Saturday, July 2, 2011

Trout fishing near New Meadows, Idaho

From the then editor Don Lynch's "The Argus Observes" column
in the August 20, 1953 issue of The (Ontario, Oregon) Argus Observer

Zimm had told me where to fish. And it had worked out all right accorind to my standards, those of a dub who does not require many or very large fish to be happy.

“There’s some dandies right here in the meadow but you have to knowhow to catch them,” he said.

It was his busy season. For two months he had refused the temptation to fish with other summer guests. But he broke down one evening last August and took me fishing in the meadow.

First we worked the pools close to the cabins using a fly and caught half a dozen little squaw fish. They were to be our bait.

Then we drove a couple of miles down the meadow and walked in a little ways to a big deep pool where the water hardly moved.

We skinned the thick meat off the sides of the squaw fish and folded it over our hooks until they were concealed.

We wore tennis shoes instead of boots so we could wade waist deep. We worked opposite sides of the stream. Our lines were pretty well weighted and we threw them in above the deep water letting they work into the holes with the current.

The action started slow. I caught the first two --- nice ten-inch trout.

There was a point and a little brush in my way and the current was wrong. It kept me from getting into the deep hole.

Then after a half hour or so Zimm caught a better one. He motioned for me to come over to his side.

I waded across. My feet found a sand bar and I walked along it close the deep water.

The dusk settled in. I could just barely see my line against the dark water. I thought I had a bite and tried to set the hook. There wasn’t any jerk and I thought the weighted line had just hit a rock or log.

Then it started to move. Clear across the pool, deep. I set the hook a little harder and went to work.

It took all the skill I had. We battled for several minutes before I gained ground and reeled him a little closer slowly.

I didn’t have a landing net and knew I didn’t dare try to lift him. So I walked backward slowly along the bar, and then moved gently to the bank.

Well sir, sliding that boy out onto the grass was a real thrill. He measured just 15 inches but it was the biggest trout I had ever caught and an experience to remember for a long time.

If all goes well, as this is read we will be back in the same region trying to play a repeat performance of the same experience. This coming weekend has been set aside for our summer fishing trip. --- By Don Lynch

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Argus Observes -- Blaming the rain on the atomic bomb explosions in Nevada

The Argus Observes column from the June 4, 1953 edition of The Argus-Observer:

Man is full of curiosity with a penchant for the mysterious and unusual.

I suppose that’s why people like sensational explanations for unusual phenomena.

For instance, at every turn these days you hear people say, “Haven’t you heard, it’s the atom bomb explosions in Nevada that caused all this rain.”

I thought maybe this explanation was one that occurred just in Malheur County, but it must be a fairly general idea, because the (Portland) Oregonian ran a feature story Sunday explaining that there is just no basis for blaming wet weather on the atom explosions.

The weather has been just as unusually wet in Portland as in Malheur County and in Portland that is a lot of rain. The rose city had 28 inches of rain in the first five months of 1953 compared to 8 inches in Ontario.

Is this really unusual? Not at all says the weather man in Portland. Although it is the wettest first five months for any year since 1916, there have been seven wetter springs in the history of recording weather in Portland, and 1879 was much wetter with 39 inches of rainfall in the first six months.

So there you have the official weather viewpoint: “Nothing very unusual about this rainfall. Why it happened just like this only 37 years ago.”

But here in Malheur County where we have been keeping weather records for only ten years, it looks like a wet spring.

Is this blaming of the weather on atom bombs the first time that people have sought to explain away the weather by something new in the atmosphere?

Not at all, according to Col. Eckley S. Ellison, head of the Portland weather bureau office.

He says the ruckus over the atom bombs spoiling the weather is nothing compared to the storms of protest that swept the county when radio stations first began broadcasting. The radio waves were blamed for drought, flood, hail, lightening and rings around the moon. – By Don Lynch

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Argus Observes -- Perils of spring for high school seniors

The Argus Observes By Don Lynch
From the May 13, 1954 issue of The Ontario Argus-Observer

News stories this week have made me glad to be a country editor rather than a high school principal.

A fatal accident on the Nampa senior sneak day and subsequent action of the school board there to abolish the annual senior outing brought back to me painful memories of an accident on a student outing ten years ago when I was principal at Roswell high school in Idaho.

