This is Izaak Walton Killam, in his lifetime said to be Canada’s richest man. He was born in 1885 and died at 70 , in 1955.
He was the same age as Rufus, in fact – wasn’t Rufus born in 1885?
No, in 1887 – Killam was a couple of years older.
So how did Rufus meet him, or is that a long story?
It’s actually a very short one. Rufus was in Montreal in November 1927, interviewing remarkable Canadians for his Province Magazine. He phoned Killam’s office and, amazingly, Killam agreed to see him.
Why amazingly – you mean he was too busy?
Not a bit of it – the man was so rich he didn’t have to be busy! No, it was amazing because he was a super-private person. The guy was a famous financier but nobody, except a few faithful employees, knew who the heck he was, or even what he looked like!The picture of him I’ve used is the only one in the public domain. It’s still the only picture of him out there! Needless to say, Rufus was intrigued.
The guy was a privacy freak! Like Howard Hughes! So how on earth did Rufus get his appointment?
That’s the mystery! It could only be because Killam wanted to see Rufus!
Why would he WANT to see a journalist?
Rufus must have asked himself the same question. But he did interview the man – and we’ve no idea whether Killam insisted on it being off the record. But about a week later, Rufus was back in Montreal and his boss, Fred Southam, invited him to lunch at the Saint James’s Club. He found he already knew three of his four fellow lunch-guests – General McRae, a Tory MP who’d been leader of the BC Provincial Party, General Currie, GOC Canadian Corps but now principal of McGill – and Killam. And it was Killam who button-holed Rufus and insisted he come to tea that afternoon!
What did they talk about?
We’ll never know – Rufus didn’t say. But we do know that in October that year Killam had bought the Mail & Empire, a Toronto newspaper, for $3 million. Two days later Rufus was in Toronto. He had a full day of interviews, went to a play in the evening and at midnight went round to the Mail & Empire.to see Killam – for the fourth time in just over a week. You tell me what they talked about.
Well, it sounds like Killam wanted to hire Rufus – why else would he invite him round to the Mail & Empire? He must have heard about Rufus’s success with the Province Magazine – news travels fast in the newspaper world.
And there was something else. Rufus was a Tory – a pretty extreme one, actually – that’s how he’d got to know General McRae. Killam would have picked that up during that lunch in Montreal. And, because he wanted the Mail & Empire to support the Tories in Ottawa, he was looking around for a like-minded editor to run it.
So Rufus turned down an offer from Canada’s richest man! That’s a story for the record book! Why would he do that, do you think?
Two reasons, I suspect. #1, Killam didn’t offer him enough – you don’t get to be Canada’s richest man by being Mr Nice Guy. And #2, Rufus was committed to Fred Southam – he liked working for him, liked the whole Southam family and wasn’t about to let them down. Say what you like about Rufus, he was one loyal guy!