John H. Hafermehl was born and raised in Mildmay, Ontario. His father was John and his mother Edith Kutz. He had a brother, Allan and a sister Irene Kain. While their family moved a couple times over the years, for the majority of the time they resided on Ellen Street.
He got his start in the printing-newspaper business at the Mildmay Gazette, owned by Bob and Barry Wenger. In those days of handset type and linotype machines, one had to apprentice which meant spending three years training.
John was offered a job at The Port Elgin Times as the Sports Editor. Shortly after moving to Port Elgin, he married Ethel Koenig (also a Mildmayite) and they spent eight years in the lakeside community. During those years, the Hafermehls welcomed an addition to the family, a daughter, Susan.
While in Port Elgin, John helped with minor ball and hockey teams. He also started a badminton club and after coming back to Mildmay did the same thing there.
With the passing of The Times’ Editor and Publisher Ken Pettis, John took on the job of manager for the Estate. The business was sold to J.H. Stafford and John continued to be the Managing Editor.
Besides carrying out the duties for The Times, he was a news correspondent for the five daily newspapers – Owen Sound Sun Times, Toronto Star, Toronto Telegram, London Free Press and Kitchener-Waterloo Record.
At this time, there were eleven independent weekly newspapers in Bruce County. The Port Elgin Times was the first publication to switch from printing hot lead method to lithography (photographing the pages). When John started the Town Crier, it was the second newspaper in Bruce County to use that method.
The Hafermehls moved to Mildmay in 1964 after purchasing The Mildmay Printery (the former Gazette) from Harold Whittaker. One year later, on February 26, 1965, the first issue of the Town Crier was produced – the first newspaper in this area to provide free blanket coverage. The Crier remained a free paper for thirty years, and at one point was distributing 11,700 copies on a bi-weekly basis. Today the paper is a weekly publication with 2,000 copies printed on a subscription basis.
Outside of a number of the neighbour ladies, and his wife Ethel, the first Crier employee was John Thompson. One of his duties was to take the papers (in a wagon) up the street to the Mildmay Post Office.
Along with the newspaper, John took wedding photos during the 1960’s through to the 1980’s. Many people still like to comment that Snoopy took their wedding photos!
Speaking of Snoopy, he got that nickname during the early months of publishing the Town Crier. In his book “This Book’s For Laughs”, John wrote “as the weeks went by and gathering news for the paper, we often had to dig for copy and that meant asking people an abundance of questions. One resident on such an occasion replied to us ‘My you are sure a snoopy person!’ … and so in the summer of 1965 was born the idea to call our brief news writings…. Snoopy Notes.”
John went on to say that the column was usually easy to write as the residents of Mildmay and Carrick assisted him by relaying news incidents and humourous happenings. The column ran for sixteen years.
Another part of the Town Crier was, and still is, job printing. It was a main part of the business for many years, and the paper was published on a bi-weekly basis, leaving more time for printing orders to be filled.
On April 14, 2004, John received the Canadian Community Newspapers Association’s Gold Quill Award. The award was presented in recognition of 50 years of distinguished service to the community newspaper profession.
In 2002, The Town Crier received a Canada-wide award for outstanding community service in the classification of weekly newspapers under 10,000 circulation. The award was presented by the Canadian Community Newspapers Association (CCNA).
Along with being a member of the CCNA, the Town Crier is also a member of the Ontario Community Newspapers Association.
John H. Hafermehl published his last issue of the Town Crier on May 8, 2013. He passed away on Friday, May 10, 2013. John was proud of his independent publication and enjoyed bringing the local news and happenings to his readers.