By Dwight Williamson
July 10, 2014
Years ago, actually during parts of the 1970s and 80s, I produced two newspaper columns each week for The Logan Banner. There was a sports column on Fridays titled “Sports Lines” and there was another column titled “Plain Talkin” which I recall as being published on Tuesdays. At the time, I was Sports Editor for this newspaper and really had my hands full just trying to keep a handle on local sports which was rapidly growing.
Logan High School basketball, with of course legendary Coach Willie Akers at the helm, was producing championships, while the “Blue Funk” defense of Man Hillbillies Coach William “Tootie” Carter was dominant in high school football. Chapmanville and especially Logan were at that time period floundering in what I shall describe as a political cesspool of football, while the two schools’ baseball squads behind Roger Gertz at Logan and Ted Ellis, Danny Godby and Junior Amburgey for a while at Chapmanville were dominant almost every year.
I remember Clarence Elkins first, then Pee Wee Christian, getting what they could out of the players they had before Mickey Brown came along. George Barker currently has the Tigers on the winning track. Jim Kennedy in 1977, as well as Masil Maynard, Bob Lonker and Doug Crites, all coached Logan football, before Lacy Smith won a legal court battle to get the job. Wayne Bennett also coached the Wildcats.
Today, I like Gary Mullins’ style of offense for LHS. The Sharples Stags of Coach Ralph Cook were always competitive and the Harts Lions led by Coach Harry Kirk were simply talented and exciting to watch as Kirk’s teams garnered championships. As I recall, Sharples and Harts each annually only had about thirty boys to pick from in either one of those two Class “A” schools; what a job both Cook and Kirk did for their small communities, both schools having since been simply absorbed by consolidation.
There were also the always talented Gilbert Lions grid squads of Coach Jerry Miller and the spirited basketball teams of Coach Arnold Mollette. Like its former foes, Sharples and Harts, the Gilbert Lions no longer exist.
Girls’ softball was in its infant stages as the Miss Softball of America program, better known as the M.S.A., was just beginning for very young girls, while girls’ basketball at the high school level was also taking form. Midget League Football teams were numerous and highly competitive in Logan County, as was men’s softball and even women’s softball. There were several bowling leagues in the county that reported results and the Logan Country Club had its Twilight Golf League with local attorney Edward Eiland bringing the week’s league results each Friday morning for publication. There also were several outstanding Little League teams in the county. I wonder how many people realize there was no league at all at Holden this year. I’m told there were not enough players to field teams.
Peering back through the windows of time, I see that Logan and Chapmanville football programs are now as competitive as it gets, and the ‘Billies continue to thrive. Girls’ softball has evolved into high school championships and college scholarships; men’s and women’s adult
softball is nearly non-existent; the Twi-light League is history and, whatever happened to track and field? I could ramble on and on about things that have changed in our area, not just in sports either.
My duties were not limited to sports. At one time or another, I covered Board of Education meetings, County Commission meetings, as well as Council meetings at Logan, Man, Chapmanville and Gilbert. There also were regular Park Board meetings and even Logan General Hospital Board meetings, all were my responsibilities. The Park Board no longer exists and Logan General is now Logan Regional.
There was no spell check or even a copy editor back then. Usually, a writer simply got another writer to “check” his or her work because the editors normally were too busy writing their own stories. Headlines were actually created on a real typewriter. Remember those dinosaurs? I was fortunate to have a newsroom crew and several correspondents who were reliable and productive.
My recent writings started because Martha Sparks was virtually producing a newspaper by herself, particularly after J.D. Charles, who still contributes a great deal, brightened his future with a new job. I actually was afraid the paper might go under and did not want to see that happen. Now, Karissa Blackburn, fresh out of WVU, has energetically lightened Martha’s journalistic load and, along with the one-man sports show of Paul Adkins, and the “gutsy” writing of Ron Gregory, I see a newspaper on the rebound despite drastic and broad changes which left many readers shaking their heads.
So, although I currently have a fulltime job that requires my full attention to the craziness of the world, I write as a pastime and for what I hope is a reader’s enjoyment. There can be no stories in regard to current politics or court cases, nor will I be writing at all in an election year in which this writer might be a political candidate. All writing will, of course, be at the scrutiny of the editor.
The readers will not always agree with my writings, nor should they, but I hope to either entertain or educate those who might find my low cost pastime of some interest. So, with the blessings of Logan Banner Editor Martha Sparks, who in recent years has had to fill the shoes of what used to be at least five newsroom people, allow me to combine two former columns into one that I hope to present to you the readers as often as possible. Let it be called “Plain Talkin’—With Bits and Pieces”. Topics will vary from one writing to the other.
