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Editor confesses to odd addiction

By Chuck Hunt - Editor | Aug 29, 2021

I have had an addiction most of my life. I am addicted to reading newspapers.

You are probably not shocked. I have, after all, been a newspaper editor all of my adult life.

I love to read daily newspapers, as well as small town weekly newspapers – from towns I am familiar with and ones I am not. I stop and pick up a copy of the local newspaper whenever I travel.

The papers I read don’t need to be current editions – I even enjoy reading old newspapers. Sometimes really old papers.

So, it was nice when someone recently dropped off some copies of the Blue Earth Post and the Faribault County Register here at the Register office. The handful of papers were from 1958 and 1959.

Those same newspapers are in bound books and available for anyone to read at the Blue Earth Community Library. I have often warned people who go to the library to look through the bound books of newspapers to plan to spend some time, because they will probably get addicted.

They might be looking for a specific item, usually an obituary of a relative. But soon they get distracted as they see names and items about people they know.

I once let a woman look through the old bound books of newspapers at an office where I once worked. We darn near locked up the office at quitting time, forgetting she was in the back room looking through the books.

She had been back there for more than four hours. She had gotten addicted.

But I digress.

I knew I needed to set aside a little time to look through these issues of the Post and Register from 1958 and 1959, even though I was only eight years old at the time they were published and I was living in California.

Sure enough, I started reading and couldn’t stop myself.

There were front page stories in the Oct. 30 Blue Earth Post about the upcoming Nov. 4 election, but there were also front page stories about 840 straw bales burned in a fire, a 70-year old farmer burned in a tractor fire, an Elmore man hurt when his car hit a bridge at 2 a.m. (his brother had hit the same bridge a year earlier the story reported) and a Winnebago woman (and mother of nine) who fell 12 feet onto the cement floor of a corn crib.

There was also the story, on the front page, of an Elmore woman “about 72” who had to have surgery at the Albert Lea hospital. The story read, “The aged woman suffered a broken leg Friday when she fell in an Elmore grocery store.”

Wait a minute. “Aged woman?” Talk about adding insult to injury…since when is 72 “aged?” (says the guy who is soon going to be 71).

But, again, I digress.

The Nov. 4, 1958 Register has a large front page story about a 71-year old Frost farmer, Emil Twedt, who was killed in a truck vs. tractor accident.

Twedt was driving a tractor when it was hit from the rear by a panel truck. It was strange to read about the death of a man who was born in 1887. We don’t see any of those anymore.

There is also a story about two house fires in Blue Earth, at the corner of First and Linton streets and at 119 East Second Street.

The story says this about the Second Street fire: “Some of the nattiest-dressed firemen in the city turned out to fight the blaze at about 11:30 a.m., as many of them left church services in the middle of sermons to answer the emergency summons.”

You have just got to love the way those old editors wrote news stories.

The March 17, 1959 Register’s top headline is that Ken Queensland was elected superintendent by the school board. The story relates how he was 31, and was the assistant principal at the school and was selected out of 15 applicants.

I knew Ken after I moved here through Kiwanis and church, so it was interesting to read all about him.

The next issue had a story about John Paulson being selected to replace Queensland as assistant principal. Ironically the high school principal was Alice Paulson, and the two were not related.

Another front page story was about the American Legion buying the Strand Theater to use as their new Legion Hall. In case you are interested, the purchase price was $38,000 and the vote was not unanimous.

There were other options available, the story said. One was to turn upstairs apartments into a hall, and the other was to build a new hall on an empty lot next to the current hall, which was described as being on South Main Street.

The March 24, 1959 Register had a story about two workers killed by a dragline while working on a bridge north of Walters.

There is also a story about St. Luke’s Lutheran Home deciding to build a new 60-room retirement home.

But, it was a small story headlined, “Slicker Fleeces Widow of $90 at Winnebago” which caught my attention.

Mrs. May Brooks ran a boarding house and rented a room to a ‘George Harris,’ which the story describes as being “a low-down crook and thief.”

Harris promised to do some tile work in a bathroom in the home, but instead absconded with the $90 meant for the materials for the job. But, before he left town, he “borrowed $5 from Jim Pettit and wrote a bum check for $10 at the Alibi Inn.”

The editor ended the story with “George Harris had better wait a long time before he comes around these parts again.”

There is more I could relate but you will probably eventually read all about these stories and more in future versions of our Register Reflections column.

And yes, staff members who research back issues of the Register for that column do end up spending a lot of time reading all about what was happening way back when, and remembering things from years gone by.

It is addictive, after all.