THE FINAL EDITION
The parade’s gone by. No more trumpets. No more drums. No hoofbeats, no streamers.
And the hush of the street is overwhelming.
The death of a newspaper is very much the end of a living, breathing soul. And there’s never been one quite as unique as the Tucson Citizen.
Years from now when you tell young people what the Citizen was like, remember this: It had a heartbeat.
It was the harvest, the milling and the preparation of ideas by people of character, most of whom were characters. They gave the paper its heart, its spirit and its blemishes.
Some had swagger, and over the years many had stagger.
We’ve been peopled by saints and sinners, wise men and flim-flammers and in the old days, a few fall-down drunks who always got up in time to put the old gal to bed.
We’ve had Daniel Boone characters who talked like Jed Clampett and wrote like Stephen Vincent Benet.
We’ve had stutterers who sounded like Mortimer Snerd but had a mind like Carl Sagan.
And there were the legends.
Ted Craig was a gifted editor and writer, but his real talent was the telling of tall tales. Well, that and sizing down human monuments to arrogance.
Ted was a fine athlete, though he didn’t exactly look the part. He was an outstanding golfer because he hit the ball so straight, no matter what club he used.
He also played a good game of tennis and was known to pack the most potent “grapefruit juice” ever tasted in his Thermos bottle.
Phil Hamilton was an Okie. I mean, he dripped Okie. He lived in my part of town and gave me a ride one day after I’d left my old Ford with Bill the mechanic at Palo Verde Automotive out on East 22nd Street.
“Cain’t have a body out in this heat, footback a’ walkin,’ ” Hamilton drawled.
Phil did everything. Reported, edited, wrote a column, covered politics, read copy, wrote headlines. And he was superb.
Bob Campbell was one of the funniest men who ever lived. Our liaison with the back shop when we actually had a back shop, Bob occasionally came to work late – and always had a story to tell to start off the day.
Such as the time, around Halloween, when Campbell announced he knew exactly how many people had come to his house to trick or treat – even though Bob wasn’t at home.
“I went to the bank and got 20 shiny new silver dollars,” he said, “and I spread them out on a card table in my front yard. When I got home, every one of them was gone, so I know conclusively, that there were 20 trick-or-treaters.”
Stu Robertson was a copy editor who occasionally nodded off late in the day. One afternoon he had a cigarette between two fingers and he had that hand on his forehead as he drifted into dreamland – and set his hair on fire.
Micheline Keating wrote the most beautiful movie reviews you’ve ever read. Somebody told me “Mike” had been a friend of the famous writer-poet Dorothy Parker, known for her wit and wisecracks.
John Jennings may not have been the best storyteller on the old Citizen staff, but he could imitate storytellers in such a way that he outdid their talent. Just recently we laid our beloved “J.J.” to rest.
There were so many characters. Such as the guy on the copy desk way back when, who came to the Citizen out of rehab and who thought he was Humphrey Bogart. Had the lisp, the voice and the mannerisms. Unfortunately, he didn’t have Lauren Bacall.
For nearly 140 years the Citizen brought you news from around the community, the state, nation and world. Through war and peace, famine and times of plenty. From the frontier of territorial days through statehood.
Not just anyone can do this job and do it right. Not even trained journalists. Especially trained journalists!
It takes newspaper people, some of whose personal flaws over the years somehow enabled them to create professional refinement.
The awards, the prizes, the hardware from corporate honchos were just trinkets. The Citizen’s real honor was a decoration of the heart – hardworking professionals doing their best to give Tucson its best news coverage and presentation.
Now the little paper at Park and Irvington has been given its summons to join the innumerable once-upon-a-time caravan.
When you remember the time this city had two newspapers competing – and making each other better – don’t think of this one as the loser.
The loser is the community. Tucson has lost an essential voice, living, breathing, ink-stained history recorded by the finest, most competent and dedicated ding-a-lings on Earth.
Things happened, news broke and time passed away. So, now, has the Tucson Citizen.
The parade’s gone by.
Corky Simpson is a retired sportswriter who graced our pages regularly from Labor Day 1974 to Dec. 22, 2006.