As I concluded last week’s column, I had taken over full-time management of The Chronicle after serving in the Army for six months and started going to drills in the Reserve.
There’s not much to report about the rest of my time as editor and manager. I struggled financially after the Atkins Pickle Co. hired a printer and started doing its own labels. That had been worth $5,000 a year income.I tried to make up for the loss by selling more advertising and more job printing, but I needed more.
It did some features I was proud of and covered the chase and capture of a nationally famous fugitive in the Ozarks who got publicity in Time magazine and had poems written about him (not by me). We covered the building of Lake Atkins and the Lake Atkins Fish Fry with speeches by politicians and selection of Miss Lake Atkins. I took one of the Misses to the Betty Fowler Show on Little Rock television for publicity. Originally, Lake Atkins had a beach in front of the dam for swimming, using sand that was hauled in.
Eventually I got restless, as a single man living with my parents and working long hours with little social life. So I worked out a deal to sell the paper to Tommy Gillespie, who had worked for the paper before moving to the Morrilton Democrat.
I left and (1) Went to graduate school at the University of Arkansas to get a Master’s degree (in English, thinking I would become a college instructor), (2) met and married Ginnie; (3) got hired as a reporter at the Des Moines (Iowa) Register and Tribune; (4) went back to graduate school to start on a Ph.D. (5) was hired to teach English and journalism at Wayne State (Nebraska), (6) came back to Arkansas and was hired at the Arkansas Democrat by an old friend Gene Foreman who had become managing editor; (7) welcomed our first child, Emory Lu (8) and two years later welcomed my second daughter, Rebecca Gail. (9) got hired at Arkansas Tech, and (10) In 1992, Tommy decided to retire and sold The Chronicle back to me, saying that he had promised my grandfather to offer it to me if he decided to sell.
When he owned it, in 1973, he converted to offset and had remodeled the building, lowering the ceiling, and had covered the front with an aluminum façade. The offset conversion required dealing with a Duplex letter press in the back that used paper from a roll in a dug-out space underneath.
He had the press disassembled and dumped in the hole and poured concrete over it. The paper became printed at the Russellville Courier-Democrat, like other weeklies in the area.
At that time, the paper was pasted up with wax and photographed to make a negative and then an aluminum plate. Under our ownership, we converted to photographic images on computers, keyboarding copy in bytes of data. We now send the pages electronically to The Courier, where they go directly to the plates, skipping the negative. We were printed at Conway for a while when we got a better deal from the Conway Log Cabin Democrat. Now the Conway paper is printed at Russellville. Its press was removed when its building was remodeled and sold.
We do more and more digitally. Cameras no longer use film. Other graphics come from various digital sources. The paper is available online and the new owners hope to continue to convert more of the operation to the online presence.
The new owners, Billy and Paula Reeder took over June 1, and Johnny Sain has become managing editor.
We have confidence in them to continue the emphasis on local news and community spirit that we have followed.