Sunday, March 29, 2009

Philosophy, leadership and group dynamics


Newspaper publishing is really the combined, life-long study of small-town philosophy, leadership and group dynamics as it relates to ethics and resource allocation. As such, I often ask others how to practice the art.
And I get answers — but I’m never really sure that they are the right ones.
“I wonder if we are all strung together by a universal ethic or model,” says my former football coach, Carl Rice, who now lives and coaches in Akron, Colo.
“I think one can recognize right and wrong, especially in each other. I have been blessed to do what I do. I realize I have touched a lot of people. Think how many you touch with your decisions. I realize that much of the time we concentrate on the monster, which is the far removed machine. The truth is — the struggle rages in the individual. Ethics doesn’t just happen, it is a practice.”
But in a small town, is there an abundance or shortage of practitioners, and is change the agent? I’ll relay an answer from someone I have never met before, but feel connection to. Coy Hobbs edited the Saratoga Sun, in Saratoga, Wyo. When I contacted him a few years ago, he was editor of the same small-town newspaper I managed more than 20 years ago.
“There are frequent business startups (and closings) in town as the test for any local business remains ‘Can they make it through the winter?’” according to Hobbs.
“Saratoga's population is down to less than 1,700. The LP (Louisiana Pacific) sawmill closed a year ago, the coalmines at Hanna have closed, and the school district is leading the state in enrollment declines. We don't have problems here, just challenges and opportunities to see if we are as good as we think we are.
“Despite the changes, Saratoga is still one of the truly neat places in the world. Some say it will be the next Jackson Hole, to which most reply ‘Over my dead body.’ We're trying to reach a compromise between the two positions. I am still amazed by the wealth of talent and experience the residents of this quaint, little mountain village possess. It makes you want to believe that just about anything is possible here – and I'm just the cynical newspaper editor, not the chamber of commerce exec.”
Good publishers and editors have a knack of finding and printing what people want to read.
Jerry Elijah Brown, in the forward of the biography, “High Adventure” about noted Alabama Newspaper publisher Porter Harvey (written by his son, Sam) pays tribute to that effort.
“He published what readers need and want,” Brown said of Porter Harvey. “Not only what the cops, courts, and councils of governments were doing, but also how much rain was falling in different hamlets, where a column of ants in a bank parking lot was going, how the coin laundry was finally getting a restroom and which hymn and stanza a man was singing when he dropped dead at a church service. Porter knew how to excite by understatement — a rare talent that involves skill at both writing and display.”
But as we noted before, everyone wants answers to make solid decisions. The art is to recognize the right ones when you spot them.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hollywood in the Mix for Colorado?


I suppose, if it happened to be a little warmer and the stars were aligned just so, the Canon City area in Colorado might have become just as famous for the movie industry as Hollywood. The Colorado locale -- after all, had a head start.
In fact, some of the earliest silent films surfaced right here around the turn of the century when William H. Selig and photographer Harry H. Buckwalter began filming movies in the Centennial State.
“Buckwalter, who had ties with Colorado developers, saw motion pictures as an ideal tool for promoting the state.” Notes film historian Eric Schaefer, associate professor at Emerson College in Boston. “The films he made with Selig at the turn of the century were “scenics” and short documentaries that captured the local color of Colorado and were designed to draw tourists and potential transplants. Buckwalter and Selig next incorporated elements of narrative films, notably crime movies like The Great Train Robbery (1903), with the Colorado scenery. Films such as The Hold-Up of the Leadville Stage (1904) proved popular with audiences, but Buckwalter quickly realized that the demands of the crime film were incompatible with the requirements of civic boosterism.”
Selig, who had been trained as a magician, jumped into the new industry after he saw a Dallas demonstration of Thomas Edison’s Kinetoscope. He created the Selig Standard Camera and the Selig Polyscope, which eventually formed the core structure of the Chicago-based Selig Polyscope Company founded in 1896. It became the largest filmmaking plant in the United States by the turn of the century.
A Selig employee, Gilbert M. “Bronco Billy” Anderson, who worked as an actor and director for Selig from 1905 to 1907 and later branched off on his own, was the first to make “western stories” that were promoted as such.
Perhaps the most famous of the stars working for Selig in Colorado, and later in Hollywood, was Tom Mix.
Mix, known for his daring stunts and elaborate outfits, as well as his noteworthy co-star “Tony the Wonder Horse,” got his start in Canon City in 1910. The Selig Polyscope Company, which had opened a Denver office ten years prior, shot more than 40 films during 1911 and 1912 in the Canon City area. Looking for more cooperative weather, Selig moved most of the operation to Prescott, Arizona and eventually to the Los Angeles area (Hollywood). Another film company, the Colorado Motion Picture Company followed Selig into Canon City in 1914, but when their lead actress (and a cameraman) drowned in the river while performing her own stunts, that company dissolved shortly afterward.
Tom Mix, went on to make 336 films, some of them produced here in Colorado under different production companies, and was killed in 1940 in a freak auto accident near Florence, Arizona. Unable to stop his 1937 Cord 812 Phaeton before he slid into a wash, a large aluminum suitcase in the back of his car flew forward shattering his skull and breaking his neck. Tom Mix, 60, was killed almost instantly.
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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What's your name, little town?


