Dave Paxton

Three community newspapers from really fine cities (Centerville, Knoxville and Pella) were closed last week. For the guy who operates three newspapers between those three communities it was a shock.

The plan to serve those communities announced by the gigantic newspaper corporation CNHI was to have Oskaloosa publish a twice a week newspaper for Oskaloosa, Pella and Knoxville, and Ottumwa publish a three-times a week newspaper for Ottumwa and Centerville. The exact way they were going to do that was pretty sketchy.

The three newspapers were troubled (in my opinion) before the COVID-19 pandemic cut in half newspaper revenues throughout the country. On the other hand, Facebook and the Internet had pretty much given all of us a hacking cough as people have chosen to take the free route of Facebook over the traditional news and advertising of the newspaper industry.

Centerville attempted to remain a daily newspaper far too long. Knoxville had competition from a local guy. Pella (a magnificent college town) has for as long as I’ve been in southern Iowa, never accepted its local newspaper, choosing instead to pour its advertising dollars into a free shopper.

But those newspapers had good people trying to serve their communities. I think especially of Knoxville’s Perry Bell, one of the finest sports editors I’ve ever had the honor to know.

It’s all I can do worrying about my own publications, while appreciating the small family newspaper group that owns us and has allowed us to thrive in good and not so good economic times. The closing of Centerville, Knoxville and Pella, however, reminds me that I have to be vigilant in telling our story as a community newspaper and keep reminding people of our importance to the community.

Importance in keeping local government honest. Importance in uplifting the efforts of high school athletes and fine arts students. Importance in serving as the community’s historical record. Importance in placing names with faces and connecting the dots to families instead of simply posting a hundred nameless photos on line. Importance in serving our retail community.

And as a reminder to all. We don’t do fake news. We remain honest about the opinions we express and open to other points of view. Because of the people who work in each of the communities we serve, we remain sensitive to specific needs of each community. We are a direct reflection of the communities we serve.

My wife and I celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary Sunday in what has become a very familiar style. We either do nothing, have some sort of disastrous travel trip or watch a children’s or grandchildren’s sporting event.

This year it was do nothing, but not for lack of imagination. The stupid COVID-19 shutdown has created an entertainment and celebration industry that is barely on life support. The plan we talked about in early March (since our anniversary fell on a Sunday) was to head to Branson on a Friday, do a night and a day of shows and fine dining and sort of drift back home to Iowa on Sunday.

That plan was knifed in the heart when COVID-19 killed the hotel, restaurant and theater business in Branson. Probably our next best options were to either head to Cedar Rapids or Des Moines and do dining and either a movie or some sort of live production.

Dead.

So we decided on a Saturday dinner at Bogies in Albia (doing well under the governor’s opening guidelines) and a family steak fry on Sunday.

Flipping back over the years, though, our wedding on May 17 was done with a very narrow range of thought. First of all, my junior year ended on May 15, Jan’s sophomore year enough ahead of that for her to head back to Waverly and complete the wedding preparations with her mother. We didn’t want to spend the summer apart.

Second, there was a window between corn planting and soybean planting. Even at that, my folks had to drive up to Waverly on a Friday night for the rehearsal dinner, drive back home to make sure the hogs were good and get back by 2 p.m. for the Saturday wedding. They also needed time to bring my granddad and elderly great aunts up to Waverly. A wedding without Grandpa Al and Great Aunts Blanche and Mary was unthinkable.

So May 17 it was.

And here are some of those wedding anniversary highlights.

First of all, we spent our wedding night in a run-down cabin near the shores of Devil’s Lake, Wisc., serenaded most of the night by a pack of raccoons. I, for one, barely noticed. By day three of our honeymoon, we were out of money and spent the remainder of our time with my first cousin and his wife in Iowa City and at the farm, helping my dad finish up planting.

On our fifth anniversary, we went to Waterloo from Hampton where I was working for a hard-driven, demanding boss. The movie we picked was “Apocolyse Now,” a complete downer and our hotel was inhabited with drunken construction workers who howled all night. On top of that, the largest factory in Hampton burned to the ground that Saturday night and my boss was unforgiving that I was not there camera in hand.

On our seventh anniversary, just before moving to Albia that fall, we had our newly adopted daughter, my wife was under a teaching contract and she wasn’t going anywhere without Kari.

I’m not sure of the year that I planned ahead and got reservations at a swank new hotel in Centerville called the “Continental.” Nobody told me for whom the hotel catered until we saw the sign that said, “Elegant living for the well elderly.”

There were probably nine anniversaries where I was coaching little kid softball for my daughters and my wife was keeping the scorebook.

Maybe on our 30th, we went back to revisit our honeymoon spot at Devil’s Lake, Wisc. The cabin we stayed in had long since been demolished. That wasn’t surprising since the cabins were 20 years past their prime in 1975.

Avid hikers, we put on our boots in what can only be described as a looming spring thunderstorm and were nearly killed when lightning hit about 15 feet behind us in a tree next to the trail.

I’m thinking maybe 20, maybe 30 of our anniversary weekends were spent either at the state track meet in Des Moines or at the Senior Assembly at Albia Community High School.

So now comes the weekend of COVID-19. The few people at church on Sunday gave us plenty of attaboys and attagirls, our kids were sort of fun trying to stay out of our way and our grandchildren had no clue as to the importance of the day. We probably would have sat together on our couch looking back at photo albums, but my wife has packed them all away preparing for our move later this summer to our retirement cabin.

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