When Roxy Carey called to ask if I would join Burt Alsup in giving a talk to the Kishwaukee Valley Heritage Society on the history of the Genoa Republican earlier this month, it brought back a flood of memories.
I had not seen Burt since 1966 when we shared a few years on the Genoa weekly, him in the back shop and me on the editorial end, but we both had fond recollections from our days at 501 W. Main St. in Genoa, where the paper was housed.
My first experience there was working for $1 an hour as a “printer’s devil” and janitor while in high school. I also wrote sports stories and covered school news. Burt started there in 1959, in the back shop, which meant learning the printing trade and handling commercial job work.
In sharing our experiences, we found a common thread – C. Coleman Schoonmaker, the newspaper co-owner – and the fondness we had for him. “Schooney,” as he was known around town, seemed to be somewhat of a curmudgeon if you didn’t know him well. He was a veteran of World War I, and then joined his father who had owned the newspaper since 1904. He had added Art Geithman as a partner about the time his father died in 1947 and stayed with the business until selling it to me and my wife, Kay, in 1964.
Burt explained how Schooney was the “kindest man I ever met and he taught me a lot.” He recalled when he was due his first week’s vacation, Schoonmaker handed him the keys to a lake cottage in Wisconsin and insisted he and his wife stay there at no charge.
I spoke about my experiences running the paper and how Schoonmaker and his wife, Anita, helped me “learn the ropes” of operating a small business. It involved a lot more than putting out a newspaper every week. He knew the intricacies of the printing trade and how to figure the cost of a printing job. This included ordering the paper stock, the ink, and setting the type, proofreading it, then running the press. He had done the same for another young Genoa-Kingston graduate, Ed Carter, who used to work there and later bought his own paper, The Hinckley Review.
Burt and I did recall one fault Schooney had, which kept us on the alert. He smoked cigars at work and often left them still smoldering on benches where they would sometimes leave burn marks. The century-old building was a wood-frame structure and could have gone up in flames easily with all that printing ink, paper supplies and various solvents scattered around. We never reminded him of this and, luckily, the place never caught fire.
After I left Genoa, I learned he died at age 75 one July day in 1973 while at his summer home by the lake. I always wanted to thank him for his mentoring and putting up with this ambitious young journalist, but didn’t get around to it. Things are like that in life and you regret not having done something when it is too late. But it was a pleasant trip down memory lane when Burt and I could tell our stories and say something nice about a man we both benefited from knowing.
• Barry Schrader was editor of the Daily Chronicle from 1969 to 1972. He and his wife, Kay, are retired and live in DeKalb. He can be reached at email@example.com or by mail at P.O. Box 851, DeKalb, IL 60115.