Time For Some Post New Year Resolutions

by Curt Kovener

As the calendar has turned, and the events of recent days have resulted in us forgetting most of our New Year’s resolutions, consider these simple things YOU can do to truly Make America Great Again…
•Donate blood.
•Drive safely…especially in construction zones.
•Volunteer. Plenty of good causes need your help.
•Make a contribution to a local charity, and not just during the holidays.
•Stay informed of your community by reading the local newspaper. Pay less attention to Facebook, Twitter and any other social media du jour. Many times it is like reading the writing on a public restroom wall.
•Use your local parks. They are beautiful places.
•Support locally owned businesses. They need you. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.
•Be a good neighbor. Mend fences. Build bridges. And we don’t mean the structural kind.
•Embrace your community’s diversity. Scrutinize your biases or prejudices you may hold toward others concerning politics, religion, race, age, gender or sexual orientation.
•Remember: the only race that matters is the human race.
•Thank a veteran but don’t be patronizing when doing so. Ask about then listen to their stories of what they did during their time of service.
•Tell your police, firefighters and EMT’s how much you appreciate the jobs they do and the risks they take to make our communities safe and secure.
•Express gratitude to all those front-line workers— doctors, nurses, health professionals of all kinds— who give so much of themselves to help their communities through these difficult times.
•Be kind to the animals. Be a responsible pet owner.
•Respect the environment. Don’t litter. Take care of community resources. Recycle. Educate yourself about ways to help make your community more sustainable.
•Speak well of your community. Be proud of where you live. Tell people about it.
•Humankind: be both

Southern Indiana Newspaper Legends Pass

by Curt Kovener

Last year was particularly difficult for newspapers with decreased advertising & circulation and dealing with COVID-19. It was a sad punctuation to the year when two long time newspapermen from nearby Washington County passed away last month.
Joe Green, of Green Banner Publications, was 65 when he succumbed to complications from cancer on Dec. 16. Many of Jackson and Scott County readers remember The Giveaway, a free distribution weekly publication that was 85 years old when Green stopped the presses for good in May 2018.
Joe and I were competitors of sorts early in the life of the Times and colleagues and business associates for the last few years of Green Banner’s existence.
For about four of those last years, the Times was printed in GBP facility in Pekin. When I would arrive at the southern Washington County print shop, Joe would often be seated with other office staff around the boardroom table which also served as the company lunch and socializing table. Or perhaps it was the other way around.
Joe Green’s grandfather, Victor Green, bought the Pekin Banner in 1933. He began expanding its publishing reach in south central Indiana when in 1936 The Giveaway was started as a free distribution newspaper.
Victor’s son, Robert continued the family newspaper tradition and expanded their weekly circulation purchasing the Charlestown Leader in 1984 and the Scott County Journal & Chronicle in 1987.
By 1977 Victor’s grandson Joe had joined the family publishing business taking over the reigns when his father, Robert, died Aug. 25, 1995.
When Joe and I talked over the years, he frequently (and I believe correctly) opined that the demise of our communities’ downtowns— our Main Street businesses— was due to Wal-Mart and internet shopping. But the irony is that in 2020, with sequestering in place, restricted business hours, shortages of toilet paper and sanitizing products, it was internet shopping and home delivery that kept many of us fed and our pantry’s stocked.
On Christmas Eve, a week after Joe Green’s passing, the longtime former editor of the Salem Leader and Democrat, Cecil Smith, 82, succumbed from Parkinson’s disease and COVID.
Cecil was the editor of those county seat weeklies from 1965 until he retired in 2000. For many years, (prior to our print time with GBP) the Times was printed in Salem and Cecil and I would find some time to converse. He was a historian, a train aficionado, and an old style newspaperman actively engaged in his community.
His photos and stories of Washington County won state awards. He was a gentle spirit with a frequent wry sense of humor.
I am told by a very reliable source, that Jackson County Industrial Development Director, Jim Plump, got his start as a sportswriter while at Salem High School back in 1971 under the tutelage of Cecil.
Cecil and I were officers in the Indiana Democratic Editorial Association and would annually hold forth at our August convention in French Lick. There is a photo on my shelf of Cecil and I on the Donald J. Ross golf course at French Lick. Neither Cecil nor I played but, as officers, we drove the beer cart that year ‘refreshing’ the golfers and our photo is with Larry Bird.
After retiring, Cecil was the ‘stationmaster’ of The Depot, a repository of Monon Railroad history in Salem.
The two departed newspapermen cast long shadows for their contribution to community journalism and their influence in their communities were the gold standard to what others in our industry should strive to meet.

