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Oconto County WIGenWeb Project
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W. T. Comstock, a close personal friend of the publisher of the Oconto County Reporter in 1974 when this articles was written and printed, was a newspaper historian from Oconto County. He offers some of his "deadline" experiences living in the "early days".


Father and E. J. McCall, his first partner, got together it frequent intervals as the framilies exchanged visits. On such occasions they usually reviewed amusing and happy experiences.

One which illustrates something about the tempo of the tines merits repetition:

Mr. McCall traveled extensively, on the line which went through Gillett, Suring and other points north.

"The train always made a stop at the McCauslin Brook crossing north of Lakewood," E. J. reported. "There was a water tank there and it was necessary to t ake on water.

"But the stop was longer than most - always long enough for members of the crew to 'take their fishing rods out,of the caboose and proceed to catch a few brook trout in one of the finest little streams in the county.

"Regular passengers, too, learned of the stop-over and had a few moments of sport in the midst of a day's work.,"

It must have been a rather pleasant world - when schedules were not tight and one could stop during the day for a bit of recreation.


Talk about deadlines - there was one that didn't involve the newspaper, but it called for a lot of cooperation and effort on the part of the entire Reporter staff.

An error was made in primary ballots - a clerical and not a printer's error. The law required delivery of correct ballots within 24 hours, and this was a job that usually required a week or more.

Every member of the staff, from top to bottom, went to work in early evening. Friends were called in to lend a helping hand, for the different ballots were gathered, stitched and packaged for each precinct.

The crew worked around the clock. When morning came, the job was finished and the ballots went out on schedule. The Reporter plant was closed the next day, however, and some appropriate explanation was provided in the window. With justifiable pride, Father reported that week that "this was just another example of how the Reporter staff meets all schedules and all deadlines."


Big news stories originated in our little community from time to time, and on some occasions big-time reporters appeared on the scene. As we recall, however, the local talent was able to handle such stories as well as the big-time visitors, and often with greater accuracy.

We did have sensational court trials, murders, fires, natural disasters, floods, and many unusual incidents.

Within a brief period, I witnessed three fires, as spectacular as any I have ever see in my life. These included the great Goodrich & Martineau fire, the fire which gutted our court house,, and the great conflagration which swept over the Pendleton & Gilkey post yards.


One event occurred in 0conto when aviation was in its very earliest infancy. The county fair association had made arrangements to provide a unique attraction - a real air- ship named "The Columbia" was scheduled to put on an exhibition flight.

It was a dirigible, balloon type, with a huge sausage-shaped balloon and an open frame, lightweight basket sus- pended below.

High winds prevailed during the fair, and the aviator and captain of the airship were reluctant to make a flight. Furthermore, he was having trouble with his engine.

On the last day of the fair he decided to put on an exhibition and, accordingly, late in the afternoon took off in his balloon without an operating motor.

As he soared into the air he waved his cap and shouted cheerfully to the crowd. He was attired in a light summer suit and rode in an open frame basket suspended in the center of the sausage shaped dirigible.

He rose at great speed and drifted rapidly toward the east. His balloon glowed in the setting sun and finally drifted out of sight, leaving local citizens much puzzled. The next day rumors were rampant. He had landed on Chambers Island; he had been seen over the Door Peninsula; he was lost in Lake Michigan.

For two or three days the press speculated on his fate, then reports came from Cheboygan, Michigan. He had finally made his descent in a swamp in the wilderness of the northern tip of Lower Michigan. Despite the exposure, he survived.

It was learned later that he intended to release the gas in the balloon and land somewhere east of the city. When he attained attitude, he gazed out over a vast expanse of water and decided that he could not get down in time. He wisely conserved his gas and drifted across the lake.

There were reports in the press that he had been forced to make the flight and that he was pale as he took off. I stood next to his airship as it took off, however, and recall that he was joshing with the crowd and waved as he left on his unusual flight.

I like to think of this gentleman as one of those unknown and unhonored pioneers of aviation. I also regard him as a man of considerable courage - the kind of courage we recognize, in our astronauts of today.