Stop the Presses

Monday, December 23, 2019

Not too soon after I began work here as the Managing Editor, one of the first folks of the community I met was Betty Drerup. She can into the4 office in a flash and said loudly, “Stop the Presses!” She came to visit Mr. Don about someone in the community or Trader Dick’s business. “Oh, there is nothing big, I just like to come in here and say it,” she explained as we met. If she were alive today, her words will come to fruition.

There comes a time when all good things must come to an end. It seems to be the case for your community newspaper, The Portageville Missourian-News.

The Main Street office of the Portageville Missourian will close its doors effective December 31, 2019.

At that time, the current subscribers will be merged in with the Standard-Democrat and their Wednesday edition.

All of the advertising contracts and accounts and subscription list will be handled from the Standard-Democrat office in Sikeston. There are several reasons for this to happen, but mainly finances. Not enough advertising or subscription revenue came in to keep the paper in the black.

The newspaper has a rich history, The Portageville Missourian and formerly the Southeast Missourian was established in 1895. A name change occurred in 1967 to The Portageville Missourian.

Ralph N. Hawkins purchased the Southeast Missourian in November of 1944 and published his first paper on December 8, 1944. He purchased the paper from the Wright Family, Ed Wright, and wife Cora and son Eric, who published the paper for 35 years.

During 1920, the Southeast Missourian lost many of their file copies to a fire. It is known the Southeast Missourian was started in New Madrid, Mo. In 1895 and was published there until 1912. The paper moved to Portageville in 1913 while Ed Wright was still the owner.

In November 1983, Ralph Hawkins passed away and Don Hawkins assumed all the duties as Publisher and printer.

In 1991, The Portageville Missourian was sold to Mr. Ervin Lloyd, who also owned the Portageville Review and the SEMO News in Lilbourn. At that time, the Missourian and the Review were combined.

In 1995, the SEMO News was soon merged in with the Missourian-Review. In 1996, in a way to help keep and lure the Lilbourn readers back into the newspaper, another name change took place to the Missourian-News.

Portageville had been the only town in several years with the size of the population it had in Missouri to the population of Kansas City that has supported two weekly newspapers. Most counties in the state have only one weekly where New Madrid County had supported four weeklies. This proves that Portageville was a good town to have supported two weekly newspapers.

It was also during 1995, the Missourian-Review was sold to Rust Communications, Inc. based in Cape Girardeau. Don Hawkins stayed on a General Manager of the newspaper and print shop manager while Ervin Lloyd was the Managing Editor.

Many have asked throughout the years what it was like to be involved in the newspaper business.

I was raised with printer’s ink in my blood. My grandfather owned the Piedmont weekly newspaper, the Wayne County Journal-Banner. It was truly a family affair. Grandpa Charles Ellinghouse at the helm with uncle Harold Ellinghouse as News Editor and Advertising, and my mother Mary Beth Stivers as Bookkeeper.

My Uncle Cletis Ellnghouse also had a big impact on my life. He was in and out a lot having his newspapers, The Reynolds County Courier in Ellington, the Banner-Press in Marble Hill, and then the Puxico Press. I had the pleasure of working with him at Puxico for a while before going back to Piedmont.

As a young child, I would walk from the elementary school to the newspaper office on Main Street in downtown Piedmont. I could not have been more than 7 or 8 years old at the time and in Mrs. Woods Second Grade Class. If you know any second grader, big machinery can make a big impression on a young fellow. You also know that some times, they cannot keep their mouth shut. As I walked around the office, I wanted to do something and I ask my uncle, "What can I do?" Without hesitation, Uncle Harold asked, "Can your hand fit a broom?" I never did learn to keep my mouth shut. On payday, my grandfather paid me two $1.00 bills. I thought I was rich and hooked into the business. My goal at the age of 12 was to become a press operator and come back to Piedmont and help run the paper.

At the age of 12 is when I got more involved in the back print shop helping to get the big three-unit Newsking press ready to print. I learned how to take a page negative and burn the image onto an aluminum printing plate and hand develops the image to be printed. Learned how to bend and mount the plate into the big press. Learned how to shaft a 500-pound newsprint roll and load it onto the press. Then, I learned the really dirty part of the job, washing off the press blanket cylinders.

I would work at the office for like two-four days a week, and the rest of the days as a simple child doing what children do. I played outside as much as I could and rode my Buzz bicycle all over New town. I also mowed yards. Come to think of it, at that age, I was doing things other classmates knew nothing of. I had already picked out the job I wanted to do when I grew up.

In high school, I learned black and white photography and shot events for both the school yearbook and newspaper.

I loved shooting basketball games on my Yashica FX2 35mm. I enjoyed working in the darkroom. After the film was developed, I was ready to print the pictures. After mounting the film on the easel and making it the image the size I wanted, I then developed the print and watch it magically appear. To see that same picture appear in the newspaper, it made me proud to know that I was apart of that. To know that I was apart of helping to store and to record local history. After all, the newspaper is your local history book.

I worked at the newspaper all through high school and into my college years.

Through my work at the print shop, I was able to work for the Arkansas State University Print Shop and the three and a half years, I printed the ASU Herald, their two times a week publication.

I ended in the Missouri Bootheel working with Ralph Clayton at the Democrat Argus, then a three times a week publication. I was there until the paper sold to the American Publishing Company. I then went back to Piedmont and in 1992 I was an advertising salesman at the Dexter Daily Statesman.

Through the years, I became friends with both Erwin Lloyd and Donald G. Hawkins. In 1997, I was asked if I wanted to come to work in Portageville and have a shorter drive coming to work. I said sure.

I have learned a lot about this newspaper and the town that it resides in. There a lot of good people in Portageville, and it is for these folks I hate the paper is not to continue.

As I reflect on things, I have made many friends in several areas of the state whether I work in Piedmont at the family business or here at the Portageville Missourian.

My goal was to have been in the business for 50 years like my grandfather did. In 1976, he celebrated his 50th anniversary in the publishing business. The Piedmont paper also celebrated its 100th anniversary.

As of now, this will be my 43rd year in the newspaper/printing business. It doesn't look like getting in the 50 years will happen. This newspaper and I have a good run, have gone through many technological changes, but there comes a time when you have to stop the presses.

It has been a privilege and an honor to have worked here and get to meet many of our readers and advertisers.

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