Posted 8/11/21

WOODWORKING BY DAVE WOOD First foray into newspapers Writing for The Journal isn't my first trip around the block when it comes to working for Wisconsin weekly newspapers. My first chance came …

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First foray into newspapers

Writing for The Journal isn't my first trip around the block when it comes to working for Wisconsin weekly newspapers. My first chance came when I was a wee lad of 12, too young to deliver daily newspapers as some of my older friends did. I was somehow attracted to the romance of newspapering even then and one day I got my shot at it. Whitehall Times publisher Scott Nichols approached yours truly, and said, “Davey, how'd you like to earn a dollar a week working for me? We print auction bills, announcements of dances each week. Your job would be to tack them up in restaurants, bars, on telephone poles and anywhere the public could read them. A dollar a week, every week.”

So I eagerly agreed, having no idea of what a distinguished institution I was going to work for. Years later, reading a classic book by Merle Curti about 19th century politics on the frontier, I discovered that the Whitehall Times had an illustrious history under two of its first editors, Samuel E. Luce (no relation to Henry Luce of Time Magazine) and one of his successors, Dan Camp.

Luce was known for his acceptance of Polish and Norwegian immigrants who were arriving in droves, and an enemy of jingoism that was rampant on the frontier. He's the only editor I ever heard of who wrote several volumes of poetry. His successor was Dan Camp, who doubled as Whitehall's depot agent, storekeeper, Cargill dealer and editor who also wrote wildly funny fictional stories about his imaginary love affairs with various local Indian maidens. Professor Curti, holder of the Frederick Jackson Turner chair of history at the University of Wisconsin, compared Camp to Mark Twain!

Here's a sample of Camp writing about his career as a grocer.

When I was a lad I served a term As utility boy for a grocer's firm.

I polished the windows and mopped the floor and swatted many flies out the big back door.

I sanded the sugar, manipulated the tea “Til we had seven grades instead of three.

I diluted the cider with a hand so free that I wonder nothing ever happened to me.

I overhauled currants and sorted out flies Though what was the use when making mincemeat pies?

A woman in a hurry wanted stuff to bleach a hat I gave her Colman’s mustard—she got mad at that!

Of course we took in butter, about sixty different makes, Some was good enough to eat, some were just mistakes.

Some was strong and husky, some of it was afraid To even hint around by whom it had been made.

Of course when I arrived on the scene, Luce and Camp were long gone. Nevertheless I was committed to do a bang-up job in my new role, so on the next Friday, I arrived at the Times office where Scott Nichols, an ever-present cigar clamped in his teeth, handed me a heavy bundle of 10×18 dance bills and posters announcing auctions.

“Crowds Dance on and On With Whoopee John Midway Ballroom July 4, 9 p.m Old-Time Waltzes Featuring Iver Johnstad And His Idlewild Orchestra! York Hall July 7, 8:00 pm.

And of course Auction Bills for anyone looking for a New Idea Hay Tedder or a DeLaval Milker or a variety of collectibles from the estate of Knut Tollefsrud. Lunch served by Mount Mizpah Lutheran Church.

Armed with my posters and a box of thumb tacks, I strode down Main Street, visited Risberg's Tavern, the Farmer's Store, the light pole on the corner opposite the U.S. Post office, then to the back street to Rip's and Jake's Bar, the R. and S. meat market, Iverson Larson Lumberyard. After an hour and a half of pinning and searching for every light pole in the heart of town, I headed for the residential areas. My load of bills began to lighten, but with 50 or so left, I had run out of poles and bulletin boards in sight. Desperate, I furtively stuffed what were left down a storm sewer at the end of Park Drive, only to look up from my ill deed, to see Scott Nichols and cigar looking down on me as he made his way home to eat lunch. Scott Nichols was not a little bit displeased.

Recently I've been whining to my Beautiful Wifie that “It's the only time I've ever lost a job working for a newspaper blah, blah…. if B.W. only knew about my sordid past….”

Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him 1-715-426 9554.