At Week’s End: Storytelling: A wonderful career

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opinions

March 2, 2018 - 12:00 AM

Much has occurred during my 53-plus years at the Register.
That came to roost the past couple of weeks while I was doing archival research in preparation for a presentation Thursday evening for the Allen County Historical Society.
I read through stories I’d written about several murders, recalled natural disasters, but spent much of my time recalling interviews that led to friendships with folks throughout the area.
If I learned one thing during all these years, it is that everyone has a story. Some may not be too long and not have amazing events attached, but for each person their story is important, and from the beginning they were important to me.
The unwavering mission of the Register is to tell the day-by-day history of Iola and Allen County, and we can’t do it without the cooperation of our neighbors. To our great fortune, it’s been a two-way street.
While I never considered any one person more important than another, I must admit some stories were more fascinating and compellingly told.
I’ll never forget an interview with Iolan Hal Pannell about his experiences as a tail gunner on a B-17 during World War II. When his plane was shot down over Germany he had to bail out and then spent several months in a prison camp.
I mentioned to Hal one of my favorite songs was the WWII standard, “I’ll be Seeing You.” Hal leaned back, thought a minute or two, and then in clear baritone sang several verses. I was spellbound. He also talked about his hatred of war and its folly, causing the deaths of goodness knows how many innocent, work-a-day folks who wanted only to live out a good life.
Herbert Hoover put it as well as any: “Older men declare war. But it is the youth that must fight and die.”
Hal was a deep thinker and often stopped by the office to visit with me about politics and any number of other timely topics. That his visits happened often, were much to my elucidation and pleasure.
Another story I researched more than others, because of personal connection, was the Iola-to-Humboldt raft race. Good friends John Zahm and Lanny Lind were participants.
The race began in 1969 as a lark. Several coming-of-age kids, led the first year by Bill Haire, tossed inner tubes into the Neosho and paddled — mostly floated — downstream to Humboldt.
As often is the case, in succeeding years it became more a competition, in two ways. Some wanted to win, others wanted to see how outlandish their entries could be.
The race faded away after a few years, probably the victim of too much official oversight.

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