The Superior Express -

Editor's Notebook

 

March 19, 2020



When it comes to our current COVID-19 journey, this newspaper, like most area residents and businesses, is traveling in uncharted waters.

Many years ago on a Saturday afternoon in October, a friend and I took a canoe trip down the Republican River. The sun was warm and trees were loaded with beautiful fall colors. We were enjoying every minute and not paying attention to the time as we lazily floated downstream.

It began to grow dark and we hadn’t found the place where we planned to leave the river. I hadn’t been looking real hard for we had left our vehicle near where a flowing creek joins the river. I didn’t expect to miss that point.

As we were rounding a bend, I spotted a large tree unlike the others we had been passing. I had been on that stretch of river years earlier and I knew the tree was telling me something. I couldn’t remember what but I thought it wise to beach the canoe and look around. I pulled on my boots and climbed up the bank and surveyed the countryside.

It was a good thing we stopped for we had floated past our vehicle.

I took off my cowboy boots, waded into the water and began dragging the canoe upstream.

To this day I don’t know how I became so distracted that I missed the take out spot, but I did. Fortunately, it wasn’t my first time to float that section of the Republican. Had it been, our walk back to the vehicle would have been much more difficult.

When it comes to dealing with a pandemic, I have no experience. I’ve read reports of what the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 was like but didn’t expect a reoccurrence.

That was the year my father was born and the Blauvelt family was living north of Abdal. I remember Grandfather Blauvelt saying he was never that sick before or after. I recall him telling me about the day he tried to walk to the mailbox. He was so weak, he laid down on the ground to rest before reaching the mailbox.

From my parents, I learned of the challenges posed by dust storms, the great Republican River flood of 1935 and the challenges of WW II.

I have experienced power failures, ice, snow and wind storms. I’ve talked to publishers who have gone through fires. I know what it is like for the President to unexpectedly shut down the postal service on mailing day.

I have made contingency plans for such possible disruptions to our regular publication and distribution schedules. But until now I never expected a pandemic would force the closure of this newspaper. That is now possible.

In recent days, I’ve listened to webinars presented by national newspaper associations, one of which was sparked by a question submitted by a neighboring editor, Tory Duncan of the Clay County News. I have received many emails on the subject and even sent a few emails asking for advice.

Normally, a newspaper that depends on the United States Postal Service can not change its frequency without getting prior approval from the postal service. I was advised Monday the postal service will not be enforcing that rule during this crisis. If a paper wants to skip a week or more all it need do is inform the postmaster at the office in which the mail is entered.

I learned Monday morning that a Kansas newspaper can skip at least two, perhaps more weekly issues and still maintain legal status.

At this writing, Nebraska has not answered my question about missed issues. The state press association hoped to have an answer last week but obtaining that answer is not easy. State statue spells out what must be done to maintain official status. The authors of that statue apparently never considered the affect a pandemic might have on the state’s newspapers. The legislators meeting in Lincoln last week, apparently quit early and went home without answering the question.

As things now stand, if a paper misses a week’s publication it may lose its status as an official newspaper. To do so would probably mean closing the newspaper for it would have to publish 52 times a week for five years before seeking to have the status renewed.

When the Farmer-Stockman of Nebraska was published in our office, I qualified the paper for legal status. That status was never needed but with a different publication date, I saw having legal status provided some insurance the residents of this area would have an alternative option should The Superior Express not be available. However, that option is no longer available for the Farmer-Stockman was last published here in 1986.

During the Spanish Flu Epidemic, newspapers like this one were self-contained. The type was set by hand and steam or internal combustion engines powered the printing presses. Shops even had smaller presses that were powered by the printer stepping on a treadle.

We still have one of those small presses but it has a maximum image area of 8x10 inches. Newspaper pages have been shrinking in size, but a paper printed on that antique press would be pretty small. Should the need arise, that would be good as we longer employ anyone who is proficient in setting type by hand. While as a college student, I had to learn how to set type by hand, that is a skill I haven’t practiced since. It would take me days to set enough type to fill a paper printed on that small press.

When Howard Crilly, a former owner of this newspaper, started a daily newspaper at McCook, Mrs. Crilly set all the type by hand. I doubt there is anybody in this country today who could do what she was doing for the McCook paper about 100 years ago.

What we do have today is the internet. If it is impossible to print a future issue of this newspaper, we will use the internet to communicate with our readers.

While not finished, we have been reworking our web page in recent weeks. It can be reached at superiorne.com.

One of the reasons we abandoned the former web site was the limited ability to update it. We can now reach and update the new web page from most anyplace that has internet access. That wasn’t true with the page it is replacing.

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While writing about Mrs. Crilly’s typesetting skills, I remembered we have available for purchase in our office copies of novels Mr. Crilly wrote in his retirement years. His first novel, The Tinted Photograph, was set in a town much like Superior.

Horseshoe Bend was located near a big bend in a river much like the bend the Republican makes as it enters Kansas. Like Superior, Horseshoe Bend had a cement plant and the trains ran on the same timetable is did the trains serving Superior. I could go on with the similarities but long time residents of this area who read the book soon after its publication, recognized many of the characters, names and events as being similar to what they knew from personal experience.

From the forward to the book we learn. “It was a chilly, late spring day, with threats of snow, Pearl, 16 years of age, lingered at the edge of the deep, forbidding grave of her stepfather and watched silently as the clods of gray clay were shoveled on to the coffin of the only real freind she had ever known.

“In this fashion does the authot being this work of fiction, set in a small town very much like Superior, Nebraska, in Midwest America, somewhere between Kansas City and Denver in the early years of this century (the 20th).

“The Tinted Photograph” is engrossing reading and conveys to the reader a true picture of life in the United States before the First World War—a time when a young woman from Superior, Evelyn Brodstone, was travelling the world on behalf of the Vestey Brothers of London England.”

We also still have paperback copies of Ben Sherwood’s novel, “The Man Who Ate the 747.” While a 747 airplane didn’t crash on the Sullivan Farm at the north edge of Superior, readers of that book will recognize many Superior residents and places.

If forced to stay home because of the virus, those books would make good “local” reading.

 

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