Our Covid Christmas Carol

by Curt Kovener

Life in December 2020 may feel as if we’re in a production of “A Christmas Carol.”
For Ebenezer Scrooge, the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future forced him to do some soul searching. For folks today, this tumultuous pandemic year has led to such introspection, too.
The message in Charles Dickens’ masterpiece still draws people 177 years after he wrote it. Most fans of “A Christmas Carol” already know its plot. Yet, they want to see it unfold.
Perhaps the new Christmas Classic is the film “The Man Who Invented Christmas” the story of how Dickens came to write ‘A Christmas Carol’ which changed our views of the holiday more than any churches possible could. And perhaps even changed church teachings and practice about kindness for those less fortunate and peace on earth, goodwill towards mankind.
Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol” as a commentary on the plight of the working poor in 19th-century England. As a boy, Dickens’ father fell into debt and was placed into a debtors prison in London. At age 12, that author to-be was forced to work in a blacking factory. Years later, he turned that hardship into a lesson for the society around him.
The concept of child labor sounds ancient today. The concept and practice of social injustice isn’t outdated, unfortunately.
The Dickens’ classic features literature’s most famous two-word phrase — “bah, humbug.” Scrooge uses it to swat away concerns for the working poor and indigent children, and the joys of the Christmas season. Bitter over his own life’s losses, old Ebenezer refuses to share his wealth to aid those he deems less hard-working, undeserving or inferior. Then, the ghosts interrupt Scrooge’s sleep on Christmas Eve, reminding him of what he’s done, its impact on others, and the consequences he’ll face.
Perhaps today we use “bah, humbug”as our response to the distancing from family and friends that Covid wrought.
Why do we so enjoy a story now nearly 180 years after it was written? We want to see the reformation of this guy who’s been lost. Because if he can, then maybe there is hope for us.
We all embrace our Ghost of Christmas Past: the warm memories of growing up during the holiday with family and friends.
The Ghost of Christmas Future gives Scrooge a visionary tour of his employee Bob Cratchit and family observing Christmas without their frail son Tiny Tim, Scrooge’s funeral attended by only two fellow businessmen hoping for some of Ebenezer’s money, and finally his tombstone.
“But Spirit, tell me, is there hope? Is there a chance for redemption?” Scrooge pleads. “I’m not the man I was. I’ve changed.”
And as we know, Scrooge does indeed change. Generosity replaces his miserly greed. Care for the poor replaces his selfishness. The well-being of employee Bob Cratchit and his family matters now. Scrooge no longer shuts himself off from his own family.
But those reversals only come after Scrooge looks inward. It’s easier to watch Scrooge endure that accountability check than doing so on ourselves. How many of us would like those ghosts to come into our life and show us of our foibles?
The year 2020 has placed lots of us in Scrooge’s position, perhaps for different reasons. Its impositions have peeled away the layers of our routines, down to the core essentials.
Maybe we’re appreciating parts of our lifestyles that have been temporarily halted because of the spreading COVID-19. Or, we’re realizing some things held too high a priority in our lives. Or, we’re seeing loved ones and friends as more precious than before, especially those kept distant by our isolation. Some may rethink their treatment of others with different viewpoints on the election, or those demonstrating over social injustices, or folks whose health put at risk by not masking up.
Even in this surging pandemic, we can experience Dickens’ story. Dozens of film versions exist, dating from the 1930s to the present. Anyone can find a version of “A Christmas Carol” that will connect with them.
And even in 2020, no matter our past or present, we can be reminded that we all can be redeemed. And for that Tiny Tim proclaims “God bless us, everyone.”

