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I n t e r- C o u n t y C o o p e r a t i ve P u b l i s h i n g A s s o c i a t i o n

Publishers of the Advertisers, the Inter-County Leader and the Washburn County Register INTER-COUNTY

Serving Northwest Wisconsin

rn hb u s a W nty u o C


Beginnings Page 3

Timeline Begins page 2

Birth of the Advertisers Page 7




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75 years in the making

We tell stories.

ICCPA Timeline 1933-2008 June 22, 1933: First organizational meeting to form ICCPA; first plant in Centuria November 2, 1933: First Inter-County Leader published, Bennie Bye is the co-op’s first manager

And since it was founded 75 years ago, our newspaper, the Inter-County Leader, has told thousands of stories - from wars to weddings, graduations to gridiron greatness, births to deaths. In nearly 4,000 issues since 1933, the Leader has kept the people of Burnett and Polk counties informed of what goes on in their backyard - and of local connections with the world. Our own story began in the Great Depression with a group of farmers some local newspapers deemed radical in their struggle to gain a stronger voice in their quest for a better economic future. Feeling unfairly characterized and perhaps even slandered by reports in local papers and papers across the state, those farmers felt they

needed some way to speak out for their own interests. The movement to form cooperative businesses was reaching a peak across the nation - and so it was that the group of local farmers in Polk and Burnett counties began their own newspaper. For five dollars you could become a voting member in the cooperative. Bennie Bye, a journeyman journalist, took on the job of editing and managing the new paper. The initial editorial content of the Leader in 1933 focused on the milk strikes and dispelling rumors about the strike. But editor Bye also made it clear that the Leader was to be a vehicle to offer a forum for everyone. “No lines have been drawn,” Bye wrote in the premiere issue, “but all stock has been sold with the understanding that this is to be a cooperative paper serving

the best interest of the common people, whether they be farmers, professional men or business men...” The original goal of the Leader met, the nation’s first cooperative-owned newspaper continued as a strong public forum on a number of issues, editor Bye at the helm for 20 years, a clear voice, advocating cooperatives throughout the upper Midwest. Seventy-five years and four editors later, the Leader maintains a realization of its roots, a strong public forum and a proud record of defending freedom of the press. Not to overlook the cooperative principal of providing needed services and jobs. We look forward to what the future holds for the newspaper industry, the Inter-County Leader and its Web site. - Gary King, editor

What we do... Members of the Leader staff rode on a fl flo oat in a Centuria parade in 1934.

1939: Moved plant to Frederic 1944: 24x30 addition 1951: Purchased the Frederic Star 1953: Romain Brandt named manager following the death of Bennie Bye 1958: Edward F. Greinke named manager following the resignation of Romain Brandt

Most of a front page was dedicated to the Leader’s fi firrst editor, Bennie Bye, the week after his death.

More Timeline, page 3

The Inter-County Cooperative Publishing Association publishes two newspapers and five Advertisers each week, adding up to more than 700,000 papers printed each month. We also have a commercial printing department that designs and prints business cards, brochures, calendars, posters, and more. ICCPA employs more than 70 persons with an annual payroll of approximately two million dollars a year. Depending on its yearly success, it returns a percentage of its net profit to businesses and employees.

COVER: A composite photo with one of the 4-by-5 Graphex cameras used in the 1950s and ‘60s by Leader reporters, and the building on the west end of Main Street in Frederic that served as the home to the Inter-County Cooperative Publishing Association for approximately 35 years. The sign above the door, taken from a 1940s photo, was superimposed onto a present-day photo of the building.







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“A voice for us”


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The birth of the nation’s first cooperative-owned newspaper

November 1, 1933 was a long day and night for the staff of a newspaper that was about to see its first printing. Despite the excitement in the air, some fought off sleep while others gave in to fatigue and napped as the premiere edition of the Inter-County Leader – the nation’s first cooperative-owned newspaper - rolled off the presses in the early-morning hours of November 2. The headline across the front page read, Farmers’ Strike Called Off Temporarily. It represented the tone of the times. In the midst of the Great Depression, farmers were being subjected to foreclosures and bankruptcies because the prices they could receive for what they produced was less than their cost of operation. Many farmers felt their concerns weren’t being listened to or reflected accurately in the pages of newspapers locally and throughout the state. It was from such a setting that the Inter-County Leader came into being. Some of the original organizers were members of the Polk County Farmers Holiday Association, the group promoting the farm strike called in 1933. A group of farmers met several times that summer and considered purchasing the Polk County Ledger in Balsam Lake, but liked the idea of starting their own newspaper, especially after learning it would involve a third the cost of purchasing the Ledger. According to longtime Leader employee Ray Linden, whose father Carl was one of the first board members, their neighbor, Charles Eckels, had an idea to help the area farmers. “He came over one day and told my dad ‘We’ve got to start a newspaper!’” Linden said Eckels went to all the co-op store managers to get backing. Area farmers were asked to pitch in five bucks apiece and a cooperative was formed. While most cooperatives sold farm products, this one aimed to serve the people with a forum for viewpoints and ideas.

The front page of the fi firrst Inter-County Leader, Nov. 2, 1933.

“The principal way in which we expect to make this paper different from the common run of papers is that we are in business for service and not for profit, and intend to carry the truth to the public regardless of whose toes get pinched.”

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Timeline, continued 1966: Offset printing equipment replaces hot metal method of setting type 1967: First Indianhead Advertiser printed

Early growth

The building on the west end of Main Street in Frederic was the home of the Inter-County Le ad er begi nni ng i n 1939. It served as home for the publishing plant until 1974.

Some of the co-op members knew Bennie Bye and approached him to be the editor and manager. Bye had newspaper experience, working with area newspaper publishers W. R. Vezina at St. Croix Falls and E. E. Husband at the Ledger in Balsam Lake. A Grantsburg High School graduate, Bye was a printer’s apprentice at the office of the Grantsburg Journal.

“Carry the truth”

“The Inter-County Leader enters the newspaper field with no sense of animosity toward our present weekly papers,” wrote O.A. Bloom, one of the original organizers. “The Leader is owned by men and women in all walks of life; farmers, business and professional men from all parts within our county and without. Our mission shall be mutual cooperation for the best interests of all of us. The InterCounty Leader speaks for no special privilege. It will be an organ through which any and all of us may voice our opinions; in other words, a free press.” Bye reinforced Bloom’s message with his own words in the premiere issue of the Leader, including the following words:

The board of directors of the Inter-County Cooperative Publishing Association has changed its membership many times during its 75year history. Shown is one of the earliest boards of the cooperative. Seated are Herb Mittelsdorf of Farmington; J.W. Hanson, president, Bone Lake; and Carl Linden, Grantsburg; standing: Harry Hallquist, Paul Bosley, Fred Weis and Arnold Biederman.

