Thursday, October 14, 2010

Webb City Sentinel column - 10-17-10

His name’s not Peter, but Tom picked a peck of peppers for market yesterday – actually he picked two or three pecks of peppers. Tom Lewis of Broken Wire Ranch sent me word that his peppers are thriving and he’ll have lots of pretty peppers – big and colorful. He grows a wide variety of sweet and hot peppers and, if you like them roasted, he can roast them right at the market.

We’re also loaded with green beans, eggplant, spinach, lettuce, potatoes, green onions, cucumbers,... well, you get the picture. The fall season has a bounty of local produce to offer. (No, that's not Tom or a fresh local veg - it's our own Bob Foos - more about him below.)

We’ll have the pleasure of hearing SwingGrass at the market today. This trio – sometimes quartet – always draws an appreciative crowd with its lighthearted, playful music. They’ll play from 11 to 1 during lunch. Lunch is Spaghetti Red, side salad, garlic bread, brownies and drink for $6.

So, to summarize – there’s lots of fantastic local produce at the market today, wonderful music and a satisfying lunch. We have all sorts of special baked goods, jams, jellies, lamb, pork, chicken, beef, elk, buffalo, raw milk, plants, pumpkins, decorative gourds and gorgeous mums. And we have a terrific sense of community, which brings up the topic that I really want you to know about today.

On Monday, the Historical Society celebrates one hundred years of the Clubhouse serving the community.

The building was constructed in 1910 as the clubhouse for the employees of the Southwest Missouri Railroad Company. Employees took breaks, naps, read, played cards and pool during breaks in their long shifts on the streetcars. After the demise of the streetcar system, the building was given to the county for use as a health department. Many Webb Citians remember getting their vaccinations and flu shots there. In 1997, the health department moved to Carthage and the building reverted to the heirs of Harry and Geneva Easley who had made the original gift. The heirs, H. Michael Easley, Ginger Eckerman and Sara McKibben, in turn, gave the building to the Historical Society.

Structurally sound, but in need of a new roof and many cosmetic changes, the building breathed life into the Society which had been dormant for many years. Dedicated volunteers repaired and re-painted, funds were raised for a new roof and other major renovations.

The 100th Anniversary Celebration begins Monday at 5:30 pm, just west of the Clubhouse at 115 North Madison. The building’s newly completed landscaping will be dedicated as the William H. and Marion E. Perry Memorial Garden. The Perry Foundation underwrote the expense of the garden and Bill and Rebecca Perry did most of the design work. The Foundation was established by WH and Marion Perry and we are fortunate that their children continue to take a strong interest in Webb City’s welfare.

Immediately after the dedication, the celebration moves inside for the opening of the Bob Foos/Webb City Sentinel Photography Exhibit and for a reception in Bob’s honor. Bob will be inducted into the Missouri Photojournalism Hall of Fame on Thursday in Washington, Missouri. This is quite an honor for a photojournalist and confirms what many of us have said for years – Webb City is amazingly fortunate to have a newspaper the caliber of the Sentinel.

(Bob photographs the Egg Hunt at King Jack Park in April, 2010)

Since Bob is notoriously humble and probably won’t give himself more than a line of copy in his own newspaper, here’s the introduction to the exhibit:

Bob Foos has been taking pictures in Webb City for the Sentinel since 1979.

It was in 1972 that Bob first became acquainted with Webb City, when he came to this area for his first job in journalism, which was at Channel 16, then known as KTVJ-TV. Bob’s wife, Ann, started teaching first grade for Webb City in 1973. They had met at Emporia State University and graduated from Wichita State University. Bob was originally from Healy, in western Kansas, and Ann grew up on the island of Kauai, Hawaii.

After a couple of years in TV, Bob decided to switch to newspaper and got his start as a full-time photographer at the Carthage Press. He achieved his goal of working for a larger daily in 1977 at the Joliet (Ill.) Heral News. What he learned, though, was that his heart was in community journalism. He went back to school and earned his journalism degree at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

While they were away, Bob and Ann wished that they could come back to Webb City. In 1979, Bill Myers agreed to sell the Webb City Sentinel and Wise Buyer to Bob and his original partners, Marti and Gerard Attoun. They revived the Sentinel, formerly a daily, which had dwindled to a paid circulation of less than 100. Merle Lortz, who had worked for the Sentinel practically since starting as a carrier in his childhood, became Bob’s partner in 1983.

Today the Sentinel’s paid circulation is nearly 2,000, and 9,000 Wise Buyers continue to be distributed.

Merle and Bob are both proud to have been named Distinguished Citizen by Webb City R-y Schools Foundation. Ann, a Cardinal Teacher, retired after more than 30 years of teaching first grade in Webb City.