Town Crier: December 1, 2011
A man whose journalistic endeavors filled these pages for five years died last week. Frank Williams along with his wife, Leola, owned and edited the Vindicator from Nov. 1, 1962, until the Wilson-Davis partnership showed up Jan. 1, 1968.
Frank’s column, “Frankly Speaking,” was a mixture of editorial comment, a few jokes, and a diary of family happenings. He had worked on papers in Idaho, New Mexico, Texas, and Kansas before coming to Valley Falls from Iola, where he had worked on the Register for 12 years.
It is not an exaggeration to describe those five years as an epic turning point, a great upheaval in the lives of Jefferson countians unprecedented in the last century. The Corps of Engineers rolled in to buy land for the creation of Perry Lake and the state Legislature passed a unification law to consolidate schools.
The Vindicator tried to be positive — Be a Dam Pusher, Not a Dam Stopper—once it was known it would be a reality. The paper records the beginning of the Perry Reservoir Area Association that joined the county’s communities together in an effort to make plans and make the best of the coming lake. It would encourage county zoning and orderly development around the lake. The name was later changed to the Perry Lake Association, which had difficulty continuing after the lake was dedicated.
Seeing the towns join together through the lake association caused him to observe “an improvement of attitude toward other localities in Jefferson County and it certainly is time for Jefferson countians to stop butting their heads against the wall as individual communities and start slugging as a county.”
One of Frank’s great disappointments was in the lack of vision over unification. He pushed hard for one school district in Jefferson County with a three-year high school and junior college in newly located Ozawkie. In a column, “What’s wrong with Kansas,” he would state, “Eastern Kansans specifically are the salt of the earth, but we as a people think like peasants.”
The paper had a different look in those days and only someone from the old letterpress era can appreciate the effort. There were few long stories, but rather 20 to 30 short stories on every front page. The mechanics of producing the paper before offset was hard, dirty work and did not afford time for the kind of news coverage expected today. Yet, the Williamses did a great job of leaving a diary of the community and the county.
To go down memory lane, these years brought a swimming pool to Valley Falls, Roy Reichart would replace H.D. Wyatt as the mayor, a move was on to get the new reservoir named Lake Ozawkie, a thousand people attended a meeting sponsored by the Corps in Perry before the land buying office was established, the Citizens State Bank merged with Kendall State Bank, and Frank was a member of the committee to initate a HUD housing project in town. Those were the big things along with the births and deaths, auto accidents, and the usual government problem solving.
When President Kennedy was assassinated, Frank ran a photo of the president on the front page in color. He took that edition to Atchison to be printed. He was a patriot and his family thought it appropriate that he died on Veterans Day.
Frank had family in town. His father had died when he was 3 years old and he grew up calling Charles W. Davis his “Daddy.” His parents were Valley Falls residents along with his half-brother, Richard Davis, for which one of the ball diamonds is named.
The couple had four children when they came to town, Marcia, a junior, Pamela, a freshman, Lori, a first-grader, and Richard, who was 4. They would lose Lori in 1976.
One of Frank’s columns records the difficulty in keeping some nearly ancient equipment operating and how the Haul-Mor metal working crew had to work into the night fixing the press so the paper would go out on time.
It always did.
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