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As you read this I have less than four weeks left of my newspaper career. So read on as I take a walk down memory lane.
I came to Grant County, from Harrison County, in August of 1988. But, I’m old now so if I didn’t it doesn’t really matter as all the dates are in the past and it isn’t going to stop or change anything.
Here’s a brief look at my first six months in Grant County.
The first person to come storming into my vine and tree limb-lined office was someone bent on telling me how important they and especially their husband were.
“Do you know who I am?” they angrily asked. “Do you know who my husband is?”
“I don’t care,” I said. “News is what news is.”
Sometime later a man came into my office.
“I’m going to Florida to kill the attorney general,” he said.
“Why are you telling me this?” I asked.
“Well, I got off the interstate and I saw your newspaper sign and I wanted to show you some photographs of the pain I have suffered,” he replied.
I wrote a column about this soon after the event; soon after he had left the office and soon after I reported the visit to the Kentucky State Police that a man had left my office on his way to shoot the attorney general of Florida.
I did see the photographs he had and they were indeed disturbing. He was a veteran of the war in the Pacific and had suffered from a jungle rot disease that permanently plagued such survivors.
The attorney general of Florida somehow evoked his wrath because of some legislation or lack of legislation that Florida was dealing with. I never received any follow up information from the police nor was the attorney general ever shot.
Soon after the prior incident a woman came into my office. She handed me her diary.
She explained to me that she had been a prostitute for the mafia and that the mafia was to execute her in six months.
Later, I, possibly inappropriately, asked someone if the mafia was having financial problems and they had to wait until there was money budgeted for executions.
I read the diary and it was quite interesting, with photographs, and with much of the beginning making a valid case for her story. The latter part slipped into deep paranoia. Sometimes the mafia manipulated her car so that it would not start. Sometimes they let the air out of her tires.
Far past the scheduled time of her planned demise I would pass her while walking in downtown Williamstown. We would say hello to each other. I hope she is well today.
I had been sent to Williamstown twice before I began working at the downtown News office. I had come from Cynthiana to do the newspaper’s budget. The office was incredibly “dumpy.”
When I first arrived for full-time employment downtown Williamstown had: two restaurants, two hardware stores, an appliance and jewelry store, a drug store with food counter making it the third restaurant, a real estate office, TV repair shop, a certified public accountant, the Grant County Public Library, barbers and hair care salons, an antique shop, florist and some other assorted businesses. Only a few remain.
Recently, while telling Ed Feldmann about all the stores that were in Williamstown when I first arrived, he replied, “So, what did you do to run them all out?”
I designed a new office, on a napkin at Alice’s Restaurant. Bill Wilson built the office I designed inside his building that was soon sold to Marlene’s Flowers and Catering. Later, I designed an office, on a napkin, that our present landlord built for us attached to the historic Hogan House. Unplanned, the Grant County News moved from Williamstown on the exact day that they had moved, 100 years earlier, from Dry Ridge to Williamstown.
I have the napkins. Too bad there’s not a local museum for them to be displayed in.
It was Alice’s Restaurant, later known as Michael’s Steak House, that the first of my Grant County era doodles began showing up. Those doodles today, if surviving, are valued at $200 per doodled napkin. Today’s average value is $3 to $20. Those featuring Bryan Miles and Terry Conrad are said to be valued much higher and there is a content warning that must be mentioned.
When I cough, both Miles and Conrad, begin counting their collection and imagine cashing in on their good fortune as they have possession of hundreds of such drawings.
Sadly and with apologies, I have lost a couple friends because I included them in my doodles. That’s why, if you are looking over my shoulder while I’m drawing, my reply is always, “No. It’s not you in the drawing. . . unless you are Terry Conrad or Bryan Miles – then it is probably you.”
People often stop me today and mention that they have a favorite story. Many liked the Christmas stories from the Corinth Riviera days where deer entangled themselves in lights and giant inflatable snowmen loosened by high winds terrorized I-75 drivers.
I still get a lot of comments on my irate rant about the differences in chocolate pudding. So, let’s get this straight. Instant chocolate pudding isn’t really pudding.
Though no local story was generated out of the girl from Belgium or the medals looking for their soldier’s child, I was very proud to have been a key to successful endings.
Through our web site, a very young Belgium girl who had volunteered to take care of a Hazard, Ky. soldier’s grave, located in Belgium, contacted me. Her connection was the word “Kentucky.” I helped her find the family of the soldier.
An aging sister, of another soldier that had died during the war in Europe, contacted me. Her brother once lived in Grant County. He was killed in Europe while his child was not yet born. This aging sister had medals she wanted to pass on to the child if she could be found.
The child was found living in Owen County, connected to her aunt and the medals and whatever other memories were passed on.
Grant County News Trivia:
• I don’t put headlines on my columns. I pass them to the editorial staff and never see the headline until it is printed.
• There hasn’t been a Marigold Day or Derby Day Festival that I have not been a part of organizing for the past 26 years.
• Dennis Stanley and I both came up with the Kiwanis Charity Auction idea at the same time and that’s how we began working the event together 17 years ago.
Here are a few things I think you should consider and remember; life lessons, maybe.
• I don’t think the Internet can preserve the history of communities with any sense of respectability. I think the community newspaper, if they ever go away, would be a true loss of verifiable community identity.
• I think that community newspapers, if they every ceased to be, would open the door for a new era of graft, misuse and corruption by future local officials.
• It’s not my time anymore. “Touch – You are it.”
Maybe the management of the newspaper that follows me will let me report, by column, from retirement. They know I work cheap. I guess that you could also influence the decision.
Please come see me at my retirement reception at the Josephina, across the street from the News office, from 4 to 6 p.m. (officially) on Friday, March 21.
(Ken Stone is publisher of the Grant County News, at least through March 28. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 824-3343.)