The Duncan Banner


June 23, 2013

Oliver's imprint on Banner

DUNCAN — Alvin Oliver wasn’t around when Col. J.P. Sampson published the first edition of The Duncan Banner June 27, 1893.

He didn’t work in that original building on Main Street, the one divided by a picket fence down the middle of the store to separate Sampson’s new community communications idea from his saddle shop.

But Oliver may remember and know more about The Banner and its intriguing history than anyone else. He spent more than 50 years working with a newspaper that was started one year after the first train come through, is 15 years older than Oklahoma’s statehood and begins this week its 121st year of operation.

He started Aug. 1, 1947 at age 13 as a paperboy, throwing The Banner to 225 customers in south central and southeastern parts of the city on streets like 7th and 8th, Sycamore, Cypress, Bois d’ Arc and across the railroad tracks on a bicycle with big long handlebars.

Each day he’d stop midway through his deliveries at Pop Armstead’s grocery store at 3rd and Magnolia to reward himself with a cream soda and Snickers’ candy bar.

On bad weather days, he’d saddle the driver’s side headlight of his family’s 1937 Chevrolet, put his bag of papers on the hood and throw left and right as his mom drove the car.

Newspapers, then, he remembered, weren’t rolled. They were flat folded in a square shape.

“Not many people had screen doors,” Oliver said. “You could fling those papers like a Frisbee, right into their houses. Nearly everybody took The Banner.”

He later worked part-time in the paper’s press room and circulation departments when The Banner was on the east side of 8th Street, north of Main, sandwiched between Central Motors (now an office complex) and Public Services of Oklahoma (PSO).

He learned a little about the eight-page flatbed Goss press but remembers more circulation manager John King giving him a dollar each day with instructions to go to Sunshine Market and buy him a pack of Camel cigarettes and a box of cough drops.

“It was as regular as clockwork,” Oliver said.

When The Banner moved across the street, he moved with it, keeping his part-time job. It was March 25, 1948. B.L. Abernethy owned the paper and The Banner installed a fancy 16-page Goss Tube rotary press that could print 14,000 copies in an hour. Curtis Richards, who became something of a second daddy to Oliver, was hired to run the press and quickly impressed everyone with his skills.

“He could build, fix or do anything,” his protégé admitted. “I never met a man who knew more than he did. He was a magician.”

When those considerable skills were noticed, Richards took a traveling job in 1959, fixing newspaper equipment across the country. Oliver, then an experienced 25-year-old, assumed control.

He had been making 71 cents an hour, a penny over minimum wage, and was raised $1 an hour.

“I thought I was the richest man in the world,” he said, laughing loudly. When Abernethy died, “Mrs. Ab” took over, brought in Joe Fleming and then Jack Wettengale to run it. She ultimately sold The Banner to Harrington Wimberly — who also owned The Altus Times — in 1963, and who, with son-in-law Al Hruby, built the current complex in 1972.

Oliver’s memories of the “8th and Willow” site remain warm.

“We loved all the windows on the south side,” he said. “We could watch all the girls go in and out of the post office and whistle at them.”

The move to 1001 West Elm was significant.

The Goss Tube press, more expensive to move than to abandon, remains buried at 8th and Willow under what is now BancFirst’s parking lot. A switch from “hot” to “cold” type exchanged 65-pound metal plates for 15-ounce aluminum ones and changed the printing world. A new automated Cottrell V-35 press — one he helped install — could print 24 pages at a time and 25,000 copies in an hour. And the state-of-the-art building remains exceptional 41 years after it opened.

Oliver, now 78, became every bit the magician his mentor, Richards, was, earning accolades statewide for the quality of his work and respect locally for his character and integrity. He retired in April 1998, handing his prized press to his able and trusted aide Bobby Williams.

“The Good Lord has watched over me,” he said, typically, last week. “I never expected to be there that long. I’ve met and worked with some really fine people and while the work was sometimes hectic and stressful, I never regretted a minute. Serving the public gave us all a special feeling. There was nothing like watching the paper go over the rollers and come out a finished product.”