In the early years, Bye and his family lived above the print shop on Centuria’s Main Street, with very little earnings. The net earnings for the cooperative in its first four months of operation was just over $500. But the popularity of the Leader was evident by its subscription list, which grew from to 1,400 in its first weeks. By the third year of its publication, the Inter-County Leader had outgrown its quarters in the small two-story building on the south side of Centuria’s Main Street, and the start of 1936 saw the cooperative move into the big Sievert auto garage. Once remodeled, the garage provided plenty of room for a print shop and editorial space to provide a weekly paper for 3,000 subscribers – nearly twice as many as in 1934, the paper’s first full year of production. A new press – a large Duplex from Scotts Bluff, Neb., arrived at the shop on a cold January day, followed closely by a truck with another five tons of equipment, being moved across town. Centuria, according to the ICCPA’s 20-year anniversary See History, page 5

A new paper The first editorial, published Nov. 2, 1933, by editor Bennie Bye

All right, folks, here is the first issue of the long talkedof, long heralded cooperative newspaper serving Polk and neighboring counties. While we are swamped with work and hardly have time to write anything, a brief outline of the steps taken to establish this paper ought to be part of this issue. This is not a Farmers Union paper, though it has been advertised as such through both talk and published articles in neighboring papers. However, we are not ashamed of the platform, aims and principles of the Farmers Union and wish every one of them could be put into practice. But the reason the estabSee A new paper, page 4

Placing the sign in front of the Leader plant - 1974.

1974: Moved to current plant on Wisconsin Avenue 1976: Changed format of Leader from broadsheet to tabloid 1977: Sales reached $1 million 1982: Frank Gursky named manager following the retirement of Ed Greinke 1983: Bernice Asper retires after 20 years as editor 1983: Cooperative celebrates 50 years 1985: Sales reached $2 million 1985: Opened an office in Siren 1985: Installed Deadliner platemaking system which eliminated using negatives to make printing plates

A parade fl flo oat, created by employees, marked the cooperative’s 50 th year in 1983. More Timeline, page 4



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A new paper/from page 3

Timeline, continued

1986: Computer system installed in the bookkeeping department 1987: Doug Panek named manager following the retirement of Frank Gursky 1987: First electronic pagination by Leader staff, using Pagemaker software and 12-inch black and white Macintosh computers 1987: Construction of 70 x 120 addition completed.

The fi firrst computers used by the Leader editorial staff - 1986.

More Timeline, page 11

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lishment of this paper has been referred to as a Farmers Union movement is undoubtedly due to the fact that the individuals belonging to the organization have done a great deal to “put the venture over.” Five of the seven members of the board of directors are Union members, but a rough check-up shows that more stock has been bought by non-Union members than by members. Stock has been bought by Union, Holiday and Equity members, by people belonging to none of these organizations, by business and professional men. No lines have been drawn, but all stock has been sold with the understanding that this is to be a cooperative paper serving the best interests of the common people, whether they be farmers, professional men or business men. The welfare of one group should mean the welfare of the other groups. The principal way in which we expect to make this paper different from the common run of papers is that we are in business for service and not for profit, and intend to carry the truth to the public regardless of whose toes get pinched. In other words, our policy will be shaped by a devotion to the greatest good for the greatest number, and not by what is or what is not apparently best for the immediate swelling of the cash box. Of course, while we are doing this, we must have the necessary income to keep the plant running, but we have faith that it is possible to stay in business and adhere to the above policy. We’re going to give it a good try, anyhow. The original plans for the establishment of this paper were to purchase the Polk County Ledger

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at Balsam Lake. The deal would have required the purchase of Mr. Husband’s two-thirds interest, and the writer was to take stock for his one-third interest. After considerable “dickering” and numerous meetings over a period of several months, it was found that the purchase of the Ledger was not practical. There was a complaint from the beginning that the price was too high. Along in the summer, as everyone in the drought, the crop shortage parts remembers, came thee, and the prospect of having to buy feed through the winter. The much-hoped-for “New Deal” did not materialize, and stock became difficult to sell, not because of unwillingness to help the proposition along, but for the same reason that you can’t get blood out of a turnip. The newspaper was faced with the alternative of dropping the paper deal altogether, or figuring out a cheaper way of acquiring a paper than buying the Ledger. Talk for an entirely new paper was encouraged by the discovery that good used equipment could be installed and paid for in full for about one-third of the money required to buy the two-thirds interest of the Ledger. More meetings. The next thing was to make a canvass and see all who had bought stock to find out if it was O.K. with them to apply their share on the new paper instead of the Ledger. No difficulty was experienced. One solicitor wrote in and said a few of those who had promised to buy had backed out after the Ledger deal had been abandoned. The location for the new paper was the next thing. Several were considered. The writer favored Centuria from the start because it is centrally locat-

ed, but perhaps more for the reason that it is really one of our “home towns” as we started a paper here once before. The businessmen of Centuria pledged their liberal support if the paper was located here, and a very nice block of stock was sold here. So, when the first stockholders’ meeting was held on Monday, Oct. 9, Centuria was readily decided on as the location. Articles of incorporation were adopted without difficulty, and the meeting insisted that the committee of seven who had worked so faithfully on the paper deal from the start should be elected to the first board of directors. The election was unanimous. Here they are: J.W. Hanson, Luck; P.TH. Peterson, Johnstown; Chas. Eckels, Wolf Creek; Amil Markee, Apple River; O.A. Bloom, Osceola; H.A. Mittelsdorf, Farmington; Carl Linden, Burnett County. J.W. Hanson had served the committee as president, and Chas Eckels as secretary, and they were elected to like positions on the board of directors, with Herb Mittelsdorf as vice president. The above committee worked hard and tirelessly toward the goal of a cooperatively owned and operated newspaper. It would be impossible to know where to place the most credit. Then there were dozens of others throughout the townships of the county who worked hard to sell the necessary stock. While the shares were only $5 (non-assessable) yet it was hardly necessary to comment on the scarcity of $5 bills. But, the job is done and the new paper is a reality and will be for some time if we live through getting out this first issue of 8,500, 16-page papers. - Bennie Bye

Members of the Leader staff took a break at their Centuria plant in this photo, taken sometime between 1933 and 1938. Editor Bennie Bye is shown third from the right.


History/from page 3

chronology, was enjoying the distinction of being a publishing town. Before long, the new press was turning out 10,000 Leaders in about three hours time – once a week. After printing 12-page issues each week, editor Bye felt they could accommodate all the news items piling up on his desk, but it didn’t work out that way. Only extra advertising justified increasing the page count to 14. By the end of October 1936, the Leader was printing 22 pages broadsheet on a regular basis – a “phenomenal growth” for a paper that started from scratch three years earlier, Bye noted. The Inter-County Leader published a lot of national, state and most importantly, local news. All for $1.50 a year.


In 1938, The Capital Times newspaper in Madison took note of the young publication, editorializing, “When the newspapers of the state and nation are so largely dominated by the big interests, it is refreshing to note that progress is being made in a different, idealistic type of journalism.” Bye commented in his column a few months later that while most newspapers shape their editorial policy according to advertising patronage, the Leader just couldn’t do that. “The fact that one certain candidate runs a good-sized ad does not guarantee him a good news or editorial write-up in this paper.” The formation of cooperatives, government legislation affecting farmers – it was all part of the early Leader’s agenda, as promised. What began as literal civil unrest in the streets was manifesting in the newspaper. And readers were eager to participate. At one point the Leader began charging 15 cents for every 100 words over 1,000 words of a letter to the editor. People had found a forum and some got a bit carried away. A woman from Clear Lake wrote to demand Bye investigate nepotism and other wrongdoings in Polk County’s

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What’s in a name?

