By Don Kruse, Editor
Many moons ago, I came back home to become the editor of my hometown newspaper. It would have been a dream for many, but I got the chance to experience it.
Now, 23 years later, I’m cutting back my workload at the Advertiser-Courier and will become the sports editor of the Hermann A-C and the New Haven Leader. I’m excited beyond words.
It’s a new position here. I started my newspaper career at daily newspapers, some fairly large ones, as a sports writer and sports editor. I cut my teeth in the sports department of three newspapers, and did it for 25 years, covering World Series, the Rose Bowl, and basketball’s biggest spectacle–the NCAA men’s Final Four.
A brother asked me not long ago while having lunch at Montague’s, “When are you going to retire? Are you going to wait until they have to carry you out of there?”
A Hermann friend once asked me when I arrived back home in 1991 if I had retired when I left Iowa, which is where I had worked for over 18 years before coming to the A-C. He had thought being the editor of a community newspaper was a job for a retiree, I guess.
I would not have expected anyone to follow me around for a day. For anyone who was trying to cover all the duties of a weekly newspaper editor, it can make for a long, wearisome day.
An editor of the newspaper I came from told me when he learned I was leaving that I might regret it. “You don’t know what you’re getting into,” he said. He started at a weekly newspaper, then worked his way to a daily, and told me it’s endless work. But what he never experienced was working in his home town.
I did it the other way. I started at a daily newspaper, but didn’t go to work for just any old community newspaper. It was coming home, and this has been a slice of heaven.
At first, the thing that gave me the most fun was a weekend during Oktoberfest, and to see guests enjoying themselves at the wineries, or strolling down Hermann’s streets. I never went out to the October festivals without my camera. You could see they were loving it here. They were taking in scenery, and feeling what I get to enjoy every day. They were marveling at our town, and it made me feel good.
I like wine. Some guests who visit our town really like wine, maybe too much on an Oktoberfest Saturday afternoon. When tourist visit, they take in tours of historic wine cellars, and stare at brick and mortar as they slowly walk down sidewalks.
Just over a year after coming to the A-C, the late John Goeke decided to quit his part-time job here and devote more time to a hobby–caning old chairs, or re-caning them. John, who was a retired teacher, was covering local schools and sports. That’s when I added those duties to other assignments here.
When I had to, I even filled in as editor of the New Haven Leader, covering everything from a city council meeting, school board meeting and Youth Fair, to the Shamrocks in a state tournament. Now I get to cover New Haven High School sports once again.
It was a rainy Sunday night on Sept. 15, 1991, when I left Waterloo, Iowa, and drove to Hermann to begin a job at the Advertiser-Courier. My car hydroplaned on Highway 19 all the way from Hannibal to the Missouri River bridge. The drive was, as the late Marquette basketball coach Al McGuire would say, “a white knuckler.”
But that water was nothing compared to what I witnessed in the summer of 1993–the greatest flood ever on the Mighty Missouri. It will forever remain one the biggest stories I ever covered at this newspaper. Flood water lapped up against the back dock of the A-C office. It covered the railroad tracks and Frene Creek bridge on East First Street, and got into the Festhalle.
I also felt great joy in attending the Friday night “homecomings” at the Maifest 20 years ago, because many former Hermannites came home for that. The upper city park is where all of Hermann’s homecomings and picnics took place when I was growing up here.
Now, Hermann’s Fourth of July celebration is a lot like that. You see many old friends who grew up here come back to their roots and enjoy Independence Day in a small-town.
I write my final “30″ of Missouri Calling this week. It’s a title I thought of on that rainy Sunday night drive 23 years ago. It will forever be special in my heart, and so will the people who shared their comments about them all these years.