The Warm & Fuzzy Time Of The Year

by Curt Kovener

I’m going to clue you in on a bedroom secret here in the Hoosier Wilderness.
This isn’t X-rated but it is Z-rated as in ZZZzzzzzz.
When colder weather arrives in this neck of the woods of the Hoosier State, our bed gets covered with flannel sheets: top sheet, bottom sheet, pillow cases.
Yep, the same material we all wore as footed PJ’s as we toddled through the house in diapers & training pants. The same material I wear three seasons of the year in my outdoor shirts.
What we have found as we surpass middle age is that comfort is playing a larger role in our lives.
Satin sheets are way over-rated for sleeptime. They are cold & never warm up. The percale and muslin cotton sheets might be fine for the summer night sleeping, but when the frost is on the pumpkin, snow on the rooftop, ice in the birdbath, and the thermometer is even too cold to rise, we switch to the soft, warm embrace of old-time flannel sheets.
Growing up I think Mom called it a sheet blanket—a flat, white cotton flannel sheet which covered you. But you still had to deal with the initial cold bottom sheet.
We now has an assortment of flannel sheets in a variety of colors—solids, plaids & outdoor woodsy scenes.
The flannels are particularly appreciated in the wilderness where after a day of working outdoors and some warming up in front of the fireplace and an adult beverage or two the flannel sheets, extra blankets and comforter offer a warm hug for the night’s slumber.
In the winter we forego electric blankets. Instead, our bedroom thermostat is turned down into the mid-60° range and we pile blankets and a thick comforter onto the flannel sheets. And the snoozing is never better. You don’t feel cramped up fearing to move to a new sleeping position because the sheets where your body isn’t are cold. No matter where arms & legs flail through the night, there is warmth.
But there is a downside to flannel sheets: flannel pajamas. They act like Velcro®.
In addition to flannel sheets and flannel shirts, I have found another comforting application for the wintertime fuzzy cotton fabric—flannel boxers. But maybe that is a topic for another column.

40 Years Of Changing & Staying The Same

by Curt Kovener

The Times quietly noted an anniversary last week. In a pandemic it is not wise nor healthy to do so with a lot of public partying and fanfare.
It was at this time in 1980—40 years ago—that the newspaper you are reading was inaugurated.
The first week of December 1980, the Scott County Journal, then owned by David Bartle, began publication of a new newspaper called The Crothersville Times.
It wasn’t expected to last…but it did…it has.
The newspaper came under new ownership in March 1983 when the current Editor, perhaps in a moment of weakness, purchased the publication and went from being employed reporter to Editor-Publisher-Photographer-Circulation Director-Delivery Supervisor-Business Agent-and Complaint Department at the Times.
There have been considerable changes at the newspaper since that first issue. A much grayer editorial head of hair being among the most obvious. Other changes are not as apparent to readers.
In an ironic twist that life can provide, while David Bartle is still actively with us (and we confer periodically) the Scott County Journal he sold to Green Banner Publications in the late 1980’s is not. After the Journal closed its doors in May 2018, the Times has begun filling the news and legal notice gap for Scott as well as Jackson County.
When the Times began four decades ago, it was produced by keyboarding stories directly into a phototypesetter which printed out stories after a l-o-n-g strip of paper went through a chemical solution to make the type magically appear.
The next technological improvement required a bit of ingenuity. We acquired a used but more up-to-day typesetter which could be plugged into a computer. That would allow stories to be written and saved to disk and then typeset after they were edited. I didn’t have an IBM computer running DOS but I did have a Commodore 64 which could send information out in ASCII coding that the typesetter could understand.
While many pooh-poohed the idea, for a number of years the Times was produced with that toy computer.
In the mid-1990s the newspaper switched to the Macintosh computer and our desktop publishing era began. Though, being a skeptic, it was several years before we got rid of the obsolete phototypesetter & processor.
I splurged on that first Mac computer and got the larger 80 megabyte hard drive rather than the standard 40 meg. It added about $300 to the price tag as I recall but I thought the investment would be worth it to have extra capacity.
Today the newspaper uses thumb drives which are slightly larger than fingernail clippers and hold more than 100 times as much information than that original Mac hard drive. Several years of the Times’ electronic pages are now archived on one of those thumb drives with room to spare.
Now in the midst of a global pandemic I work wirelessly in the wilderness in the middle of nature to produce the weekly newspaper checking in a couple of times a week at our offices in Crothersville and Scottsburg.
Over the years I have found that while the cast of characters and communities may change, the plot and theme has not. Crothersville and Austin are still one stoplight towns; Scottsburg, owing to its size and growth, has more opportunities to stop in traffic.
Our residents still want a safe community in which to live, a good school for our children, safe water to drink and don’t want to be bothered with whatever happens after we flush the toilet because that’s now the sewer utility’s problem. We all want more business in our communities while we continue to prefer to shop out of town.
We still commute out of town to work and watch out-of-towners commute in to work at local manufacturers.
We still like to complain about taxes but always want police, fire and ambulance services paid by those taxes readily available in case we need them.
One other thing I have found over the past 40 years, despite all of the new, innovative technology, I still work too many hours. And I have found that those ‘smarties’ who say “You don’t need to work harder, you need to work smarter” usually have someone to whom they can delegate their work duties.
One final thing that hasn’t changed over the past four decades, even though the newspaper has ‘gone green’ by using soybean based ink and recycled newsprint, the ink still rubs off on your fingers as you read the paper.
Thank you for putting up with dirty fingers all these years.

