Monday, October 05, 2009

A dry-as-dirt yet sometimes comicly amateurish history of the old, old days of The Houston Post newspaper

Channel 55 in Houston aired a story about The Houston Post on Sept. 27 during its Sunday program called Postcards From Texas, which apparently is attempting to reprise the old, long-running KPRC-TV show that was called The Eyes of Texas.

Each of the two embedded videos posted below run around 5 minutes, but if you don't want to invest 10 minutes of your time watching them, here's some of the things that caught my eye:

-- Columnist Leon Hale, who of course is still tapping out columns for the lone remaining daily newspaper in Houston, never submitted a column with a typographical error.

-- Back in olden days, there wasn't any air conditioning in the Post building , then in another edifice there was air conditioning in the women's department and a window unit for the publisher's office, then came air conditioning for the whole damn Post headquarters. But even in pre-air-conditioning days, the Post newsroom was a "beehive of activity" and "camaraderie" reinged among the newshounds and desk editors. Also, It was "noisy" back when typewriters were used -- nothing like today's computerized newsrooms.

-- The Postcards report unfortunately misidentified William P. Hobby as William H. Hobby. How soon they forget, eh? But, you know, there is a damn airport named after the grand old guy.

-- Oveta Culp Hobby, Mr. Hobby's much-younger bride, was always "well-groomed," a "grand" and "unforgettable" lady, not a "micro-manager" and yet "tough as nails." She landed a big ad account by having her target over for tea. For her time, it was clear she was a playa. Cha-ching!

-- William P. "Bill" Hobby Jr., son of William P. and Oveta who later became Texas Lieutenant Governor, told the Postcards host he had a Post paper route when he was 13 or 14. River Oaks route? Just a guess. By 1960, he was managing editor. Yet this seeming meteoric ascendance to the top of the newspaper's masthead did not come easy. "Even he had to work his way to the top," Postcards host Mike Vance reminded us. After the paper route and before the managing editorship, Bill Hobby did time as an obit writer, police reporter and a rewrite man. It is left unsaid whether he had to ever yell "Stop The Presses" or "Get me rewrite!"

-- The Hobbys sold the newspaper in 1983, but for some screwball reason Postcards didn't mention that it was first sold to The Toronto Sun (that's in Canada) before William Dean Singleton and his MediaNews outfit took the reins to ride the old girl to the glue factory (officially termed an "asset sale" to the Houston Chronicle in the Postcards script.)

EDITORIAL ASIDE:This de-Canadization of Post history is duplicated on Bill Hobby's Wikipedia page. Yes, I suspect skulduggery on the part of some wily public relations genius. But why? Because it looks bad that the Hobbys sold out to a Canadian company that published tabloid papers that include photos of scantily clad Sunshine Girls? What the ... nevermind.

-- Postcards included local public relations man Peter Roussel among the four people who were interviewed on camera. He never actually worked for The Houston Post but a caption attempted to explain his presence -- his parents worked there.

-- Former assistant managing editor Al Shire, who gave me a Ben-Stein-in-Ferris-Bueller's-Day-Off-style tour of the Post building on the SW Freeway when I went to work there in 1979, reminisced that more than 200 people attended the 10th reunion/anniversary of the newspaper's closure.

To set the mood, the Bob Wills music that played throughout much of the report suddenly changed to the sad strains of mopey violins. THEN Postcards cut to an old black and white photo of ladies wearing pearls and hats that appear apropos for the '40s or '50s. What the ... pretty funny actually but not really in the documentarian tradition.

But before he recounted the reunion, Al, who retired before The Post went out of business, said his former coworkers were told by security guards they had 5 minutes to vacate the building on the day the paper folded. Well, hmmm, someone may have been told that, I suppose, but based on what I saw, it didn't go down that way. A crew of my colleagues spent at least 10 minutes breaking into a storage room to pillage Post T-shirts and golf shirts, Post caps and other Post crap. And that was before the drinking began.


Leigh Oberholzer said...

ya made me laugh, Banjo!

Slampo said...

Yeah, Banj-o, you one funny SOB. YOU oughta put together a video about the place. And personally I appreciate you watching this one, so I'll never have to.

PS: That Al Shire was nice fellow.