The name, Inter-County Leader, was selected for this paper because of demand from neighboring counties that they be included. Considerable stock was sold in Burnett County, so the name “Polk-Burnett Leader” was suggested. Then, several from St. Croix County suggested “TriCounty” so they would be included. About the time that name was decided upon, someone popped up and said they knew that there would be a lot of support for the paper in Barron County. So, “Inter-County Leader” includes them all, and any others from Wisconsin’s 72 counties. relief program, writing “why is the committee chairman’s wife permitted to be foreman when she is too dumb to do the clerical work?” Bye published it. The letter writer, editor and cooperative soon faced a $12,000 libel suit, settled peaceably in October of 1939. But the spirit of the paper was never broken and another move was being made - to Frederic - in a building on the west end of Main Street, described by the editor as “a dandy.” “The Leader directors and management are not unmindful of the fine treatment that has been had at the hands of most of the business people of Centuria, and it is with regret that we move away,” said a 1939 editorial by editor Bennie Bye.

News and advertising

The building on the west end of Main Street, which stands yet today, offered the newspaper elbow room for growth. Nearing a circulation of 3,800, the Leader had more than doubled its outreach in its first halfdozen years, promising a voice for not only the farmers but everyone who “needs a voice.” Separating the editorial and business end of the newspaper

Copies of the Leader were handed out to waiting youths, anxious to see the list of teacher assignments at Frederic Schools.

was important to maintain credibility among readers. Yet some space was found each week to remind folks how the Leader offered the best value for their advertising dollar. From a Dec. 12, 1939, issue: “When Mrs. William Gehrke inserted an ad in the Leader last week that she had 100 White Rock and Giant pullets, a plane landed in the yard the next day after the paper came out, purchasing the whole flock at a good price.” News and advertising in one article, editor Bye might have decided. As the war years arrived, the Leader offered up much of its space to news of servicemen often tragic news - and for every local aspect of the war front. Calls for enlistment, working in the shipyards, promotion of war bonds, gas rationing and general patriotism crowded each page of the Leader. Bye, now editor and manager, in a 1943 issue, called to task Congressman Alvin O’Konski for a column that never saw publication. “This week we publish Congressman O’Konski’s news notes and comments, after skipping it last week,” Bye wrote. “His last week’s letter was such that, in our opinion, it would have been a disrupting influence on national unity in a time of war, and the Leader did not want to be a party to it.” O’Konski wrote Bye and admitted his words were “a little too strong.” “It was one of those days, Bennie, when I was investigating some of the ship building contracts and investigating the automobile situation in Washington. And I think I should have cooled off a bit before I wrote that newsletter.” Bye wrote, “We do not wish to be a judge of what our readers should read or not read, but we do reserve the privilege of drawing the line as to what we print and become responsible for.”

Promotes cooperative

Ed Greinke, a bookkeeper and then manager of ICCPA, is shown with his granddaughter in this photo taken in 1978.

Bye crusaded for the local farmers through his writing but also worked behind the scenes, helping to publish a Farmers Union newspaper and getting involved with state editorial associations and attempting to further the cause of the common man. He died on a Wednesday morning, the publication day for the Leader. It was all his coworkers could do to publish that week’s Leader. “We shall miss his patient attitude when trials and tribulations rise. We shall miss his geniality and kindliness, his

tolerance and quiet unassuming presence,” stated a eulogy printed on the front page. “In a very modest way, he was a prince among men.”


Just a few days after Bennie Bye’s death in 1953, Romain Brandt was named editor and publisher of the Leader. Brandt fell into the role with ease, Brandt penning a weekly column titled Pause A Moment. He relied on co-worker Elmer Haumant, who had worked for The Star and was hired by the Leader upon the Leader’s acquisition of that paper. Haumant was sportswriter, compositor, Linotype operator and advertising manager before being named editor and shop foreman in 1958 upon Brandt’s depar- Haumant ture for another job at Berlin, Wisconsin. Brandt went on to become the executive director of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association and died in the early 1990s. Ed Greinke, the cooperative’s accountant, was chosen by the board of directors to replace Brandt as manager and Haumant was named editor. Haumant, who had grown up in Frederic and had become well-known for his Sports Flashes and Sports Corner columns in the newspaper, was a natural choice to edit the paper. He knew most people in the village well and filled the newspaper with insights on the news stories he covered. He wrote a column entitled The Way We See It. The Leader was now the only newspaper in Frederic. Due to “changing conditions in the printing field which made it almost impossible for two papers to exist in one town,” according to The Star’s editor Harvey Oleson, the Leader purchased the Star in 1951. It was called the Inter-County Leader and Frederic Star for awhile but eventually returned to its original title. In late 1963, Haumant resigned his position, and manager Ed Greinke hired his replacement – on the spot.

The Asper years

Bernice Asper entered the world of small-town journalism on November 1, 1963, 30 years to the day that the first Leader had been assembled for printing.

Since 1933 Board of Directors

J.W. Hanson Herb A. Mittelsdorf Charles Eckels Amil Markee P. Th. Petersen O.A. Bloom Carl Linden Ed Larson F.W. Wiese Guy Clark Walter C. Helbig Paul Bosley Harry Hallquist Arnold Biederman Leonard Linden Raymond Nelson John Northquest Clifford Olson Dale Knauber Mickey L. Olson Viola Olson Vivian Byl Delroy Peterson Charles Johnson Robert Dueholm Evald “Bob” Gjerning Janet Oachs Harvey Stower Merlin Johnson


Bennie Bye Romain Brandt Ed Greinke Frank Gursky Doug Panek


Bennie Bye Romain Brandt Elmer Haumant Bernice Asper Gary King

The first and only woman editor of the paper to date and the only female newspaper editor around at that time, she recalled that filling the position seemed daunting in those first months. And it didn’t help that she was receiving angry letters from a phantom writer. “There were some people who felt I was in over my head, and of course, I thought I was, too,” she said. Asper, a graduate of Luck High School, had worked at a variety of jobs in the area but had little journalism experience, aside from an office job at the Enterprise-Herald at Luck. Her high school journalism teacher had told her she would make a good journalist, but due to the shortage of money during the Depression years, and

See History, page 11



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Following the Leader... These old photos show former employees and one current employee. Can you name them? The answers are at the bottom of page 14. Inserters donned “Leader Lovers” T-shirts for the 60 th anniversary.

The old “Follow the Leader” van and employees in 1975.

30 years, plus... And we’re still here!?

Konnie Didlo

Employee longevity at ICCPA is well-noted. Some current part-time workers have been here for both the 50th and 75th anniversaries. Some might even remember working here when the co-op marked its 25th - and even its 20th anniversary (1953). Current full-time employees who have worked here 30 years or more are shown here at the beginning of their careers, along with a few part-time employees (Millie Erickson and Bernice Abrahamzon) who have had a working relationship with the cooperative for more than 50 years. We dug deep into the Leader files to find these photos. Doug Panek

Record holder

R et i r e d b o o k k e ep er F er n Thompson holds the record for working full time the longest a t I C PP A - 4 4 y e a r s . S h e ’ s shown here receiving a cake in honor of her 30 th year. Ray Linden worked full time for the Leader for 40 years. Other past full-time employees who worked here 30 years or more are John Franklin and Wayne B o n if ac e , a n d t h e r e a r e a handful of full time and parttime employees reaching the 30-year mark. It’s safe to say most of us will be long gone by th e c o o p e r at i v e ’ s 10 0 th anniversary - but who knows?