BITS AND PIECES
First off, since I am, more or less, a bi-product of an era in which the fundamental vehicle of American communication was the newspaper, it should be said that the printed press has long past its apogee of its importance in reflecting and influencing the thinking of millions. Radio, television, and now the internet, all have taken their proper roles in today’s societies across most of the world. However, I shall stick with one of my favorite sayings: “Without the past, there can be no future,” as I pay past due tribute to some of the former “stars” that made The Logan Banner shine, some while I was an employee, and some when I was not… people like
former editor Charlie Hylton, who also from his Banner office hosted a morning news show for the now defunct radio station WLOG; his wife, Harriett was a long time society editor.
Gone are the backbones of the newspaper, people like back shop employees Joe Kerns and Tony Costa, who have since passed on after dedicating their lives to the paper. Also gone from the back shop, which had the responsibility of literally pasting the newspaper together as well as making up by hand the advertisement, are Gaynelle Hughes, Deanna Elkins and Bud Robinette. Bud, along with his sister-in-law, Sherry Wright Robinette, also did the development of all photography and made the negatives that were used to print the newspaper; they both were great employees.
Of course, Betty Browning was a smiling face and longtime fixture in the composing room; Tom George, Richard Osborne and Kathy Young Chafin and Karen Lambert, to name a few, held down the advertising department with first George and later Osborne being named publishers of The Banner. Some people might be surprised to know that Keith Davis, who now is a writer/publisher with his company, Woodland Press, was during my time with the paper a tremendous artist who worked in advertising.
The circulation department had its manager and my good friend, Bob Kolovich, as well as people like Tilden Browning, and Greg Gibson, and just about everyone else whose name was Kolovich. Actually, there were numerous people over the years that worked in circulation, not to mention the boys and girls who back then delivered the paper on foot or by bicycle… there was the formidable but lovable Lonnie Craft who each day waited for the “first run” so he could start handing out bundles of papers to awaiting drivers who parked on the streets ready to head in all directions with the latest printed news. Who could forget Stump Dalton, Keith Rebar, Kevin Maynard, Joe Chambers or Carlos Justice, who at varying times, along with my brother, Faron Williamson, worked on the huge printing press that roared each day at about noon printing the daily read.
Maggie Carter held down the front office, along with Barbara Smith, and others, while the heart of the paper consisted of the poor underpaid souls that made up the news room; there was former sports writer and then editor Earl Lambert and his two-fingered typing style, who somehow managed the likes of fellow journalists/photographers like Emory Jeffrey. I thought Larry Lodato was a super sports editor before he moved on to greener pastures.
The late Jim Mitchell added experience to a young group of wide ranging news room people headed by society editor Melody Kinser, she would later become the Banner’s editor. There was Leah Ferguson and later, Barry Atkins, now Gillman, who anchored the desk in front of me, while Chapmanville’s Dave Maynard sat across the aisle before he took his talents elsewhere.
Tommy Robinette always added humor to the atmosphere, as did his replacement Dennis Bright; later, Jeff Baughn would accompany me with his trusty camera to such places as the McConnell Cemetery searching for Mamie Thurman’s grave site. Jane Watson, with her witty nature, was always a talented writer and even sweeter person. Teddy Paynter, started his newspaper career as a correspondent and developed into a sports editor, who truly loved the Man Hillbillies.
Charlie liked to pen his stories as C.E. Spencer; he and his photographer/buddy Dave Lanehart both were school teachers who in their spare time covered many sporting events for the Banner; by this time, Raamie Barker was running the ship as editor and was in such capacity when we produced the Banner’s first Sunday newspaper which meant long Saturday night hours for everybody.
There were always stressful deadlines that had to be met; that’s one reason I don’t mind writing today, there is no stress, at least not in writing… I do not have any deadlines to meet or meetings I have to attend. I can just write it when I want to, send it to Martha, and go about my business.
The people mentioned above are those who I know played important roles in this newspaper, some of whom never got a proper farewell or thank you for their efforts; Tony Costa actually died on the job. We did not always agree, but we were a team, if not a family and, while I know there were people long before the crew listed above that made the paper a valuable commodity, they were before my time. Also, I likely have unintentionally left out names of some former employees… if so, I apologize ahead of time…
FINAL NOTE: One cannot properly pay tribute to this newspaper without mentioning the man who formed his Logan County Banner in 1888 and even wrote the history of Logan County, Henry Clay Ragland. He was one of the first industrialists of Logan and, with his visions, he became known as a “dreamer”. Ragland’s first printing press was floated here from Cincinnati, Ohio.
— Dwight Williamson is a former reporter for The Logan Banner and now serves as a Magistrate in Logan County.