Allan Fotheringham, the Chilliwack homeboy who became an icon of Canadian journalism, has written his memoirs, now available in bookstores across the country.
‘Boy from Nowhere’ describes Fotheringham’s life as a reporter and columnist in 91 countries, a career that started here at The Chilliwack Progress.
But the ‘Nowhere’ of the book’s title is not Chilliwack, Fotheringham chuckles during a telephone interview Friday.
In fact, he was born in an even smaller community, Hearne, Saskatchewan, in 1932.
But leaving behind the flat and drab Prairies, the young Fotheringham thought his new home at Chilliwack’s Edenbank really was the Garden of Eden.
“It was fall, and lush apples and pears were falling from trees in the brilliant sunshine,” he writes. “I actually thought we had arrived in the Garden of Eden. I was ten years old.”
Fotheringham later became a student reporter for The Progress, his “Highschool Highlights” column catching the eye of then-publisher Les Barber.
“Your paper gave me my first real start, the first time I got paid,” Fotheringham said.
And apparently laid the foundation of a confidence that compelled him to raise hell as a columnist for the next 50 years.
After his stint at The Progress, Fotheringham went to UBC where he joined the Ubyssey student newspaper.
Assigned to cover a campus event, Fotheringham said he quickly discovered news gathering was not his strong point.
Sent out the next day to gather more news, Fotheringham said, “I thought, ‘To hell with this’ and went back to the newsroom and typed out an attack on the UBC engineers, the bullies of the campus.”
The story was front page news for a week — and the kind of go-for-the-jugular journalism that caught the attention of editors at the Vancouver Sun.
“Dr. Foth” — as he came to be known — was on his way.
His career path led from Ottawa and Washington to London and Russia across the ocean, writing a column for Canada’s national newsmagazine Maclean’s for 27 years — some of the most turbulent times of the last century.
Described as Canada’s most controversial columnist, Fotheringham was sued for libel 26 times, but only twice successfully.
He learned how to use an expense account.
“I learned that in this business you can’t become a millionaire — but you can live like one,” he said.
And along the way, the boy from Chilliwack hobnobbed with the likes of Bobby Kennedy, Henry Kissinger, The Beatles, Princess Diana and 11 Canadian Prime Ministers.
Fotheringham was also a panelist on the popular Front Page Challenge television show for 10 years, and he’s published eight other books including Malice in Blunderland – Or How The Grits Stole Christmas.
The Foth now lives in Toronto.