Learning about Times-Journal’s past

Published 8:30pm Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Times-Journal building used to be a different place in the olden days. Today Twitter and Facebook, along with the truth, are our secret weapons. Back in the 1950’s, a journalist’s best friend was a trusty pencil and of course some typewriter correction tape for all of those pesky mistakes.

Anne Knight sat with me in the library last week and told me of the Times-Journal building she grew up in when her father, Roswell Falkenberry, was first in the advertising department and later editor and publisher. She said the noise in the building was so loud. Phone calls, typewriters and no one using G-chat to send questions to one another but rather their yelling across the room made a big clamor and was a place she remembers to be, “wonderful.”

I wish I could write a movie about Roswell Falkenberry. It would be perfect. Anne described her dad as folksy and someone who drank two cups of coffee every day at the Selma Del. She told me he had ink in his blood, he loved the newspaper business so much. For some reason that stuck with me.

People in Selma talk about their love for the city all of the time, but how could one person love a city so much that they are able to do what is best despite being threatened and hated by others?

I meet people that love Selma each day and those of us that are new, fall in love and find ourselves ensnared by the story that this once boom town is now walking and trying to run again. It looks a little different but the hearts and historic houses all look the same, or so people tell me.

Falkenberry loved Selma when it didn’t need to be loved, when no one wanted to love it even. He passed away in his own home gazing out the window on Lapsley Street to the spot in the road where he used to meet his best friend to walk to school.

People, who say they love Selma but speak words that divide the city, clearly do not love Selma like he did.

Maybe those people who create division and stir up anger are just looking for something that Selma means to them and not looking for what is best for all. His actions and coverage may have been controversial, but in the end he guided Selma to the truth. He told the news just like it was, nothing different — he and his reporters told stories right down the middle.

I cannot fathom Mr. Falkenberry reporting on people involved in the civil rights movement who went to his favorite restaurant, graduated from his high school class and sang in his choir at church. He still had to face pressures from both sides, pressures from people that were his friends.

He still loved Selma though and even in his last days in Birmingham would always talk about how he just wanted to go home.

  • popdukes12

    Anne was absolutely on point about the STJ in the mid ’50′s. The sounds of typewriters, Ticker-tape machines, and Line-o-type machines were very loud back then (especially in the “long hall”, and composing room). In the composing room, people would be two feet away from each other and almost shouting. Add to this the sound of old type set being poured down a long metal chute to the basement for remelt, The smell of that process, printers ink, and the odor of paper fibers floating around, gave the building a life of it’s own. Ed Fields (the editor) was the chairman of the white citizens council back then, and I only remember blacks being employed in the press room (in the basement), I never saw women in the press room, as it was very dirty, and the men’s shower was just hung on the back wall (I don’t remember any type of enclosure for it). Some of the employees back then were Roland Ellison, Bill McGee, Lum Bates (press room), Gordon Lilly, Mr. Maddox, Ms. Windom, Mr. Calhoun, And Jamie Wallace (in the early ’60′s). It was a very close knit crew back then.

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