Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Blanche M. Van Hook, civil servant, journalist

“Miss Blanche”, Miss Blanche Marina Van Hook, if you please, is not a character out of a Tennessee Willams or Carson McCullers story, contrary to rumor. She’s a little larger than life itself and twice as strong when she takes on spring in a new flowered hat.

For the past twenty-two years she’s become a legend to readers of the Columbus Citizen-Journal and its predecessor, the Columbus Citizen via her social columns. They can rest assured that Blanche lives up to the lore in flesh.

When she walks into a party, fashion show or theater opening, she is never decked out in anything less than the utmost an occasion could demand. “Oh my yes.” she laughs, “I’m not bragging, but people’s eyes do bug out when they see old Blanche coming. I can’t help it...I just love clothes, color or anything pretty.”

Blanche wasn’t always surrounded by glamour. Her daddy, Paul Van Hook, operated a lumber mill in Champaign County, Ohio. But, the only child was given an early love of learning and pretty things.

In fact she got so adroit at the piano that she latched onto a job immediately when the family came over to Columbus. The high school girl strolled up to the Superba movie theater which had just opened at Lexington and Long Street “long before the talkies.” She informed the management that total silence was a mistake, and offered her services as a pianist. For “playing the pictures,” Miss Blanche made “the magnificent sum of five dollars per week.”

This led to a civil service career which spanned a total of thirty-eight years. Miss Blanche became the first Black woman in Columbus to hold a clerkship and was to spend twenty-four years in the city water division.

“My my, the money that I’ve handled in my time,” she reminisces fondly. I just love handling money. At one time, a half-million dollars passed through my hands and I never made one tiny mistake in my figures.”

She says, “I stumbled into writing quite by accident. A clerk I knew was writing a column for the Citizen and when he left for the war, he asked me to take it over. I did and somehow, I’ve never stopped.”

“I’ve written for lots of other papers too; even the Chicago Defender, when they had a Columbus edition. I love it so much that I’d do it for nothing if I had to. You see, I’ve never had a bit of journalism. Everything I have is a gift from God.”

Blanche M. Van Hook passd on in 1970.

Betty DeBold, Columbus Citizen-Journal, February 20, 1968.

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