An editorial from an edition of the Traer Star-Clipper published on Friday, August 28, 1953 caught my eye this past week while searching through our archive books for stories on the late LeRoy Kopriva — 1954 Traer High School graduate, Redhawks starting quarterback, and great-uncle to this past season’s stellar starting QB Gabe Kopriva — but that’s a story for a future Traer Time Machine.
The editorial was titled “Our Corkscrew Stairs’’ and can be read in its entirety below. It was written just ahead of the Star-Clipper’s move from its main street second floor office space — accessible by the legendary winding staircase — to the downstairs office.
An editor from an East Coast newspaper — the Village Gazette out of Old Greenwich, Connecticut — had recently published a piece critical of the Star-Clipper’s winding stairs, referring to the staircase as “really grim.”
“The stairs at the Star-Clipper,” the Gazette editor from Connecticut wrote, “reeking of what the Planning-Zoning boys call ‘non-conforming use,’ have undoubtedly served through the years as effective protection to the Star-Clipper staff.”
The Star-Clipper (rightfully!) retorted in their editorial it had never occurred to them the beloved stairs were serving as any sort of “protection” but then conceded maybe leaving the top of the stairs for the bottom might indeed be a miscalculation but it was too late to reconsider now.
Today the North Tama Telegraph no longer has a dedicated local office space let alone a staircase to climb — not in Traer nor in Dysart. We have two buildings in both communities — devoid of people — with for sale signs hanging out front.
We bring you your newspaper each week from kitchen tables — the inside of our cars — public library nooks where we search for outlets to plug in our dying laptops while in-between city council meetings and volleyball games — from anywhere we happen to be when there’s a moment to type.
This is reality for many small town newspapers today — particularly in rural parts of the country — and for those who try their best each week to fill its pages with local content.
I wish we still had a winding staircase that led to a local office where I could type out my articles next to an editor in the flesh with a full staff of reporters.
Instead, my editor and I — who don’t even live in the same county — chat on the phone, text constantly, grab bar food together late at night from Harper’s after football games we attend all over the tri-county area, and send each other snapshots from our respective archives every few days just to remember the legacy we continue to carry for three different papers — North Tama Telegraph, Tama-Toledo News Chronicle, Sun Courier, each a consolidation of even more small town newspapers.
But we are thankful to be at the helm of these three newspapers each week that represent so much to our communities, even if most of the local offices no longer exist and the work is weary and lonely so much of the time.
“We have undoubtedly lost some business because of those stairs,” the Star-Clipper further wrote in 1953. “Some good customers as well as loafers … One thing we will miss is the stimulating sight of the many people who value the Star-Clipper sufficiently to climb our stairway on Thursday nights to get their copy before the ink is dry.”
Thank you for continuing to value our work here at Tama-Grundy Publishing which includes the North Tama Telegraph — born of the Traer Star-Clipper and the Dysart Reporter.
Having a community newspaper staffed by a professional journalist is a rarity afforded to fewer and fewer communities now but it is necessary to a healthy democracy and, perhaps even more crucially, valuable as the archivist of our collective place in history.
I look at those stairs and feel the weight in so many ways.
We are thankful to still be here.