With a student body of fifty we lacked athletic resources and so we’d had a terrible year in school sports. Lost all of our football games, most of basketball; but we had won about half of our baseball games and the kids were proud of finally doing something in sports.

We had a wet spring in 1944 and we had a lot of cancelled baseball games but they were finally all made up except for one game with Marsing.

The game day game, a beautiful May day like we’ve been having this week, and we excused all of the students who wanted to go to the game.

Most of the players and many of the students including a number of girls piled into the back of a farm truck early in the afternoon and left for Marsing.

Agnes (this columnist’s wife who taught at Roswell high) and I stayed with the pupils who remained in classes. It was a warm, drowsy afternoon. We settled down to just marking time until the end of the day.

The team had only been gone a few minutes when the first dazed victims began to stumble in. Agnes met the first of them in the hall

She came running. “Don, the kids have had a wreck.”

I refused to believe it. But when I saw them I realized with considerable shock that it was true.

The effervescent load of youngsters had shifted the truck off balance on a curve a mile from the schoolhouse. It had flipped off the road, smashed through a fence and turned over in a field.

Our wartime Red Cross first aid training paid off that day. We filled our beds and davenport with youngsters suffering from shock and minor injuries. We improvised a stretcher for a boy who apparently had a serious back injury. We carefully transported the injured to a doctor’s office.

I’d have treated myself for shock if we’d had the time. That was about the most unnerving day I ever put in.

However we were lucky. The youngsters all recovered fine except for one girl who had trouble with a leg injury for a considerable time after the accident.

We forfeited the ball game. It was too late and we were too hurt to play it….

In addition to this year’s fatal accident, Nampa’s problem was further complicated by a student beer drinking riot that wrecked some private party at McCall on the senior sneak a year ago. Although it involved a relatively few people it embarrassed and humiliated the entire class, the school and the community.

The Nampa school board has my sympathy. I hope abolishing the senior sneak day solves their problem. But it won’t be easy. Seniors are capable of being pretty headstrong and defiant, especially if they think that they are being treated as youngsters

Monday, May 23, 2011

Argus reports on shootout at Weiser

One man was killed, another wounded when a service station operator at Weiser Station north of Ontario turned his gun on three armed men who tried to drive off without paying for $2.48 worth of gas, the Argus-Observer reported on July 20, 1953.

Doyle C. Fulton, 23, was fatally wounded the previous Friday evening when he was struck in the back of the head by one of three shots that service station operator Frank Rembert fired into the rear of the escaping car.

Rembert told police that the front seat passenger in the car, John M. Kimball, pulled a gun from his shirt and used it to order Rembert into the service station building after he pumped gas into the car.

Rembert then retrieved a .38 revolver from his office.

According to the newspaper account, Rembert said he’d planned to shoot at the car’s tires but realized he was being fired on and aimed into the car.

Kimball, 27, was wounded by one of Rembert’s shots and the escaping car stalled a few miles down the road. From there, the would-be bandits pressed a passing motorist, C.W. Davis of Ontario, into their service to take Fulton to a hospital in Ontario, where Fulton died.

State police, alerted by Rembert and called to the hospital by hospital authorities, soon arrived to place Kimball under arrest.

Four men total were in the escaping car during shoot-out. Oregon authorities said they were from Los Angeles and that one of the men in the car was AWOL from the Army and another had served time for car theft. But neither the dead man nor the gunman had any kind of police record, according to testimony at a quickly convened coroner’s inquest.

The inquest resulted in Rembert being exonerated of any criminal responsibility in the shootings

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Argus Observes: High school basketball, beer and what to do?

By Don Lynch
From The Argus Observes,
in the Argus-Observer for Dec. 18, 1952

“There was no evidence that the athletes in question actually drank any beer,” high school principal Robert McConnaha told me Tuesday.

He was explaining last week’s incident in which several basketball players were temporarily suspended from the team because of their association with an alleged student beer-drinking episode. I had told him that on the basis of the information we had gained in reporting the news, it appeared the affair had been mishandled by school authorities.

