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October 5, 2004

Tip of the hat to Newspaper Week

I began a lifetime of work in the news business the day I graduated from Perry High School in 1941. Mr. Wes Leatherock, publisher of this newspaper at the time, plucked me from a job as assistant chief soda jerk at the Brownie Drug Store on the West Side of the square. He knew of my secret interest in journalism and dangled a job as a newspaper cadet at his business in the building where The Journal is still located. I was already fascinated with the business and his offer was the answer to an unspoken prayer. Later, excursions with the Stars and Stripes military newspaper during World War II and, still later, 20 years in the public relations business at the Charles Machine Works, Inc., helped prepare me for a job I loved during a career that I had coveted from childbirth. It has been a great joy, and so I salute National Newspaper Week with great personal thanks. The memories thus evoked are all pleasant, as you might suspect.

The Journal was somewhat different in the 1940s, when I started work there. The front office housed an office supply division. The women's editor was the clerk for that business. Wilma Nelson was the women's editor/store clerk, and she also was the newspaper's proofreader. I learned a great deal from her. The managing editor, my immediate boss, was Mr. Francis Thetford, an articulate and careful news writer who had a tremendous influence on me. Later that summer, a young OSU journalism graduate, Jane Schneider, came to work as women's editor (eventually city editor), before being hired by the Associated Press bureau in Oklahoma City. Jane, now a widow, lives in San Francisco where she is a very active young lady on many fronts. We correspond, sort of, and I appreciate all she has done for and in this business.

Harry Jones was foreman of the printing shop. His hired hands included red-headed Charlie Armstrong and Jim Ramsey, who had a congenitally misformed thumb. Peary Gaskill operated the big typesetting machine, Eva Blanche Austin did most of the type composition and freely edited anything she chose to alter. Virgil Sherrod and Wendell Gottschall handled the advertising accounts, and Merle Edwards was circulation manager. Walter Baker was a kind of combination pressman/janitor and an all-around handyman. A good one, too. Press time was dictated by the departure schedule for mail-carrying trains in this county. Young "carrier-salesmen" delivered the newspaper to Perry subscribers. Numerous country correspondents provided news items for the inside pages. It was a fun place to work and to carry out Mr. Leatherock's dictum: "You are here not to withhold news, but to get it right and get it into print while it is news." Thanks to each one of today's staffers for their determination to meet that same lofty goal.

Here's a tip of the hat to those who practice the art and to the news business itself. All of them that I know are good folks.