Columnist learns value of recycling newspapers

By Regina Villiers. Originally published October 30, 1996 in The Suburban Life, added October 14, 2016.

Kit Kemp and his son, Nate, visited Cincinnati in early August. Nate is now about the age that his dad was when he raised his high school newspaper from the ashes with his writing.

Kit Kemp and his son, Nate, visited Cincinnati in early August. Nate is now about the age that his dad was when he raised his high school newspaper from the ashes with his writing.

Stories for these columns come from various sources and get written in various ways.  Most of them don’t happen overnight.  Sometimes, an idea will come from someone – a reader, a friend, or just a snatch of conversation from someone I meet.  Then will follow digging, research, and probing, before I even start to write.  Sometimes, that probing takes ages, especially with the historical stories.  Often, it hardly seems worth the effort.

But sometimes, stories just fall right out of the atmosphere into my pen, as easy to write as sharpening a pencil.

This is one of those stories, and it came to me through a series of connected events, tied to each other and all happening within a few days of each other.

It began back in late summer when I had a visit from Mrs. Lillian Coe, who once taught at Madeira High School and was the faculty advisor for the school newspaper back in the 1960’s.

She talked about the newspaper and said it was pretty bad, at first, but she proudly told how they improved it, with the help of Milford’s newspaper staff.  They went to Milford and met with their staff who were producing a good newspaper.  With the help and advice of Milford, the Madeira kids turned their paper around, she said.

Before that, Mrs. Coe said that the Madeira newspaper was just mimeographed sheets, stapled together.  She shuddered as she said it, as if fervently hoping not one copy of that mimeographed paper remained in existence for anyone to see.

The next incident in this story happened two or three days later.

Mrs. Virginia Perin, long a rock both in a community and Madeira Schools, called me and said she was cleaning out some things.  She was throwing out a box of old papers, and maybe I could find a story in them.  Would I like to have them?

Would I?  I almost jumped through the phone to snatch them.

It was a couple of days before I had time to dig into the large cardboard box, but on Sunday afternoon, I did.  As I pawed through my newfound treasure, I came upon a file of old Madeira High School newspapers.  I eagerly sorted and looked at dates.

And there, right in hands, were copies of the mimeographed newspapers from the fall of 1964 – the same newspaper Mrs. Coe only three or four days before had hoped was obliterated forever.

(Sorry Mrs. Coe.  Copies do exist, and I have them, proving that anything in print has a shelf life of Christmas fruitcake, or 32 years.)

I also found a copy of the first newspaper after their visit to Milford.  It contained a story about the help Milford had given them.  The change and improvement was dramatic.  It actually looked like a newspaper, with photos and features.

Then, as I read, I found the next coincidence in this story, making it personal to me.  Shortly after the Milford change, the paper started to sparkle and get interesting, because of a new writer who showed up all over its pages.  The writer, who contributed sparkling features, stories, puzzles, and even drew cartoons, was Kit Kemp.

Kit Kemp? He’s my “family.”  We’re joined as if we’d pricked our fingers and mixed our blood, as happened in Tom Sawyer.

The Kemps were almost lifetime residents on my street, till almost two years ago, when the last one moved to Colorado.

But for most of my life, it seems, the Kemp family, as been my family.

We’re bonded forever, from parents to every child, theirs and mine.  The relationships are real and enduring.

Now, here was Kit in his youth, the age of his oldest son now.  I sat there reading his stories, going back in time.  He had a sharp, inimitable wit.  It was evident then, as now.  And there was a picture of him in 1965, when he was selected as “Best Personality.”  He looked the image of his son, Paul, now a teen-ager.

For the newspaper, he wrote a feature, “The Aspirer,” news stories of his classmates’ futures.  None of them came true, I’m sure.  His didn’t.  He wrote that he and (his girlfriend of the moment) went to Africa as missionaries and raised 17 kids.  Instead, he married Stephanie and went to Colorado, where they now live with their three sons, Nate (Nathaniel), Paul, and Josh.

A couple of days later, with this still on my mind, my doorbell rang.  When I answered it, there, grinning like Halloween pumpkins, stood Kit Kemp and his son, Nate.  They had flown in to Cincinnati for a couple of days for a reunion of Stephanie’s family.

And it was a great reunion for us, too.  It was as if years, miles, and the Mountain Time Zone had never separated us.

I immediately brought out the old high school newspapers, which I had pored through only the Sunday just past.  I watched Kit revert to high school age, right before my eyes. And it was interesting to see Nate’s reactions as he read the stories his dad had written as a teen-ager.

Just as he produced good journalism in high school, Kit and Stephanie have produced good sons.  Nate, bright like his parents, has just entered college on a full scholarship to study engineering, like his dad.  Paul and Josh are following just behind, to make their own marks.

None of these incidents would have been a story on its own.  But coming in sequence as they did, within a week or 10 days, they seemed to be a story to me.

Once in a while, timing is everything.