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Monday, September 5, 2011

My own archeology site, my closet.


Sometimes cleaning out a closet is a good thing, especially when you find something inside the closet you'd forgotten you had. Of course this process of discovery tends to slow down the task of cleaning, as I'm sure Ms. Carolyn will tell you. I tend to meander in my cleaning, and, like the loaves and fishes multiplying, sometimes my closet will actually have more items inside it when I'm finished than it did before I started my "cleaning."
And in this way I found I owned 53 volumes of the "Pioneer News-Observer," a series of newspapers published from June 1970 through October 1974. The newspaper was edited by Elmer Kelton, the Texas writer who also wrote "The Time it Never Rained," a novel about drought in Texas. The series posts Mountain Home as its place of publication, though all correspondence was to be sent to San Angelo. This makes sense, Kelton was from San Angelo. Later issues are marked as published in Kerrville.
I have a vague memory of buying these from Sandy and Jon Wolfmueller at their bookstore years ago, but I have no memory of looking through the issues.
Kerrville Mill, on Water Street, from an illustration in the "Pioneer News-Observer."
Doing so slowed down my cleaning project considerably.
Let me just say each issue of the newspaper is filled with pioneer history -- mostly of Texas and the West. Snippets from old newspapers, as well as facsimile reproductions of old newspapers are presented. Because these old sources are used, each issue feels contemporary -- as if the events in the reports just happened.
And each issue has a piece "written expressly for the Pioneer News-Observer" by Elmer Kelton.
Though the newspapers have been sealed in plastic and stored in darkness at a constant temperature, the newsprint is darkened, the acids used in its manufacture slowly eating away at the newsprint until someday there will be nothing left but crumbs and scraps. (Kind of like me, the old collector.)
I like the idea of these old newspapers. They present a wide variety of stories about our region's history, tied together with a strong lead story. It has a few contemporary ads, largely for other "Western" publications, but many more old, historical advertisements.
Many of the old newspapers I read in researching for this column are put together the same way. Stories from around the nation (and sometimes world) are pulled together in one newspaper, almost as if the local newspaper was a digest of the current news. Old Kerrville Mountain Suns, for instance, not only have items from other hill country newspapers included in each issue, but in the earlier editions it almost seemed as if J. E. Grinstead was in constant conversation with other editors, and the subscribers to the Kerrville Mountain Sun were eavesdropping in on the conversations.
Besides my love of old Kerrville photographs, I have a strong affection for old Kerrville newspapers. I read them from cover to cover, from the ads to the editorials. Nothing captures the essence of a day in Old Town Kerrville like reading an issue of one of our old newspapers.
Someday even this newspaper, the one you're holding in your hands right this instant, might reveal something about our times and our life here beside the Guadalupe River during one of the hottest, driest summers most of us have known.
I can only hope so.
Now back to cleaning my closet.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects Kerrville photographs, newspapers, ephemera, and artifacts. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 3, 2011.

1 comment:

  1. Joe, did you know Ron Anderson? He used to have a book store inside the Christmas store in FBG called Books Books Books. He was big into Elmer Kelton. I used to work on promotion materials for him when he'd have Kelton book signings there. You just brought back a good memory for me. Thank you!

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