RAMBLINGS • The Preface–Ahead Of The Curve


Novellas are often shorter than this series of reminisces about the Preface, the once-alive HHS newspaper.

Not only was I allowed to continue sponsoring the high school paper after the first year controversy, I was asked to add a second class. The paper producers were primarily seniors who met first hour and, quite often, especially as publication dates neared, at the Journal after school. I was given a class of juniors to teach how to write sports stories, news stories (hard to come by with a monthly publication), editorials, features, specialty columns, and even obituaries. We touched on selling ads, composing ads, and ad page layout. The class for juniors lasted one semester; the production class was two.

Columns I remember from the paper (I have a complete file of them in storage somewhere upstairs) were Bomb of the Month–featuring someone's ride in the parking lot–and a "Did You Notice?" section that included random observations, often mildly embarrassing to the people mentioned. That served as our humor column and required more sponsorship monitoring than a news story, for example. One of my hopes for the paper was to have every student mentioned at least once during his or her four years at the school, though I didn't share that with any of the classes nor did I have a tracking system.

The Preface's run lasted four more years after the first. Pam Ceney was the editor in '74-75, with Patti White in charge of the books and Edna Vallbracht the ad manager. Joni Young (now an attorney) worked for the Journal as a typist during at least her senior year; other staff members, some of whom still live in the area just to torment me, were Debbie Cooley, Cindy Holtzclaw, Marta Swain, Mary Chappelear, Terry Cox, Anne Galer, Lynn Sellers, Cindy Dugan, Debbie Walker, Tim Terneus, Dany Baker, Robb Sitton (he referees basketball games here occasionally), Roger Barbatti, Brian Hart, Steve Ernst, Kerry Howard, and Patty Casey.

Sarah Shankland was the editor of a too big '76 staff, with Rob Butler as business manager and Susan Plunkett as ad manager. The late Paul Coderko was photographer, and the other contributors were Jim Clinard, current Journal-News ad composer Vickie (Weiss) Daniels, Kelly Mackey, Doug Sitton, Mark Bowen, LuAnn Benson, Vernetta Ford, Tracy Rappé, Jeanne Winkler, Kathy McBroom, Mindy Loskot, Brenda Tuggle, Becky Logan, Mike Piazza, Tim Alverson, Linda (Terneus) McCoy (who also was a Journal employee before becoming a business department stalwart at HHS), Stanna Hicks, Jane Dolan, Tammy Draper, and Sherri Mathenia.

One of Sarah's editorials made that group memorable. A state superintendent of schools visited with some others much higher in the educational food chain than I one afternoon. I declined to interview them, but Sarah encountered Mr. Cronin. Evidently he wasn't used to taking students seriously because more than nails were coming from Sarah's eyes when next I saw her.

That editorial began with, "Our state superintendent of schools has the brains of a great green greasy slug." I suspect that made both our local superintendent and principal wish I'd censored her–but neither said a word to me. Probably both knew I shared her sentiment.

The '77 staff was equally interesting and outspoken, though I was growing fatigued by the hours. Sometimes there would be an all-nighter; the parents didn't object, nor did the Galers–but my wife did. The '77 editor was Julie Jenkins; Tami (Nicol) Richmond was ad manager, and Dana White and Lori DeLuka shared business manager duties. On the staff were Alice Beeler, Debbie Jordan, Debbie Tilling, Robin Mackey, Dave Walters, Jeff Dickerson, Tammy Sturm, Tanja Traylor, Dave Glosecki, Nina Wideman, Sue Eickhoff, Teresa Wilson, Joni Clark, David Boyd, Tom Lipe, Paul Donham, Jean Moore, Rhonda Hammon, Diane Eddington, Laura Boyd, Tena Casey, Jim Dugan, Julie Marfell, Kate Rowe, Kim Ebeling, Barb Boston, Joyce Bruns, Mike Moody, Mike Elliott, Becky Latham, and sports editor Rhonda Sanford.

The last Preface was published in 1978. I didn't realize it was the last until late in the first semester when I realized I couldn't do the routine any longer. Because the class had become two classes, I didn't have a chance to teach more traditional classes like American literature and Shakespeare in a more traditional way. It had little to do with the students, and no one in administration said, "Pull the plug," but they should have. No one else in the department was crazy enough to pick up the course, so it wasn't offered again.

Some of the last group were very talented and dedicated even though it was the last hurrah. Included were Chris Huber, Jill Milanos, Amy Gibb, Terri Mikeska, Becky McCarty, Annette Bickel, photographer Bob Bass, Nancy (Barbatti) Richardson (whose work has appeared in a column here), Bob Whitlow, Mark Boduch, Mary Howard, Amy Dahler, Gayle Whitten, Lisa (Seaton) Menghini (also now a Journal-News employee), Nancy Eickhoff, Tammy Dunn, Mona Roberts, Rusty Hawkins, Jane Jordan, Alice Coleman, Barb Howard, Ronita Hancock, Ann Niemeyer, Lisa Lowe, Julie Terneus, Nancy Draper, Micki Spinner, Jeff Altenberger, Doug Marten, Dennis Meyer, Kit Hamilton, Theresa Anderson, Tjodie Kessler, Lori Young (who also typed part-time for the Journal), Terri Davis, and Sue Rikli.

Once in a while someone like Patti will trigger old memories; I was much younger and became close in spirit to most of my staff members. The generation gap that I perceive now didn't exist as we struggled to keep costs in line and meet deadlines and produce a publication of which they could be proud.

During those years, school boards and administration had the right to pre-read student publications; now they don't. In the Voice section of the Aug. 16, 2016, edition of the State Journal-Register appeared an article headlined "Freedom of the Press." Then-Governor Bruce Rauner had two weeks before signed into law The Speech Rights of Student Journalists Act, which gives high school journalists in Illinois public schools the freedom to write and publish stories they feel important in school publications "...without the fear of being censored by school officials." The legislation was sponsored by the Illinois Journalism Education Association. I didn't know that organization even existed.

It's nice to know, though, that I and The Preface staffers were ahead of that curve. I seldom am.


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