Off the Record January 31, 1948
“Off the Record” by EC Dix 1-31-48
It will be fifty years ago tomorrow night, Feb. 1st since I arrived in Wooster. It was a bitter cold evening, Feb. 1, 1898 when I got off the 6:31 train at the [Wooster, Ohio | Wooster]] depot. Really, it was not an event worth recording. Nothing like Columbus discovering America, but to me it was a big event in a little life. I was a kid of 24, just seven months out of college. You might not have to even use your fingers, reader, to figure out that through living in Wooster, I have become an old man. One or two of my sons in speaking to each other refer to me as “The Old Man”. Many years ago, I used to think that when a man got to be seventy he would probably collapse and the folks would shovel him out. As I approached that age, the idea of being shoveled out ceased to appeal to me as strongly as it did. John McSweeney, our June’s father, used to have a favorite expression, “He has one foot in the grave and the other on a banana skin”. Maybe that’s the way we oldsters stack up with the youngsters. Robert Dix, who frequently thinks ahead of me, sometimes reminds me when I lean on the safety valve, “That’s the way they did in the old hack and buggy days.” My arrival in Wooster was to take over the interest my father, the late Albert Dix (surname) Dix, had purchased in the Daily Republican and the Wooster Republican, the latter a weekly and the stronger of the two. I had some newspaper experience in Hamilton during vacations and I thought I was to look after the business department of the paper here. Fact is, the Hamilton Daily News is in noting my departure, had stated I was leaving for Wooster to assume the business management of the Republican. The folks who held the other half of the paper here in Wooster, had different ideas, for when they reproduced the article it was changed to say that I was to assume permanent relations with the Republican. And so it was. The relations have been permanent. I first worked in the circulation department. The circulation on my arrival was 500 or better. The paper was being run by TC Reynolds, assisted by his son, Will Reynolds and as small town papers go, it was a good newspaper. Mr. Reynolds has long since passed away and Will has for several years been one of the most valued members of the Cleveland Plain Dealer staff. I am sure the years will bear me out by the statement that the two made a most valuable contribution to Wayne County’s newspaper life by piloting a daily paper through the penic period by printing real news and keeping the record clean all through it. My circulation efforts produced some results. I had previously had considerable experience in this department and it was my apple. I had been a newsboy in Hamilton and my father, to keep me out of trouble in High School and on vacations, had put me out with a seasoned circulation man and a real fighter. Transferred afterwards to advertising, the going was a little tougher. WO Beebe, who ran a dry goods store where Brenner Bros. original one room store was located, had ten inches on the first page for which he paid thirty cents a day. Among the contracts I was able to make was one with William Muschenick, whereby he to was to pay thirty cents a day for a ten inch ad. Part of the agreement was that I was to collect 1.80 each week on Monday. One Monday, Mr. Muschenick was out of the store. Not sensing the importance of the matter, I allowed the collection date to lapse over until the following Monday. The bill was than 3.60. Mr. Muschenick looked at the bill. He turned pale and mad, “$3.60 for advertising? Take it out” he said. And thus ended a contract I had carefully nursed. Business really did pick up when the Frellander’s were in the process of reorganization, following the death of DL Freelander and they were soon running regularly. Nick Amster happened along from Gallion full of energy and he was running once a week in the daily and in the weekly. David Nice was always a prolific user of printer’s ink. Craighead Grocery, located where the Citizen National Bank now stands was a regular. WH Wiler ran a three inch ad for 25 years and there were many, including the present Boyds Drug Store, who aided in keeping the wolf off the front porch and with a growing circulation, they got results too. I assume that many people remember our office. It was not a pretentious office. It occupied the east half of the room that is now the east portion of the Woolworth Store. Will Horn’s news depot occupied the other half. We had the back part and what upstairs there was. The rent was 20 a month. When Judge Adair bought the building, he upped the rent to 27.00 a month. At that particular time, we could have bought the building for 5400. What held us from buying it was the lack of the 5400. I had distinct recollections of the time we bought the other half of the newspaper. We borrowed the money from the Wayne County National Bank. Jacob Frick was the president of the bank and the stipulation was that we pay the bank seven per cent interest. Judge ML Smyser, Judge Ross W Funk, Captain AS McClure and WF Kean all joined in signing the note, which was in the neighborhood of 12000. As one looks back at Wooster history, he cannot fail to be impressed with the fact that the bank was not taking a great deal of a chance and that there was no danger of the bank examiners calling the attention of the directors to any weakness in that note. All the gentleman except ourselves had plenty of what it takes. The seven per cent was a bit stiff, compared with interest rates that are in vogue today, for this meant there was over 800 to be raised each year before we could began to reduce the indebtedness and anyone who was in the printing business around the turn of the century, will back me up in the statement that even 800 profit did not just grow out on a bush.
