Note: Dr. Hall passed away on June 6, 2019.
The founding editor of the Andersonian was Kenneth Hall, an Anderson College student who in 1947 persuaded the administration that a student newspaper was desirable. The interview below, conducted on Nov. 6, 1998, relates the story of the Andersonian’s early years.
Dr. Hall went on to serve as the editor of a variety of publications and projects at the Gospel Trumpet Company, later known as Warner Press, from 1948 to 1978. He joined the Anderson faculty in 1978, teaching Christian education and serving as chair of the department of religious studies. He retired from that post in 1993. Since then he has worked as a consultant, written curriculum, and published his eighteenth book. He and his wife, Arlene, continue to travel internationally, generally through AU’s Tri-S program.
What kind of computers did the Andersonian have when it was founded in 1947?
We had some war-surplus Royal typewriters, I think, sitting on a narrow shelf in a little room about 20 by 8. There were probably four or five Royal typewriters on that shelf.
Was this in Old Main?
Yes. Second floor. We faced the back courtyard.
How did it happen that you came to be the founding editor of the Andersonian?
I was there at the time that all the stars were lined up right to get it started, I guess. I had been quite interested in journalism. I was a pre-ministerial student; I think I probably had my eye on even doing something in religious journalism at the Gospel Trumpet Company when I came to school. I had done stringer work for daily newspapers in Ohio. That was wartime, and there were lots of needs for that sort of thing. And I had worked on high school newspapers in Ohio.
Prior to 1947, had Anderson College ever had a student newspaper?
They had a paper—I think it was called the Orange and Black—that had been out a little bit and had apparently caused the administration some problems. This was a few years before. And that had made (President) Morrison, and (Dean) Olt too, a little bit reluctant to get into student publications.
That was an independent publication?
Yes, not official at all. When we first started talking about getting a student paper, the response was negative. By the time we got around to the ’46-47 school year, I was a junior. I had started pushing for a student paper at least the year before and had gotten a solid “no” from John Morrison. He didn’t want to be bothered with that sort of thing. But in the ’46-47 year, the GIs were starting to come back. I was just a young 17-year-old when I came to school, so I was a year ahead of the influx from the war. But in ’46-47 things were changing a little bit. For one thing, John Morrison was on sick leave, living in Missouri, so he was off the scene with his adamant opposition to the newspaper. His brother, Earl Martin, was acting in his place, and Earl was more laid back and ready for things like that. Bob Reardon had just come in as an assistant to the president and was more open. Besides that, I think they were looking toward more emphasis on secondary education majors and meeting some requirements there. It always helped if a student had some journalistic background to use in high schools. So they were a little more open by the time the ’46-47 year dawned.
But you and some other students had to do some pushing to get the newspaper started?
Yes. Mainly there were two of us—Melvin Goerz and I. He was a year behind me in school. He was working his way through school as a Linotype operator at the Gospel Trumpet. It turned out he had a pretty good business head because he went on after a few years and bought a little one-horse newspaper in Nebraska and turned it into quite a business. He was on the business side of things on this little team we had pushing for a student paper.
And you finally got the green light to begin publishing —was that in the fall of 1947?
No, it was mid-year 1946-47. They set up some requirements for us to meet. They said if you can find a printer to do this paper for $15 and if you can sell 400 one-dollar subscriptions for the second semester and not rely very much on advertising—because they didn’t want another approach being made in the community when they were going to raise funds for a new dormitory and things—if you can meet those requirements, find a staff, get the paper out, then OK. So Melvin and I started running around to all the little printers in Anderson and Madison County, and we finally found a man in Fortville. He heard our problem, and he was willing to do it for $15 per weekly issue. He was speculating that he might attract more college printing by doing that, and that it would blossom into something more. He really couldn’t afford to do it for $15, but he was willing to give it a try.
They let us set up a table to sell these 400 subscriptions. In those days registration was all done on one big day in the old gym that is now Byrum Hall. So we set up a table over there, and when students came through to register for the second semester, we invited them to subscribe to the Andersonian. I don’t know what the full-time enrollment would have been that year, but it was probably in the neighborhood of six or seven hundred.
You had a pretty good response rate then, didn’t you?
Yes, they put their dollars down. We also sold more advertising I think than the college expected us to. It did pretty well financially with the $15 to the printer, although he got kind of tired of having to fool with it, which resulted in some typographicals and carelessness.
How did the paper end up being called the Andersonian?
It was simply my suggestion, I guess. It just seemed to strike a chord with everyone who heard it.
What was the Andersonian’s role on campus in the days that you were editor?
It was chiefly just to be a disseminator of news—it was not strongly intended to be a student voice on policy or what-have-you. It really was trying to be a newspaper of record on what was going on. Of our original subscriptions, we sold probably a hundred in the church agencies because people there were interested in just what was happening on campus. So we tried to be rather thorough in announcing what was coming up and reporting what had happened. If we got letters, we ran them. But I don’t think we had many letters crusading for causes and things, so we really weren’t much of a forum.
