By Deb Hendrickson
Paper and ink formed a partnership way before the 17th Century. However, the first printed periodical, replacing handwritten newssheets, began in the 17th Century in Europe. The first newspaper printed in the United States was printed in Boston, Mass., in the late 17th Century.
The Bennett County Booster II, Martin’s local, hometown newspaper, will be celebrating its 109th anniversary this October. There has been a lot of controversy expressed recently whether or not newspapers are obsolete and the industry itself has expressed some reservations. For the most part, however, the general consensus seems to be that newspapers continue to be a vital compilation of communication, information and a permanent source for preserving historical records.
The inception of the Booster began in the form of a vision realized by Mr. Ray W. Hitchcock in 1911. Hitchcock owned the Cody Cow Boy newspaper in Cody, Neb., but when news began to spread that LaCreek had the potential to become a newly-settled township, his thoughts turned toward starting another newspaper in LaCreek. Unable to run two papers simultaneously, he convinced his sister, Ollie Hitchcock, to relocate to LaCreek and run the newspaper there. A small two-room building was constructed and the first issue of the Bennett County Booster was printed at LaCreek on October 4, 1911.
In March of 1912, a newspaper called the Martin Messenger was established in Martin and published out of a small box car just to the west of the present-day site of Martin Drug. Publishers were C. W. Allen and William Healy.
At a special election held in April 1912, Martin was named as the temporary county seat. Regardless of the election results, Ray Hitchcock was determined to continue publishing the Booster. Unfortunately for Ray, Ollie made the decision to leave the area, so he persuaded his sister, Mamie to relocate to LaCreek. The Booster building was moved to Mamie’s homestead where she continued to publish the Booster.
In 1916, the Booster was sold to Judge W. E. Hooper who merged with the Messenger about a year later.
A third newspaper called The Bennett County Review was started in March of 1928, but was only published for a little over a year when it was sold to the Messenger.
In 1930, Blaine Whipple, editor of the Martin Messenger and the County Review began the Bennett County News.
A fire on February 8, 1933, destroyed the building which housed the office and plant of the Bennett County News, but a miniature edition of the News was printed regardless of the loss.
From the latter part of the ‘30s and into the early part of the ‘50s the Booster was owned and published by a number of different owners and editors.
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Wendell and Mary Long began publishing the Bennett County Booster II on July 27, 1950. They retained ownership of the paper for the next 44-years. The Longs began publishing the Booster II out of a Quonset building with a brick front, to the east of the courthouse, which continues to be the site of the paper today.
As a teenager, Mr. Long began working at the local newspaper in Martin. “Wendell always wanted to work in the newspaper business,” Mary said. “After WWII, when he was discharged from the service, he went to Brookings, S.D. to further his studies in journalism.” While owning the Booster II, Wendell served as President of the South Dakota Newspaper Association and later served on the board for the National Newspaper Association in S.D., N.D., Iowa and Minn.
Although Mary didn’t have any previous experience in the newspaper business, she worked in various capacities alongside her husband while they owned the Booster II. Her primary job responsibilities, although not limited to these in particular, were bookkeeping, selling advertising and operating machinery.
“We employed several family members while owning the paper. My sister, Helen Leeper, continued to work at the Booster for a few more years after we sold,” Mary stated.
Mary is of the firm belief that for small communities a weekly newspaper is a necessity. She does not believe newspapers have outgrown their time but feels that they provide vital information, as well as being a source of advertising for local residents and businesses.
The Booster II building underwent extensive remodeling in 1961 to accommodate for new growth and new equipment. The expansion included removal of the Quonset and constructing a block building with a tin roof.
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Shirley Hahn was originally hired by Wendell and Mary Long to work at the Booster as a typist. Compugraphic phototypesetting machines had recently made their way into the printing industry making hot type technology obsolete. Shirley stated that she had a few challenges learning to type on the Compugraphic but managed to get things figured out. She was also responsible for doing the bookkeeping, proofreading all the papers, compiling subscription lists, and measuring and charging the legals and advertising. During her 44-year career at the Booster, Shirley was employed by three different owners. “I liked everything about working at the Booster, all the work!” Shirley exclaimed.
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Tim Huether purchased the Bennett County Booster II on May 1, 2001 and published the paper until October 1, 2018. Tim said he decided to purchase the newspaper after working for corporations from 1984 to 2001. “Becoming your own boss can be challenging, but you only have yourself to answer to on the decisions you make,” Tim said.
Prior to coming to the Booster, Tim worked at daily newspapers in Aberdeen, S.D., and Klamath Falls, Ore. While in Ore., Tim was offered a management position at one of their newspapers in Lander, Wyo. He then was a general manager and publisher in Nev., N.D., and Sturgis.