Here briefly is what we knew of what had happened:

School officials permitted police to use an office at the high school to question students in connection with the sale of beer to juveniles. Thus the school became by association entangled in a problem that was not a school responsibility except in so far as the violation of athletic training rules might have been involved.

A few athletes were in the party which was said to have had beer in possession. Members of the team were consulted on their opinion and they voted unanimously, according to report, to drop the players, three of whom were first team basketball men.

Two days later the school officials announced that the players had been returned to the squad and said the incident was “closed.”

Many basketball fans and school patrons were concerned with the appearance of the whole affair. Dropping of the players certainly made it appear that they were guilty of some infraction. Their quick return to the team indicated they had received little discipline.

I was concerned along with other people. Tuesday I told the school principal so and sought a further explanation.

It was then that McConnaha explained to me that there was actually no evidence the athletes had participated in any drinking. They were caught in the familiar and often disastrous situation of “guilt by association.”

He further revealed that the school authorities did not overrule the vote of the team to suspend the players. The team members reconsidered their decision and came to the principal asking that the suspended players be returned to the squad, he said.

It developed, McConnaha reported, that the original decision of the team to suspend the players was based not on the incident in question but on a succession of grievances accumulated over a period of a year or so. On reflection, the voting team members concluded many of them had themselves been guilty of shortcomings similar to those used as a basis for suspending the players. They reconsidered and decided the players should be returned to the team.

This is all a somewhat involved situation and it apparently never occurred to the school officials that any further public explanation was needed. They felt the situation had been satisfactorily solved and the matter settled so no further comment was needed.

Normally they might have been right. They are used to handling similar disciplinary problems that occur frequently and never come to the light of public attention.

The difference this time lay in the fact that this incident had come to public attention by a mere coincidence. There was a story of police investigation of the alleged sale of beer to miners. At the same time a sports story noted that some basketball players had been suspended or alleged infraction of training rules. The two stories automatically fitted together and revealed an incident of apparent involvement of athletes in a beer drinking party.

I hope that this further explanation which completes the information will help to answer doubts as to how the matter was handled.

During our discussion “Mac” and I disagreed on one point. I thought it a mistake to permit police to use a school office for investigating an incident that itself had no relation to the schools.

The principal said he would rather have such an investigation run where he would watch it than under police questioning elsewhere. He thought that within the school the matter could thus be better handled for the youngsters involved. He also thought it might be good for the other youngsters to see how easily an apparently trivial escapade could come to police attention.

I doubt it. An unnecessary police investigation in the school --- upsetting the atmosphere within the school and coluding the reputation of the school through needless “guilt by association” --- seems to me to be more damaging than helpful.

But that is simply a matter of opinion. The important thing is that the public had only half truths for its judgment of the basketball player discipline, and then the incident was considered “closed” by the school men.

The public is entitled to know what goes on it its schools. When chance reveals half of the information in an awkward situation, the full information should be provided in order to clarify public understanding.

Friday, April 8, 2011

In the 50s: Trouble with that “Other Days” column

Editor’s Note: In October of 1953 my father wrote a column commemorating that year’s newspaper week by enunciating some of the ideals of a Journalistic Creed he’d come across. One stated ideal was that “no one should write as a journalist what he would not say as a gentleman.” What with blogs and the Internet we’re way beyond honoring that principle today. But it was that basic idea that triggered his recounting of a pair of violations in which his reporters had indulged. The stories that slipped by on his watch in the 1950s might get killed today by the editors or publishers of the better community weeklies, if there are any of those left. Today, one hopes that respect means something in “small town” America,though the rancor in the letters column of today's Argus can raise questions whether that is true now in Ontario.

The Argus Observes

By Don Lynch

An excerpt from the October 5, 1953 issue of The Argus-Observer

I remember little violations of these (Journalistic Creed) principles that have been painfully embarrassing to me, although they have probably gone unnoticed by most readers. For instance:

Once when we had a new reporter writing the “In Other Days” column of notes from the files of former years, he picked up and retold some embarrassing crime stories long forgotten about local citizens who had since led exemplary lives.

On another occasion an eager reporter was publishing the lurid details of divorce complaints, which should be reported only in barest facts.

