The Weekly Wipe
Or-The news according to the Claflin Clarion
As most of you know who have read my previous T.I.N.S. tales, I grew up near a small central Kansas farming and “oil patch” town in the 1950s. Back then Claflin was a thriving village with a population of around 900 souls. There were two grocery stores, a drug store, a bank, several restaurants, a movie theater, an implement dealership, a small bowling alley, two barber shops, a doctor's office, three service stations, an oil well servicing company, two grain elevators, a liquor store, various other businesses, and three taverns. Most of those businesses no longer exist in Claflin. Times have changed and Wal Mart has come to Great Bend, the county seat. The town is different than it was when I was growing up, but in many ways it is the same.
These were the days when television was just appearing on the scene in central Kansas with just two stations within range; Wichita and Hutchinson…120 and 60 miles away, respectively. The black and white picture from Hutch was just slightly grainy, but the one from Wichita was barely visible. A few years later a TV station was opened in Great Bend and the tall antenna was visible from my front yard. Line-of-sight signals meant great pictures.
We got our news over the radio, and from two daily newspapers; the Great Bend Tribune and the Hutchinson Herald (later changed to the Hutchinson News). Locally there was the weekly journal…the Claflin Clarion, or “The Weekly Wipe” as we called it. I forget what day of the week it was delivered, but it had a distinctly local flavor. As I recall it had no more than 8 pages.
Wayne Huff and his wife Billie were the publishers, editors and reporters. Their editorial policy was “Never print anything controversial”, and as long as I read the paper, they never violated the policy. The front page carried stories of local interest to the denizens of Claflin, such as local politics, which pretty much meant utterings of the mayor or the school board, local agricultural or oil field news, and stories of former residents who had made a mark somewhere else. Inside were high school sports results with box scores and the like, reports on other school activities, engagements, weddings, funerals and so forth. There was also a list of residents who were in the armed forces along with their units and addresses. The rest of the paper was filled with minor reports of who had Sunday dinner with whom, who visited who during the last week, who had taken a trip to Colorado or Kansas City or where ever, and other bits of local information of minor to no significance. You couldn’t even uncover anything controversial by reading between the lines.
Of course there were controversial and newsworthy things happening in Claflin on a regular basis, to include some of the antics that my high school buddies and I were involved in (see several of my T.IN.S. tales on the subject), but you never saw any of that published in the Weekly Wipe. God forbid.
After I left Claflin in 1957 my mom always made sure that I had a subscription to the Clarion, so it followed me to Kansas State, the Naval Academy and throughout my career as a Marine until the paper closed its doors sometime in the late ‘70s. When that happened Claflin news was reported in a section of the Hoisington newspaper, but it just wasn’t the same as reading the Weekly Wipe. Hoisington is a town with a population of about 2,500 that is 14 miles straight west of Claflin.
For most of my life since I left home I have been surrounded by people who are from larger cities who have no idea what a place like Claflin, Kansas is like or what it is about. This was just as true at K-State as it was at USNA or in the Marines, although you get a larger percentage of county boys in the Corps.
Being a consummate bullshitter, I always related stories about growing up in Claflin to my friends. They knew about all the town characters and some of the stunts we pulled in high school. The village idiot and other Claflin denizens were known quantities at the Naval Academy and in the Marine Corps. For this reason, and because they couldn’t really grasp what a small Kansas town was like, most of my more urbane friends just loved reading the Clarion. They just couldn’t believe that anyone would care who had Sunday dinner with whom, and that it would appear in a newspaper. Some of them would read it from cover to cover. When I was assigned to USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) I worked with a small contingent of sailors who were led by a Second Class Petty Officer named Ketron. He absolutely loved the Wipe. He would gather his sailors around him and read them passages from the Clarion and would almost fall down he would laugh so hard. I think the Clarion shut down while I was on Blue Ridge, and Ketron was broken hearted when he heard about it.
So now you know a little bit about journalism on the high plains of Kansas. You are probably wondering why I chose to write about this subject. I’m still wondering too.
Dirck Praeger sends