The front page was usually just straight news. The second page was featurish, editorials. The third page—and those were the days when the daily papers still had, quote, society and women’s interest stuff—had a lot of items about engagement parties, other parties, social events. And then the fourth page was sports. But sometimes we had six or eight pages.
Our main deadline was Wednesday night. We would work getting everything we could ready to put on the bus—since transportation was still not readily available in ’46. We’d take it downtown to the bus station and put our copy on the bus for Fortville, and he’d pick it up at the bus station the next morning. The galleys would be ready for a carload of us to come down and dummy on Saturday, and we’d bring along late-breaking stuff that the printer would set up on the Linotype on Saturday morning.
Did the printer lay out the paper, or did you do that?
We dummied it up. We pasted galleys up on forms.
How was the paper received by students, faculty, administration?
We got pretty good feedback. I could tell you some stories about some of the negative spots, but by and large it was well-received. Pretty soon I had Harold Phillips knocking on my door wanting to know if I’d come to work for him at the Gospel Trumpet Company. That really led to the next stage of my career, so it had that personal kind of effect. And in fact President Morrison invited me to take the [college’s public relations job] a couple of years later. I suppose that’s some evidence.
It’s not unheard of for a student newspaper to give the administration a little bit of grief from time to time. How did the Andersonian fare in this regard?
We were supposed to have been supervised by Ed Ronsheim, who was the publicity writer and director. He was an old, hard-bitten newspaper guy who had been managing editor of the Herald earlier. His office was right there next door. He was supposed to check all of the copy, but when we did our stuff on Wednesday night, he didn’t want to be around for that, so he just trusted us. I’d say our grief-causing was rather minimal. I was pretty cautious, especially that first semester. There were complaints, but not particularly from the administration. It was a little more so the second year, the ’47-48 year.
Were you editor that year?
That second year they combined the student publication responsibilities, and I was the editor-in-chief of the Echoes, the Andersonian and the Student Handbook. Then there was a managing editor of the Andersonian and a managing editor of the Echoes. The managing editor of the Echoes was Glenn Falls. Wilfred Foreman and John Bouseman managed the Andersonian.
Those were the days of intense rivalry between the Boosters and the Sachems, and we had a typographical problem that caused a lot of grief. We did a combined story on the various projects of the social-service clubs—the four at that time were Sachem, Booster, Camarada and Pep. We combined that into one story. I was a Booster, the managing editor was a Booster, the news editor was a Booster. So we started our story out with a summary lead, and then we went on to the Booster activities first, then the Sachems, and so on. Well, somewhere in the process, most of the Sachem part was left out. Naturally the Sachems and everybody else thought we were just ignoring them, so there was a big flurry from the Sachems and their friends against the Boosters with their monopoly on the student publication. That was more of a problem than with the administration.
The second year I was a little more daring. Morrison was back—he had been away that first semester. He had a habit of calling me in to have a little conversation about the Andersonian every couple weeks. We talked about things and he told me what he objected to and so on. One of the issues was that I ran an editorial advocating the building of a fieldhouse. In the fall of ’47 we were just getting a football team. Basketball had just been reemphasized—those were the Johnny Wilson days. There were a lot of athletic things underway, especially with the GIs coming back. So I had an editorial advocating a fieldhouse—it was a rather innocuous thing, but the president didn’t want me getting in and making suggestions. He didn’t think that was my place.
Another suggestion related to a cousin over in Ohio at Wilmington College. This cousin, who had earned a PhD in agriculture at Ohio State, managed an agriculture department at Wilmington, where he was responsible for ag classes, college farms, and so on. I thought that would be a good idea for Anderson. The Church of God at that point was a very rural church. So I had an editorial arguing that we ought to get into an agricultural program, and Morrison didn’t like that—stirring up stuff.
President Morrison was a remarkable person—his was a remarkable administration, actually, with (Dean) Russell Olt as well. In whatever I say, I don’t want to be critical of him particularly. He was just playing, out of his background, an expected role regarding the Andersonian.
I think I was pretty cautious about what I was going to put in print. So we were not a crusading newspaper. The second year we started journalism classes, so that kind of helped with the staff. The first year we were just recruiting volunteers; most of the page editors had high school experience. But we recruited a pretty hard-working staff of about 15 or 20 reporters and page editors.
What kinds of frustrations did you run into as editor of the newspaper? I wonder if they’re the same kinds of things students run into today.
Reporters getting their stuff done, accurately and in on time. I rewrote great quantities of things. I was working my way through college at Warner Press in the shipping department until we got the green light for the Andersonian, and then I figured I had enough saved that I could see the rest of my way. So I quit working outside and was available full-time for the publications work, besides going to school. It turned out that we made enough money, even during our first semester, that the college gave Melvin and me a good-sized grant that covered most of our spring tuition. We also rented an inter-city bus and took the whole staff down to Clifty Falls State Park. We had lunch at the inn there, and then we had dinner in Rushville at the Durbin Hotel on the way back—quite a big day, thanking the staff for their help. We did the same thing the next year at Turkey Run.
Do you have any advice for future editors of the Andersonian?
I think it’s great if they can give it a considerable priority in their lives—not just do it with their left hand for the “honor” of the thing.