Lettie McDonough

Gary King

Bernice Abrahamzon

Julie Dahling and Millie Erickson


The “Yellow Papers” become the catalyst for the cooperative’s growth

For the past 40 of its 75 years, the success of the Advertisers, known by most of Northwest Wisconsin as the “yellow papers,” has allowed the ICCPA to expand and improve its operation while creating more employment. In 1967, on the heels of installing a new offset web press, the Indianhead Advertiser was launched. Built on the monthly Milltown Advertiser, which the cooperative had purchased in 1953, the weekly Indianhead Advertiser was geared to serve all of Burnett and Polk counties with a new advertising service which would reach every postal box holder in the area. Then-manager Ed Grienke called Frank Gurksy, known for his past employment with the EnterpriseHerald at Luck, and Gursky became the advertising manager and promoter for the Gursky new publication. It wasn’t long before the obvious success of the Indianhead Advertiser led to an expansion of its distribution area, in 1970. Next, the cooperative

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Birth of the Advertisers

Dick Wilder, a longtime pressman for the Leader, looks over a copy of the Milltown Advertiser which the cooperative purchased in 1953. The forerunner to the Indianhead Advertiser, it offered a mix of ads and news. areas.

launched the Tri-County Advertiser, building on the nucleus of the New Richmond Shopper, a monthly publication that had been printed in the Leader plant for some years. Jim Brinkman was hired to be the salesman. The TriCounty Advertiser grew rapidly, calling for expansion of its area to include all of northern St. Croix County, parts of Polk County and other neighboring

A third publication - the Wild Rivers Advertiser, was launched in 1972, starting with an office in Spooner. It was developed to serve Washburn and Barron counties, along with parts of Sawyer and Rusk counties. Wayne Boniface and Erland Quinn were hired as ad salesmen for this publication. Today, the cooperative publishes five Advertisers - the Indianhead, Wild Rivers North, Wild Rivers South, Tri-

Thousands of Advertisers roll off the presses at ICCPA each week.

County North and Tri-County South. success of the The Advertisers, which led to growth of the company and need for more space, led to the second move of the cooperative, in 1974, from the plant on Oak Avenue in Frederic to its present location on North Wisconsin Avenue (Hwy. 35). From 1966 to 1974 the cooperative tripled its total income and within 10 years it realized a tenfold increase in advertising sales alone - and by 1979 ad

sales broke $1 million. Today, sales from the Advertisers represent well over $3 million of the cooperative’s approximate $5 million in total sales. The Advertiser made it possible to expand a workforce that now includes more than 70 employees, injecting more than $2 million in salaries, wages, taxes and benefits into the local economy. And using more than 2 million pounds of newsprint most of it yellow.

Same goal: much different process

Back in 1983, when ICCPA marked its 50th anniversary, computers were just beginning to find their way into our production process. A quarter of a century later, no one can imagine publishing a newspaper or advertister without computers or digital technology. Although our main product still involves putting ink to paper, the process evolves much differently today and it not only ends up on paper but on our computer screens. The print revolution

When the Inter-County Leader began production in 1933, getting stories, photos and ads printed on thousands of newspapers may have seemed routine to those doing it - but not to us in this computer age. In fact, it seems daunting. Back then, individual pages were created using pieces of lead type, each character set by a Linotype operator. The Linotype - so named because it could produced an entire line of metal type at once (line o’ type) required an outside vent for the small furnace it used to melt the lead type that would

Jackie Thorwick and Mary Hedlund put the newspapers and Advertisers together with computer pagination.

be poured into a mold following keystrokes. Despite looking cumbersome next to today’s technology, it was considered a machine that revolutionized newspaper publishing, making it possible for a relatively small number of operators to set type for many pages on a daily basis. The Leader’s Linotype was for decades and was still being used in the 1970s, mostly for the setting of funeral announcements and other small jobs. Ray Linden, a longtime press operator who worked with all forms of printing - from hand-

set type to offset - was the last linotype operator for the company. It was one step up from hand setting of type, which still occurred in the Leader’s press shops in the early years. The setting of headlines and other jobwork required a backwards way of thinking, as type had to be laid out backwards in order for the printed version to be readable. Late-breaking news meant the back shop had to keep a

See Technology, page 10

Former employee Ray Linden is shown operating one of the Linotypes in the Leader’s old plant. Linden, who worked 40 years for the Leader, is the son of one of the cooperative’s founding members and first board members.



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Management and Board of Directors

Doug Panek Manager

Vivian Byl Chairman - Luck

Konnie Didlo Asst. Manager

Merlin Johnson Grantsburg

Janet Oachs Grantsburg

Charles Johnson Trade Lake

Harvey Stower Amery

The faces behind our cooperative Front offices/bookkeeping

Julie Dahling Frederic

June Love Frederic

Millie Erickson Frederic

Judy Minke St. Croix Falls

JoAnne Kittleson Frederic

Cindy Carlson Siren manager

Sales representatives

Marlys Elrod Frederic

Kim Talmadge Office manager

Rick Malecha

John Reed

Jackie Moody

Alice Schmidt

Anne Lindquist Frederic

Jim Schott

Judy Ann Dittrich SCF manager

Myrna Bistram Siren

Editorial • Leader & Register newspaper staffs

Washburn County Register

Inter-County Leader

Gary King Editor

Raelynn Hunter Editorial Assistant

Nancy Jappe Reporter

Brenda Sommerfeld Reporter

Marty Seeger Reporter

Tammi Milberg Reporter

Suzanne Johnson Office manager

Regan Kohler Reporter

Priscilla Bauer Reporter

Carl Heidel Reporter

Mary Stirrat Reporter

Diane Dryden Reporter

Larry Samson Reporter

Inter-County Leader Washburn County Register

Sherill Summer Reporter

Gregg Westigard Reporter


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Graphics Production

Page Designers

Ad Designers

Gayle Olson Graphics production nanager

Sue Buck Ad Coordinator

Shirley Christianson

Rita Fransen

Connie Magnuson

Karen Niles

Pam Nerby

Graphics Artists

Katie Grey

Commerical Designers

Bill Moran Production manager

Pat Bates

Carolyn Foltz Coordinator

Lettie McDonough Subscriptions



Robert Harrison

Stuwart Bengtson

Randy Lunde

Laurie Schmidt

Becky Strabel

Cindy Denn

Bonnie Tjader

Commerical Printing

Sue Renno

Connie Rich

Commerical Printing

Web Press Operators

Mike Lonetti Lead pressman

Mary Hedlund Photography



Michelle Flaherty

Jackie Thorwick Page Designer

Richard Brown Pressman

Kevin Hacker Pressman


Robert Beyer

David VanderHeyden

Peggy Dueholm Supervisor

Tonie Horky Supervisor

Jake Matz

Wendy Larson

Michael Elrod

Barb Hoag

Kerri Nielsen

Sue Pribula

Harmony Szurgot

Linda Raschick

Patty Roettger

Eugene Ruhn

Gary Schommer

Tony Wilson

Tom Lahners



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The web press is used to produce the Advertisers and newspapers. At right, inserters keep up with the flow of papers.

Technology/from page 7

page “open” until the last minute. Page designing like that often required “all-nighters,” with staff working through the night prior to that week’s publication. Offset printing - which uses a photographic process that allows the transfer of an inked image from a metal plate to a rubber blanket and then to the printing surface - was first used in the Leader in 1953 when it was incorporated into the company’s commercial printing department. Using a Polaroid instant camera, along with offsent printing technology, was a giant leap forward for the Leader’s job-printing department. It was highlighted at the cooperative’s 20-year open house. But it wasn’t until 1966 that the company used the technology for the printing of its Advertisers and newspaper, with the acquisition of a threeunit Thatcher offset press. A Harris four-unit press was purchased in the early 1970s as the company settled into it’s new facility.

