Rural Missouri - March 2012 - (Page 5)

Hart to Heart A history lesson I’ll always cherish L by Barry Hart bhart@amec.coop ast month we talked about 75 years of existence for the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. When milestones in the rural electrification program occur, it takes me back to my beginnings at Platte-Clay Electric Cooperative where I worked during my high school and college summers. My mind also returns to my first full-time job here at the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. I was hired at Platte-Clay by Howard Alexander, the co-op’s first manager. Howard was instrumental in getting enough members to sign up so they could start building lines in the 1930s. During my six summers at PlatteClay, I also worked with some of the original linemen who started working there after World War II. One of my favorite employees was Laverne Lutte, who ran the office. Laverne was a great cook and brought in homemade desserts because we were her family. I wish I had more space to share stories about the early years of rural electrification, because most of the stories had a profound effect on me. I am thankful for having the oppor- tunity to work with these pioneers of the program. They taught me more about the history of electric co-ops than I could ever have received by reading a book. Most of them knew what it was like to live without electricity. Every time they hooked up someone to the electric system they had built by hand, they knew it would change lives. I didn’t realize it at the time, but now I know I was being exposed to employees and directors who lived through the Great Depression and worked in a unique time in American history. They were thankful for their own jobs, but also thankful for the prog- ress electricity was bringing to their friends and neighbors. When I first started working at AMEC in the 1970s, many of the employees and directors who had built co-ops in other areas of the state were still around. I was exposed to many more stories of the challenges every system faced. One man I met and enjoyed listening to was the former manager of AMEC, A.C. Burrows. I first met him and heard one of his famous oneliners when I drove Howard Alexander to a co-op meeting in Jefferson City. He told me, “Drive the speed limit in this town or you won’t have any money left for a date with your girl.” “I wish I had more space to share stories about the early years of rural electrification, because most of those stories had a profound effect on me.” Barry Hart Other A.C. Burrows sayings included: “Tighter than the bark on a tree,” “Had a smile as big as a wave on a slop bucket,” “So tight he wouldn’t pay a nickel to see an ant eat a bale of hay,” and “He was big enough to go bear hunting with a stick.” During this trip, I also met Frank Stork who would replace A.C. when he retired and would be my boss after college. Frank continued my co-op education, which proved invaluable. He became a legend for his work on behalf of electric cooperatives in South Dakota, Alabama and Missouri. Many times I bragged to my friends that I worked for the guy who met with the president of the United States to defend co-ops. In the future when I reflect on these great men and women, I will think about their dedication, strength and commitment. I will think about the strong co-ops they formed and built. Most of all I will be thankful I got the chance to learn firsthand from some of the great leaders who had a vision for consumer-owned electric co-ops. It’s a history lesson I will always cherish! Hart is the executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. Guest Column Readers love their small-town papers I by Brian Steffens f you listened to or read the reports in the national media, you might think newspapers, and perhaps even magazines similar to the one you’re holding, will soon disappear from your doorstep or mailbox to be replaced by digital news on your smartphone or tablet, or via a newsfeed on your Facebook page. Absolutely, yes, you’ll get headlines, news alerts, school and road closings and the weather on your cellphone, if you aren’t already doing so. And you may eventually enjoy a magazine on a $99 tablet. Facebook can tell you what your friends are reading and what’s interesting to them. You’ll hear or read the soundbites from the national candidates, maybe even from your smalltown mayor. Technology enables us to stay up to date, abreast of news as it’s happening. Yet it’s difficult to read a detailed story on a handheld-sized cellphone, and not everyone wants to or can afford to carry around a tablet. If you’re looking for the news behind the news — the how and why, not just the what, when and where — you’ll likely continue to turn to a newspaper for quite some time. This is especially true in smaller towns and communities. Local newspapers never outgrew their communities. They never got so large that they didn’t know just about everyone in town, where everyone in town knows the editor and reporters. You’ll see these editors and reporters in church, in the supermarket, at a local restaurant. They report face to face, not over the phone or via e-mail. Metro dailies are scrambling to re-connect with their readers, to engage with them, to give them news and information they want and need — the “chicken dinner” or “refrigerator news” they used to eschew. Most community newspapers never lost their connection to their community. They never stopped engaging with readers and advertisers, always realized that a community is knitted together by shared experiences that include refrigerator news, Pee Wee baseball leagues and civic organizations doing community service. Don’t expect your local paper to disappear anytime soon. It will change. You’ll find pieces of it on your cellphone, perhaps some of it on a tablet and other pieces on its website. That’s just good business: deliver what your neighbors want and need, when, where and how they need it. And much of the time, they’ll want and need it in print while sipping coffee or relaxing in a chair. Think of your local community paper like that neighborhood bar in the TV show, “Cheers,” where everyone knows your name. A chain restaurant or bar may move in down the street, but it’s still more comforting to share time with lifelong friends in a familiar place. Skeptical? Check out five years of research at: www.rjionline.org and search for “small town newspaper.” Steffens worked for daily newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald and Detroit News, for 20 years. He served eight years as director of the National Newspaper Association and is now director of communications at the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. “If you’re looking for the news behind the news — the how and why, not just the what, when and where — you’ll likely continue to turn to a newspaper for quite some time.” Brian Steffens MARCH 2012 5 http://www.rjionline.org

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - March 2012

Rural Missouri - March 2012
Contents
Comments
Columns
Stickin’ to it
Outdoors
Out of the Way Eats
Spending to save
Just vault
Guarding the honeybee
Hearth and Home
Callaway’s kingdom dinner
News Briefs
Around Missouri
Marketplace
The comical curator
Neighbors
Just4Kids

Rural Missouri - March 2012

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