back in the day

The publisher and his girlfriend lived upstairs; the office was downstairs.
Once upon a time, two guys from Time—and their girlfriends—started the Illinois Times, a weekly newspaper in Springfield. That's the capital of Illinois, for those of you unfamiliar with the Great Midwest.  I think it was in 1975? The publisher was a hometown boy, but he had met the rest of us in New York City, and we seriously needed an intro to the neighborhood. James Krohe (crow-ee) Jr. became our native guide and office intellectual/historian. The four of us moved on—the girlfriends to lifetime careers in journalism; the editor and publisher not, oddly enough—but Krohe stayed. Well, he didn't stay in town, but he stayed on as the conscience and the memory of the paper. He recently published his thousandth column and decided to cash it in. His voice, dry and wry, mordant and trenchant, is on display in a recent column.
   Now Krohe (actually, the Southern Illinois University Press) has published a book, Corn Kings and One-Horse Thieves, a history of that heart of the heart of the country he knows so well. I was given a copy by the former Illinois Times publisher, and am enjoying it immensely. It's like hanging out with Krohe in an expansive mood. (Well, maybe that's a bit contradictory.) You can order it on Amazon. It makes me feel like a know-nothing, but I'm learning. And getting a little nostalgic.


Kate Knapp Artist Blog said...

sounds great and I WILL sign up! thanks...

James Krohe Jr. said...

Yes, Springfield in the 1970s. My fellow townspeople’s experience of female types was limited, and they had no category into which they might fit Claudia—who does? She brought with her from New York a pair of Puerto Rican wedgies, which when worn to events at the statehouse worked on legislators the way that the Pythons’ confuse-a-cat experts worked on cats, shaking them out of their complacency and broadening their horizons.
I knew the way from our offices to the statehouse alright, but journalism was as new a country to me as central Illinois was to Claudia and the other founders of the newspaper, and she was my first guide through that tricky terrain. I was asked to do a travel piece for Vol. 1, No. 2 about my birthplace in Beardstown, on the Illinois River an hour’s drive from Springfield. Claudia was to do a restaurant feature about a catfish joint there. So it was over the river and through the woods we went—she behind the editor’s Fiat and me navigating.
We went here and we went there, asking questions—not always easy in an area where people asking questions were assumed to be uncover federal game wardens--and taking pictures. She had all the essential virtues in a reporter, being braver, more socially adept, and more curious that I was. I was taking notes all the while, mostly of her and the way she worked.
She broadened a lot ofpeople's horizons out here, come to think of it.

Claudia said...

My! I didn't read this until a couple months after it was posted! I guess I didn't let on that I had never been a reporter before and was learning on the job. Yes, I'd worked at People mag as a startup, but on the copy desk. I was not brave, and I was not socially adept. I guess what I was, looking back on it, was entitled.
I have done plenty of reporting since, but I always have to steel myself to talk with strangers. However, I am incurably curious. That launches me.

nina burleigh said...

I love this! I arrived in The Patch, as in spring patch, as in dogpatch, as we affectionately called it, in 1982, but I recognize all this, including the out of town reporting trips. My favorite was to cover a pot farm bust, can’t remember the town, near the Mississippi, where I walked away with probably a half pound of pot stick to each shoe. Also, the famous headline, Oblong man marries Normal woman. Those are real town names. I once did a feature in the crazy town names in Illinois. Oh the prairie years!