Myrtle Shoupe, 'Printed As Written'
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
An unlikely target for the Justice Department, Myrtle Shoupe. She wrote about her tiny community in eastern Kentucky for 52 years. Her weekly newspaper column was filled with all the goings on in Hima, where she lived.
NOAH ADAMS, host:
Myrtle Shoupe wrote just the way she talked. For example, this from a week in February:
(Reading) "We sure had a bad winter. I guess about everybody was without electic for a few days. Sure hard on people who got little childrens and them that are real sick." Or this, "I just learned my old neighbor Harry Gregory made a Kentucky Colonel by Governor Patton this week. Harry's a good chef. Last week he prepared a delicious squirrel and dumpling dinner."
BRAND: Her newspaper, the Manchester Enterprise, didn't touch her spelling or her grammar. Her column ran with a notation, printed as written. A couple of weeks ago the paper added, Myrtle says this column could be her last, and indeed it was. She died a week ago Saturday.
ADAMS: We called her former editor, Colonel T.C. Sizemore in Clay County. Welcome, Mr. Sizemore.
Mr. T.C. SIZEMORE (Former Editor, Manchester Enterprise): Thank you.
ADAMS: I know you're sorry to hear about Ms. Shoupe passing away. You go way back with her?
Mr. SIZEMORE: Yes, I was here - I was at the paper here in 1954 when she brought her first column in. Myrtle wasn't sure how it would go. I told her we'll run it as long as the people like it. She ended up writing Hima news the rest of her life.
ADAMS: Now, Hima is a place right?
Mr. SIZEMORE: Hima's a small community, a mining community about three miles from Manchester.
ADAMS: And so she just wrote about what happened there.
Mr. SIZEMORE: She wrote what happened there. But usually - normally when she wrote about what happened there, she'd write about people all over the county and all over the nation. When her column become popular, she'd get letters and mail and phone calls. I'd be there often visiting her and they'd just pour in.
ADAMS: Now, she was not a very elegant writer but she certainly…
Mr. SIZEMORE: No, she wasn't very elegant. She wrote it just like it was. She really wrote like she talked.
ADAMS: And you used her spelling, right?
Mr. SIZEMORE: Yes, we used her spelling, and yes we was used to her spelling. And we just loved it.
ADAMS: Did you pay her for the column?
Mr. SIZEMORE: No, we didn't at that time when I was the editor.
ADAMS: Now, she often would mention, though - she would mention she would have little advertisements right there with the copy.
Mr. SIZEMORE: Yes, she did. What she did when she wrote those ads for those people around town - she'd just say you go to House's Furniture(ph) - they kind of compensated her for it. And when she wanted a phone - her phone fixed or wanted something done, they reciprocated and done all that free for her.
ADAMS: She wrote:
(Reading) "The fruit market at Frog Level name is Frog Level Fruit Market, so stop by and look it over, you might buy you some good fruit and vegetable and flour and other stuff".
Mr. SIZEMORE: She'd write a little bit about them - and tell about them, they'd say, okay, Myrtle, you don't have to pay us for it, we just give that fruit to you.
ADAMS: Also in 1998, she wrote this:
(Reading) "Did anybody know this? That Elvis Presley took his spoon and fork with him."
Mr. SIZEMORE: I recall her writing that.
ADAMS: What was she talking about?
Mr. SIZEMORE: She loved Elvis Presley and I think she - she wrote it to get reaction from her readers, and a lot of them replied to it.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. SIZEMORE: And sometimes she'd - like she'd say, now, you tell me what I meant with that or what I've said, I'll give you a little prize. Whatever it was, that's why she did it.
ADAMS: How do you figure she was able to keep on writing that column until she was 96 years old?
Mr. SIZEMORE: I think she did it because she really wanted - she really wanted to and she loved to. And she said, it's the secret of her longevity; she says I rise early in the morning, keep busy in the house all day, walk late at night and go to church as regular as I can. I trust in the Lord, pray daily, and live each day as if it was the last.
ADAMS: Colonel T.C. Sizemore is the former Editor of the Manchester Enterprise. This is in Clay County in Eastern Kentucky. Thank you, sir, for talking with us.
Mr. SIZEMORE: Thank you very much.
ADAMS: And to read some samples of Myrtle Shoupe's columns, including her very last one, go to myrtle.org.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.