Drop The ‘Me First’ Attitude And Help Fight COVID-19

by Curt Kovener

Despite what some have predicted, COVID-19 hasn’t gone away with summer or fall or the general election. In fact, it’s only gotten worse and now holds Indiana and Jackson and Scott County in its ever-tightening and potentially deadly grasp. We were advised by medical professionals to not gather with family for last week’s Thanksgiving. I hope you followed that guidance as my family did.
Every day, the number of new cases ticks higher. Every day, new deaths are reported. Every day, more are hospitalized in our already exhausted health care facilities. And, yet, every day comments across social media and in personal discussions express doubt about the existence of the disease or the very real consequences it can impart on a society that does not take it seriously.
A society that could simply do its part by wearing a mask and social distancing arrogantly doesn’t.
There are too many people who allow their religious and political views to trump medical science and common sense. The most recent Supreme Court ruling that government can’t tell churches not to meet for health reasons will embolden churches and ramp up COVID cases. Isn’t that a peculiar twist on Pro- Life?
Science has proven masks are effective in slowing the spread of the disease. Social distancing and self-isolating are proven to lower the risk of infection. Yet some will not do what is required to slow the coronavirus.
If you are among this group, it’s unlikely that anything said here will change your mind. So let us appeal to your heart.
If the spread of this virus continues, there will be fewer stockings on the mantel at Christmas. There will be brides who walk down the aisle in the years to come without their fathers. There will be seniors who graduate from high school without their mothers.
Maybe your heart is cold enough that these scenarios don’t faze you. So, let us appeal to whatever part of you it is that makes claims about freedoms or the economy or whatever reason you cling to that gives you the gall to not wear a mask and follow distancing guidelines. Maybe you think you’re 10-foot tall and bullet-proof and won’t get the virus.
If we do not stop this virus with these simple measures, there will be more shutdowns. Town and city halls have already closed. Community Christmas parades have been canceled. More businesses will close. More people will lose their jobs. More consumer products will become increasingly hard to find. What does that do for your freedoms or the economy?
This country must divorce itself from its “me first” attitude. It’s sickening and killing your fellow Americans… people who are your neighbors, your friends and your family.
And if your maskless face is being shown in public for economic reasons, then consider: some of a litigious nature whom you sicken can file a civil complaint against you in court on a complaint of ‘contributory neglience’. And while the case drags on, your savings will get drained paying your defense costs.
A mask, a little consideration and a little sacrifice can keep the blood off your hands.