By Tim Huether
Over the past 44 years, the Bennett County Booster had three different owners and many different employees, but one thing remained the same, Shirley Hahn. Shirley retired from the Booster at the end of September after logging 44 years of working there.
“I was working at Harold’s Motel and reporters were in Martin covering the AIM takeover at Wounded Knee,” said Shirley. “They were from all over and across the ocean. They took photos for their newspapers, sent them on the wire and then would toss them in the trash when they were done. Dorothy Ziegler and I would ask them if we could have the photos and they said sure.
I thought it would be nice if Wendell Long (Booster owner) wanted them for the newspaper so I took them to him and asked if he wanted to use them and he said, maybe. Mary, his wife, was there and I knew she had an ad in the newspaper for a typist and I asked if she had an opening and she asked me if I wanted to try out. I thought, why not, the kids are in school.”
“I sat down and typed for her and she said, come in the morning, you’re hired,” stated Hahn. “That was in September of 1974. The photo I brought in, a photo that showed the church still standing in the background at Wounded Knee, got my foot in the door.”
“During my time with the Longs, they knew Harvey (Shirley’s husband) worked for the Bennett County Coop and that he had learned how to change vehicles from gasoline to propane and Wendell asked Harvey if he could change the Booster car to propane,” Shirley commented. “Harvey said sure, and switched the Booster car over to propane.”
One thing that stood out during her time working for the Longs was when Wendell got his finger caught in the press and it took the end off and everyone was rushing around trying to get him to the emergency room at the hospital along with his finger tip where they would try to re-attach it. Another memory included a time when a bad blizzard hit and you could not get around but the papers needed to get to the post office.
“Helen Leeper, Mary’s sister, brought in a kids wagon and we put the papers on the wagon and took them to the post office that way,” Shirley remarked.
“Mary Lee Woeppel was the bookkeeper at the Booster but she was going to take a job at the library as the librarian, so Mary asked me if I knew bookkeeping,” said Shirley. “I said no and Mary replied, ‘Well, you are going out to the front office and do the office work,’ so I quickly learned that and did the office work and subscriptions.”
Shirley also did the anniversary cake for Wendell and Mary as she was in to cake baking and decorating. She would also do a special cake for the Lewis’ and Tim and Marie Huether’s anniversaries.
In April of 1994, Dale Lewis purchased the Booster. Dale married Mary (Solon) Gibson and Mary took over the bookkeeping and Shirley worked on subs and computers were getting more popular making things easier on the staff.
“I proofread and started to work on Days Gone By,” said Shirley.
“Dale did some entertaining for the nursing home one night a week and he knew I played the organ for church (54 years) so I was asked to go along and play for them,” said Hahn. “We did a sing-along with the residents and they loved it. I loved to play those old songs I sang in grade school. Dale bought song books for the residents to use and I still have one.”
“Tim and Marie Huether bought the Booster from Dale in May of 2001, so I continued working with the same things I had done for the previous owners,” added Hahn. “I inserted pages into books and read sale bills of the auctions in the area, including proofreading and using the red pen that made me feel like a school teacher that all the kids hated with her red pen to mark all the mistakes.”
Days Gone By was Shirley’s specialty as she traveled back in time each week in search of the top articles over the past years.
“I had several people ask what is going to happen to that column and I said if they don’t find someone to do it, I will keep it going,” Shirley remarked. “That column seems to bring readers back to the days they remember here in Martin and kind of remember the names of people living at the time. It brings back memories, which we all like to remember.”
“Some of the things that happened while I worked for Tim was slipping on the black ice on the street in front of the Booster when I was going home for lunch. Frank Mueller saw me fall and came to help me and nearly fell himself,” said Shirley. “I could not get up and Frank got me to my vehicle and went in and told the staff. Harvey Lee came out and followed me to the clinic where they found I had three fractures in my hip.”
Shirley said, “Harvey had done many things for the previous owners but not yet for Tim. I told Tim I thought Harvey Lee (son) could do some jobs he wanted done, like helping run the presses. He could fix things, no matter what it was. Harvey Lee built the press room and new roof on the Booster and is still the press foreman.”
“One day, after I hurt my hip from falling on the ice, and the snow and ice was bad outside again, Tim drove my little pickup on the sidewalk, right up to the front door, and I just opened the Booster door and got into my vehicle to go home,” said Hahn.
“I enjoyed working for the boss and wife of all the Booster owners and I truly liked the newspaper business to work for, including the staff, owners and the public that came into the office,” said Shirley with a deep smile. “I will miss it, but I can go up and visit them once in a while and make sure they are doing the paper right.”
Shirley will be greatly missed and there will be a red pen sitting at her old desk just in case.