Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Columbus Citizen Building, 34 North Third Street

My mother, Betty Hayes, would drop me off at the curb, then drive around the block, while I would enter the door of the off-white stone building. I'd run up three flights of drab, gray, worn stairs to my father, Ben Hayes' office, where men in shirt-sleeves sat at utilitarian desks. I would be greeted by all who toiled there, my father would put on his suit jacket, fedora, come downstairs and we would all go out to dinner.

I didn’t use the elevator, as it seemed suspect to me. The story is told that Governor Frank Lausche entered the building to pay a visit to the editor of the Citizen, Don Weaver. The elevator got stuck between floors and someone ran to Weaver and said, “The Governor is stuck on the elevator.” Weaver, thinking the “governor” was some part on the device that needed fixing, told the messenger to call a repairman. Finally a chagrined Governor Lausche was rescued from the thing and swore never to visit the building again, as it must have been hexed by those of the opposing political party.

34 North Third Street was the address of the building housing the offices and the printing presses of the Columbus Citizen, a Scripps-Howard newspaper for which my father was a columnist and feature-writer. At times I was taken downstairs where the printers and linotype workers were, they would hoot and holler to see a female in their domain, but the big machinery would dampen their noise.

In 1959, the Citizen merged with the Columbus Morning Journal and became the Citizen-Journal. The offices were moved to the mezzanine of the Dispatch. The Citizen-Journal and the Dispatch had an agreement to share printing facilities, as well as business, advertising, and circulation staff. Two full-length portraits of Wolfes were in the lobby of the building; my father said they were craning their necks to see over the mezzanine railing into the C-J’s city room.

The new offices were bright and light and clean, gone were the greyness and “stag” feeling I had been used to in the old building. Ironically, the new address was the mirror image of the old address: 34 South Third Street. On the site of the old Citizen building, 34 North Third, now sits the Renaissance Hotel.

My father now shared a private office with Ron Pataky, theatre critic, and Jane Kehrer, fashion editor. Bob Greene has written a wonderful book about this era of the Citizen-Journal, Late Edition: A Love Story (St. Martin’s Press, 2009). He started his newspaper career with the C-J in the summer of 1965.

The arrangement with the Dispatch lasted many years. Finally, there was resistance to its continuance and the newspaper ended. The last issue of the Citizen-Journal was Dec. 31, 1985. Its headline, as I read it on New Year’s Day morning, was about Rick Nelson’s untimely death in a small airplane. It was yet another day of the music dying and also a passing of a piece of Columbus newspaper history.

Christine Hayes

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