On. December 1, 1946, I walked in the door at 108 East 16th, said ‘hello’ shook hands all around and joined the staff of the Falls City Journal as Sports Writer.
Seventy-One years later on Thursday, August 31, I said ‘So long,” and walked out the side door of the Journal no longer on the newspaper staff.
It has been a great ride, as they say, thanks to the loyal subscribers of the Journal as well as the people of Richardson County and the faithful advertisers who have helped us keep the doors open.
I was cheap help with on-the-job training under the G.I. Bill. However, one of my majors at the University of Nebraska was Journalism. So I wasn’t a complete blank.
My job was to cover Falls City High School sports as well as the sports of the Little
Ten Conference Schools. The ten schools were Falls City Sacred Heart, Humboldt, Salem, Honey Creek, Dawson, Stella, Verdon, Bratton-Union, Shubert and Rulo. The Little Ten was very competitive, and the fans were very faithful. I recall one football game when the Verdon coach had had enough of one mouthy fan on the sideline, went over and punched him, and then went back to coaching. At Rulo, the Superintendent/Coach at basketball practice was scrimmaging with his players. He went in for a layup, was fouled and when he went down his head hit the floor. He never regained consciousness and died a couple of days later.
So much for the Little Ten. That was before Doug Goltz took over as Sacred Heart Coach and won State Championships in football, basketball, and track.
After four years of writing sports, I took over the City Editors job. The great sports editors who followed me were Claire Hurlbert, Del Sutherland, and Jason Schock, the latter introducing two column bold headlines and excellent action photos.
Some other vivid memories over the 71 years:
- Floods-The worst of them all was the long Missouri River bluff-to-bluff flood of 2011. Everything along the river was under water for months. No crops. The flood of 1993 came right in there, the Ruynan- Pfister interests losing 500 head of cattle when the Missouri River flooded rapidly. I can recall taking photos in an airplane piloted by Jim Winsterman. We were over the flooded area when Jim remarked: “Bill we better hope this engine doesn’t quit.” It brought back memories of WWII flying over the North Atlantic. Same thing only four engines.
- Not a Pulitzer. A man came into the office and was pondering over the counter. Finally, he said I guess I’ll keep on another year. It ain’t the best paper in the world, but it is something to read.’ Another time a man brought an ad in for placement in the Journal and when he was told the price he said ‘the old man gave me a better price. The clerk said, ‘who’s the old man?’ He said ‘Bill Schock.’
- County Fair, I reported the Coronation Program for a number of years, and it was always a good night. —a hamburger and a slice of pie at The Stella Church food tent preceded a photo op of the queen candidates and their escorts in the basement of the Christian Church. The Reverend Ward Merritt, never at a loss for words, was the emcee for years and one night I remember he changed sports coats seven times during the colorful ceremony.
- Duty. One of my assignments was reporting city council meetings. Would you believe in 30 in doing so I reported 720 council meetings. Not all of them fun.
- Fires. The worst in my memory was the Sure-Gro fire in the former Missouri Pacific Railroad 28-stall roundhouse on Palm Sunday in 1984. The burning chemicals’ toxic fumes in the fertilizer productions were being wafted over the south part of town and people living south of 14th street went to relatives’ and friends’ homes and Prichard Auditorium for the night. It was a national news story.
- Falls City High basketball. In 1973 the Tigers were playing for the Class B State Championship at the Coliseum in Lincoln. Hordes of Tiger fans descended upon Lincoln only to be told at the Coliseum doors that the place was sold out. Like a swarm of mad bees we spread out over Lincoln to find television sets. So most of us watched the Tigers win the title in rented motel’s dinky tv sets. I wrote a scathing article suggesting the tourney be held in a place that accommodates the teams’ fans. I was told my name became mud in Lincoln. They didn’t want to lose the big bunch of tournament dollars.
- Crowd Pleasers. The Horseplay Days parades were spectacular. Stone Street storefronts were filled with businesses in those days. Businesses on each side of the street vyed for who had the most lavish float with young lovelies aboard. The first horse show at City Park drew upwards of 2,000 onlookers. Then there were the Lions Club Minstrels at Prichard Auditorium. Then the Farmer-Merchant Banquets at Prichard, complete with home talent shows directed by Mary Talchen-Whitehouse and long-time emcee Ed Hartman always announcing a crowd of 1,500. The FM banquets were for men only until one year when the entertainment was Kansas City dancing girls, very mild compared to what’s seen on TV today, and wives, who had their own banquets, demanded their presence at the following banquets. They got it.
- Crime. Who can forget the two torture murders at the cult in Rulo or the three murders in a farm house south of Humbolt, and their aftermaths? The late Scott Schock did a fantastic job of reporting the investigations and the trials of those involved in both instances. Scott’s work was highlighted in a movie made of the Humboldt murders.
- Tragedies. Of course, the Braniff International air crash on August 6, 1966, topped them all. I was on the crash scene about two hours after the crash in which 42 people were killed, so the first description of the horrific scene to the Associated Press was by the Journal. It was an international story. The Journal covered the Air crash story every day for the following week until the crash site was cleared.
When Leo Nusbaum was writing the editorial column he signed it with his initials L.F.N. when I took over the column I decided to use my initials too, B.S. The next day, Roman Fleskoski came into my office and said, boy, you sure named that column right. My mother demanded a quick change.
During my time at the Journal, I have seen Falls City become a much more progressive community. Such as citywide approval of the remodeling of Prichard Auditorium, a state of the art Library and Arts Center, the Community Medical Center, the Aquatic Center, the Baseball and Softball Complex, Brenner Field, the best small town Airport in the three state area. Not to mention the local effort, under the leadership of Mitch Glaser getting us a new bridge over the Missouri River at Rulo. Another plus; the financing for two new elementary schools, the middle school and the renovation of Falls City High School, all with heavy Journal backing of the bond issues and the votes leading to the construction.
I would be remiss not to mention the great work done by Nikki and Brian McKim, Jason Schock, Chelsie Alexander and Ron Dodds the past several years or so as my efforts as been nil. They have been super co-workers and I am so proud of the newspapers they have produced.
Most of it but certainly not all of it has been fun and rewarding. Way back when I was a German P.O.W. I told my 11 ‘roommates’ “If I ever get out of this lousy place alive, I’m never going to leave the city limits of Falls City.” They laughed and thought I was nuts, they had never heard of such a small town, but that’s the way it’s been.
Thanks again for all of your support these many years. I know that under the direction of its new owner Richard Halbert, the Falls City Journal will continue to be a good community newspaper you will want to read.
Of course, there’s lots of other stuff, but this has been a smattering of 71 years of work at the Falls City Journal.