Early copy

For the first 50 years of publication, news copy was produced on typewriters; manuals and then electrics. The 1980s saw innovations that allowed typesetting on computers that used paper tape with keystrokes recorded in punched holes. The tape was run through a large computer which in turn exposed and developed photoraphic paper for the finished copy. Page design was revolutioned with the arrival of offset printing, which involved cutting up stories and sticking them to a larger piece of paper which was photographed by a large camera. The negative would then be burned onto a plate for the press. With computers becoming more powerful, the scissors and hobby knives became obsolete. Page and ad design - beginning in the 1990s - was now done on the computer screen using special software. Pages were printed out and photographed to create negatives for the plates. And today, the process is one step faster, with the finished pages being sent directly from the computer screen to the plate. The new system has perfected color printing, also. While

Setting of type in the 1970s included a keyboard that produced punch-hole tape, which would then be run through a large photo-processing machine.

“The pictures on this page were delayed enroute from the engravers, arriving a day too late for publication last week but they were such excellent shots that we just had to show them this week. The pictures were taken by Gene Brown’s Studio of River Falls, who incidentally was on hand to take pictures for the Frederic High School annual.” When the Leader finally was able to turn it’s own photographs into press-ready images, new challenges awaited.

costs. It required a bulk film loader that allowed photographers to roll their own 35 millimeter film in reusable cassettes. Digital photography changed everything. Today, the Leader doesn’t need a darkroom – just a computer that allows them to trim and adjust the images they shoot. They can see on-the-spot what they’ve photographed using the small screen on the back of the camera - instead of relying on faith. And if photo doesn’t turn know it immediately. Digital photo technology has also made it easier for readers to submit their photos - from engageme nts to a variety of events. And all archived photos after 1998 are now available in color - not just black and white.

The entire paper - online

The large camera of the old darkroom has long since been replaced by new equipment, a machine that creates printing plates from an image sent directly from a computer screen.

the Leader printed its first front page color photograph in the 1970s, it wasn’t until the 1990s that full-color photographs were added to the paper, and for the past six years the Leader has offered 16 full-color pages.

Computers are an integral part of the ICPPA’s commercial printing plant. Printer Bob Beyer is shown preparing for another print job.

High speed connections

It’s always been true that reporters have needed a pen, a notebook, a camera...and a good pair of shoes. But technology has meant less travel in many instances and fewer hours searching for information. Today, reporters have a computer with a high-speed connection to the Internet and the newspaper’s digital archives. They can take most of the office and all its resources with them. Laptop computers, digital cameras and the Internet allows reporters to file stories from the scene or their home.

Digital photography arrives

In one of the most dramatic changes in newspaper production has been the invention of digital photography, a technology adopted by the Leader in the late 1990s. For decades, Leader photographers relied on a darkroom for their photos. Working in near-total darkness to develop negatives and prints was a way of life for early photojournalists, who endured the suspense

of wondering if they “got the shot,” and whether it was exposed correctly and in focus in the minutes and hours prior to developing their film. Early photos taken or submitted - in order to be in the paper - needed to be sent away to a company in the Twin Cities which would produce a metal “halftone,” a rendition of a photograph etched in metal, using small dots that would pick up the ink, creating the various shadows and highlights of each photo. Later the Leader would invest in cameras using a 4-by5-inch negative, the classic press cameras of the 1940s and ‘50s. In a November 1953 issue of the Leader, the sports pages included the following note:

Late-breaking photos often created the challenge of developing the film, sending it through the developer, stop bath and fix solutions, drying it and then making a print using another three-step chemical process - all under deadline conditions. Sometimes the film was put in the enlarger before it was dry in order to speed things up - a step not recommended by those wishing to preserve the negative. The camera negative size gradually went to 2-1/4-inch and in the late 1970s, to the commonly-used 35 millimeter. As the cost of silver rose, so did the cost of black-and-white film. The Leader, like so many other newspapers, began to buy 35 millimeter film in bulk rolls of 100 feet in order to save

The Leader’s first production crew would undoubtedly shake their heads in amazement if they could see the technology that produced the InterCounty Leader’s first virtual edition. In 2007, the board of directors gave the approval to place the entire Leader on the Internet each week, making it possible for someone on the other side of the globe to click a computer mouse and flip through the pages of the Leader, likely before the printed version leaves our building for delivery. The Leader e-edition is the latest use of the Interet by our newspaper, which made its first appearance on the Worldwide Web with a modest Web site in 1997. Today’s Leader Web site, ( offers the virtual paper edition and breaking news stories. The Web site receives visits from 6,000 people monthly - from students to servicemen and women - to former residents or travelers who just want to keep up with their hometown news. It all requires more diligence by the newspaper staff - and perhaps a much different mindset than has been established over the past decades by the Wednesday publication deadline. What technology changes will occur in the next 25 years? That’s something we can read about in the Leader’s 100-year anniversary issue.


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History/from page 7

Timeline, continued

1987: Construction of 70 x 120 addition completed. Web press moved to this area. Construction also included a new dock area, library and lunchroom 1988: “The Leader Lines” employee newsletter started 1989: Began a scholarship program

when her father gave her $300 to help her on her way, she ended up going to Minneapolis Business College. One of her first stories to write, just a few weeks after being hired, was that of the assassination of President Kennedy. She soon began a personal column, “As Per Bernice,” which drew a following among readers and allowed her to render opinions on a number of personal and political issues, in a homespun manner. Asper was the only editorial staff person in those days, covering several meetings in person and by phone, coming in at 4 a.m. most days to get the job done. She did the payroll and helped insert papers. Manager Greinke and pressman Clyde Kunze would help out with photo and sports assignments. Kunze penned “Kunze’s Korner,” a weekly look at local sports that drew a heavy following. In the 1970s, a part-time reporter position was created to help cover assignments, followed a few years later by another, fulltime position. It was while Asper was editor that the ICPPA began to publish the Advertisers (see separate story), allowing for further growth beyond the base of the cooperative, which had been newspaper production and job printing. Manager Ed Greinke retired in 1982 and was replaced by advertising manager Frank Gursky.


Bernice Asper was the editor of the Leader for 20 years, from 1963 to 1983. She wrote a weekly column called As Per Bernice. Asper retired in 1983 but stayed on the job part time, continuing her personal columnfor a few years and covering a variety of assignments. She entered fulltime retirement in 1993, after 30 years as an editor and journalist for the Leader. She later served on the Polk County Board of Supervisors and continued her interest in the newspaper and local government issues.

Upon Asper’s stepping down from the editor’s position in 1983, Gary King was chosen for the editor’s chair. He had had been hired by the cooperative in 1977, working as a darkroom technician and a sportswriter before taking the helm of the Leader. Under the guidance of managers Frank Gursky and Gursky’s successor, Doug Panek and support from the board of directors, has opened satellite offices in Siren and St. Croix Falls and expanded its news coverage to include more sports coverage and county and local government news. In 2004, the cooperative purchased the Washburn County Register newspaper, based in Shell Lake. With the addition of full color photographs and expanded coverage, both the Register and Leader have experienced growth in reader circulation, the Register’s press run at nearly 2,000 and the Leader’s at nearly 8,000. Both the Leader and Register offer a Web site and the Leader site offers a virtual edition of the newspaper – with every page of the weekly newspaper offered online. Technology keeps changing but the mission remains the same; providing a public forum and endeavoring to tell stories and events that reflect, create and sustain the communities we serve.

