“Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one” - A.J. Liebling
My father Bob Wilson took this to heart, and bought one and started his own newspaper, the Prairie Post of Maroa, Illinois in 1958, and ran it until he died in 1972. It never had a circulation of more than 2500 or so, but every week, he would fire off editorials at everyone and everything from local events to the actions of the nations of the world.
He may have been a Quaker peace activist in a Republican district, but his love and support of the farming communities garnered him enough respect that he eventually ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1962, though he lost. (He might have tried again, had he not died of an accident while only 49.) Many of his views ring true today. And he might have been willing to change the ones that fell behind the times. Although raised in the casual racism of the 1920s and 1930s, at the age of 15 he took stock of what he was being taught and discarded much of it as being wrong, and lived his life with respect for all.
I decided to transcribe his old editorials (I may make a book for some of my relatives) and every once in a while I will repost one here, as a view of how the world has changed wildly, or remained stubbornly the same.
September 10, 1959
THE FUTURE BELONGS TO THOSE WHO DIG A HOLE
We do not by intention publish material calculated to frighten or alarm our readers without cause.
We feel we have cause.
A governors' civil defense committee under Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller, recently declared, “No father, no property owner, no landlord, no state administration should any longer permit their children, their families, their tenants, their employees or the people for whom they are responsible to live and work without the assurance of adequate fallout protection.”
The plain truth is that we are sitting ducks for a bomb.
There need be no defeatism. If we face the ugly facts calmly and act to protect ourselves in case of war, we can survive.
Thus far, our civil defense leaders have issued warnings, and recommended precautions, and no-one listens. The danger is so total that the imagination fails to grasp it, and we turn to bigger, shinier cars and longer vacations, instead of taking steps to insure there will be a future in which to enjoy them.
Consider the danger; besides the blast area of complete destruction, there will be the fire storm; and last, the fallout, killing animals and people for hundreds of miles from the blast itself.
We must prepare such shelter as we can against these dangers. Plans are available for backyard shelters and reinforced basement rooms. Those who still have them, may find the old-fashioned storm cellars well adapted to this use. It should be covered by three feet of earth or lesser amounts of other materials, and the entrance-way should execute two right-angle turns to prevent the deadly fallout rays from entering.
The survival kit should include blankets, first-aid materials, flashlight, battery radio, food and water for two weeks. WE REPEAT: A TWO WEEKS SUPPLY OF FOOD AND WATER FOR EVERY MEMBER OF YOUR FAMILY.
The automobile is also stressed as a mobile home in escaping affected areas. For rural and small-town people, however, the home shelter should take precedence. Can you imagine the traffic situation if everyone took to the roads at once, and over war-damaged highways?
The human flood of homeless, injured, frightened people is the biggest factor in the equation. Our area will be overrun with Chicago refugees, meeting those from St. Louis. Without question we will bed them in our barns, slaughter our cattle and grind our grain (surplus anyhow!) to feed them.
In a time of such disorder, it is very possible that this may not be enough; looters may kill a household for what food is on the pantry shelves. Wooden structures above ground which have escaped the bomb, may not escape the looter's torch.
It goes without saying that we must bend our best efforts to create the kind of world in which THERE IS NO OCCASION FOR WAR. Only a fool, however, would refuse to consider the grim fact that we may fail.
Out of a scorched earth, where no living thing stirs, our people can arise to build again; if only we prepare shelters in time!
September 24, 1959
MOONRISE OVER LITTLE ROCK
Only recently have the merchants of Little Rock, Arkansas, realized that NOT A SINGLE NEW INDUSTRY has moved to Little Rock in the entire period of the integration crisis.
Suddenly, just days ago, they came face to face with the results of their calculated policy of encouraging disrespect for law and order.
To mix a metaphor, the tigers they sowed came home to roost.
It was nothing to many “good citizens” of Arkansas when a few racist fanatics beat up negro schoolboys. It is suddenly a different matter when these same fanatics, outraged at the minimum token integration undertaken in order to satisfy the law, turn their hatred and their bombs upon school and city officials.
The sun had set on Little Rock; but now, a late-rising moon has at last revealed to its people the true dimensions of what they have done.
Evil, given time, destroys itself. We believe that the decent citizens of Arkansas are at last prepared to solve their own problems.
October 1, 1959
BOMBS IN THE NIGHT
Last week somebody disagreed with Editor Charles F. Dancey of the Peoria Journal-Star newspaper.
They sent him a “Letter to the Editor”, and attached a fuse rather than a signature.
Fortunately, neither the Editor nor his family were in the car (a five-year old model; few editors get rich!) when the dynamite exploded.
The newspaper has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to a conviction.
The police claim to be baffled because Charlie has criticized so many people that any of them are suspect, from big industrialists to trade unions. One must not fail to mention that at the Illinois Press Association conference in Peoria, where we met Charles Dancey, he “put the bee” on Governor Faubus of Arkansas more effectively than any of the rest of us. It is Governor Faubus' racist hoodlums who have made dynamite popular as a going-away gift.
Editor Dancey is a man of brilliant and independent mind; but if he were a clod and a fool, he would still have the right to speak his mind without fear of a blast in the night.
We have only this to say; that if we knew which of Charles F. Dancey's editorials set off the bomb of hate in some twisted mind, we would reprint it here word for word, no matter if we disagreed with every thought it contained.
When the newspapers of this great country take one step backwards for the bombers, the acid-throwers, the slanderers and assassins, then freedom is but a memory, and there will be no-one to weep over its grave.