These were cruel, pointless stories. The person who has made a mistake and reformed should be granted the balm of public forgetfulness. Divorce items should only report the brief facts, so that the community knows the changing status of the individuals. No good is performed by broadcasting the miserable circumstances.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The gremlins that haunted newspapers

The Argus Observes
By Don Lynch
From the Feb. 26, 1953 Argus-Observer

The Oregonian does it too. And so does the Idaho Statesman.

The Oregonian had a classic bobble in Monday’s late edition. Next day the Portland newspaper ran the following editorial explaining its error:


“The gremlins that haunt newspaper plants, transposing lines and words sometimes in extremely embarrassing fashion, hit the jackpot when they slipped a cut of a Victorian architectural monstrosity into The Oregonian’s front page layout in Monday’s late editions.

“The caption said the dwelling, in Salem, would be rented by Governor and Mrs. Paul Patterson after the legislative session ends. Actually the picture was that of the governor’s mansion at Sacramento, Cal.

“We are not trying here to correct the confusion caused by the above mentioned gremlins. The news department is doing its best in that line.

“We wish, however, to put in a word for Governor Earl Warren and his family of California. Many Oregonians were horrified to think that the Pattersons would have to live in such a house and we were inclined to agree with them. But the Warrens have resided in it, besides putting up with a lot of other irritations peculiar to California. The Warrens are even a finer family than we had thought. Imagine smiling so pleasantly , as they all do, while having to live like that!”

This incident reminds us here at the Argus-Observer of the time we mixed up the cutlines between a state official and a visiting concert violinist. And since we didn’t know either guy it was weeks before we knew of the mistake.

The lines most apt to become mixed between pictures here are the captions with wedding pictures. When we have two or three pictures of newly wedded couples, it requires constant watching to keep from mixing either the overlines for the lines under the pictures.

The Boise Statesman has its troubles too. In an edition a week ago, the lead from one story carried this headline deck:

Democrat Agriculture Record
Ohioan Sees Election Defeat
If Republicans Don’t Better

Now the top line could be could be removed to the bottom or the bottom line could be moved to the top and the head would make sense. But as sit ran it was confusing.

In an edition of the Evening Statesman last week, the editorial page cartoon ran upside down.

We certainly have our troubles at the Argus-Observer as the readers much know but probably no more than most other newspapers our size. Just last week I was about to reprimand the news editor because the headline differed with the story in numbers of persons singing and attending at the Snake River Valley music clinic.

Later I was glad I didn’t for the Freshmen won a regional basketball tournament in Boise and I wrote a headline calling them Sophmores.

It’s never funny to the editor when these things happen to his own paper.

But my it’s funny when they happen to the Oregonian or the Statesman.

Friday, March 25, 2011

1953: From aerial photography to a bad news month

The Argus Observes
By Don Lynch
From the Jan. 5, 1953 issue of The Argus-Observer

Last night Hugh Gale and I looked back over the picture news of 1952. There were some big stories. The Owyhee flood was colorful and we pictured it in considerable detail. We recalled how we rented a plane on an impulse late Wednesday afternoon. The light was just strong enough for us to take aerial photos.

I ran the camera. Hugh handled the film holders and Joe Driscoll flew the plane. It was quite a thrill for me, the one and only time I have ever done any aerial photography, although Gales has been up with cameras twice since then.

The picture of the washout at the railroad bridge at the mouth of the Owyhee River was the best picture of destruction that we got.

The biggest thrill came when we shot the dam. I had no idea of the camera setting needed. It was getting late and I knew that the light in the canyon would be poor. So I opened the aperture on the Speed Graphic clear open to 4.5 and slowed the shutter speed as much as I thought it would stand. Joe flew the plan up along the right side of the canyon, cut back across the face of the dam and turned it up into a vertical position.

We hung suspended there for just a split second with the camera aimed over the edge of the cockpit and pointed almost straight down at the dam. I tripped the shutter at that instant. The result was surprisingly good, an excellent picture when we had hardly hoped to get one at all.

We rushed back to the shop, souped film and printed pictures until almost midnight. I got up early and rushed to the engravers at Nampa Thursday morning and returned before noon in time to get the engravings into the paper. We were proud of the results. The Idaho Statesman, situated just as well for taking pictures and with many times as much news covering strength, didn’t do nearly as well.