Tim attended Black Hills State University for two years and while there, wrote for the college newspaper. He then transferred to South Dakota State University where he focused on the marketing side of journalism and received his B.A. in Journalism Advertising.
Tim stated that, “Weekly newspapers are the heartbeat of every community. They pull together the little things, the big things and a lot of things in between to keep the community informed and updated.” He believes there will always be a need for weekly newspapers to give the right balance to what is happening, keep government on their toes and help hold public figures accountable. Above all, Tim believes that reporting the news, and reporting it accurately, honestly and without influence, is vital to a community because it is the most reliable tool for recording a community’s history.
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“I like to go into the Booster because I love the smell of newspaper production,” Jeff Siscoe stated. “It brings back many good memories.”
Jeff’s experience in the newspaper business started in southern Indiana when he was 16 years old. He worked exclusively in the industry for 18 years. After relocating to South Dakota, Jeff worked part-time at the Booster for several years as a press operator. “It was great fun working for Tim Huether and alongside Harvey Lee Hahn,” Jeff said.
Jeff feels that the most important thing about reporting the news is maintaining fairness in reporting, customer service, and a balanced approach in using local, pertinent information.
Jeff stated that he likes the atmosphere and working environment in newspaper work. He feels that meeting deadlines takes a lot of teamwork, but he always looks forward to getting his weekly newspaper.
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Present-day Booster II owners, Bob and Mandy Scherer, purchased the paper from Tim Huether in October of 2018. Mandy began working at the Booster for Dale and Mary Lewis in December 1999 and when Tim took ownership in 2001, she was asked to stay on as front office receptionist. Along with her receptionist duties, she typed the legal submissions for the paper but was soon given the responsibility of keeping the books. Mandy obtained her B.A. in Business Administration with an Accounting emphasis from Black Hills State in Spearfish.
Mandy’s husband and co-owner, Bob Scherer works as a press operator at the Booster. Bob stated that the work is really different from anything he has ever done and sometimes can be a bit of a challenge, but he enjoys working with machinery. Bob and Mandy have three children, all of whom have helped out at the Booster on numerous occasions. They also have four grandchildren.
Mandy’s 19-year commitment of working at the Booster afforded the Scherer’s the first option to purchase the paper when Huether became interested in selling. “One of the reasons I decided to buy the paper was out of concern that if someone else bought it, I may be out of a job,” Mandy stated.
According to Mandy, the most important things about reporting the news is maintaining accuracy and the ability to state the facts correctly. She feels that in a small town a weekly newspaper is vital and appreciated. The thing she likes best about her job is having the flexibility to do a variety of things. No one day poses the exact same thing as the day before.
Bob and Mandy also own and publish The Sheridan County Journal Star in Gordon, Neb., the Fall River County Herald Star in Hot Springs, S.D., the Todd County Tribune in Mission, S.D., and the Mellette County News in White River, S.D. Mandy stated that all of these papers are within a 125-mile radius of each other, have a lot in common and support one another. Owning five newspapers, along with the responsibility of keeping them all functioning, it is not surprising that Mandy finds the least favorite thing about her job as being able to find and retain capable, dependable employees.
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Press Foreman, Harvey Lee Hahn, had no prior experience of working in the newspaper industry prior to being employed at the Booster but he has worked part-time at the paper for the past 12 years. He credits his previous co-worker, Jeff Siscoe, for teaching him how to run the Web press.
Harvey was working at an appliance store when he became acquainted with Tim Huether through the association of their two sons. At that time, Tim had purchased some additional pieces of the Web press and needed to add onto the Booster building to accommodate the press. Harvey was instrumental in helping with the construction. “I guess I just sort of worked my way into a job,” Harvey stated. He went on to say he enjoys his job, but with running any type of machinery, some days can be a bit challenging.
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Although Taylor Risse was born and raised in Martin, she stated, “I never set foot into the building until I applied for the Administrative Assistant position five years ago.” Taylor wears many hats at the Booster but her basic job duties currently involve advertising, commercial printing and production. One of Taylor’s favorite responsibilities is covering sports events which include rodeo, volleyball, baseball, football, cross country, basketball, wrestling, and track.
Taylor said she loves the work and the laid-back atmosphere at the Booster. She also enjoys the fact that there is such a variety of things to do every day.
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Deb Hendrickson, Reporter, has worked at the Booster for a mere six months.
“Times have changed, but we haven’t. Our top priority is to cover the news that will someday be a record of the past.”*
*Reprinted with permission by Tim Huether from the Special Edition of the Bennett County Booster II July, 2011