An Angel Named Jill

“It’s been a nice warm week with a high of 57 degrees on Sunday, Looks like more cold winter weather is headed this way, so we better enjoy the balmy days.

“There were more replacement surgeries this week. Ron Jenson and Kelly Britton got new hips on Monday and Ron Floyd got a new knee. Thankfully, it sounds like everything went well for all of them.

“Jace Jenson and Taz hauled our cull cows to the sale barn in Faith on Tuesday. Reub hauled hay all day and I took him lunch over at the east place.

“I had physical therapy in Hettinger Friday and Reub had his appointment with Mary Eggebo at the same time. It was after dark when we left Hettinger and drove to Lane Giannonatti’s ranch. Lane gave us twelve year old hens and one rooster, so I’m back in the chicken business again.”

That was just SOME of the news from Grand River country in Betty Olson’s column in the Adams County Record last week. Betty writes the Grand River Roundup in Hettinger’s newspaper, and her column stretched to two full columns in the paper. I read it from top to bottom last week, something I never do, but I did it because it was going to be the last column she ever wrote, and I thought it was only fitting to read it, since she put so much work into it.

There was a day when there were a number of columns like that in the paper, from places like Duck Creek Township, North Lemmon, and Gilstrap, where farm wives gathered the neighborhood gossip every week and typed it up and sent it in to be published, and what it did, of course, was sell subscriptions to the locals who wanted to know what their neighbors had been up to, and to maybe see their own name in the paper once in a while. I remember back in my Navy days when the paper would come, my sailor buddies would gather round and I would read them stuff like that, much to their enjoyment–and mine.

But now that was over, it looked like, according to the headline blasting across the top of the front page, which pretty much wrecked my Friday afternoon: “Adams County Record to close.”

NO! Please tell me it’s not so. But it was.

The story started “This is the final issue of the Adams County Record. Our weekly newspaper here, which has been published by Country Media, Inc., for almost 19 years, will cease publication permanently with the issue of Nov. 29, 2019.”

AC RecordThe headline was right under the Flag at the top, which said

Adams County Record

Serving the region since 1907

Vol. 114, No. 48

Right beside that was the mailing label, addressed to me, just as it has been for most weeks for the last 50 years. The next day, the story was in The Bismarck Tribune. My sister Jill copied a link from the online version of the paper and texted it to all of our siblings. My sister Sue texted back “Oh no!!!!! Jim, maybe it’s time you own a newspaper!!!!”

I wrote back “Yeah, 40 years ago, maybe.”

I know newspapering is a tough business these days, especially running a weekly newspaper. I was a weekly newspaper editor for a few years once myself.

Country Media is an Oregon-based publishing company with papers across the country, and they were getting rid of unprofitable ones, I guess, closing the papers in Hettinger, New England and Killdeer in North Dakota.

But sadness turned to elation today when the Tribune ran this headline: “Publisher steps in to save 2 ND papers.”

There was the story: Jill Friesz, owner and publisher of the Grant County News in Elgin and the Carson Press, right down the road in Carson, agreed to buy the papers in Hettinger and New England, and she did it so quickly that the papers will publish this Friday, without missing a single edition.

There is a God. And he has an angel named Jill.

I sat down this morning and wrote Jill a letter. I’m going to share it with you, because I like sharing good news. There’s not enough of that going around these days.

Jill Friesz, Publisher

GS Publishing

P.O. Box 100

Elgin, ND 58533

 November 4, 2019

 Dear Ms. Friesz,

 Thank you.

I read in the Tribune this morning you have purchased the Adams County Record and plan to keep publishing it and mailing it to me. Thank you again.

It was a sad day at my house last Friday when the mailman brought the November 29 edition of the Adams County Record to my door and I read the banner headline: “Adams County Record to close.”

I grew up in Hettinger. The Adams County Record has been a part of my life for most of my 72 years. When I was a boy in the 1950s, we had Park Board Baseball in Hettinger. There were enough of us little guys to form four teams, and year after year, the Park Board members would get Hettinger businesses to sponsor the teams, which mostly just meant buying tee shirts or sweatshirts with the business name on them. For most of the years I played in that little league, the four team sponsors were JC Penney, Gambles, the Adams County Creamery, and the Adams County Record.

