Friday, February 3, 2012

7 days of Bob -- Still "Scoop"

For 30 years my parents owned the weekly newspaper in my North Dakota hometown, Cando. Dad trained as a teacher and taught high school English in Minnesota starting in 1964. In 1979 they bought the business from my grandparents, who themselves had owned it for 30 years after buying it from my great-grandfather ... who became editor many years earlier while still working as a Presbyterian minister and siring 6 children.

(Tangentially ... the story for years was, through college and for several years in the 1990s when I worked as a journalist myself, how and when I could potentially be the 4th generation owner. Considering I still have trouble balancing my checking account and have never made a single major financial purchase in my 38 years, it seems odd now .... as odd as it would have been for me to never have come to Boston. But I had emerged as the foremost writer in a generation of good writers. To not have my family be a part of the Towner County Record-Herald was once unthinkable. The closest I ever got to it was writing an MFA thesis, in 2002, about the family’s history with it and how I perceived my father felt --disappointed on a level, but circumspect and realistic-- about my inability to take on the life he had curated. He was incredibly patient taking my questions on the subject.)

My current career, in finance, takes up a lot of my time and energy and I enjoy it more often than I don’t. But it doesn’t entirely define me. Life small-town businessman defined my father. The man with the enormous camera bag and legal pad, ubiquitous at high school sporting events. Who spent his Saturday afternoons at the office doing the payroll and enlisted teenagers to develop and print all his photographs. ho advocated for Chamber of Commerce memberships and renovation of the crumbling World War I-era Audi (link) into an arts center. Who drove rural roads 90 to 100 miles a week to solicit advertising from the tiny cafes of Bisbee and Calio and the grain co-op in Churchs Ferry and, when the money trickled slower from those sources, the 72-miles round trip to Devils Lake. The man who rarely left town for more than a few days because there are 52 weeks in a year and a newspaper doesn’t get a vacation.

When Mom and Dad sold the Record Herald to another local publisher in late 2007, it was time. The children and grandchildren-to-be were 8 hours away in Minneapolis. The energy to keep up with the schedule had fallen back. There was a sense they needed to learn to do something else before they didn’t have the energy to learn how to do something else. So after years of considering it, in a quick year they made the business sale, made the house sale, and moved to Minnesota.

Dad now defines himself as a grandfather and frequent babysitter, as a singer in a men’s chorus, as a friend to many in the church where my parents have made a home. He struggles to find sharper focus, though, and I know this troubles him. He’d like to be known for more, to more people, even if he wouldn’t admit it. Thirty years as “Scoop” is a tough act to follow.

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