We did an extensive job on the new high school which was a top story easily photographed. There were other important stories that produced good pictures: The Owyhee bridge cave-in that killed two workmen, the election, the polio epidemic, and the “Welcome to Oregon” centennial celebration. These events are all noted on today’s summary picture page along with some other human interest pictures.

As we selected pictures last night we recalled Gale’s first month here. I had warned him as he started that sometimes the news was sparse and it took hard digging to get out an interesting paper.

After a few weeks he asked what I meant by dullness in the news. The news seemed plenty active enough for him. In his first month we had the visit of the fabulous nut, Stanley Clement Green, a man burned to death in a trailer house fire, there was a Grad A public row over the failure of the school board to rehire two teachers, the Malheur River flooded and then the Owyhee really flooded all on top of an active situation in school district, city and county news --- plus the regular flow of news.

But in the dog days between the Fourth of July and the county fair Hugh found out what I had been talking about. He almost walked a hole in the tile of the office floor trying to dream up stories good enough for the top front page positions.

That’s the way it is in the news in a small town, in a big city or on an international wire service. It ebbs and flows. It is either feast or famine.

So if we newsmen seem a little crotchety at times, please forgive us and charge our temperament off to the vagaries in the news. We’re either having a terrible time trying to keep abreast of events or we’re tearing our hair out trying to find enough good stories to keep you reading the paper.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Another era -- First graders taught using newspapers

By Don Lynch

From the Nov. 5, 1953 issue of The Argus-Observer

Mrs. Sylvia Osborn, a capable Ontario teacher, brought her charts and illustrative material and various teaching helps to the weekly Kiwanis luncheon (to demonstrate how) information taught is worked into the child’s everyday living.

Each morning Mrs. Osborn’s class starts with the day’s news. At this time each day, the learning of reading is related to the habit of reading about the news.

First graders, she says, are very observant about the weather. So they keep a record every day and at the end of the year they know how many sunny days, rainy days, windy days, etc., there have been during the school term.

A major teaching effort is directed at making the first graders number conscious. Over and over again they are taught that the same combinations will produce the same results whether they are dealing with blocks, or apples, or people, or animals, or any other units. The little ones have a hard time making the transfer of mathematical reasoning from one subject to another and this is a slow learning process.

Six year olds have a different adjustment problem in getting used to the closeness of school work. The rate that reading is learned is much affected by the youngster’s natural ability to focus his eyes.

Adults who in mid-years have to adjust to bifocal glasses get some idea of what a first grader goes through in learning to focus his eyes in order to read, the teacher said.

The children make up the first stories they read, writing them in simple terms to learn simple words, and then re-reading what they have written. They also illustrate their stories, drawing the characters and situations in a group effort.

One evidence of the relation of education to everyday living is that the children in this year’s first grade classes insist on equipping their houses with TV antennas (Editor’s note: TV broadcasts from Boise began to be viewable by homes equipped with antennas just the previous summer.)

During Mrs. Osborn’s talk I was struck by the similarity of the learning process at all levels.

People starting to do advertising layout work have some of the same problems a first grader has in starting to draw numbers and letters. They have difficulty making their letters uniform in size and shape and in gauging the working space so that they make a balanced use of it. Both first graders and advertising layout beginners are helped by lines that indicate where the top and bottom of the letter should go and where the top of the lower case letters should go.

The whole learning process is one of simplification, like a blowup illustration of the parts of a machine to show how it works and where each part goes.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

In 1950s -- Avoiding the "softness" of "New York -- California style of education"

By Don Lynch

From the Nov. 3, 1953 edition of The Argus-Observer

Ernie Hill, Foreign correspondent for the Chicago Daily News, has made an interesting report on the experiences of his son Jonathon in attending schools in New York, Tokyo and London.

The boy had lacked interest in school in the United States and Japan and had repeatedly been tardy, but has taken a real interest in his work in London.

Hill reports, “I once went this school in New York. When I put my head in the door, someone fired a book at me. All the kids were standing up and were screaming. The teacher was shouting and banging on the desk.

