From Shorpy


This is a continuation of yesterday, I suppose, for several reasons.

While people like dog stories, I have no dog stories, except to note that we had ribs tonight, and Jasper probably walked half a mile around the table, circling, waiting for something to fall. I shaved off some good stuff and put some bean sauce on a plate, which was instantly consumed and forgotten and replaced with the usual canine ingratitude: more, right? Right? He had to live in agony for an hour waiting for my wife to come home, so he could have more of that unbelievable bean sauce. And that is my dog story. See? Nothing.

Wife was late because she was giving a presentation at work, which was a rare missed-family dinner. I insist we all eat together for the evening meal. Her new job means that dinner went from six to the almost-European 7 PM. Because her new job is also stressful it means that I have added colorful sweet peppers to the salad, in the hopes they strike a cheerful note. See? Nothing.

Daughter has spent much of the evening perfecting a routine whereby she claps, picks up a cup, puts it down, and claps again. And I have spent some of the evening surreptitiously filming her practice. About 79% of all family video shot in the last 3 years ends with DAD.

Me? I’m back on the novel, after a period of despair. I have exhausted all the TV shows I was following, so I am watching . . . oh, it’s come to this. The second season of “The Killing.” Just because I watched the first. I don’t like it any more than the first, but we’re past the red-herring phase and on to the Deep Dark Corruption with Tentacles Everywhere, I Tell You phase that’s the inevitable end of any story that starts with a dead girl in a trunk. Of course, real estate is involved.

The problem I had with “Autumn Solitaire” had nothing to do with the fact that there’s a dead woman, and real estate is involved, and there’s a serial killer, and I find most serial killer stories unrealistic. My problem had to do with my attempt to use all those tropes in a way that wasn’t predictable. The beauty of it all, if I can do it right, is that it seems to be telling one story when it’s actually telling another.

Anyway. I went to the office today and cleaned my desk, because I sit with my feet up, and the winter grit from my soles gets on the desk. I cleaned out some drawers and threw some things in the document boxes under the desk. After three moves I stopped taking things out of the boxes. I stopped making the office a home-away-from. A cubicle is a stage set, and newspaper cubicles are always jammed with headlines pinned up, pithy quotes intended to inspire, the inevitable Progeny Art. It’s a personal space you slide into like a cockpit, with the picture of the Best Gal Back Home stuck on the control panel with Beeman’s gum and a rosary draped around a knob, that sort of thing. I prefer a minimal approach.

Under the desk are the boxes from previous moves. If the word comes down, I can pile four boxes on my desk and be done. And I’m pretty sure the word is going to come down. The building is doomed.

Just a suspicion.

Yesterday I noted that they were taking out a few file cabinets that contained the photograph morgue for the paper.



They’re not coming back.

For some reason I decided to go down in the clipping morgue, to see if that stuff had been taken away. I don’t know how they can scan this stuff - it’s forty years of clippings, indexed in envelopes, arranged alphabetically. Probably the scanned newspapers from microfiche will be OCR’d, if they haven’t been already. Much easier. And we don’t need this . . .


. . . the Index to Periodical Literature from 1937 on.

There are boxes and boxes left behind by people who worked at the paper and wanted to leave something for the historical record. A box from a promotions guy who was working with the library and publishing companies to start Reading Events - nothing in it for us, really, but it burnished the Good Citizen / Civic Leader angle. Several boxes made you want to just sigh, though:


Scrapbooks of editorials. The writers clipped them out and glued them in scrapbooks, like teenagers. The equivalent of a .zip or a pdf, I suppose. No one will read them and they don’t really bear reading anyway. Banal predictable commentary, little “joke” editorials - the Lighter Side of the News! - that make you wince, since most are written in the Man Next Door style.


That would be Burton Hillis. Let me turn to the internet for a better explanation:

Try looking Burton Hillis up in the Kingsport Public Library’s catalog and you’ll find "Your entry would be here" and no entry. You’ll get the same answer at That’s because Burton Hillis never wrote a book.

Read the expanded version of this report in the print edition or the enhanced electronic version of the Kingsport Times-News.

No, I don’t think I will. Some examples from elsewhere:

Businessman Ed Hunter says some of his problems could be solved if the cheerful man who writes the bank ads also were a member of the loan committee.

When I was young, “hot stuff” described things we liked; today the children refer to them as “cool.” But in the meantime, most of my generation discovered they are “lukewarm” at best.

Grandpa Hillis pointed out the other evening that if there were a law against being foolish, we’d all be in jail.

Okay. You know the style. Burton Hillis was actually William Vaughn, who wrote a newspaper column for the KC Star. The “Man Next Door” lines are beloved by some, but tastes change; what had zing now tastes like boiled spinach.








I found a copy of the special edition the paper put out to celebrate the new building. The public was invited, of course; the paper was a public institution. They were invited to watch the mighty presses spin up and pour forth the blessings of a free press and a free people:



There weren't, and aren't, too many businesses that built public viewing areas so people could wander off the street and watch the product being made.

The lobby:




The lobby today. It’s not as Studio 54 as it looks. The details are maddening - the stairs are different today but seem to be of 1947 vintage. The elevator doors are different, but only in as much as there’s one Linotype operator instead of three.


The steps to the fourth street exit were impressive, for a back door:



See that little door on the landing? Still there. It's 2/3rds the size of a normal door. Building maintenance was performed by Middle-Earth Dwarves in those days.




I've no idea why they did that.

Finally, I found something buried in a stack of papers stuck in a folder and jammed in a cupboard with other stacks and folders and cast-off old editions and rate sheets and memos saved for no earthy reason. A negative of a picture of the newsroom. I held it up to the light and took a picture, and once I in front of a useful machine I coaxed it back to lfe.



The shoe, as I call it in "Autumn Solitaire," based on something someone told me once. The horseshoe-shaped copy desk. In the background in the middle, I believe that's a series of maps that pulled down. Imagine the din when the place was cooking.

One more thing:



Explanation tomorrow.












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