Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

September 25, 2013

Newspaper project benefits Kerens Library

By Janet Jacobs
Corsicana Daily Sun

KERENS — The pieces have fallen into place for preserving a special part of Kerens’ heritage, thanks to a grant from the Tocker Foundation and donations from local businesses and residents.

About 30 years’ worth of Kerens Tribunes are being digitally archived, and will be made available for free on the Internet, as well as at the Kerens Public Library.

The treasure trove of back editions was found by the children of Wayne and Laurette Kittley, who published the paper from the 1950s to the 1970s. The couple kept a copy of every edition in plastic boxes in their attic.

After their passing, their children offered the papers to the Kerens Library, explained Betty Partain, a former board member who’s still very active in the library.

Partain knew that the University of Texas in Austin had been digitizing newspapers, and she inquired, only to be redirected to the University of North Texas.

The Tocker Foundation, which gives assistance to small-town libraries, and which had helped the Kerens Library with its building, agreed to help pay for the digitizing.

After the project looked like it would go forward, the children of Wilma Westbrook McQuary came forward with their mother’s collection of Kerens Tribune editions from the 1940s.

It wasn’t a complete set, but the older papers were a welcome edition.

The papers include big news, like the acquisition of the original Big Texas Santa Claus statue, but also little notes about who was visiting whom, and who had passed away or gotten married. That’s the kind of day-to-day information that makes genealogists salivate.

Then, when the owners of the Kerens Tribune decided to consolidate their offices to Seven Points, they offered up the bound copies that had been in the office. Once again, the archivists agreed to take the additional papers.

The grant from the Tocker Foundation was for $2,200. The digital versions of the papers will be posted on Portal to Texas History.

“They’ll send us a hard copy for the library, but anybody can go to their own computers and read all about it,” she said, quoting the old newsboy line. “If you’re looking for your family, it’s all in there.”

The archivists offered to return the old papers but the Kerens Library board offered them to the University of North Texas.

“We don’t have any place to keep that kind of thing,” Partain said.

The oldest papers in the bunch had mildewed, and will have to be quarantined, she pointed out.

The Kerens Tribune’s publisher in the 1930s and 1940s was James Tatum, who went to World War II, and only came home after his wife Estelle got him elected to the Texas House of Representatives. From there he went onto the state senate, eventually becoming a successful lobbyist in Austin. Some of those earliest papers were from when Tatum was editor, said Diane Lang, library volunteer.

“It’s such a treasure,” she said of the newspaper archives. “And it’s not just Kerens, it’s also Rural Shade and Bazette.”

The library volunteers weren’t sure when the archives would be ready, but it’s expected to take months. The UNT archivists collected the papers in mid-September.

“It’s all the history,” Partain said. “It had who visited who, and who played dominoes. It’s a wonderful history.”

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Janet Jacobs may be reached via email at jjacobs@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “sound off” to this article? Email: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com