“They’re so spirited this morning,” she told me outside. “Their little personalities are expressing themselves. We do nothing to curb their ego.’ When she went back into the classroom, she was beaned by an orange.

“Then, at the American school in Tokyo six of them gave their egos a workout by pushing one boy through a window.”

Hill says that British schools don’t operate that way. Jonathon was never late for school in London. He started doing his homework conscientiously and even studying ahead. When asked what would happen if he didn’t get his homework done, the boy said:

“Well, the Head would send you down to his study. He wouldn’t talk or beg you to do your work. He would just give you six of the best . . . that’s wallops with his birch cane. And boy do they hurt.”

Asked what would happen if a student threw a book, Jonathon said, “That would be a Monday night detention of three to five hours plus six of the best, plus no more swimming or football for the rest of the term.”

Hill reported that under the British influence Jonathon said, “ ‘Yes, sir.’ ‘Yes, thank you,’ and ‘No thank you,’ just like a civilized human being.”

Hill said he wasn’t worrying about Jonathon’s personality or ego, but just “basking in the warm glow of an unbelievable transformation.”

Thank goodness the Ontario schools and other schools in this region are not so progressively minded that the kids are permitted to run wild. We have a healthy compromise here between the severity of the English system and the softness of the New York-California style of education.

My father, a lifelong school teacher now retired, made practical application of the birch-cane technique with good results. He didn’t abuse it, but he did require discipline and order in his school.

I remember very well one occasion when he marched all of his ninth grade boys around the room whacking each one across the back with his belt when they came by his desk. They had refused to leave the outside basketball court to return to class after the noon hour. They never did it again.

There was another time I remember better from personal experience. We kids were confined to a playroom in the schoolhouse basement because of severe weather. One boy used a wooden pointer teachers used for blackboard instruction, put it in the furnace until it was charred and then wiped it across the faces of some of the rest of us. I took it away from him and broke it over his head. About that time we got caught.

The next morning I watched the old man cut three good strong lilac branches, and then walked to school through the deep snow of that year with him and the lilac branches.

The three us of who were in that fight stood up before the room and one lilac branched was used on each of us. I was ashamed because I couldn’t keep from doing a little jig while the other boys were tough enough to stand and take it.

However, the old man wasn’t always so stern. He yielded to the idea of progressive education to the extent of spending considerable effort on directing the learning process along lines that appealed to the interests of individual youngsters. Students got a chance to work on projects they liked and to acquire their learning in terms they would understand.

With that background, it’s no wonder that discipline seem to me an essential prerequisite of education. Attention is essential to learning and discipline is necessary to get attention from most youngsters.

Monday, February 28, 2011

From that Era -- U.S. would have trouble ruling world

From the October 29, 1953 edition of The Argus-Observer

By Don Lynch

Major Malcolm Rosholt, former Air Force officer in the C-B-I theater in World War II and former Shanghi newspaper publisher, debunked the value of the United Nations in his talk to the Knife and Fork club here Tuesday evening.

He told the crowd he had been re-reading Herodotus and was impressed by how little man’s heart had changed in 2400 years.

“Unless man has a remarkably sudden change of heart we will never have peace of much duration during the next 2400 years,” he said.

I asked him if he thought that with the scientific advancement in weapons, man could survive another 2400 years in a world of conflict.

He expressed the opinion that even though millions of people would be killed quickly in an atomic war, the human race would probably survive.

Then he added, “But it would become necessary for one country to rule the world.”
Sometimes that does appear to be the alternative if the United Nations or its equivalent eventually proves entirely futile.

Who would that nation be?

We know the world would be a tragic place if it were run by Russia. But what of the United States?

Could we actually rule the world intelligently? I doubt it. We have trouble enough trying to harmonize the widely diversified interests of our own nation into enough of a common pattern to govern ourselves. We haven’t done that very well. How could we really rule the world except by brute force, even if it was moderated by some awareness of justice as a principle and the Golden Rule as a desirable ideal?

The Romans were just, according to their own standards, and they were intelligent, but they flubbed the job of world rulership when it was much more simple that it would be now. And although they were rugged where we are soft, they couldn’t maintain enough character to handle their responsibilities.

