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Spring 2011

Evolutionary News

by Mary Hooper

Bob Weidenheimer has a boil. Mrs. Beezley has an infected fingernail but it is coming along fine.
* * *
The wrens in Mrs. Boyd's pear tree are raising their third family.
* * *
Gladys Iserman and Sue Abraham have canned 32 pints of sweet corn. Both the Isermans and Abrahams have enjoyed eating the corn from their garden which they think is the finest they ever tasted.
--- items from The Quality Park News
* * *

Back in the day when kids spent more time outdoors instead of indoors in front of a TV or computer, they rode bikes, shot marbles, played jacks and hopscotch, climbed trees and …

… put out a newspaper.

At least a bunch of kids in Kinsley, Edwards County, did.

Between 1942 and 1947, the kids in a section of Kinsley dubbed "Quality Park" put out a weekly newspaper during their summer vacation that recorded the doings and goings-on of their neighbors, including kids, pets and out-of-town relatives.

It was all the news that was fit to print about the 400 and 500 blocks of Fourth Street.

"We are starting a neighborhood newspaper," announced Vol. 1, No. 1, dated June 22, 1942, "in which every child shall have a job or his or her own." Its staff of ten included an editor, an assistant editor, four reporters, two "interviewers," a circulation manager and even a society editor.

The price was five cents.

A small price to learn that "Tom Abraham lost a toenail when he caught his barefoot in the spokes of his bicycle," this from the July 26, 1942 issue.

Or, from the Aug. 5, 1942 issue: "Frank and Judy Bentley have a new sandbox."

Or this police-blotter item: "Three prowlers were caught on Beezleys' Corner by Bill Beezley. The sheriff was called when it appeared they were about to borrow Bill's car."

Three of the Quality Park News staff still live in Kinsley: Sally Iserman Bidleman and sisters Susie Etling Roenbaugh and Nancy Etling Weidenheimer.

World War II was raging in far-off Europe and the Pacific, but it wasn't far from the minds of Kinsley residents, including the News staff. The father of three of the Quality Park News staffers was serving in the British Army. His wife was a Kinsley native who brought the kids back to Kinsley for the duration.

Many young men from Kinsley served. The News recorded their inductions and furloughs. Most folks kept Victory Gardens and collected rubber for the war effort. People had cars, but travel, due to gasoline rationing, was limited.

Nevertheless, for Roenbaugh, Weidenheimer and Bidleman, childhood was an idyll of simple pleasures – roller skating, playing jacks by the hour, having picnics down by the river, exploring Lulabelle Canyon in the Sand Hills, sleeping on the front porch when it was too hot to sleep indoors.

"It was a fun time," recalls Susie Roenbaugh.

Kinsley had daily train service back then. Nowadays Kinsley doesn't even have a station. A few years ago, Burlington Northern Santa Fe demolished the picturesque structure.

"We used to walk with mama to the train station and just watch the trains," says Sally Bidleman. "It was so much fun!"

You could buy fresh milk from a family on Eighth Street who kept a cow.

When your shoes got holes in the soles, you'd replace the worn-out leather with cardboard.

Every mom had her own whistle, says Nancy Weidenheimer. Not the kind a track coach uses, but one she'd make with her own wind. When you heard your mom's distinctive whistle, it was time to go home for supper.

The kids who gathered and edited the news spanned ages 6 through 13, but most were 9, 10, or 11.

Roenbaugh, Weidenheimer and Bidleman aren't sure who came up with the idea to start a neighborhood newspaper, but think it probably was one of the older girls.

The kids of Fourth Street mulled the idea over and decided to go for it. The paper needed a name, however, so they held a contest. One resident suggested "The Quality Park News," and so it was dubbed.

The kids quickly learned that reporters have to go out and dig for the news. Thus, residents grew accustomed to hearing their doorbell ring – ding-dong! – and finding a 9-year-old ace reporter from the Quality Park News on the front porch demanding: "We need some news.'

This was how they learned that "Joan McKibben of Barnadall, Oklahoma, is visiting Suzanne Ward."

Or, "Pedro, Grovie's bird, is about to die with a sore toe."

Or, "Bentley's frog, found last week, died this week."

Or, "The Borgelts blew out four tires in 29 days."

Or that (stop the presses!) some kids raided their mom's lingerie drawer to help the war effort: "Quality Park rubber savers sold mother's girdle."

Or who was hostess of the latest meeting of Pieces of Eight, a women's poker club.

The News printed jokes: "What runs but does not walk? A clock." Or, "Spring is here, the bird is on the wing. Oh! This is absurd; the wing is on the bird."

The staff gathered ads.

"Refresh yourself at our fountain," suggested an ad placed by the Rexall Drug Store.

For kids who couldn't get enough of Superman and the Lone Ranger, a comic book collector advertised his trove: "Complete Line of Funny Books at Sherman's Library. Reasonable rentals."

They wrote editorials. "Isn't it about time to open the swimming pool?" thundered the News in one issue.

The following week, this qualified update appeared: "Last week's editorial got results. The swimming pool is going to open, we think."

Like any newspaper, the News received its share of attention from campaigning politicians.

"Senator Garrison of Garnett, candidate for justice of the Supreme Court, visited the News office Friday," reported the News.

Readers were encouraged to write for the News. Many submitted poems. Here is one called "Election Poem:"

"Some say that Skovgard is the man
To lead the party victory band;
Others seriously contend
The man to win is Carl E. Friend;
Still others say the man to lead
Is the Senator, Clyde M. Reed;
Andy Schoeppel comes from way out west
And all who know him think he's the best;
So take your choice, but do some votin,'
You'd squawk pretty loud if that was 'verboten.' "

The kids' "city room" was the loft of the Etlings' garage. Their one-woman composing room was Maxine Schaeffer, secretary to the Etlings' dad, John, a lawyer and author of the above "Election Poem." Maxine good-naturedly typed up the kids' reports on her office manual. There were no copying machines, of course, so she had to use carbon paper, banging out the edition several times when the circulation reached 53. Finally, John bought an old mimeograph machine, making Maxine's job easier.

The kids didn't put out a paper every week, of course. After all, it was their summer vacation, and they had to do regular kid things like run around and have fun. But they did manage several editions for most of the years between '42 and '47, when publication ceased.
Inflation, alas, was on the prowl.

"NOTICE – Because of the high cost of materials we have had to raise the cost of the paper from five to six cents," advised the June 20, 1947 issue.

But it had a good run.

And left a unique record of the time from a child's point of view.


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