The cooperative presents scholarships to graduating seniors from eight area high schools.

The sale of the Washburn County Register to the InterCounty Cooperative Publishing Association, took place the fi firrst week of September, 20 0 4, at the cooperative’s Frederic offi ficce. Shown (L to R) are cooperative manager Doug Panek, cooperative board of directors chairperson Vivian Byl and Eric and Theresa Jensen, former owners of the Register. –Photo by GaryKing

1990: Beginning of the FAX machine era 1992: Sales reached $3 million 1993: An open house was held in celebration of our 60th anniversary 1993: Received an award from the DNR for our efforts in recycling paper 1996: Opened an office in St. Croix Falls 1997: 60 x 70 addition was added to the press building to be used used for commercial printing 1997: First web site for Leader

Flags of the Inter-County Leader changed several times through the years, most notably when the paper’s format went from broadsheet to tabloid.

ICCPA has received awards for its efforts to recycle newsprint. Shredded newspaper is sold to farmers for bedding.

See Timeline, page 14



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A look at Leader news by decade

Thurs., Nov. 2, 1933

Headlines • Farmer’s strike is called off temporarily - Truce declared after 10-day halt in farm produce marketing strike may repeat • A brutal and callous murder - by Bill Evjue, editor of Madison’s Capital Times • Rumors, gossip and false reports of strike numerous • Young Democrats organize - A meeting of the Young Democrats was held in the fire hall at Centuria on Friday evening, Oct. 20. In the ads • Did you know that we serve the best coffee in Polk County? The New Princess Cafe, P.L. Wilhelm, Proprietor, Amery • Congratulations and success to the Inter-County Leader; Al’s Red Crown Service, Balsam Lake • Wade Ramsey wishes to announce that the former Carlstrom Barber Shop will be operated by myself in a manner to give entire satisfaction to the public. Give us a trial to be convinced. Osceola • Buyers and dealers in farm produce, hides and furs. Also flour and feed; Dodd Produce, Osceola.

Thurs., Nov. 4, 1943

Headlines • Memorial services for Marvin Carlson, killed in action • War fund drive under way; Let’s be generous • Grantsburg author writes new novel (“The Medic from Bunker Hill,” by the Rev. James Falk) • Deronda girl killed in crossing accident

In the ads • Try Our Plate Dinner Sandwiches anytime until closing - hamburgers a specialty! You will be delighted with our chile con carne. Ice cream, too. Mrs. Wm. Neuman. Next to post office; Frederic • We’re proud to announce we have just become dealers for famous Cargill Feeds (sponsored by Centuria Implement & Feed, Cushing Co-op Creamery Store, Milltown Co-op Produce & Shipping Association and Frederic Farmers Co-op Exchange) At the movies: • “The Human Comedy,” starring Mickey Rooney and Frank Morgan, at the Frederic Theatre • “Good Morning, Judge,” starring Dennis O’Keefe, Louise Allbritton and Beth Hughes, at the St. Croix Falls Auditorium Theatre • “Aerial Gunner” starring Chester Morris, Richard

Arlen and Jimmy Lydon, at the New Amery Theatre

Wed., Nov. 5, 1953

Headlines • Head-on smash-up Saturday night sends four to Frederic Hospital • Visit your school during National Education Week • Marvin Manning on TV Saturday • Mrs. Bennie Bye to winter in California

In the ads • POISON - Tie up your pets - The rat exterminator will be in Frederic, today, Wednesday, November 4, and will set out poison Wednesday afternoon and Wednesday night. Play safe by keeping your dog or cat confined. Frederic Village Board - by Henry Bille • Cold Wave Special $7.95 complete - including haircut and the very latest in hair styling - regular $12.50. A beautiful wave chucked full of lanolin, to leave your hair soft and pliable. Abby’s Beauty Shop, Frederic • Preinventory sale - Our sample milk house, 12 by 12, insulated - interior finished, now only $420. Save $130 on this. Consolidated Lumber Co. Phone 44. Frederic In sports • Dallas Friberg scores against Luck (Photo of Dallas Friberg scoring Frederic’s first touchdown in a drive over center.) • Grantsburg dumps Frederic 18-7 in season finale • Bruce Tromberg had a great night against Luck in the game played Oct. 24 for Frederic’s homecoming, which Frederic won, 14 to 6

At the movies • “War of the Worlds,” starring Gene Barry and Ann Robinson. Color by Technicolor at the Auditorium Theatre, St. Croix Falls • “John Huston’s Moulin Rouge,” starring Jose Ferrer at the Frederic Theatre

Wed., Nov. 6, 1963

Front page news • Break-ins reported at North Luck, Dresser and Lorain • Veterans Day quiet in this area • Governor opposes discontinuing RR freight agent service • Cook injured in explosion Sunday evening (Mrs. Pearl Zick, Route 1, Frederic, who is employed as a cook at Phillips Cafe in Luck, received burns on her face, arms and legs Sunday evening when she lit a match to light the gas jets on the steam table and there was an explosion due to

leaking gas)

In the ads • Les’ Store, Siren. War surplus: Heavy, warm jackets, coats, insulated boots, insulated suits - just in. See them now at fraction above cost. Grocery department: Large Russet potatoes $1.98; Red Band bacon - 3 lbs. for $1 • Used tractors: 1958 Massey Harris 444 Diesel, live power - $2,675; 1951 Ford, like new - $550. Wanted - good quality hay will take in trade or pay cash; Kallenbach Sales, Shell Lake. Authorized MasseyFerguson Dealer In sports • Dean Keppen and Bob Marlow, football players at Siren, were named to the Eastern Lakeland AllConference Team • McAbee’s knee surgery termed a success (The operation on Joe McAbee’s knee was termed a success, according to Dr. Hall of Fairview Hospital in Minneapolis, who operated on the Viking center’s knee for a torn cartilage. “Big Joe” had the stitches removed at the Grantsburg hospital last Monday and is expected to be ready to join coach Tom Funne and his Frederic cagers for extensive duty after the holidays.)

