“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.
May 18, 1961
NO BRANCH BANKING!
People have sometimes inquired how to go about getting us to “write an editorial for them.”
It's easy. A young man from Chicago got the job done this week. He just came in and asked us.
Of course, the editorial we are writing is not the one he wanted us to write.
The young man was one of a flock of salesmen turned loose on the state by the “Illinois Council For Branch Banking.” He tried to tell us that various of our friends in small towns that lack banks of their own, would welcome a branch of a big Chicago bank.
He gave us a stack of literature which made various false claims including the allegation that branch banking is forbidden in only two states.
Anyone familiar with California or New York knows what happens when the giant bank is permitted to slide its octopus tentacles into every small community.
The local people – many of whom have been unjustly denied the privilege of having their own bank – do get service from a bank. Soon, however, the relentless competition withers the small local banks that are owned and controlled in the county, and one more American institution has gone the way of bigness and de-personalization.
“Branch banking”, to quote the president of a flourishing medium-size bank which has no designs on its neighbors “creates a powerful and frightening monopoly whereby one or two large banks can shape the entire financial community to their own ends and purposes.”
We find it impossible to defend the “currency exchanges” from the charges made against them, but we are happy to defend the local banks and savings and loan associations of Central Illinois. Most of them give good service to their communities and we do not wish to see them crowded out of business by giants from Chicago.
We urge the state legislature to defeat the proposed bill for branch banking in Illinois.
June 1, 1961
JUNE IS DAIRY MONTH!
We heard the other day of two more good milking herds sold out and the pastures put under the plow.
Before we went into newspapering a few years back, we used to milk one cow every day. How many of you remember the feel of a raw March wind blowing through a drafty barn onto the back of your neck?
We used to come in with a great foam-flecked pail of rich milk. We churned real butter, and made honest-to-goodness country ice cream. We ate thick cream on our breakfast cereal.
Now we don't even know anyone who can afford to buy real cream for their cereal.
Everyone uses milk. Except for drinking, that is. Now the dairies are trying to tell us that skim milk, or “Blue John”, that we used to feed to the hogs, is some kind of miracle diet food.
The skim milk, or the left-over whole milk raised a multitude of little animals into big ones; pigs, chickens, orphan calves, whole generations of puppies and kittens.
Milk was designed for immediate consumption; it was never meant to be stored and refrigerated. Contact with the air changes it. A stale tomato from the icebox may be good good, but it cannot be compared to the freshness and flavor of one taken directly from the vine. In the same way, milk from the cardboard boxes cannot be compared to milk drunk from the tin cup it was milked into; foaming, warm, delicate in taste.
How long before our meddlesome scientists create an “ersatz” milk that is cheaper to manufacture, and dispossess the milch cow from our green fields forever? Every step of this sort removes our society further from its roots in nature, and makes it easier to cut off and destroy.
One day this week we had strawberries (they were real) topped with something that closely reminded us of that thick yellow cream from our own cows that the wife could whip so readily.
This stuff, however, came out of a pressure can. Curious, we read off the contents.
“A pasteurized blend of water, hydrogenated vegetable oil, sugar, vegetable protein, sorbitan monostearates, salt, carboxymethylcellulose, vanilla, artificial flavor and color. Charged with nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide. CONTAINS NO MILK OR MILK FAT.”
There must be some comment suitable to the situation, but we cannot think exactly what it would be.