Art Modell was the longtime owner of the Cleveland Browns who later moved them to Baltimore where they became the Ravens. The Browns name resurfaced later in Cleveland. Modell, I think, had a healthy attitude about history, and names, and understatement.
"I have a great legacy, tarnished somewhat by the move."
Folks in Cleveland hated him for the moving the team, especially considering that he said on several occasions he would never do such a thing. As a result, he will forever be considered "persona non grata" in that town. So far, it has probably kept him out of the NFL Hall of Fame.
In news this week (February 2015), an Ohio man who urinated on the grave of Art Modell won’t be going to jail, after all.
According to Alison Knezevich of the Baltimore Sun, charges have been dropped against 62-year-old Paul Serbu, who videotaped himself appearing to empty a catheter from the bottom of his pants leg with a tube onto Modell’s grave. When you are a kid, you don't always think about where a names come from. As you grow older, you begin to wonder.
When I was growing up in southwestern Colorado, I might have heard once or twice that Egnar was really RANGE spelled backwards. I do remember they weren't that strong in basketball. The story is that they were named that way to avoid conflict with a post office somewhere that was already designated "Range." But of course, I didn't remember.
According to George R. Eicher's 1977 book, "Colorado Place Names," Montezuma County, which served as my old stomping grounds, was named when it was established in 1889 for the famous chief of the Aztecs whom Cortez conquered.
"The prehistoric dwellings in Montezuma County were thought to have been built by the Aztecs," then according to Eicher. And the county was carved out of a portion of La Plata County. Cortez, with its similar naming theme, is the county seat established about 1886, and was named by homesteader James W. Hanna, who sold the the site to the Montezuma Land & Development Company.
La Plata County, by contrast is Spanish for "silver." and it was carved out of portions of Conejos and Lake Counties. The Spaniards who arrived there in the 1700's and pulled a fair amount of said material out the mountains, labeled those mountains and the river La Plata and the county later reflected that legacy.
Other Spanish names pop up here and there in that country, but they are not always linked to the early Spanish visitors. Cahone, for example, is derivative of the Spanish word cajon and means 'little box.' Bert Ballenger, the first postmaster, allegedly came up with that one in reference to a nearby box canyon. And Arriola is said to have been named for an early Spanish military man, but the details of that have been difficult to trace.
Mancos, in Spanish means roughly "one-handed," "faulty" or "crippled" and we used to have a lot of fun with that back in high school when we played football against those yahoos. To add insult to injury, their mascot was the "bluejays."
Dove Creek, another local rival, apparently got its label from an early freighter in the area that noticed an uncommon amount of the wild birds in the area. They had enough awareness to choose a more robust mascot in the form of 'bulldogs,' but we often argued that was descriptive of their cheerleaders. They said the same, or worse, about us, I am sure.
Bayfield, of the other hand, was little larger town, and picked up its name from founder W.A. Bay. It was established in 1886, and it was originally called Los Pinos. Too bad that didn't survive. We could have had some fun with a name such as that. Instead, we were stuck wondering about the wolverines, that, as far as I know, have never been documented as being in Colorado.
Pagosa Springs, is Ute derived, and means "healing waters." How they came up with "pirates" for a mascot, beats the heck out of me.
Rico, of course, means "rich." In 1879, when Col. J.C. Haggerty discovered extremely rich silver ore there, they called the place Carbon City, Carbonville, Lead City, Dolores City and a few other cuss words. A meeting called to settle the issue resulted in William Weston's suggestion of the Spanish word for rich and the name stuck.
Other names, not of Spanish origin, cropped up here in there in that area. Lewis, for example, was named for the original owner, W.R. Lewis, who bought the property in 1909. And Lebanon, which was built in dense grove of cedar trees, as was the Biblical Lebanon, got its moniker from the Railway Building and Loan Co. of Pueblo when it was established in 1908. Stoner, named for the creek that dumps into Dolores River there, had much to do with the rocks up stream, but has been called that at least since 1888.
Which brings me to the town of Dolores, home of the bears. Originally down river about a mile and half, and called "Big Bend" for the river's turn to the north -- the town was relocated, and renamed, when the Rio Grande Southern Railroad arrived in 1890s.
Dolores seemed to be a natural choice for a river town. The town, the county upriver, and several other local landmarks owe their names to group of Franciscan Padres. In 1776, the same year of the founding of the United States, Father Silvestre Velez de Escalante, on his way from Santa Fe to Monterey, came upon the river close to where the town is now. He named the stream Rio de Nuestra Senora de las Dolores or "River of Our Lady of Sorrows." Poetic, I think.
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