THIS DAY IN HISTORY: MAY 13, 1936
If it wasn’t for Robert Cromie, you probably wouldn’t be reading this newspaper. Cromie took over The Sun when it was virtually bankrupt in 1917 and turned the paper around, in part by purchasing the Vancouver World and NewsAdvertiser to create a bigger paper. A lively, opinionated sort, for many years he was as famous as any of The Sun’s columnists.
So when he died of a heart attack on May 11, 1936, Vancouverites were shocked. Cromie was only 49, and the picture of health.
“A keen physical culturalist, Mr. Cromie took much interest in everything pertaining to bodybuilding and health matters,” said a Sun story the day after his death. “He was a good swimmer and fancy diver, played a fast game of tennis and badminton, boxed with more than the usual amateur skill, enjoyed golf, rode and thought nothing of a 10- mile walk.”
The Sun dedicated three pages to its fallen leader. Cromie died in Victoria, where he had gone to deliver a speech on his recent trip to Asia. On Saturday he said he wasn’t feeling well, and on Monday he cancelled his speech. A doctor was summoned to his hotel, but he died at 4: 30 p. m.
Cromie was born in Quebec and came west in 1906, first to Winnipeg and then Vancouver. In 1915, The Sun was struggling and was rescued by an infusion of cash from railway contractors Timothy Foley, Patrick Welch and John Stewart. The trio were caught up in a railway scandal two years later, and they turned the paper over to Cromie, who had been Stewart’s secretary.
One story has it that Cromie fished out from a wastebasket some Sun stock that was being thrown out, which gave him control of the paper. Cromie’s grandson Ron says “family legend” is that Cromie was given the paper in lieu of money that he was owed.
He proved to be a natural newspaperman. He travelled around the world, befriended the famous of his day ( including U. S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and inventor Thomas Edison), and wrote many stories and even a couple of books on world affairs.
“Robert Cromie belonged to the school of crusading journalists,” said The Sun after he died. “He was never content unless the paper he built and controlled and to such a large extent edited personally was campaigning for something.” His family continued to run The Sun until 1964.