Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sunday Stories: I Remember Sutherland by Rodney Fye Part 2

Part two of the reminiscences of Rodney W. Fye as written in the 1891-1991 Sutherland Centennial book.

Those were the days before small towns lost out to regional shopping centers, when Sutherland streets were filled with people every night, but especially on Saturday night. That was when farmers and ranchers came to town with their families to shop and to visit. Everyone’s favorite pastime, it seemed, was to drive downtown early enough to watch the passing parade of friends and neighbors.
From the advantage of our cars, shared with friends or relatives, we had an endless stream of topics passing before us we could discuss. Depending on who was with us, we likely heard a lengthy recitation of the genealogy and family connections of the subject who had caught our attention. With such rich background available to us, we were invariably able to draw conclusions and to make assumptions that either condemned or excused the person so caught in the focus of our gossip. It seemed no scandal, no mistake, nor no misbehavior went unnoticed or unpublished or, I might add, unremembered.
Those were the days that the great transcontinental Lincoln Highway 30 snaked through town past the north side of Grandma and Grandpa Fye’s property. I often stood on the north sidewalk with cousins in the late afternoon of a summer day. We would eat warm, ripe tomatoes from Grandma’s abundant garden and we would watch an endless stream of vehicles pass into the sunset. We imagined those places from whence the vehicles had come being far-off license plates and the places to which they were headed. The romance of the moment was overpowering as we contemplated the possibilities in the sunset filtering through the dust. Those were also the days the railroad’s steam engines were just beginning to be replaced by new diesel locomotives, still so new and novel that we would often race to the corner for this glimpse of the future. Travel posters fueled our dreams and pictures of happy couples on the platforms of observation cars always disappearing romantically into a golden sunset beyond mountains that had to be located in Wyoming, Idaho, California, or some other of the playgrounds of the rich and famous.
Best of all, Sutherland was right on the path of all this movement and excitement. I never thought of Sutherland as isolated. I saw Sutherland as an observer on the national scene, but hardly an important participant (except for the extraordinarily large number of servicemen in the town contributed to World War II, perhaps more per capita than any other town or city anywhere). At any rate, perhaps it was inevitable that I would become a newspaperman. When I was about fifteen, I had written an anonymous letter to The Sutherland Courier complaining that the school administration had refused to allow students to use the new gymnasium for parties for any purpose but athletic events. The reason the school gave us was that wartime shortages (including presumably teachers to chaperone such events) prevented such luxuries.

Months later when he was interviewing me to become a “printer’s devil” or his apprentice in the newspaper office, Waldo Warren, publisher of The Sutherland Courier, explained to me pointedly that “it is not the policy of The Sutherland Courier to ever publish anonymous letters.” Waldo left no doubt in my mind that so far as he was concerned the letter I’d written was not and never had been anonymous to him. I seem to recall that he had published my letter anyway, because he agreed with what I’d written, but he added a disclaimer and a warning about any more unsigned letters to his newspaper.

I was bored with school and became an unofficial party planner. If nothing else, I had plenty of ideas and was willing to share them with others anxious for a project, not always constructive. I had finished my four years of high school in three so I could get a head start on college. But I had not a penny for an education. I had never had any encouragement from teachers (except Beth Sarrah McNeel) to go on to college and consequently had no confidence I was even college material. If I were to be completely honest, my efforts to complete four years of high school in three was not so much to get an early start on college as simply to escape from the tyranny and boredom of high school one year sooner.
No one ever explained that grants and scholarships were sometimes available. If I had known there was financial help to go to college, I could have made everyone happy by getting on with it. As it was, I languished an extra year in high school, taking only one class and working full time at the Courier office, learning to set type, run the presses, and mail the paper.

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