Mary Zanier has been reading the Trail Times for the past 64 years.

Trail Times provided first taste of English language for Italian girl

Mary Zanier has been reading the Trail Times for the past 64 years.

As the Trail Times launches a second month of celebrating 120 years in business, staff writers are asking the community, “How has the Trail Times impacted your life?”

For Mary Zanier, the newspaper has always been more than headlines and daily giggles with the comics – the pages of stories and advertisements introduced the bambolina to a whole new language and culture.

On June 1, 1951 Zanier, along with her mother and sister landed on her father’s West Trail doorstep. Zanier, who turns 81 on Valentine’s Day, said her father had immigrated to Canada from San Martino, in the northern province of Udine, Italy, prior to the Second World War.

After the war broke out, the rest of the Zanier family was turned away from boarding a North America-bound vessel in Venice, so it was a number of years before they could be reunited in Trail.

She was 14 by then, didn’t speak, read or understand English. But her father did, so with his help and a daily read and re-read of the Trail Times, the teenager would soon learn the language and a thing or two about life in a new country.

“I first got the paper from my father because he was already here a few years and a subscriber,” she said.

“So he knew English. But when we first got the paper we couldn’t understand one word,” Zanier laughed. “Every time there was a line (sentence) we would say, “Dad! What does this mean?”

She recalls sitting on the front stoop of the family’s Rossland Avenue home with her sister, studying words from the newspaper, trying to grasp an understanding of this strange new world.

“Everyday we waited for the paper,” she said.

“If there was something we thought was really interesting, me and my sister used to write down the whole sentence. Then my father would tell us what it meant and we’d write it in Italian and study it in English.” Zanier added.

“That’s how we learned English. Sitting out there with a pop in our hands reading it over and over again until we understood. That was before we started going to school, so when we did go, we already had a pretty good idea of what things meant.”

Another vivid recollection she has, is her first glimpse of a curious Trail Times advertisement.

“I remember when I came over here and I first opened up the paper and there was advertising for a “7” and an “Up,” she chuckled.

“We thought wow, and wanted to know what this big thing was.”

Her father made a trip down to Star Grocery and bought the Zanier girls their first bottle pop.

“It was so good, different from anything else I’d ever had. That sticks in my head, what’s a 7 Up,” Zanier laughed.

Now a 64-year subscriber of the Trail Times, Zanier still looks forward to receiving the paper in her mailbox, but for different reasons these days.

“I like the news, I always find it so interesting,” she said. “But second is the letter (Letter to the Editor),” she explained. “Oh, I go crazy for those. I go directly to them to see what is going on, and what people have to say.”

After dinner, she perks a fresh cup of coffee and settles in with a cat in lap, ready to give the Trail Times another go.

“I sit very peacefully and read them again,” she said. “Good or bad, I don’t care but I love to read those letters.”

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