Some say it takes a lifetime to reach a humble level of wisdom – like Yoda or Spock. In her 40-year stint at the Sooke News Mirror, however, Harla Eve has accumulated more wisdom, and stories, than both combined.
After all, there’s a good reason why, if ever in doubt about anything Sooke-related, we often turned to her for advice or info.
But like all oracles, there’s a humble beginning; a start to their journey of knowledge. And dark humour.
Born in Comox, Eve came to Sooke when she was 10 years old after her family moved here from East Sooke.
After raising a family, she started looking around for a job, something that wouldn’t detract her from her duties towards her still-young kids, but still give her independence from the household.
The answer to that came in January of 1975 when a really good friend of hers recommended her to work at the Mirror.
For Eve though, who initially wanted to be a teacher, it just fit the bill.
“I loved what I was doing. It was three days a week, still had time to do all the cooking, cleaning, reading and mommy stuff, I was quite contented,” she said.
Then, bit by bit, her job began to evolve into several tiers of responsibilities and daily duties.
“After I began wrapping the papers then I was driving them to the post office. Following that, I was looking after sending out subscription renewals,” Eve said. “In time, I got to have a lot of responsibility there, which was something I always enjoyed having.”
She recalls working for Bud Pauls, the one-man band who was once the Mirror’s owner, editor, publisher and sales rep. At this point her duties formed into doing layout, and even some ad sales – though she says she wasn’t a big fan of the ad stuff.
Then the years passed, with the job changing again, along with the helm.
“When John Arnett bought the paper, he gave me a more behind the desk, out in the public type thing, and I got to enjoy interacting with a lot more people,” she said, adding that being in the public front lines was a bit intimidating at first, especially when it came to answering the phone.
But like all her thousand- and-a-half workload list, Eve adapted, even when all the computerized stuff had moved in to replace the paper billing side of the business. This was one of the first of many chapters of that computer mumbo jumbo she had to figure out.
“I never thought I could figure it out, but I did,” she said. “I had great help from a few folks here in Sooke with that, because I didn’t know much about computers at the time.”
Even when she least expected it, she was still learning something new about these pesky computers, 40 years on.
Since Eve began at the Mirror, there have been four owners, before Black Press, and three publishers with BP alone. She says she can’t even remember how many faces of editors and reporters she’s seen over the years.
And, like being the face of any office, it comes with its ups and downs; dealing with the nice people who walk in, the friendly ones, the lunas and the downright strange.
She recalls one time when a man walked in demanding a story to be written about his tragically-dead son, who had been killed in a car accident by drunken driver.
In Eve’s case, this was just pure bad timing overall, as this was shortly after she had also lost her son.
“The guy came into the office, he was trying to sue the other guy who was driving the car, both were drunk. He was ranting and raving, and he kept insisting to do a story on him,” she said. “I didn’t know how to handle it, I was never an editorial person, and I had just lost my own son too, so it was a pretty tough situation.”
She said it had gotten to such a point that Steve Arnett, the Mirror’s production/layout man at the time, came barrelling in to take the distressed man out of the office and calmed him down – just by simply telling him that he was yelling at someone suffering from a similar loss.
And just like Eve, the Mirror had seen its ups and downs over the years. For as many times staff rushed to her aid, she’s been the “mother” for many others who’ve lived and worked in that office. Someone who’d just be there and listen.
She recalled the moment the Mirror had downright closed its doors, after Bud Pauls, the man behind the helm at the time, had just about enough.
“Donna James, our reporter, was going to work one morning, and there were big signs on the window and the door of the Mirror office reading closed,” she said. “She went in, phoned us and she said, ‘get down here, something’s going on with Bud.”
After coming down and removing the signs, Eve said this was a case of someone just who was just overworked, and needed some helping hands.
Eve recalled many more stories, after all, you see and experience a fair bit in 40 years, enough to not only fill a book, but a library. Even now, she looks back at those times with a mix of pride, joy, and a bit of sadness.
Not that she mulls through this stuff too much – after all, she likes to keep busy. She said she wants to get involved in community stuff like Meals on Wheels, or volunteer at the ball park concession stand.
Beyond that, she’s got plans for to go south for the winter, be in the sunshine.
Harla Eve will always be a part of the Sooke News Mirror, and remains to be an inspiring Sookie to this day.