At the movies: • Walt Disney’s “Son of Flubber,” at Grand Theatre, Grantsburg • “The V.I.P.s,” starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, at the Auditorium Theatre, St. Croix Falls • “Beach Party,” starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funnicello at the Frederic Theatre

Wed., Nov. 7, 1973

Headlines • Maki Implement sold to Nelson’s of Grantsburg • Courthouse site, board reorganzation on agenda • Asphyxiation is cause of death for St. Croix Falls man • Burnett board to review county assessor proposal

In the ads • Special, now through Nov. 30! Butter pecan flavored ice cream - $1.09 half gallon - Gustafson’s • November special - Bake ‘N Broiler - $2.77 (Reg. $5.95) Carlson Hardware • Finest meats, fresh produce, snappy service Frederic Co-op, Bud Johnson, manager • Notice of annual meeting - The annual stockholders meeting of the InterCounty Cooperative Publishing Association will be held at Buck’s Resort, six

miles west of Frederic on Hwy. 48, Friday, Nov. 16, 1973

In sports: • Bruce Shattuck returns to coach Vike cagers • Luck football coach undergoes surgery (Football coach Roger Steen recently submitted to major surgery at the St. Croix Falls hospital. It’s hard to keep Rog down, especially during hunting season.) • Frederic cagers open 1973 season against Spooner

At the movies: • “Deliverance,” at the Webb Theatre, Webster • “Tom Sawyer,” at the D’Lux Theatre, Luck • “Instinct for Survival,” at the Auditorium Theatre, St. Croix Falls

Wed., Nov. 9, 1983

Headlines • New Lorain Fire Hall completed • Strauss from Division of Tourism, Stower, to visit Siren • Keith appointed to national committee • Neighbor sights fire in time to save barn

In the ads • Dial-A-Devotion (new every day); sponsored by St. Peter’s and Luck Lutheran churches • 12.9-percent financing on all 1983 and 1984 cars and light-duty trucks - 48 months to pay; Frederic Auto Company, Home of the Big 2 - Chevrolet and Oldsmobile • Mary Ellen’s Hairstyling Salon. Stylists Carol, Jan, Mary Ellen; Frederic In sports • Dragons dream season ends at hands of “big play” Shiocton, 32-6 • Viking end-of-year stats show strong ground game • Dragon Wendy Chryst named all-conference • Coach Carley announces letter-winners At the movies • “Never Say Never Again,” starring Sean Connery at Auditorium Theatre, St. Croix Falls

Wed., Nov. 3, 1993

Headlines • County board makes recycling mandatory • WCC project marks 10th anniversary • Trail supporters ask county to accept grant • Northwood voters approve $4 million school

In the ads: • Hole In The Wall Casino and Hotel’s Employee of the Month Lisa Morse congratulated by casino manager Morrie Anderson

• 1st anniversary sale Joan’s Birds Pet Supplies, Siren • Now open in Webster Kid’s Time Child Care Center In Sports: • Unity’s Cramlet places tenth at state (cross country) • Victims recall terror of post-game celebration • Somerset, Turtle Lake reach state volleyball tournament

At the movies: • “The Good Son,” at the Palace Theatre, Spooner

Wed., Nov. 5, 2003

Headlines: • Saving a life - dispatchers at the Polk County Sheriff’s Dept. went the extra mile to help a desparate woman on the other end of the line • Judge: Business is up (Judge Michael Gableman holds first in a planned series of listening sessions for public) •Trial could cost $40,000 (Public protection committee receives reports on cost of Mary Krueger homicide trial)

In the ads: • ATTENTION NORTHERN WISCONSIN WATERFRONT PROPERTY OWNERS - The Wisconsin DNR is proposing a change to the shoreland zoning regulations that could have a significant impact on the value and enjoyment of your home or property sponsored by Wisconsin Realtors Association and Wisconsin Builders Association, Madison • “That’s How It Is, Sometimes,” a Quirky Tale of Surveillance, Romance and Lies, by Avah Tuchstone at Luck School Auditorium • Christmas Land at Peggy’s Fashion Rack and Gifts, Siren

In Sports: • Vikings, Pirates take silver and bronze at state (cross country) • On their way to Green Bay! (Osceola girls volleball) • Frederic’s final drive (Turnovers, defense hold Vikings in check against Gilman in second-round playoff game.) • Postseason of dreams (Webster wins way to sectional championship game, but Tiger girls fall to Regis at New Auburn.)

At the movies” • “Elf” and “Brother Bear,” at Timbers Theatre, Siren • “Scary Movie 3” and “School of Rock,” at St. Croix Falls Cinema 5


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News of the Leader: 1933

In 1933...

• Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge began in San Francisco Bay • The fi firrst airing of “The Lone Ranger” • The magazine Newsweek is published for the fi firrst time • The original fi fillm version of “King Kong,” premieres • Mount Rushmore National Memorial is dedicated • Great Depression: President Franklin D. Roosevelt declares a “bank holiday,” closing all U.S. banks and freezing all fi fin nancial transactions • The Civilian Conservation Corps is established with the mission to relieve rampant unemployment •The ice-cream cone is invented in Brooklyn, N.Y.



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“My own words”

Timeline, cont’d 1998: Sales reached $4 million 2000: Began electronic pagination to produce the Advertisers. The want ads are now classified. 2001: ICCPA was featured on the Twin Cities produced “Out and About” TV show 2002: Quad-stack press unit was incorporated into the web press allowing the printing of larger sections and color photos and ads in our papers 2002: Sales reached $5 million

WCCO TV reporter Ralph Jon Fritz and ICCPA manager Doug Panek enjoy a lighter moment during the fi fillming of WCCO’s “Out and About” program.

2003: A four-color Hamada sheet-fed press was purchased. It will print four colors in one pass through the press 2004: Purchased the Washburn County Register and opened an office in Shell Lake 2004: Basys computer to plate digital plate maker installed 2004: Purchased a Duplo booklet maker that collates, staples, folds, and trims books 2006: Additional warehouse space, 60 x 60, with access to the commercial printing and the web printing areas was added for storage of skids of flat stock, roll stock, and mail carts 2006: A new Hamada two-color press with many automatic functions was installed 2006: Purchased a Duplo quick coat UV roller coating system. It produces a durable gloss finish on printed materials 2008: Celebrated our 75th anniversary with a picnic for past and present employees and an open house Answers from page 7: Top row: Ada Hammond, John Frankin, Lori Lundquist and Karen Niles (current employee) Bottom row: Arlene Panek, Annie Buck and Donna Pederson.

40 years later, Bernice is still Behind the Signpost

From assembling pages of a calendar to proofreading ads and news copy, Bernice Abrahamzon has done a little bit of everything a publishing plant could throw her way. But for the past 40 years, she’s been known for her role at the Inter-County Leader as a writer, a poet, and to many readers, a close friend, mostly due to the popularity of her weekly column, Behind the Signpost. “Perfect strangers will call me up and talk for hours about a column I’ve written, or send me a letter or photograph,” she said. “It still surprises me.” Abrahamzon has had an interest in writing all her life and thinks maybe her father, “a great storyteller,” had an influence on what she came to love and do with her life. She was the editor of her high school paper in Oconomowoc - the Cooney Crier, (Cooney being the nickname for Oconomowoc) and would send her stories on to the editor at the city’s newspaper - the Oconomowoc Herald - for consideration. Later, attending MilwaukeeDowner college in Milwaukee, she immersed herself in writing essays and studying “artsy” magazines that offered a variety of poetry. It was there that a girlfriend gave her the address of a serviceman who also liked poetry. She soon became pen pals with a flight instructor by the name of Kenneth Abrahamzon. Flash forward several years to the 1950s, and Mr. and Mrs. Abrahamzon are living in Lewis, raising a family. New friends include Ed and Lorraine Greinke. Ed was the manager at the Leader and invited her to work part time in the back shop. That job eventually led her to a job as proofreader and some journalism assignments. “Due to the deadlines, all of us at the Leader would take our vacations at the same time each year the first two weeks of July,” she said. The absence of staff meant a shortage of copy for the paper, and Bernice was called out of her proofreader’s chair to do some feature writing to build up a cache of stories to fill in the gaps. But most of her time was spent proofreading stories by other writers. Frustrating for a natural-born writer. “My own words,” she said. “I wanted my own words.” In 1967, Abrahamzon began submitting her own columns to editor Bernice Asper. They would end up as fillers in the paper, one week on the bottom of a page towards the back - another week on top of a page closer to the front - wherever they fit. A friend who has shared a passion for writing for years - Ruth Bunker Christianson - named Bernice’s column, “Behind the Signpost.” Bernice’s local claim to fame slowly developed as her column was assigned a regular spot in the Leader - and readers became loyal, enjoying her homespun humor and down-home stories.

hand, saying, “We’re happy for you!” She responded, “You don’t believe it, do you? You didn’t read the title!” “But you never lie - you always write about things that really happen - you always tell the truth.” “So this time I lied,” she responded. And she had to explain the column many times.

