In the late 1990s the Vancouver Sun and Province newspapers were located in an iconic building on Sixth Avenue in Vancouver. Then owners Pacific Press decided in December 1997 to move out of the building. What they didn’t take with them to their new building, they were going to auction off.

“As a gesture to their lower-ranking Hollinger Corporation partners [like the AV Times], they graciously set aside the front-office work station for us to pick up,” Morrow wrote. “they didn’t count on the larcenous tendencies of an AV Times raiding party, armed with a five-ton truck and the intention of filling it, much to the despair of one unfortunate security guard. As we kept reminding him, ‘we’re from Port Alberni.’

“The caper happened like this: I was sitting behind my desk, slaving away in the name of Truth, Justice and Journalistic Integrity, when the Big Boss came in with a proposition.

“‘We’re going to pull a heist on the Vancouver Sun,’ he said. ‘We’re going to empty out their office building—I want you to drive the getaway truck.’

I said sure, I’m always up for a little smash-and-grab. Especially when it’s on our corporate cousins in the Big City.”

Morrow and four co-conspirators rented a five-ton, 32-foot-long moving van, drove it from Port Alberni to the old Sun building, and proceeded to raid the building of whatever they could pack into the truck. “The Port Alberni Wrecking Crew was in business,” said Morrow, who drove the getaway van.

“We moved fast, stacking up the modular office furniture allotted to us, as well as the surplus computers and the 500-pound plate burner for our production area,” he related. “Just on impulse, we grabbed another, even bigger unit, ignoring dangling live wires and persistent cries of ‘hey, we’re still using this thing!’ from a Sun feature staffer.

Meanwhile, two AV Times staffers—who shall remain nameless—had their eyes on what Morrow called a “major” trophy: “a huge, plate-glass door with Vancouver Sun — Editorial Department in heavy brass letters.

One of the Alberni team began attacking the stainless-steel door casement, asking a security guard “hey, you got a pneumatic ratchet-wrench handy?”

In the end, the Island marauders had to leave the door behind—they didn’t have the proper tools and it wasn’t budging.

“Besides, the truck was already full,” Morrow wrote. They had a police escort back to the ferry terminal to make sure they didn’t try and sneak anything else out of the building.

“One postscript: those big plate-burners we grabbed? They wanted one of them back. They’ve offered us the glass door, even up. It’ll look nice in our hallway.”

The door has graced the entrance to the editorial department since 1997.

When I was a kid growing up in Richmond, I used to drive my late father crazy by taking a red pen to the Vancouver Sun before he had a chance to read it. I told him someday I would walk through the door to the Sun’s editorial department.

Now I do, every day.

Susie Quinn is the Alberni Valley News editor. For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

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The mystery of the Sun Editorial door at the Alberni Valley News office on Napier Street has been solved. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

The mystery of the Sun Editorial door at the Alberni Valley News office on Napier Street has been solved. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

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