Jack K. Overmyer · 1999
By Jack K. Overmyer
In a 1983 “Considered Comment” column, reprinted with permission from The Rochester Sentinel, Jack Overmyer describes how he was attracted to a career in journalism.
When I was a boy and the spring breezes became mellow, at twilight I often would clamp on roller skates and head for the smooth and empty downtown streets only two blocks away.
My favorite stretch of concrete, because it was the slickest, was on the north side of the Courthouse Square. Starting west from Madison Street, I reached top speed at the end of the canopy of The Sentinel building and then leaped over the alley onto the lower sidewalk beyond.
Insofar as I can recall I never once failed to make the jump safely, although memory may be kind. At any rate the stunt became my favorite pastime on those solitary excursions.
Skating back for more jumps, I often stopped to read the news bulletins that were written with crayon on large sheets of white paper and suspended daily in the newspaper’s office window. It was, I suppose, my first awareness of a world outside by own childhood existence.
There is a certain mysticism to the experience; some inexplicable force had lured me to examine the very business and the very building in which I would spend most of my professional career.
A few years later I entered The Rochester Sentinel’s building, by the back door. I became a carrier boy and appeared dutifully in mid-afternoon six days a week to receive my 80 or so copies from Kenny Overstreet, the circulation manager. My route was Main Street between Sixth and Eighth streets and west four blocks to the end of houses on Jay Street. My subscribers were a friendly group; only a couple ever stiffed me and many gave me extra money at Christmastime. I believe that I was dependable and courteous in return.
Well, dependable most of the time. I was in my early teens when the sap is rising. The Thrush sisters, Vivian and Betty, lived near the end of my route and if they were around when I tossed the paper on their porch my attention was diverted quickly from business to flirtation.
I would, in a word, dawdle. And our conversations, callow though they must have been, often continued until I had to finish my route in darkness. This gave rise to justifiable complaints from neglected subscribers, some of whom discovered the reason for my delay. I soon was forced to make a choice. I opted for love, puppylike though it was.
Such a feckless attitude would find no welcome in the newspaper business, it would seem. But fate returned some years later in the person of a high school English teacher with the improbable name of Wilma Hoopengardner. She was so taken with a short theme I had written that she had me read it to the entire class. I glowed with admiration and immediately determined to abandon my current areer fantasy (chemistry, as I recall) and become a writer instead.
And so that was the answer I gave to Charley Hoover the following summer when he happened to see me one morning at the Coplen and Shafer Drug Store and asked me about my college study plans. On that chance encounter 43 years ago I began a newspaper and writing career that would lead me back to its beginning, eventually as owner, editor and publisher of The Rochester Sentinel.
Charley, you see, was managing editor of The Sentinel and he offered me the job of sports editor when my senior year in high school began the following autumn. He also was my first and most enduring role model, for in his qualities I saw everything I admired: maturity, self-assurance, kindness of personality, urbanity, ambition and talent. He set me unalterably on the path of journalism and became my good friend throughout his all-too-brief life.
This, then, was the preamble to the course of life that continued to Indiana University, The Indianapolis Star and back to The Sentinel which, in the fullness of time, worked its same career magic on one of my four daughters. Sarah today is its publisher.
And to think that it all came about because I liked to roller skate.
Overmyer and his society editor of 1954, Virginia Michael, check page proofs just before press time in the days when hot metal type was the production mode.
A brief resume:
High school diploma, Rochester High School,1941
Sports editor, The Rochester Sentinel,1940-42
Bachelor’s in government and political science, Indiana University, 1946
Athletic publicity director, Indiana University, 1943-46
Sports editor, Indiana Daily Student and Arbutus
Sports writer, copy desk chief, Indianapolis Star, 1946-52
Managing editor, Rochester News-Sentinel, 1952-66
Editor & publisher, Rochester Sentinel, beginning 1966
President, The Sentinel Corp., beginning 1970
Full owner, The Sentinel Corp., beginning 1976
President, Rochester Chamber of Commerce, Fulton County Players, Fulton County Historical Society
President, Hoosier State Press Association, 1968-69
Director, Indiana State Chamber of Commerce , 1975-87
Author, A Stupendous Effort: The 87th Indiana in the War of the Rebellion, 1997, and Considered Comment: Reflections of a Hoosier Editor, 1998
Father, four children: Laura Nelson, Elizabeth Madlem, Sarah Wilson and the late Jennifer Overymer
Husband of Margery Louise Hodson Overmyer