Bernice in a 1970 s photo.

Bernice is in her 41st year of writing Behind the Signpost for the Leader. A co-worker, John Franklin, sketched a logo of someone peeking out from behind a signpost with the words “Bittersweet Ridge Farm” on it. Life on her farm was both bitter and sweet, the same as everywhere else, she would note in one of five books she has published since starting her column. They include a collection of her favorite columns, aptly titled “Behind the Signpost,” “Ladies of the Lewis Ladies Aid,” “Echoes of Christmas,” “Home is where I lay my head,” and she edited and self-published her late husband’s book “Hawthorne Boy.” ••• After more than 2,000 columns, with titles ranging from The Road to Bengtson’s Pond and Back, (a poem) to Noises in the Car, to What’s in Your Junk Drawer, the author hasn’t run out of ideas. “Nothing is ever wasted on a writer - the smallest experience is something to write about,” she says. “It’s already written in my head before I put it on paper. Some people ask me ‘How can you remember all that?’ and I say ‘I just do.’” Abrahamzon says sometimes readers will request she publish a column they consider a favorite and she obliges. And while she enjoys the feedback she gets, sometimes reactions aren’t so positive. She once wrote about missing the use of passbooks at the bank. “Ed Greinke (manager) called me on the carpet - and it wasn’t red,” she said. “He told me I had set banking back 20 years.” Another time she wrote about how Girl Scouts should sell the cookies themselves instead of their mothers bringing the order blanks to work. “I was told it was too dangerous to expect them to knock on the doors of strangers,” she said. “Times change.” In one column titled Fantasy: Windfall Leads to Problems, she wrote about winning a million dollars and the problems that ensued. After it was published, someone came up to her and shook her

••• Winning various writing awards over the years, Abrahamzon says she’s been fortunate to have a family that understood her need to sneak away to writing conferences and meetings. She’s a charter member of the Northwest Regional Writers and a member of the Wisconsin Regional Writers Association. She has won the WRWA’s coveted Jade Ring Award. “A once in a lifetime experience,” she said. She’s also a charter member of the Indianhead Rock and Mineral Society. Both affiliations have brought her longtime friends. ••• At one point, she made it to the “top of the time clock,” for being the longest-employed person at the Leader. It was a feat she cherished nearly as much as living in the same home for a long time. Her husband, Ken, who liked new challenges, led the family to different towns. There was Peru, Ind. and Memphis, Tenn., then Superior, Ashland and Sheboygan in Wisconsin and then to St. Paul and northern St. Paul in Minnesota. He was a military flight instructor, teaching British and French cadets how to fly - and later a theater director and teacher. “He was a creative individual and welcomed new challenges,” she wrote in her book, “Home is where I lay my head,” which she dedicated to Ken and their three sons, Drew, Timothy and Tod. “He had unlimited energy, the way very talented people do,” she writes in the book. “ When he entered a room he made it come alive. Together we were a good team and could make people laugh.” Ken died suddenly in 1986, and a few days later a fire severely damaged the Lewis United Memorial Church. The flowers and memorabilia from the funeral were still in the church. Photos were rescued byAbrahamzon’s godchild, Kara Alden. “It was a double whammy,” she wrote in the book. “In a single week I had lost the man I love most in life and our beautiful church.” She often reflects on their life together - and their decision in the 1950s that led to her idyllic dream of a home where they could settle for awhile. “His parents had moved to Lewis from Superior - so we came for a summer,” she said. “But it’s been a long summer.”

Ken Abrahamzon filled in as e d it o r o f t h e L e a d e r w h e n Bernice Asper took a vacation.


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Commercial printing Our mission

Inter-County Cooperative Publishing Association is in business to publish newspapers and shoppers, in a manner that provides fair, honest and accurate information; and to sell offi ficce supplies, quality printing and offer any related services. In support of this, we believe in: • Providing quality service and products to our customers by working with them to understand their wants and needs. • Providing a forum for community issues. • Providing a workplace with good working conditions, wages and benefi fitts for the employee’s personal growth and fulfi filllment while maintaining good communication within the company. • Continual expansion and upgrading of equipment to provide quality products and services. • Operating effi ficciently to make the company profi fittable so we can continue to be a major provider of employment for the community.

Pat Bates and Michelle Flaherty are the cooperative’s commerical printing designers.

ICCPA is a full-service printing company with a commercial printing department that has two designers and two pressmen. Products produced include business cards, letterheads, envelopes, brochures, calendars, office and business forms. It utilizes presses and machines to do printing, folding, numbering, collating, stitching, punching holes, cutting paper and plastic wrapping.

Did you know?

What’s next?

How will the local news be delivered in 2033?

When ICCPA celebrates its 100th anniversary - 25 years from now - it's anybody's guess how the local news will be delivered. Will there still be a newspaper as we've known it for 75 years? Ink on paper? Will it be delivered entirely via the Internet and cell phones? What kind of technology discoveries - things we've never heard of - will occur in the next two to three decades? It stands to reason there will be more merging of old and new technologies in 2033 - the printed newspaper may still exist, but a new generation, raised on cyberspace technology - will expect much more than we offer today. Our public forum will move toward online blogs and live webcasts of local political debates and school board meetings. That technology itself may

• The newspapers/Advertisers use approximately 1,056 tons of paper a year - 88 tons a month, 20 tons a week. • We print approximately 344 pages each week. That is 1,490 a month and 17,888 in a year. • We use approximately 7-1/2 tons of ink in a year. That is 1,250 lbs. a month and 288 lbs. a week. • We spend over $1 million in postage and distribution in a year. That is $91,000 a month and $21,000 a week. • ICCPA has more than 70 employees and 341 shareholders.

The Leader’s current virtual paper at

be old news by 2033. Although the Leader has been a leader in using recycled paper, protectors of the environment would like to see news presented with fewer trees at stake. And research for the past five years has shown younger generations aren’t picking up newspapers as often - instead relying on the Internet - even for local news. ICCPA has kept up with the technology changes thusfar - the

first printing plant in the area to fully utilize computer direct to printing plate technology, the first local newspaper to publish a Web site and the first to offer a virtual newspaper online. The factors of the local economy and the advances in technology will surely play a factor in how well the cooperative succeeds in future years - what diversification it may experience - and what technology it may need to adopt.

ICCPA uses more than 1,0 0 0 tons of paper a year.



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How to make a newspaper hat

Pressman Rich Brown models a pressman’s hat. - Photo by Raelynn Hunter

Our four office locations


Shell Lake

St. Croix Falls

About two-thirds of the Inter-County Cooperative’s employees are shown in this photo, taken in September outside of the Frederic office. Sales representatives and employees at the cooperative’s Siren, St. Croix Falls and Shell Lake offices were unable to pose for this spontaneous group photo. - Photo by Brenda Sommerfeld

ICCPA History