Bill Graver was sheriff. He had been elected by five majority and he had a sort of deal to divide the sheriff’s sale advertisements with the Wayne County Democrat. Evidently somebody had laid off a little. Anyway, the last year he was in, he passed the sheriff’s sales all over to us and many a Saturday night we had to wait till the sheriff’s sales were paid in before we could complete the payroll. Those are the days of vivid recollection when we sweat a lot of blood. Some of the younger members of my family have heard me make the above statement before when I have been endeavoring to hold down the safety valve. The publication of a newspaper in Wooster has not been too serious a business. There has been a sort of a glamour about it that language cannot describe. When my father and I came to Wooster, we came from a much larger town. We intended to build up a newspaper property here, sell it out at better price and establish ourselves in a larger city. But as the years went by, we were so happy and we became so firmly rooted here, that we abandoned all thought of living elsewhere. The people were so good to us and we liked every one of them so well that we decided they would have to put up with us for our natural lives. I like to think back over fifty golden years and to muse over them, sort of like one if he were a musician and would sort of improvise an old refrain on the piano. Maybe that is the reason Kreisler’s Old Refrain has so much appeal for me.
Our reportorial staff, when I came to Wooster, was not a large staff. It consisted of George Kettler. And George Kettler was a man of many parts. He was also city bill poster and his organization distributed all kinds of samples and there were a lot of medicine samples distributed in those days. That’s one way they advertised. When George Kettler used to get those samples to distribute, I remember especially well he used to read about the possible cures on the outside of the package and remark, “I believe that’s just what is the matter with me.” I do not believe there was ever a man who up to George Kettler’s time had written so much local newspaper copy . He would write most of it by hand and finally he graduated to a Hammond typewriter and his fingers would glide along the keys as if he were playing a beautiful symphony. I remember so many things about George. He was devoted to his family. His telephone numbers were 143. He lived more in the outer districts and on mornings of big snow storms, he would call up and report he probably could not make it but always and without fail he would be the first man at the office.
TC Reynolds was editor and he had a habit of watching the exchanges and clipping little articles which he would tuck on his desk until it was quite piled up. George would often take his cap, he generally wore a cap, and thrash it down on the desk where Mr. Reynolds had a piled pretty high. There would then be clippings scattered all over the floor. He would “never miss’em” George would remark. If the clippings were missed, nothing was ever said. I do not suppose there was any one in Wooster that knew as much about so many people as George Kettler. He never betrayed a confidence. Sometimes I would reproach him for holding up publication of a story beyond what I considered good judgment and sometimes when a story he was holding would assume the proportions of public property, he would go to the source and get it released. One of the reasons he could readily obtain information from people was that they could trust him. The first year I was here, Will Reynolds and I used to supplement our work during the Spanish American War, but we were always careful never to tread on his preserves and we did not need to. He could report weddings and funerals with equal ease. His daughter, Lena, after her graduation from high school was our first society editor and she added a feminine touch that was really needed. The only fault I have ever found with Guy Richard was that he married a very wonderful society editor. The only trouble we have every had with our society editors has been their invariable tendency towards matrimony. Stella Smith succeeded Lena upon the latter’s marriage. Grace Smith succeeded Stella. Grace Wile succeeded Grace and I could go on and on but the many dozens.
