This newspaper is 30 years old. We didn’t do much to celebrate the milestone. Miserable, stinking recessions tend to concentrate the mind.
Five years ago when we hit 25, we blew the wad. Put on a kids extravaganza in Scoville Park. Showed Blues Brothers at The Lake. Gave ourselves a fancy party at Cheney Mansion. I’m still wearing my 25th anniversary WJ baseball cap.
The history comes to mind this Christmas week as the obituary came through Monday morning for Elaine Munn. That’s how I knew her. Elaine Munn. She later reverted, or advanced, to Elaine Logan-Allen.
Elaine was the paper’s landlord 30 years back over on Harrison Street. We wanted to locate on Harrison because it was a half-block from my house and the rent was cheap. We thought we were opening shop in a perfectly legitimate storefront. I pictured the shingle hanging out front. We were ready to sign a lease. But then a certain other landlord reneged. And that storefront has been more vacant than filled for the three decades since. Perhaps you can figure out who that potential landlord is.
Anyhow, we were set to open and we had a gigantic, expensive piece of typesetting equipment due to arrive the next day. Typesetting equipment only came in gigantic, grand piano-like sizes in 1980. And as for expensive, I inadvertently took a second mortgage on my tiny little brown house to pay for it. I was so naïve I didn’t even realize what I’d done and didn’t tell Mary until the mighty Compugraphic was paid for several years later.
The word went out. Pitiful little newspaper seeks home. Must be cheap. Available tomorrow.
And who should call but Elaine Munn. Elaine owned the six-flat apartment at 107 Harrison St. — six apartments plus this funky basement space with a kind of living room facing the street and an extended open basement stretching behind it.
This was the perfect match. We were planning to save the world via print. And Elaine was already saving the world by collecting odd characters and putting a roof over their heads. We had moved into a latter-day commune, we figured out after a short while.
Elaine had installed a wonderful sauna in the back of our basement. A hot tub was just outside. And most nights as we worked through our 100-hour work week, a towel clad person would pass through the office and head to the sauna. Elaine advised us on how to deal with the alcoholic tenant, which may explain why the bottle of booze appeared and disappeared from an end table in our office.
Didn’t know until I read the obit that Elaine was born in Roundup, Mont. Made her way to Oak Park where she wanted to unfurl her background in city planning on the micro-scale of a single apartment building.
“Many of the people who lived in her building benefited from lively interactions with Elaine,” said the piece, which was written by her daughter. I’ll say. There never was a dull moment on Harrison.
A year later, the village politely told us we were violating every zoning ordinance they had by running a newspaper out of an apartment and so we moved to 141 S. Oak Park Ave. where we’ve been ever since. We got our shingle. But we won’t forget our Harrison Street roots.