Years ago, after my father passed away, I began the slow process of cleaning out his office. Each file was its own story, and seeing all of those files was like looking at the program of a Broadway playbill with different casts of characters. Tucked away in the corner of his filing cabinet was a once yellow now beige tattered folder titled “Personal.”
Dad was no longer around to stop me, so naturally, like a kid discovering his hidden Christmas presents, I opened the file. Inside I found yellowed Bolivar Commercial clipping after clipping of my family’s life dating back to the late 1960s. Honor rolls, weddings, births, obituaries, pictures, my first by-line in this paper as an 8th grader, every story I ever wrote for the paper as a college student, it was all there. Every clipping meticulously cut as if to be placed in a scrapbook but instead placed in a long legal file for posterity.
Leafing through the brittle paper was like pressing “Rewind” on my life. Most of my family’s triumphs and difficulties were at my fingertips, and I couldn’t do anything but smile through teary eyes. Every clipping brought back another rush of memories– the Canadian exchange student that came to stay with us for a week through some Lion’s Club program … my brother as the STAR student at high school graduation … my dad’s picture at the opening of the Port of Rosedale … my sister as a Tri Delt pledge … my mom as a hospital volunteer … even me, as a 6 year old little boy, sporting a homemade Dorothy Hamill haircut and holding a soccer ball that is roughly 4 times the size of my own head. It was all in my hands. It was all in the paper.
Back in the days before being able to hit “share” made you both a journalist and a self-appointed star of your own world, it meant something to be “in the paper.” If your name hit the paper, good or bad, then you better believe that you would hear about it from a person or two in the community. Before there was such a thing as “Facebook official,” before we gathered news from the experts in the Twittersphere, before we posted our group pictures on Instagram, we had the local newspaper to bind us all together. I am just as guilty as everyone else about falling victim to the social media world. I use all sorts of mediums and I know that our world evolves and changes.
My awareness, however, doesn’t make me immune to sentimentality. Time marches on, but something will just seem odd. Heck, Fleetwood Mac carried on for years and years with different lineups but it wasn’t the same without Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. I want to thank everyone who ever worked at The Bolivar Commercial and helped produce our wonderful record of small town life. While well-deserved honors came your way over the years, a plaque cannot come close to symbolizing your true impact on our little town. You were our community connector and touchstone. You chronicled our highs and our lows, our best and our worst, our births and even our deaths. You did so every day, every week, every month, for years and years, without fail. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
John C. Cox