Our circulation department, in 1898 and for some years thereafter, consisted of Samuel T Swartz. Sam was a former dry goods salesman. He sold dry goods in the store that was the predecessor to Quimby and Kline, located in the site of the present Sally’s Store. His hearing became a bit afflicted and not having the hearing aids of today, he had to seek another vocation. The Mrs. Reynolds had secured him before the Dix regime and we were very fortunate to have him. There were the days when the collector collected and Sam went out after the circulation money and brought it back with him. In after years, one of his sons used to help him and finally when he became somewhat feeble and opposition became rather tense, we put him out after raw business. Sam would watch for every opportunity and seldom did a new family move to town that Sam was not on hand when the moving van delivered the household goods. He would come back to the office triumphantly stating “I’ve got him and I’ve got the money in my pants.” At that time in the early days of the century, there were seven newspapers published in Wooster, four weekly and three daily. There was the Wayne County Democrat and the Daily News, The Journal and the Jacksonian, the Daily Republican, the Weekly Republican and the Wayne County Herald, the later a very ardent prohibition organ. This last was the first to feel the pinch and wink out. It had been published by JH Dickason and JO Notestine. In order to make certain that we would get all the legal advertising which paid off handsomely in those days, I tried to buy it from Prof. Dickason but for some reason, I always thought it was his honest knowledge that the circulation was at a low ebb and he would not sell. Six months afterward, it ceased to come out. Afterward by agreement with John C Hoffman, we bought the Daily News and Jacksonian. The Jacksonian circulation going to the Democrats while we took the Daily Journal circulation. The Daily Journal had 30 subscribers in the city that we did not have, although we picked up quite a number on the rural routes. The issue was thus squared away with the Daily News and Wayne County Democrat on one side and the daily and weekly Republican on the other. It ran that way for several years. Finally, the Wayne County Democrat was merged with the Daily News and we merged our weekly circulation with the daily and in 1919, we were able to conclude a deal merging the Daily News and weekly Republican into the present Wooster Daily Record. If I were asked at what time in the past 50 years competition was the hardest, I would say it was during the ownership of the Daily News by ES Wertz, Charles Curry, Fred Zimmerman and John C Hoffman. There was a zing in the competition that certainly kept us on our toes. JE Britton came into the picture later as the Daily News manager. He had been a prominent circulation contest man and he knew all the tricks of the trade. Mr. Britton made a personal issue of it. In fact, personal journalism was quite prevalent in Wooster for awhile. He attached to me the name of “Little Meno”, a comic supplement character of the time and for awhile the fighting was not confined to the “Marquis of Queensberry” rules. He was a restless soul however, and it was a great relief when I found one day he was leaving town. One of the best strokes of business that happened to us occurred when my father was able to interest William Annat to advertise. Mr. Annat had never been an advertiser. When I came to Wooster, he had the largest store here and he did considerable business for the Democrat too. The deal was made. It was for twelve inches, four inches across three columns. In fact fifty years ago newspaper advertising was a sort of a hit and miss art. Everyone else in Wooster had tried their wits in advertising but Mr. Annat, with the best dry goods store in town, was apparently making plenty of money without it. It is possible too, that there were so many places and newspapers to advertise in that Mr. Annat might have been a bit confused. My father and Mr. Annat were rather kindred souls. Once a week for a long period of time, father would call on Mr. Annat, brush over the subject of advertising and talk about other things. The clerks in the Annat Store were good clerks. They had connections socially and knew when there were special goods of special sales. They would call up their friends or write them. But finally one day, Mr. Annat told father he was ready to try out advertising but he felt he ought to run in the Wayne County Democrat in addition to our paper. Father said he thought he ought to run in the Democrat ,too. The deal was made. It was for twelve inches, four inches across, three columns daily and in the weekly, too and the same copy was to be furnished the Democrat. There was no contract signed. It was just an understanding between two gentlemen., start when you want and quit when you please. But Mr. Annat never quit. It paid him and increased his business. Lew McClellan wrote the Annat advertising. He wrote it for years and years. In the latter years before he retired, Lew McClellan’s brain was clear and steady and his last copy was turned out just as William Annat would have wished it turned out if he could have directed it himself.
