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 printers
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.
C. Coleman Schooney Schoonmaker in shown
in 1960 at work in the back shop of the Genoa Republican. He
is wearing the familiar green eyeshade used by printers and Linotype
operators, smoking a cigar as usual. (Barry Schrader photo)
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 didnt
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 weeks 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 didnt 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.