Monday was Aug. 13, and unless you were born or married on that date, it probably carries little significance.
But for me, it was a life-changer in 1979.
That was the day I walked between the doors of The Sentinel for the first time to begin my first post-graduation job.
My, how times have changed in 33 years.
The Sentinel building itself hasn’t hardly changed. Gone is the carport on the south side of the building, which was removed to expand our storage area for newsprint when we took on the overwhelming task of printing six newspapers daily and some weeklies.
But aesthetically, the building looks pretty similar to 1979. It still has leaks in the roof and looks pretty much like an old car dealership building.
When I started at The Sentinel, John Fraser was the editor. John was the ultimate newspaper man and one of the best copy editors I’ve ever met, going back to his days of having worked at The Topeka Capital.
At the time, The Sentinel was family-owned, unlike today under the flagship of GateHouse Media as the paper has changed hands a few times since the Krehbiel family owned it. Longtime publisher Ken Krehbiel had died about a year before I arrived and his wife, “Teddy,” was in charge, though she was always Mrs. Krehbiel to me. Bill Hopp, a longtime Krehbiel family friend who was a practicing lawyer, served as our general manager. Teddy would stop in about once a week to check on things, drop off her column called “Growing Pains” and generally scare the heck out of everybody despite being a woman small in stature. She would arrive in her treasured little yellow jeep and in the 30 minutes she would be in the office, we all just hoped to pass the test.
We had five reporters when I started in addition to John and myself for a seven-person news staff. The ad staff numbered four and three of them — manager Harvey Nelson, and salesmen Gary Mehl and Sid Achenbach — were longtime fixtures with more than 75 years of combined experience. We had seven people working in production and four in the business office.
My schedule certainly was different than it is now. When I started, I would come in at 8 a.m. and work until 5 p.m. four days a week, with a day off during the week in addition to Sunday. On Saturday, I would come in at 8 and work until noon, as The Sentinel went to press at 12:30 p.m.
Now, I come in at 6 a.m. with no days off except in the summer and from there, it’s anybody’s guess when I get done. We no longer print the paper here, having it electronically sent to Hutchinson, which ships it back. Our deadline has gone from 1 p.m. to 9:30 a.m. and we no longer print on Monday, which has become the norm for most papers in Kansas our size since Monday papers generally are unfeasible financially. I, like many readers, miss the Monday paper, but you do what you have to do to stay in business. We also print Saturday’s paper in the wee hours of Saturday morning, as we have a 1:30 a.m. deadline.
Page 2 of 2 - I’m on my fifth publisher, seventh editor and there probably have been more than 100 reporters that have come and gone. Counting those who have worked here, as well as kids who were paper carriers and are now adults, it seems like half the town has been employed here at one time or another.
The scope of my job also has changed. When I started, McPherson High School did not have boys soccer, girls soccer, baseball, softball, boys swimming and girls swimming. There was no auxiliary gym at the high school, no Sport Center at McPherson College and no Pyle Complex at Central Christian College.
The Wall Park Sports Complex and Grant Sports Complex weren’t even thoughts. There were only three elementary schools, as Eisenhower had yet to be constructed. There was no Wal-Mart, though there was a K-Mart and TG & Y and two Dillons stores (how I miss Little Dillons on Euclid Street). McPherson Stadium was McPherson College Stadium, whose grass field basically turned to dirt by about the second week of October, but now it’s artificial turf. There was no Turkey Creek Golf Course, as people either played at Rolling Acres or McPherson Country Club.
In 1979, a new house cost about $58,000, the average income per year was $17,500 and a gallon of gas cost 86 cents. I remember when I moved to McPherson, my first residence was a studio apartment in a now-torn-down building where Stutzman’s now is and I had to share a shower in the basement with another tenant.
Fred Diehl was the mayor, aided by commissioners Cy Roth and Carl Holloway. Don Whitlock, Carl Oakleaf and Waldo Preheim made up the county commission, while Bob Perkins was police chief, Larry Bruzda was fire chief and Ellis Musselwhite the sheriff.
There was no Internet, email or fax machines. Our computers we typed our stories on were called VDTs, and The Sentinel supposedly was one of the first papers in Kansas to use them. When I first started in the business as a cub reporter at the age of 17 in Independence, I typed all my stories on a typewriter, then gave them to a typesetter. There was no such thing as spell check and looking back at it today, it all seems so caveman. I have to wonder now, how did we ever get a paper out every day?
There was no CNN, no ESPN, no Facebook, no cell phones. When you think about it, we were living in primitive times in 1979.
Steve Sell is sports editor of The Sentinel. Reach him by phone at 620-241-2422 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.