One of the circumstances that was most helpful to me and to the Daily Record was the association with my father to the late Albert Dix over a period of thirty seven years. We were business partners during those years. Of course, like other young fellows, I did not think during my early years that father knew very much. Thus, like others, I was finally surprised he knew as much as he did, and somehow as I look back, I remember that while he always gave me plenty of rope, he was always right there in the pinches. Up to the very last and he was in his ninetieth year when he passed away. His judgment was more than just good. Father had received plenty of bumps and he remembered all of them charitably. And father hardly ever said. It was most always we. He was very conservative. It is true, when I wanted to plunge ahead just as my sons feel I am conservative, when they likewise are springing ideas most of which are wonderful. But by and large over the years, we have not made too many mistakes and are beyond rectification. We had some brief participations in politics. Judge Charles Jones will remember this one as he was deputy probate judge at the time. Ross W Funk was the republican nominee who was running against Robert L Adair. A Wooster resident, John C Warfal had signed an affidavit connecting Adair with an election discrepancy. Discrepancy is the best word for it. Anyway, we were offered the affidavit for publication. It was a hot one. The offer was practically a command. Judge John C [McClarran (surname) | McClarran]] was judge of the probate court at the time and was much interested in Adair election. He at once threatened suit if the affidavit was published. It was father’s judgment that we let the thing simmer for a few days as it was quite a little spell till election. The boys behind the affidavit did not want it to simmer. They craved action. So they had a lot of copies printed at the Clapper Printing Co.. After it was all out and public, we were advised it would be quite legal and non-suitable if that is a legal word, as well as perfectly safe for us to refer to the generous circulated affidavit. This we did quite copiously. Adair was elected by 36 votes and in three years reelected for a second term. Ross Funk, who lost out then, was afterward appointed and several times reelected to the appellate court, where he served with distinction. The reason the matter is so fresh in my memory is because I still possess the original affidavit and I ran across it the other day in my safe at the Daily Record office where I have been keeping it as a memento of other days.
Another entry into politics was when I nominated single handed the late Judge Frank Taggart for congress at Coshocton, Ohio Coshocton one day. It was bold of me to do it but the district was strangely democratic and I had no problem putting my man across. Judge Taggart declined to run and some straw man was nominated, but not elected. My other excursions into politics consisted mostly in being a sort of chairman over a term of a great many years. Collector of internal revenue, when Elmer Landes was party chairman over a term of a great many years. That is, I made the rounds of the postmasters and the candidates for postmasters and gathered in the shackles to run the campaign. These incidents have little to do with publishing a newspaper. But it was impossible back then, to be considered with a newspaper and not be sort of connected with politics in some official or unofficial capacity. You just could not stand off and look things over. You were really in.
One of the news stories was close to the end of the campaign of 1920 when Harding was running for president and Dr. Wm E Chancellor had produced some evidence that had been given national circulation to the effect that Harding’s blood was not altogether free from Negro taint. A meeting of the college trustees was summoned to, shall we say, not reelect? Dr. Chancellor. The general headquarters of the not reelections movements were in the present offices of Dan C Funk, then shared by Mr. Funk’s father, the late Judge Funk and Harry R Smith, who had the next office down the hall. In all my life, I had never seen such an intent assemblage for any cause gathered together at one time. Here were detectives, investigators, statisticians and some just plain honest-to-goodness but somewhat astute politicians. Dr. Chancellor was one of the most personal, charming gentlemen I have ever met with usually large classes, albeit he did have quite a tendency at times to elicit out on links was free to go elsewhere.
Some of the big stories that have kept our readers interested have been the Orrville Horst kidnapping case, which has never been solved, the failure of the Wooster National Bank which wrecked the county to its foundation and the Taggart divorce case. The latter case was in addition to the heartaches of the principals good to me for we were just emerging from a lengthy period of what was to us large indebtedness and I was able to gather in sufficient through sending stories to outside papers to finance a lot of new furniture for the house and to take my wife on a lively and well earned vacation to Michigan.