Column: Our dull elections were once nights for excitement
Editor's note: Former longtime Daily Globe Editor Ray Crippen died Dec. 27, 2015. We will continue to publish previously run "Isn't That Something" columns on Saturdays, until further notice, as a tribute to Crippen and his knowledge of local and...
Editor’s note: Former longtime Daily Globe Editor Ray Crippen died Dec. 27, 2015. We will continue to publish previously run “Isn’t That Something” columns on Saturdays, until further notice, as a tribute to Crippen and his knowledge of local and regional history. The following column first appeared Nov. 13, 2004.
WORTHINGTON - Election night was dull. Again.
Well now, I have to amend that judgment, don’t I? I have to say election night was dull for me. I was at home watching television. You possibly were whooping it up at one of the big parties, celebrating the President and splashing suds.
I will tell you I am tired of TV election talkers and their tin jokes and insider winks and sly smiles regarding blue states and red states.
Blue states and red states. Blue states and red states. Does it tickle you to hear this? We used to do that in school. Miss Ferguson would say, “Now find Ohio and color it red, but make sure you stay inside the lines!” It really is little kid stuff.
Well -- that’s television.
The exciting election nights at Worthington came in time I didn’t know, but I heard about often. The Worthington Globe, on Third Avenue, across from the State Theater, and the Daily Times, on Third Avenue opposite the courthouse, each set up big chalkboards in their offices. Doors were unlocked and all the lights were on. Crowds would begin to form around 9:30. Everyone knew there would be nothing before then.
In that time, election judges would stop by the newspaper offices with their counts. The returns would begin to be posted. Lorain Township: 31 votes for Sandy Deuel for sheriff -- 29 votes for Serenus Halverson for state representative. Village of Kinbrae, 18 votes for Deuel -- 17 votes for Halverson.
Slowly, the news of the victors and the vanquished would take shape on the big boards. By midnight, there were crowds in both newspaper offices, some people -- nearly all of them men -- coming and going, some settling in for a long stay. It was an all-night event. There was coffee in thermos jugs.
Sometimes, about 1 a.m., there would be a phone call.
“The Governor’s office is on the phone! Long distance! They wonder about our returns.”
“Do you suppose they call every county seat?”
“Wow. That’ll cost a couple hundred dollars! Politics is getting expensive.” The newspapers made arrangements to get vote returns, but election judges were not required to make a trip to the courthouse on election night. Next day would do just fine.
For one election, both local papers had returns from everywhere but Leota village and Leota Township by 2:30 a.m., or 3 a.m. V.M. Vance, the still-young publisher of the Globe, made a trip to Leota alone on that black and chilly night and roused election clerks from their beds. As the night began to slip toward morning hours, complete and final Nobles County returns were posted on the Globe’s chalkboard.
George Foster Moore, a Worthington patriarch and a Times subscriber, slipped in with the crowd at the Globeoffice and penciled the Leota returns on an envelope he took from his suit pocket. He scurried back to the Timesoffice and walked through the front door, waving the envelope above his head and reporting, “I’ve got the final returns, I’ve got the final returns.”
Clifford Leak was a Globe pressman, and Clifford was close on Foster Moore’s heels. As Moore repeated, “I’ve got the final returns,” Clifford said, “Like hell you do!” He grabbed the envelope and went back to the Globe.
Politicians were different -- this in a time I remember.
John Fenstermacher, the Conoco Oil bulk dealer and Worthington’s mayor, was in a race with Morrie Watrud, the dime store man who gave merchandising lessons to Sam Walton. (True.)
Fenstermacher and Watrud both were sterling men. They didn’t mount dramatic campaigns, although Watrud made some large newspaper ads.
The mayor’s race came to have Worthington’s close attention. Everyone seemed to wonder how it would come out. Small bets were made. The contest kept the town awake.
Worthington’s returns came in about midnight -- the hustling, young Worthington Jaycees went to each precinct at 8 p.m. to do the ballot counting for the weary election judges.
John Fenstermacher won the balloting, and Lew Hudson called him for the Globe to get a statement and a story.
John was in bed and asleep.
John always went to bed at 10:30.