That was especially true in the hands of a master. 580-255-5354, Ext. 130




Text Only
  • Governor, state Legislature have misplaced priorities

    If the Oklahoma State Legislators and our Governor spent less time interfering in women’s rights to manage their bodies, creating ways to lay more taxes and fees on the middle class in order to generate more tax breaks which benefit only the wealthy while also conceiving methods with which to fill Oklahoma’s for-profit prisons, they would be doing all of us a favor. Instead, why not work to enhance funding for our schools and wage increases for all school employees? While reforming the state’s educational budget, why don’t they approve wage increases for our Oklahoma State Troopers and enlarge their Academy to insure qualified individuals are ready to fill the upcoming vacancies as many of the older force retire?

    April 9, 2014

  • Self government key to keeping politicians in check

    Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that federal campaign laws that limit the total amount of money donors can give to political parties, committees and candidates for federal office (U.S. House, Senate, and President) was unconstitutional. The ruling will not increase the current $2,600 limit on how much a donor can give to a federal candidate in each primary and general election or the $32,400 limit that can go to a national party committee. Those limits are still in place.  The ruling will instead remove the limit on how many candidates/committees to which a donor can contribute.

    April 9, 2014

  • Legislative goals crucial to priorities in education

    I am a member of several professional organizations where I attend regular meetings, network with colleagues, and stay abreast and informed on education best practices.  The Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration, better known as CCOSA, is a nonprofit organization that establishes close and continuous communication and cooperation between educators, taxpayers, and legislators to improve the effectiveness of professional school administrators and to communicate the needs of schools. Attendance this time of year is especially critical because legislators are in session.

    March 28, 2014

  • An impressive ranking that could be better

    That Duncan was named one of the best 15 communities in Oklahoma by Movoto, a national Real Estate company, is news worth celebrating.
    Of 43 places with population of 10,000 or more, as determined by the U.S. Census data, Duncan finished 15th. Norman was first, Edmond second, Yukon and Moore tied for third and Bethany was fifth.

    March 9, 2014

  • Kids shouldn’t have to pay for having punster parents

    Friends and neighbors, I’ve been cloistered in my Thought Chamber for the past few days, contemplating many high-brow philosophies and haughty hypothesis that we who think on a different level use to exercise our finely-tuned minds and remain intellectually superior to the Great Unwashed.
    As you see, the time alone has been intellectually beneficial. I just composed an opening sentence (what we in the journalism dodge call a “lead”) that’s 46 words long.

    March 9, 2014

  • The blissful serenity of No-TV Land

    Life without TV is possible. Maybe you should try it. I did. It’s a do-able thing, I tell you. I’m still here, no worse the wear, no oozing wounds, no serious loss of brainwave activity except for the slow, inexorable downhill decline that already started when TV viewing was a daily occurrence.

    Granted, two months without the tube is quite likely not a scientifically acceptable sample from which is to hold forth. But it’s the best I can do, so deal with it.

    March 9, 2014

  • Cooper’s message is to remain active

    Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the Dallas physician who coined the phrase “aerobics” more than four decades ago, who has become a world leader in physical fitness and who has saved, literally, thousands of lives by promoting the value of an active lifestyle, shared his philosophy of life here last week.

    March 9, 2014

  • Time to take the “B” out of the “Three R’s”

    Our young folks are hitting the stretch drive toward the end of another school year, during which they’ve been taught “Three R’s”, which are not really “r’s” at all.
    In case you missed it, reading is the only one of the “Three R’s” that actually begins with the letter “r.” Writing starts with a “w” and arithmetic begins with the letter “a.” There are two reasons we drop the “w” from “writing” and the “a” from “arithmetic”: 1. For poetic flow in the age-old saying; and, 2. many people have a secret yen to talk like the Beverly Hillbillies.

    February 23, 2014

  • Thank you for lettin’ me be myself again

    Friends and neighbors, hope I don’t sound like the biggest egomaniac since Donald Trump, but you know, I am the most interesting person I’ve ever known.
    Forgive me if — on first blush — that sounds like the most totally self-aggrandizing statement you’ve ever heard. And if you’ve headed to the restroom to express an editorial opinion about the statement above, I’ll stop for a couple minutes.

    February 15, 2014

  • Buzz misfired in Vanity Fair body slam of Duncan

    As the new kid in town, I’m reluctant to leap atop the ramparts to defend the honor of Duncan, Okla., my new adopted hometown.
    But to heck with that. When an out-of-towner comes into your house and soils your rug, it’s on.
    I speak, of course, about the article in Vanity Fair magazine about Duncan and the  killing last year of Chris Lane, the Australian who was gunned down in August.

    January 24, 2014