From the archives of the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library:
Hey, did you ever hear the one about the Fredloadian who walked into a newsroom?
Anyone who regularly read the Sault Star between the years of 1963 and 2008 would get the joke. They would also recognize the name ‘Fred Loader’, one of the Sault Star’s best-known and most controversial columnists. Here’s his story:
Fred Loader was born and raised in Australia and had eight brothers and sisters. He left school at the young age of fourteen. Fred then spent seven years working as a coach and motor body builder. During that time, he also served a compulsory three-month military stint in the Australian army.
At the age of twenty-one, he decided to go out and see the world. He first travelled to New Zealand, where he worked odd jobs at a Woolworth’s store. He then travelled to England, where he got a job working on an assembly line.
He finally settled in Canada. Canadian Immigration found him a job in Wawa, where (as he described) he spent “three months digging ditches and cracking rocks in the Helen Mines.”
Afterwards, Loader spent four years in Algoma Steel’s Purchasing Department. During that time, he started sending the Sault Star letters to the editor.
Lots of letters.
Over the course of three years, Fred wrote sixty-three letters to the editor on all manner of topics, from politics to religion to sex. He just wouldn’t stop. As Fred once explained:
“Things bother me and I have a great and intense interest in the world around me, so I wrote”.
After several years of being inundated by Fred’s letters, the Sault Star finally hired him as an editorial writer. They even gave him his own column. Fred now had his dream job: He was getting paid to give the Sault a piece of his mind.
For the next thirty-plus years, Fred Loader’s column was a staple of the Sault Star. The column included various interesting news bits from around the world, jokes, and various other tidbits. But at the heart of the column was Fred’s unique take on anything and everything. Fred was always opinionated and sometimes controversial. But while he could sometimes write with an acid pen, his colleagues at the Sault Star agreed that he endeavoured to be fair.
Fred’s words always had a purpose. “I write to say things I think should be said,” he wrote in 1963. “I write to stimulate thinking. I criticize situations, groups, people in or out of the Sault because I feel there should be change or improvement”.
Loader’s columns could at times be quite humorous, and he loved sharing a good joke. However, Fred was famous for re-wording jokes in such a way as to not offend anyone, regardless of religion, gender, place of birth, or hair colour.
The butt of Fred’s jokes were always the mythical “Fredloadians”. In a 2009 Sootoday.com article, journalist David Root (writing about how hurtful a ‘harmless’ joke could be) praised Loader’s self-deprecating joke-telling style, which showed any unwillingness to intentionally hurt anyone’s feelings.
Loader was also something of an unsung hero in our community. Several of his co-workers at the Sault Star spoke about how Fred was the type of person who would take matters into his own hands when he heard about someone in need.
Former Sault photographer Margaret Cameron-McQueen once stated: “If they ran an article in the paper about someone who needed money to send their kids some place or someone had their bike stolen, he’d be the anonymous donor and he’d have a good chuckle about it”.
In a 2009 Sootoday.com article, then Grade 8 student Meghan Waples called Loader a modern-day hero who donated a great deal of money to charity. One of several examples she provided was the time Fred donated $1,000 to the Soup Kitchen when it was robbed shortly before Christmas.
Another lesser-known fact about Fred was his dedication to punctuality: Apparently, he always showed up to work at the Sault Star at precisely 12 minutes and 26 seconds to the hour of 9 a.m., and neither rain nor sleet nor snow was ever able to deter him from his schedule.
Fred Loader wrote full-time for the Sault Star from 1963 until his semi-retirement in 1997. Afterwards, he continued to write opinion pieces, at first five times a week, and then less and less as his health gradually deteriorated over the years.
Nevertheless, before his death in 2008, Fred was still writing one column a week. He kept on going right until the end.
Probably every regular reader of Fred Loader disagreed with him from time to time. But even his critics were known to express their respect for him. Fred always said what he believed, and he believed in what he said.
What I wouldn’t give for just one more Fredloadian joke.
Each week, the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library and its Archives provides SooToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past.