TUPPER: Mitchell's history, one frame at a time
When I was promoted to editor of The Daily Republic in 2010 and was asked to provide a comment for the news story about my hiring, I thought it was important to acknowledge the newspaper's rich history and my commitment to honor it.
"For 131 years, The Daily Republic has been writing the history of Mitchell and the surrounding area," I said. "It's with great respect for that tradition that I begin my duties as editor, and I will work very hard to produce a quality newspaper not only for today's readers, but also for posterity."
I had been a reporter at the paper since 2003, but becoming the editor broadened my view of the operation and the building. As I undertook my new duties, I became more aware of my surroundings.
One of the things that disturbed me most was the condition of our photo archives, which could hardly be called that. Our old photo negatives (we switched to digital photography around 2003) were stuffed in envelopes, boxes, canisters and file cabinets and relegated to various dark, dusty corners of our gargantuan building. It was obvious to me that if I was serious about honoring this paper's legacy in my role as its editor, I would need to do something to organize, protect and utilize the history preserved on those old negative strips.
This winter, I was stirring about my house on a Saturday, stressed out and tired from a long week. My wife encouraged me to get out of the house and get away from people for a while.
"What would I do?" I asked.
Then it hit me: I could save decades of Daily Republic history by organizing and digitizing our old negatives. (Get away from work by going back to work? It's lame, I know, but the negatives are in a quiet spot in the building. And, hey, I love this stuff.)
I trudged up to the newspaper's seldom-used second floor and into a room where boxes of negatives were strewn across the floor. I grabbed the oldest box I could find, and within minutes I saw an envelope labeled "Super Bowl 1973." In it I found negatives that were apparently shot by a Daily Republic staffer at that year's big game.
I knew that Joe Robbie, who was the owner of the Miami Dolphins from 1966 to 1990, had lived in Mitchell for a time. Maybe he provided tickets or a press pass. However it happened, somebody from The Daily Republic went to the 1973 Super Bowl (which was actually played in 1974, at the end of the 1973 season) in Houston and watched the Dolphins defeat the Minnesota Vikings 24-7.
I digitally scanned some of the negatives from the envelope, including one showing a cluster of people at close range. There in the middle of the photo is legendary sportscaster Howard Cosell. It's not a great image quality-wise, but still, to a lover of newspapers and history, it was quite a find.
And that's the fun of it. You never know what you'll find when you go diving into old newspaper negatives that haven't been viewed in decades, but you almost always find something surprising and worth the effort.
I hope to share some of those great finds with our readers, so I've created a blog on our company's Area Voices platform titled "Republic Redux," at republicredux.areavoices.com, where I'm posting some of the noteworthy images.
Some of the jewels in the rough include images from John F. Kennedy's 1960 Mitchell campaign visit, a 1998 portrait of NBA player and Mitchell native Mike Miller from his senior year in high school, aerial photos of Interstate 90 under construction near Mitchell in 1966, and shots of Tom Daschle and Clint Roberts from their 1982 campaign for the U.S. House.
To say those images are the tip of the iceberg would be an understatement. Though I can only find a handful of negatives that predate 1973, there are hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of images from each year between then and the early 2000s.
The ones I've scanned so far are just the tip of the tip of the tip of the iceberg, and I'm excited to dive deeper.