Arlette Boonzaaier remembers how excited business owners were to have a paper of their own when the Athlone News was launched 30 years ago.
She was the first and longest standing advertising representative on the Athlone News – having served the paper for 17 years before emigrating to New Zealand and then returning to Independent Media as an advertising consultant.
Before its inception in 1986, the paper was a supplement, called the Athlone Shopper, in the Cape Herald.
When the Cape Herald closed down, it was replaced by four other community newspapers – the Athlone News, Southern Mail and Northern Echo was born. The Plainsman had already been started by that time (See story on page 3).
“The paper was very well-accepted in the community. The shop owners were excited about having their own paper and telling their story. Businesses were very supportive. They always welcomed me in. You always felt so good going in there,” she said.
Arlette said she has seen how the advertising patterns have changed for the Athlone News.
“The paper is still well-supported by clients in the area, but at the time it was the businessmen from the area that supported it virtually one hundred percent. Now there are many national adverts and advertisers from all over,” she said.
The digital age has also changed the nature of advertising, said Arlette.
Arlette recalled working very closely with her clients, giving creative input and designing adverts by cutting and pasting pictures and text on a page.
“At that stage there was no such thing as digital advertising. Everything was done by hand.
“I used to sit up until late at night designing the adverts.
“We had these huge artwork files with pictures of everything that you could possibly think of. We would go through them and choose what we wanted, photocopy it, cut it out of the photocopy and position it where we want it.
“Now you don’t even have your own input to design anymore. You send the material off to an agency. You try to give them a design and a style but, of course, it comes back completely different,” she said.
As a result of the one-on-one contact, she got to know many clients on a more personal level, and fondly remembers the weddings and family events she and her husband Patrick were invited to attend.
“One of the clients called me the other day after she saw my picture in the newspaper. She said ‘I just had to phone you. You must please visit.”
Arlette remembers that client very fondly because the woman always packed in polonies for Arlette’s children.
“I went to all of her family functions. Her daughter got married, her son got married and then the birth of their children. That was very special.”
Patrick loved attending the events, and often prompted Arlette to tell the story of this client and that client when the Athlone News interviewed them at their Fairways home on Friday September 23.
“Yes, I enjoyed going with Arlette. What better place to have a good curry,” he said, laughing.
Arlette also remembers another client who always gave her a big box filled with fireworks around Guy Fawks.“He used to work in his dad’s shop and I think he had a soft spot for me. I tell you, the one year we stood outside our home, with a big box of fireworks in the boot. All the neighbours came. We were letting off fireworks. The children loved it,” she said.
Arlette, who now works as an advertising consultant, said she has managed well to change with the times, however, she said she did miss the relationship she had with the clients.
“You were able to have close relationships with clients because of the way you worked. You worked hard with your clients to get them what they wanted. So I miss that.
“There is not the same interaction and dedication any more but it is not ideal to form that same kind of relationship. You can’t because you are never going to meet deadline,” she said.
One of the highlights, said Arlette, was judging the Miss Gay competition at the Athlone Hotel which was in Lawrence Road, each year. “Such a glitzy affair with the most beautiful women in gorgeous gowns, who at the time had adopted the names of film stars such as Sue Ellen (from Dallas), Candice Du Bois, Romy Sneider, Victoria Principal, and so forth.”
Arlette also talked about how the Athlone city centre has changed over the years. “The old fashioned feel and charm have long since disappeared. The merchandise was top quality and of course at the time was mainly proudly South African, manufactured locally.”
Some loyal Athlone News advertisers are also no longer in the area, among them the Empire Theatre, Athlone Theatre and Kismet Bioscope and shops like Wilmary Shoes, Georges Butchery, Toyrama, Athlone Shoe Store, Zenobia Shoes, Pals Clothing, Mr Liquidator, Athlone Hotel, Liberty Liquors, Ron’s Outfitters, Foodworld Supermarket, Melotronics and many more.