A little older but a whole lot wiser
One of Marion’s oldest settlers is quietly celebrating her birthday today. There won’t be any cake. There certainly won’t be any candles — not unless the fire department is on call to extinguish them. Still, the old thing — who doesn’t mind a bit of we call her that — remains as feisty and alert today as she was when she moved here from Dickinson County at the tender age of 1.
The newspaper you hold in your hands — not the paper itself, but the institution behind it — turns 145 years old this very day. Unlike most of us, she hasn’t grayed over the years. She’s become more colorful instead. And she’s never given up on the love affair that first drew her to what then was called Marion Centre, when both she and the town could count their combined age on a single set of hands.
In those days, editors were skilled artisans who had to pluck each letter out of a case of metal type and lock it into metal forms before smearing them with ink and smashing paper against them. The thought of emailing an editorial to the office, tweeting its headline to smart phones, or posting its text not just on newsprint but also on a website was an unfathomable dream. But they knew then as we know now that towns and their newspapers are inseparably wed – for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, ‘til death do they part.
It was, in truth, somewhat of a shotgun wedding that brought our birthday girl together with her beau. It seems it took a sizeable reverse dowry from a cadre of local businessmen to persuade her to leave her original home in Dickinson County and take up residence with her life partner here. Without a journalistic spouse, the businessmen knew, their hometown might likely have faced the same fate that eventually befell her former hometown, the now all-but-forgotten wide spot of Detroit, Kansas.
To be sure, the marriage has had its ups and downs; what marriage doesn’t? The old thing occasionally worries when her spouse flirts with fast and loose teenaged floozies from out of town. But she knows — like her best friends and adopted Marion County sisters, ages 106 and 142 respectively, in Hillsboro and Peabody — that what community pride has brought together, no amount of temporary flirtatiousness can cast asunder.
For all but a few years of her life, multiple generations of two families – the Meyers and the Hochs – have proudly stood by her side as she attempted to make her town the best place she could ever hope to see. Though never financially so, the journey has been immensely enriching and fulfilling – one that we hope and pray will continue for another 145 years. She’s ready, willing and able. And she still has all her own teeth.
— ERIC MEYER
Last modified Sept. 24, 2014