REMEMBERING FRANK J. BURNS (January 3/03)

In a talk at the Kings County Museum in November [see previous article], Advertiser columnist Harold Woodman touched on the career of one of the Valley’s best known newsmen, Frank J. Burns. For many years Burns’ name was synonymous with the Apple Blossom Festival and he is best remembered as one of the Festival founders and its long-time promoter.

Mr. Woodman recalled that Burns was brought to this area by Clifford L. Baker, who gained control of Kentville Publishing and The Advertiser in 1926. In that same year, Woodman recalled, Baker brought Burns from Sackville, New Brunswick, into the firm. We take up Mr. Woodman’s talk at this point.

“Burns was a printer and an excellent one, and he was given a mandate to expand the job printing sector of the company. And in this he was eminently successful. He trained the company’s tradesmen up to a point where many large printing orders were coming in from all parts of the province and beyond.

“Baker died in 1932 and for the next 15 years the company was run by a few editor-managers before Mr. Burns took on this entire responsibility in the late 1930s.

“Frank Burns, during his tenure in the editor’s chair, was founder of the Nova Scotia Weekly Newspaper Association and served as its first president. He was also a member of the Canadian Weekly Newspaper Association, serving a term as president. As a matter of fact, he travelled across Canada on the Royal Train. which bore King George and Queen Elizabeth from Nova Scotia to British Columbia in 1939. He was a director of Kentville Publishing Company until his death in 1977.

“For many years Burns and The Advertiser were synonymous. You seldom thought about one without the other. He was well-respected by other media, including Fox Cinema News, radio and the daily press, all of which stood him in good stead as publicist when the Apple Blossom Festival need to be publicised beyond our boundaries.

“For many years Burns managed both the printing and editorial departments of Kentville Publishing and he was equal to the challenge. It was a bad year when the company didn’t win two national awards.”

In his history of the Apple Blossom Festival, published in 1992, Mr. Woodman wrote that Burns was known as Mr. Festival. “President and honorary president were Festival titles Francis J. Burns wore long and well. His ten consecutive years as president commenced in 1938 when he succeeded O. C. Jones. In 1948 he stepped down… Burns was immediately appointed honorary president, an office he held for almost 30 years.

“Always active in community affairs, F. J. as he was known to his intimate friends, joined the Kentville Board of Trade and Rotary Club. Like most persons in his chosen profession, he was appointed publicity chairman of most of the organisations with which he became associated. In 1932 he was a member of the… committee appointed to establish a springtime apple blossom festival. Later, in 1945, he helped found the Annapolis Valley Affiliated Boards of Trade.

“The festival committee had the good judgement to appoint Burns as publicity chairman. As a consequence, the Festival became widely known as early as 1934.”

Thanks to Burns, Woodman said, the Blossom Festival got its first national television coverage on the CBC in 1948. Burns was “interviewed often… as newspapers and radio stations from outside the area sought Festival news,” and perhaps more than any one person made Canadians aware of the celebration.

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