Fort Worth Press: “Pep! Punch!! Personality!!!” (Part 2)

1 press logojpg

The Fort Worth Press didn’t have a big payroll (see Part 1), but it attracted good journalists and made them better.

Editors included Blackie Sherrod, Pop Boone, Mary Crutcher, and Delbert Willis, a forty-three-year employee who went to work at the Press as a copy boy at age eighteen and worked his way up to editor, lost a leg in World War II, and once fought off a platoon of irate readers in the Press newsroom by swinging his crutch at them.

Writers included Bud Kennedy, Chris Evans, Carol Nuckols, Pete Kendall, Elston Brooks, Carmen Goldthwaite, Andy Anderson, Whit Canning, Mike Shropshire, Dan Jenkins, Bud Shrake, Gary Cartwright, Puss Ervin, Carl Freund, Mack Williams, John Tackett, Marvin Garrett on the Action Desk, and, of course, longtime entertainment columnist Jack Gordon. Among the syndicated columnists were Jack Anderson and Earl Wilson.

(The Year Was 1948: Fort Worth Press Columnists)

Chris Evans, who would later write features for the Star-Telegram, was a reporter under Press executive city editor Mary Crutcher after college in 1972. Years later, Evans said, Crutcher reminded him that good editors have good memories:

“[I attended] a Press reunion at the old Headliners Club a year or two after I was back in Fort Worth. I’d not seen Mary Crutcher but still could feel the fear she instilled in me return at the mere thought of her.

“Well, by this time Mary was walking with a cane. I remember that she was made up as always. Mary apparently dated every cop in the department in her day and was quite a looker.

“When she saw me down the table, she pointed at me and said, ‘I know you, boy,’ after which I went over and talked with her briefly.

“She was almost cordial. So when she got up to go to the bathroom, I, not knowing her destination, got up and walked with her. When it was apparent where she was going, I tried to go up and push open the outer swinging bathroom door for her.

“When I did, she got her cane, poked me in the chest and said, ‘I can get that.’

 “Then, before disappearing into the baño, she smiled and said, ‘You write too damn long.’”

 2 press pearl dec 8 41For a number of years the Press did not publish a Sunday edition. In 1941 that meant that the newspaper could not report the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (10:55 a.m. CST Sunday) until Monday, December 8.

 2 press fdr april 12 45President Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945. The cost of a copy of the Press had risen to a nickel.

 2 press aug 6 45

The United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945.

 2 press pete 9-18-54

On September 18, 1954 the saga of Pete the python began. The lead paragraph of this faded clip reads: “Bulletin: Police radio reported shortly after 1 p.m. today that the escaped python at Forest Park Zoo had been sighted near the river 100 yards off University Dr.”

 2 press carter june 24 55

The Press devoted a full front page to rival publisher Amon Carter on June 24, 1955.

press-to-tabloidThree months later the Press changed its format to tabloid and dropped the Saturday edition and added a Sunday edition.

 2 press jfk 23-63

November 23, 1963.

 2 press july 20 69

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed their Apollo 11 spacecraft on the moon.

The headline in the lower right refers to the accident at Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts, on July 18 when Senator Ted Kennedy drove his car off a bridge. Passenger Mary Jo Kopechne was killed.

 2 press last issue rfk

The Press printed the news in black ink but increasingly operated in red ink. After losing money for a number of years, the Press stopped the presses on May 30, 1975. Jack Howard, president of Scripps-Howard, issued a statement: “The Fort Worth Press, never economically strong, has not made a profit in the last 25 years. In the last five years, expenses have increased steadily and, inevitably, losses have mounted.”

The Press published two editions each afternoon: the first edition and the final edition. Above is the front page of the first edition on May 30.

 2 press last issue farewell

This is the front page of the final final edition of the Fort Worth Press, May 30, 1975.



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8 Responses to Fort Worth Press: “Pep! Punch!! Personality!!!” (Part 2)

  1. John Watkins says:

    Many thanks for this piece, Mike (and all the others, too). My father subscribed to the Press and Star-Telegram, plus the Dallas News when Blackie Sherrod moved over there. For a while I regularly substituted for one of my friends who had a Press route, long enough to know that it was too much work for not enough money. There’s a famous tale about Bud Shrake from his days as a Press police reporter. A patrolman ran over a deer in Trinity Park, took it to a meat locker to be butchered, and then shared the venison with his fellow officers. Shrake heard about it around the station and then learned that the deer might have belonged to a family. He wrote a story that appeared in the paper under the headline “Cops Eat Kid’s Pet.”

    • hometown says:

      Thanks, John. I, too, threw the Press (and the Star-Telegram and Shopper). T think I heard the deer story long ago but not all the details.

  2. earl belcher says:

    Great work, Mike. My old paper route for 6 years. Behind the old building a church chapel was found. I guess it’s still there. Just a shell now. Probably where the staff went to pray for new ownership. As a paperboy we were told to be on the lookout for news stories. If we saw something, call in on our walkie-talkie or phone. They were on the old 27mhz I wonder who if anyone got the paper’s morgue.

    • hometown says:

      Thanks, Earl. I threw the Press in my neighborhood. Don’t know who got the news and photo archives. Or the Linotype machines, etc. Complete history of that little church chapel.

  3. nancy brownlee says:

    I loved The Press! (Fun to read – Blackie Sherrod, and better comics – Peanuts.) Heresy in our household, however- my grandfather was a pressman for the Star-Telegram.

    • hometown says:

      My parents subscribed to both, and I threw both. I was a flyboy in the S-T pressroom one loud, rumbling, ink-stained summer.

  4. Larry Powell says:

    Really nice seeing The Fort Worth Press again — I was there from 1972 until the end — Bob Trimble and I were on the news desk that day. It was a lamentable day — except we both landed at The Dallas Morning News which, unlike The Press, was air-conditioned.
    Bob was an editor at The News for about three decades, I was an editor, then a columnist for the same length of time. And the day The Press closed, DMN columnist Steve Blow was our courthouse reporter. The Press, if you look at all the bylines it produced, meant something to readers all over the place. Thanks for giving The Press a nice bit of cyberink.

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