Things are far more complex, travel at a far faster pace in in our world today. If in the decades ahead, circumstances require us to assume the task of ruling the world, the speed of our physical and moral degeneration will probably make the Romans look slow indeed.

Let’s not kid ourselves that we are qualified to rule the world. Far better to keep talking in the United Nations in the hope, however slim, that the world can find solutions and compromises that are at least temporarily acceptable to the diverse interests of its diverse people.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Newspaper -- The first Argus Observes column from Sept 1, 1952

By Don Lynch

This is the fifth anniversary of the consolidation of the Ontario Argus and the Eastern Oregon Observer into the Argus-Observer. This consolidated newspaper has now served the Ontario area for five years as a semi-weekly. It has likely run more pages of newspaper per week, on the average, than any other one newspaper in a town the size of Ontario in the Pacific Northwest.

Some maturity must accrue to a newspaper on its fifth anniversary. Therefore this seems like a fitting occasion to begin a personal column by the editor --- an idea we have been kicking around for a long time.

However, your editor doesn’t feel mature. Newsmen must guard against the feeling that they have “arrived” in professional competence.

The need for such humbleness on the part of working newsmen was well summarized by a sign that used to hang above the sports desk in a Washington D.C. newspaper. It read, “As long as you know you’re green you continue to grow, but when you think you’re ripe, you start to get rotten.”

Columns like this one are standard features to be found in a great many newspapers these days. This trend stems in part from the tremendous readership acquired by syndicated news columns during the past generation. Success of the big columnist has caused editors to feel that a more personal touch would increase the readership of their own material.

For the past generation editors have bemoaned the fact that the readership of newspaper editorials has fallen off. In the days before movies, radio and television, frequently the best entertainment readily at hand was the writing of some old-style fire-eating editor found on the editorial page of the local newspaper. Everyone read the editorials. Today editorials are read by a small percentage of newspaper subscribers --- sometimes referred to by editors as a “select” group.

The editor’s personal column represents an effort on the part of the editor to reach a larger general audience of readers. This was part of my reason for starting a column.
Another more important reason is the freedom and flexibility afforded by a column like this. One can write easily in the first person abut something he had read, a movie he has seen, an experience or idea he has had, all with an easy informality difficult to accomplish within the rather strict limitation of editorial column style.

Selection of the name, “The Argus Observes,” is an obvious one taken from the name of the newspaper.

The name Argus comes from Greek mythology. Subsequent columns will deal with a variety of information and ideas. An early issue will tell the story of the Greek Argus. (Editor’s note: Read that column in a coming post.)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Keeping it interesting in 1953

By Don Lynch
From the April 9, 1953 issue of The Argus-Observer

Few newspaper readers can possibly know how much of the newsman’s time and effort goes into trying to keep the news uncluttered and interesting….

The stock in trade of a weekly newspaper is its names in the news. It is expected to carry the news about the everyday doings of the ordinary folk in its home town and region.

This is sound in principle because it is the basis of reader interest in the paper.

But pursued to extremes this philosophy would produce a sheet that was nothing but inconsequential clutter --- tripe that conceivably might hold the interest of a few avid gossips with a insatiable appetite for what their neighbors are doing but be dreadfully dull to large important groups of readers whose interest is needed if the newspaper is to be “everybodys” newspaper as we attempt to make this one.

Therefore we steadfastly refuse to run meaningless lists of names. We frequently cuts lists of names of people who attended parties or who attended meeting. If they won prizes, were elected to offices or made committee reports, they may get mentioned. But lists that run a half a dozen or more names in a lump are taboo in the news unless they are in the news of crime and violence which really has public interest.

One of the most frequent requests for dull treatment of the news comes from well-meaning sponsors of various worthwhile projects, who when the work is done, want to publicly thank the people who pushed the project….Readers just aren’t interested in all these gracious comments of thanks. So we try to avoid them unless they have some real news value.

The good people who want this sort of news printed seem to feel that if a helper is publicly thanked in print it somehow means more to him than if he just receives a personal thank you.

It is quite the other way with me.

I quite agree with “Rainwater” Jones who once gave me the idea in conversation that it is both good religion and good business to keep quiet about the various things you do in public service.
The broad general statement of ethics, the Sermon on the Mount, says something about, “When thy doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.”

