Friday, January 18, 2013

Just Talkin'

By Aggie Turnbaugh

Sixty years ago on a nice winter night I drove from Olathe where I was teaching English at the Olathe Junior High School, to Grandview to witness the first paper of the first edition of the Grandview Advocate be printed in the back room of the building the newspaper was to occupy for 53 years at 500-502 Main Street. The name was changed two years later, in 1955, when the Turnbaughs bought the Jackson County Times, and combined the two papers to the Jackson County Advocate.
The young founder, editor/publisher of the Advocate, Jim Turnbaugh, had been my brother’s college roommate. I took a picture of him, and the pressman, Pop Horton, as the first copy of the newspaper came off the press. That first paper was to have a huge impact on my life for, as I failed to mention, Jim and I had been dating, and that fall the students at Raytown high school referred to their new speech, dramatics and journalism teacher as “ Mrs. T.”
In the summer of l954, I started to help in the newspaper office, answering the phone and doing mundane chores. I soon learned that newspaper reporting, radio news, and fledging television, were all in a world just for men.
One day I got the inspiration to write a personal story about something our dog, Bully, had done. That was the first of my column, “Just Talkin’”. A Grandview policeman, who presented the stray to Jim and me as a wedding present, had taken Bully, a Boxer dog, off the street.
It was not long before I joined my friends with the title of “Housewife” which we all carried along with the added one of “Stay-at-Home Mom.” I wrote engagement announcements, wedding descriptions, birth announcements and other articles for the society page, and obituaries on my typewriter at home. I might also point out that for several years the owner/publishers of the Advocate were listed as Mr. and Mrs. James D. Turnbaugh, Jr.
There are a lot of memories from the 1950s and 60s, with one the most memorable from October l960, when a rally for Senator John F. Kennedy was held at Truman Corners and, as a member of the press with a camera, I had a spot right in front of the speaker’s stand. When he finished his speech, the future President of the United States left the stand and came right to me to shake my hand. The word around town was that I did not wash my hand for three weeks.
Times started to change in the l970s, including the listing of Agnes Anne as co-publisher, not Mrs. JDT. I also gained a desk in the newspaper office. In l979 our daughter, Annette, joined us as a member of the newspaper staff, and our son, Joe, who had covered sports while in high school, came aboard as permanent member of the staff in 1980. Joe took most of the pictures carried in the 80’s, including the Truman Centennial edition. He left in l991 to pursue a different career. Annette was in charge of the many phases of the production for 26 years. She has been a Grandview city alderman for three years.
In 1988 the Turnbaugh family was recognized by the National Newspaper Association, as one of 135 families in America, which represented four generations, or 100 years in the field of journalism.
Things really changed in the l980s when Grandview had the first female mayor in Jackson County, Jan Martinette, who, along with Cathy Kelley, an alderman on the city council, Nancy Pope, director of the Grandview Chamber of Commerce and me, would visit a business once a month to name it Business of the Month. An article would then appear in the Advocate.
The four of us were in a gas station when a man from South Dakota came in to pay his bill. Jan stepped forward to shake his hand, introducing herself as mayor. Cathy shook his hand, telling him she was an alderman, and then Nancy welcomed him on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce. When I took my turn to shake his hand as the co-publisher of the local newspaper, the man had a stunned look on his face, so I explained that we had a matriarchal society. His reaction to that was to tell us that he did not want his wife to hear us because she would want to move to Grandview. He left in a hurry.
I related this for it emphasizes the major changes that have come about, particularly in politics and in the field of journalism, where there are more and more women delivering the news on television and radio and serving as editors of newspapers.
Each Wednesday morning when I had finished writing “real” news, I would sit at my typewriter to write “Just Talkin’”. –Please note I did not say computer—
Many subjects were covered in my column with most centered on the antics of our cats, dogs and horses, which, after l970, shared our lives on a small farm in South Kansas City. Starting with Bully, l5 dogs and l6 cats decided, some invited, and some not, to make our home theirs. A total of eleven horses, most of which were Arabian show horses, kept us busy on weekends, as our children, Annette and Joe, showed them.
Some of our readers let me know they were not interested in our animals, while others let me know they enjoyed reading about our furry friends. It reminded them of their pets.
When Jim suffered a stroke on September 4, 2002, I took over his duties at the helm of the Advocate. I knew it would be a difficult task because I would never be able to fill his shoes. It was the help and encouragement of friends that kept me going.
One of those was Dodie Mauer, former owner-publisher of the Belton Star-Herald who was a true heroin, when she stepped in to help my staff by writing and editing stories, when I broke my hip the day after Jim passed away in March 2003.
Several of our feline, and canine friends, ranging from 13 to 24 years of age, and one equine, Jingo, at age 34, died during the six and a half months Jim was hospitalized. —Jingo was the artist’s model of Starlight® for the Hallmark series Rainbow Brite® —. When I sold the Advocate in the fall of 2005 to retire at age 78, only Smokie, the mother of the four kittens I referred to as the Terrible Foursome, was left to keep me company on the farm.
I had found Smokie at the end of our driveway when she was probably six months old and hid her in the barn. Her grey hair was singed and she was very hungry. She did not stay hidden for very long and soon joined the ranks of the cats that spent time lounging in the house.
In August of 2010, I took Smokie to the office of our veterinarian, Dr. Bud Hertzog, where she died. She had been a part of our family for 24 years.
Before I could leave his office, Dr. Bud, who has cared for our pets for close to 40 years, placed a longhaired black cat in my arms. He told me he would not let me leave without a pet. I named her Miss Silly Kitty for she had a difficult time getting used to all the strange animals she watched out of the window of the house on the farm. Her reaction to the big bird in the yard when it flapped its wings and gobbled was something to behold. She was, and is, an indoor cat.
In July of 2011, Miss Silly Kitty and I moved to Lee’s Summit where she has adjusted to city life better than I. There have been many discussions between us about who has seniority and sets the house rules. At times she makes me wonder if she is not part canine for she acts like a watchdog warning me of something strange in the yard. She also sits in front of the microwave and, as soon as the buzzer goes off, she meows for me to get the food out of the oven. This is probably because I have spoiled her by sharing food. I do wish the back rubs she insists on giving me in the middle of night were offered at a different time. Her favorite pastime is to lie on her stool in front of a kitchen window watching neighbors walk by with their small dogs. She is taller and outweighs most of those small canines.
When I attended a gathering with some of my neighbors shortly after I moved to Lee’s Summit, I was greeted by one lady who addressed me as “Mrs. T.” She had been in the journalism class when I taught in Raytown, and had been the editor of the school paper. That brought about a lot of old memories.
During the 53 years I was a part of the Jackson County Advocate bringing the news of the community to our readers, I met many people from all walks of life, including famous, and some infamous during an era entirely different than that of today. I wrote my weekly column with the hope that it would bring a smile to some faces. Hopefully, it worked.
I will always remember our pets, and how they always greeted me in a special way when I came home from the office each day. There was never any question of their love and loyalty. Their antics kept me supplied with stories which I shared in “Just Talkin’” with a hope of gaining a smile or two from our readers.
My father-in-law, James D. Turnbaugh, Sr., a long-time city editor for the Kansas City Times, which was the morning edition of the Kansas City Star, told me, “When you sit down to write a story, dip your pen in the milk of human kindness.” How wonderful it would be if human kindness were a top priority for us all in today’s world.
Happy 60th Anniversary Jackson County Advocate,

Aggie Turnbaugh

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