Sanborn Journal to continue into its 135th year

Editor reflects on the last 14 years

By Hillary Lutter
Most have probably already heard the news, but if not, the Sanborn Weekly Journal is, thankfully, sold, effective this Friday, Dec. 29.
Despite my threats this past October of closing up shop, this 134-year-old publication will continue to publish, thanks to some good people and a bit of pure kismet.
The news office is moving to the old Deluxe Hotel on the corner of Dumont Avenue (main street) and 7th Street (Highway 34) in Woonsocket (inside the north door, tucked away behind the propane tank). I encourage anyone to stop in and give well wishes (and inevitably advice) to the new editor, Carrie Howard, who will be assisted by my own former employees, my mother, Wanda Swenson, and cousin, Parker Senska.
It’s sometimes funny how, with loads of patience, things just eventually work out. For roughly two years now, I had been stopping into Tara Weber’s city finance office – as many are apt to do – for a coffee break and to catch up on the latest happenings, and also to give her my sob story of how I was going to lose my mind one day and probably just quit.
I don’t think she ever believed me… until October.
It’s not that I ever had any real complaints about being editor and publisher of the SWJ; I regret that I can’t pack up the business and take it down the road with me. But after 14 years, 729 issues, and recently way too many miles on the pickup, it’s time to head down the road, regardless.
So with mere days left as an official newspaper publisher, I suppose nostalgia is setting in a little. I look forward to the future and a new adventure in the western part of the state, and I look back with some sadness at leaving, but half a lifetime of fond memories.
Over the past 14 years it’s pretty amazing all that has transpired. We’ve seen two new schools open, Sanborn Central School in 2004 and Woonsocket’s new high school addition two years later, followed by the demolition of the old building.
Later, the Redmen and Rebels joined to become the highly successful Blackhawks (also including Wessington Springs for football and wrestling). Highly successful is not an exaggeration, either, with nine trips to the state level, in girls basketball, football and volleyball, between the co-oped years of 2012 and 2017.
Remember “The new Ice Age”? I do – it hit the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend 2005. We put the paper together by generator power that week, while neighbors camped out with neighbors, and many others retired to makeshift shelters in the school gymnasium or local community centers.
That ice storm was the start of nine long cold, dark days and nights in Woonsocket, and longer for some of those elsewhere around the county. However, the definition of community shined bright and South Dakota resilience kept us going, while the Feds, quick to respond to more visible disasters, kept silent.
Throughout my term, we’ve covered floods, fires, blizzards and tornadoes. Every place around turned 125 years old, celebrated their longevity and success, and then continued plugging along. Businesses opened, closed, opened and then sometimes, closed again. We saw the return of the Woonsocket street dance and the opening of a brand new pool – yes, a pool INSIDE of a lake.
And swans… they came and went, died, ran away and had babies. We reported the whole saga.
A Melon Fest became a thing, Van Dyke’s effectively closed, Don’s became Skeeters and Whiting Memorial and Prairie View built bigger and got longer names. We went through a heck of a lot of deputies… and held onto one great sheriff.
The county saw its first murder in 44 years, a gruesome and disheartening story to report, and a yet-unsolved disappearance that, let’s be honest, is also a murder.
We also lost some great ones along the way: long-time mayors, John Ball of Woonsocket and Ike Petesch of Forestburg, our favorite gentle giant Deputy Ernie Anderson, beloved elementary teacher Jill Olson, Blackhawk Nation hero Tanna Kingsbury, and Woonsocket’s biggest fan Ace Uken, to name just a few.
Thirteen years ago this January, the world’s affairs hit Sanborn County hard, and to the best of our knowledge for the first time since the Vietnam War, when Forestburg’s Gunnar Becker was killed in an Iraqi warzone. He was laid to rest back home near Forestburg on his 20th birthday.
Reporting news in a small community, stories often hit home, but nothing like the day in late June 2010. Spring floodwaters were threatening the north side of Woonsocket and were taking out roadways all over the county. The National Guard was on their way to pile sandbags, and my grandma was riding with her friend to their weekly supper in Huron.
While out taking photos of rising floodwaters, I got a call that there was an accident at the three-mile corner. Why I never once stopped to think that it might be someone I knew… or worse, I don’t know. The odds are what they are in rural areas. From that day on, I have always instantly felt a certain amount of fear at the sound of the ambulance leaving its shed or the fire whistle blowing, and what I might have to write about next.
I’m honored to have been the one given the privilege to report and record all of this and more for our local history. Thanks for the memories, friends. We’ll be sure to be back to visit. This will always be Home.

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