There is another quite practical reason why many people don’t want a fuss made over their public efforts. They don’t want to be “snowed” with further requests.

There is a premium these days on persons willing to help on public projects and the willing horse is apt to get worked to death. I’d rather not be known as such a horse, and I’m sure many other people feel the same way.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Brevity in Feminine Attire

(Editor's note: This is another favorite post from some year's back. It's a post taken from a front page column my father wrote for his newspaper.)

From the Sept. 20, 1954 issue of The Ontario Argus-Observer

The Argus Observes
By Don Lynch

Brevity in feminine attire has become about as commonplace and unexciting as an old print dress.

The utter indifference often accorded a scantily clad female was brought to my attention last summer by a chance observance.

On one of the warmer days in late summer, I sat in a barber shop getting a shoe shine and watched a junior miss in high cuffed shorts and a scanty shirt wend her way through and past the groups of men that dotted the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street.

Her blouse may have been what the women call a halter scarf. At any rate, it wasn’t quite as diverting as the skin tight T shirts sometimes seen this past summer which, unfortunately, seem to appear most often on the fat girls.

This girl was strictly a youngster who looked so young in fact that the average man would feel a little hesitant to note that she was a candidate to be quite a woman.

At first I thought that she might be unaware of the rather obvious display of her charm. But not so. After she had walked the block one way she soon came back the other direction and it was plain that she was conscious of her feminine attractions. At least it was plain from where I sat.

Yet not a single one of a couple dozen men standing on the street gave her a second glance. Most of them didn’t even give her a first glance.

Perhaps if she had been dressed in snug fitting denim waist overalls, she might have rated more attention. She would have looked like a more approachable type to her audience.

The contrast in today’s attitude toward women’s dress and that of a generation ago is well illustrated by an incident I remember from my childhood.

My country-school teacher father sent two of his high school girl students home to get appropriately dressed when they rolled their stockings down below their knees and wore short knee-length skirts in the first of the flapper days.

I don’t think he was shocked but he thought the community would be horrified. So he made the girls cover a little more before he would let them stay in school.

Where will we be in another generation? Will it be bikini suits or less on the girls by then?
I hope not. There are still some things I’d prefer to leave to my imagination.
However, I shall try to ride with the times, adjusting to the trends whatever they may be to keep from being separated from the youthful part of society by the devastating attitude generally accorded to disapproving elders.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Was that a flying saucer or what?

Editor's note:

While I work on another writing project, I'm going to recycle some of my favorite posts of old Argus-Observer stories for the enjoyment of anyone who stumbles on this blog, as folks do from time to time.

Here's an early one:

The Sept. 8, 1952 issue of The Argus-Observer reported the area’s “first close-up eye witness report of a ‘flying saucer’ incident" occurred the previous Saturday.

Mr. and Mrs. Cliff Drinkwine said that about 9:50 a.m. they saw what could be a weather balloon but seemed to be under some kind of control when it moved away quickly.

The flying object sat down on the Drinkwine property a half mile south of Payette and a quarter of a mile east of U.S. Highway 30.

The Drinkwines said the object was about five feet in diameter and looked like it was made of rubber rather than metal. At first, they assumed it was a weather balloon but “decided it was something other than a weather balloon when it appeared to be controlled as it came to rest and especially as it moved rapidly away.”

The Drinkwines decided the object was remote controlled. Cliff Drinkwine said he believes so-called “saucers” are a secret military device controlled by the United States.

DRAT. Here's the answer published three days later.

L. L. Sevlha, manager of what was identified as the CAA weather station, apparently the federal weather bureau, said he was certain the object seen by Cliff Drinkwine and his wife on the previous Friday was a weather balloon.

Sevlha told The Argus-Observer for its Sept. 11 edition that his station released a weather balloon that was two feet by two and a half feet at about 8:50 a.m. on that Friday, and that it drifted in the direction of Payette, near where the Drinkwines spotted their flying object at about 9:30.

Sevlha said the balloon responds to air currents in much the way the Drinkwines reported that the object had moved.

Sevlha added that his organization is authorized to receive reports of flying saucer type objects and pass those reports along to the military.