We always wanted to be on what we called  the AC Record team because every week, after, every game, we trekked up Main Street on our bicycles, parked them outside the Record office, and went inside where the paper’s publisher and editor, Dosia “D.J.” Shults, would be standing there with a chewed up cigar in his mouth, holding a bowl of candy, and we’d fill our grubby little hands with chocolate and head on home for lunch. I can picture D.J. yet today.

As I sat and stared at that headline last week, remembering those halcyon days in Hettinger, I thought how sad it was that the last of those businesses is now going away. JC Penny is gone. Gambles is gone. The Adams County Creamery is gone. And now the Adams County Record is gone. That’s sad.

Ever since I was one those little boys in D. J. Shults’ office, I knew I wanted to work for a newspaper. In my high school yearbook, under my senior picture, it says “Jim plans to attend DSC for four years and his ambition is to become a reporter.”

And I did that. As soon as I got to Dickinson in September of 1965 I signed up to be the Sports Editor of The Western Concept, the college newspaper, and hired on part-time to write sports stories for The Dickinson Press. I worked at the Press for all of my college years.

During my years in the Navy, my dad paid for a subscription for me and the Record followed me all over the world. Every week, when the mail plane landed on the deck of the USS Oriskany aircraft carrier floating around the Gulf of Tonkin, I’d grab my copy of my hometown paper to remind me what it was back there in “the world” that made what I was doing worthwhile.

When I came home from the Navy, I contacted old D.J. and asked him if he might be willing to retire and sell me the newspaper. He thought about it for a while, and finally said “Yes.” He was a Navy man too, serving in World War II, and he wore it on his sleeve, and had a soft spot for me, I think.

Of course, I didn’t have any money, so I went to the First National Bank just a block up the street and talked to a loan officer. After some discussion about what it was worth, D.J. agreed to open up his books to the bank. My recollection is that it was grossing about $75,000 a year, so the bank agreed to lend me that much, and D.J. agreed to take it.

On a summer afternoon I drove to Hettinger to meet D.J. at the bank to sign the papers. He never showed up. The banker called him. He said he had changed his mind. I bolted from the bank down the street to D.J.’s office. With the ever-present cigar sticking out the corner of his mouth, he said something like “Jim, I can’t do it. I can’t part with it. I’m an old bachelor and this newspaper has been my wife all these years, and I can’t part with her. I’m sorry. If I was going to sell it to anyone, I’d sell it to you. But I just can’t do it.”

Well, that was that. I moved on, had about a ten-year newspaper career before admitting that there was more money in public relations, and did that the rest of my life.

But I always subscribed to the Adams County Record. I watched my friends Dick Dobson, Scott Anderson and Henry Kelly buy it, and hire Tony Bender, who did a superb job as editor, and then I followed it through its travails with Country Media. I was sad, but not surprised, when I read they were going to close it down.

Who knew it would take a lady on a white horse from Grant County to rescue it? I think you have made a good decision. I wish you success. I know it is not easy these days. But the kids running the paper seem to be doing a good job, young Turner seems enthusiastic, and I hope he stays. He makes it interesting enough to read to get my subscription dollars every six months.

I hope the folks in Hettinger appreciate what you are doing. A town without a newspaper is a town without a heart. You’re keeping that heart beating. Thank you, and God Bless You.

 Sincerely,

 Jim Fuglie

If you’re interested in keeping up with Grand River news, to see how Betty  Olson’s new chicken business is going, you can subscribe by sending a check for $52 for a year’s worth of  Adams County news, to P.O. Box 749, Hettinger, ND 58639.

One thought on “An Angel Named Jill

  1. When I read the closure of the hometown newspaper I too was saddened. But low and behold, an Angel came forth and save the lifeline for those of us that no longer live in Hettinger but still care very much for our hometown. I especially enjoyed your part in the story about the Little League summers. I can remember DJ on numerous occasions coming forth and saving the league by starting raffles and other ways to pay for balls and such. I wore a JayCees jersey. We were lucky. They were a tee shirt unlike the wool sweatshirts worn by the other teams. Afterall, if was summer and got hot on plenty of days.

    Hey Jim, good luck with the chickens…..They are quite the cluckers….
    Cock a doodle do……

    Like

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