Thursday, January 6, 2022

Life Changes in January 1972

Fifty years ago this week my Life Changed.  I had been footloose and fancy free, as they say.  During the first week of January 1972, I was hired on as Editor of "The Zionsville Times" and "The Northern Suburbanite" newspapers based out of Zionsville, Indiana, a then distant suburb of Indianapolis.

Zionsville was a picture postcard 19th Century throwback with a brick Main Street and all manner of Victorian gingerbread-bedecked houses scattered along tree lined streets.  It was the kind of small town Normal Rockwell could have retired to.  Zionsville was founded in 1825 and got its own weekly newspaper in 1860.  One of the very first Big News Stories "The Zionsville Times" covered in 1860 was a whistle stop by a guy named Abraham Lincoln who happened to be campaigning for President.  Back then a main line railroad ran right through the small town.

Anyway, a pompous meglo-maniac had purchased the two newspapers.  He needed some low paid flunky to hire on as Editor to attempt to keep them on life support. We won't give his name for a variety of reasons. We'll call him Jimbo.  Jimbo actually had a pompous three word name with the numeral III behind it and he insisted on being addressed as "the third" because of that numeral.  To say he was pompous is an understatement.  He was carried around in a stretch limo by a meticulously-dressed chauffeur. Whenever Jimbo came to visit the Zionsville office, the chauffeur would sweep through the front door and announce that so-and-so The Third was about to enter.  We were all required to stand up and show proper respect for Jimbo upon his entry.

Jimbo had purchased quite a chain of newspapers in and around Indianapolis.  He had grandiose visions that never materialized according to his mega-expectations.  First off, he milked each publication for every stray dollar he could while paying staff the least  amount possible.  Jimbo really despised dealing with actual people, especially people he paid.  So most of his communications where in the form of "orders" that were delivered by the chauffeur in an envelope that had been sealed with hot wax on the back flap.

Anyway, I really needed a job 50 years ago. ANY job!  We girl friend and I had just returned from Seattle in what was widely known as "The Dead Of Winter" back then.  The Dead of Winter was to Indiana during the cold months what the Dog Days were to the Hoosier state in the high heat of summer.  Cathy and I had barely supported ourselves in Seattle selling Time-Life books over the phone.  She became acutely homesick and was also suffering from a raging case of Seasonal Affective Disorder. The only solution was to return to Indiana which we did just before the Holidays.

Well, her parents were incessant with the "When are you going to get a job?" refrain.  Morning, noon and night that's all I heard from them: "When are you going to get a job?"  Young people back then just couldn't be slackers.  They HAD to have a job. That's all there was to it back then.

Well, that's why I leaped at the chance to be Editor of "The Zionsville Times."  It sounded like a real job and I never told Cathy's parents just how low the wages were.  They were pleased that I had a real job and was actually using my Purdue journalism degree.  My folks were pleased, too, but they were OK with me being a slacker as well.

Well, it wasn't a fun job.  Nope.  Everybody in Zionsville hated Jimbo and some of them hated Jimbo so much they took it out on me.  People thought Jimbo was the root cause of a lot of social ills and all the old geezers in Zionsville loved to heap score on Jimbo, his newspaper and his employees.  There were only three of us in that little office and we felt like it was us against the whole world.  Some days it was tough to even walk out of the office and face people on the streets of Zionsville.  You have NO idea how difficult it was trying to get stories out of people in Zionsville.  They were all convinced that I couldn't write my way out of a paper bag.

Apparently, the person before me had ZERO writing skills and totally butchered every story he ever tried to write.  Slowly but surely, I convinced them that I was real and I cared and I would do my best even if Jimbo tried to thwart success.

Within a couple of months I actually had made some Friends in Zionsville and people began giving me compliments and even smiling when they saw me.  Whew!   It didn't take long before Zionsville people began hitting me up.  It went like this: "You ought to start your own newspaper and run Jimbo out of town!"  Seriously.

Well, that's how getting that job 50 years ago this week changed my life.  By spring time I'd heard the "run Jimbo out of town" so much I actually began to believe I could do it.  Cathy and I were married in May and I soon thereafter quit as Editor of "The Zionsville Times" and "The Northern Suburbanite". On August 8, 1972, we started "Zionsville Main Street" newspaper, a tri-weekly that sold for "One Red Cent" a copy.  It was an instant success.

Oh, MAN!  What a life-changing saga that was.  Cathy and I and our few loyal employees slugged it out for almost a full year with Jimbo and "The Zionsville Times."  Finally, we stole all of his subscribers and advertisers and ran him out of business and out of town.  He literally emptied out the office in the dark of night and locked the door and fled into whatever dark alleys meglo-maniacs frequent.

We were able to assume the sales contract of "The Zionsville Times" from its former owner for something like a mere $10,000 and then we actually owned and published two paid circulation newspapers.  Those were heady days of unbridled economic and social success.  

We were the toast of the town.  Money poured into our coffers.  We could do no wrong--make no mistakes.  Everything we touched turned to success. It was incredible and amazing.   The joyride went on for years in the 70's. It got to the point where we thought we were invincible.

And, well, you know how that goes.  NO one is invincible.  The higher they fly, the harder they fall. Sure enough, it all came crashing down and that's how I started a new life in Arizona.  But that's another story.

So, in the meantime for everyone who was curious about my cryptic little note on January 6, that's what happened 50 years ago this week that changed my Life.

To be continued.

Epilog: Numerous things happened after my divorce and departure from Zionsville.  The Zionsville Main Street and Times went through several incarnations and various names and finally folded for good in Year 2020 due to the pandemic.  It was absorbed by Boone County's leading newspaper in Lebanon and is no more.

No comments: