Fifty years ago I was one of five summer interns working at the Fargo Forum newsroom. Nationally, that summer was best known for the United States landing its first man on the moon on July 20, 1969.
After my junior year at Moorhead State College, I needed a car. In Fergus Falls I purchased a 1964 Chevrolet Bel Air with the classic 283-cubic-inch, small-block V-8 engine.
Upon the advice of my father Roy Hintgen and cousin Sonny Mjelde, I sought out a young mechanic, Gary Wahl, to tune up my vehicle. A half century later, in 2019, Wahl is still working at the same location on South Mill Street.
A highlight for me 50 years ago was completing a story about University of Minnesota archeological diggings for Native American artifacts at Maplewood State Park. Forum photographer Colburn Hvidston accompanied me and took some great photos to go along with the story.
Archaeology is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of artifacts and cultural landscapes.
A decade ago, in 2009, Hvidston and I had a 40th reunion at Maplewood State Park with then park manager Bob Hanson.
The other summer interns at the Forum in 1969 were Nancy Edmonds and Kathy Kraft, fellow students at Moorhead State College; Wendy Ward, a student at Concordia College; and John Dvorak, a student at the University of Nebraska who was a classmate of the son of Forum newsroom editor John Paulson.
Back then, in the summer of 1969, we used newsroom typewriters in the days of letterpress printing.
In those days our copy was retyped by linotype operators in a back shop. This involved hot metal typesetting.
Letterpress printing included repeated and direct impression of an inked, raised surface against sheets of a continuous roll of paper.
Later, in the 1970s, most newspapers switched to offset printing. Gone were the days of linotypes and hot metal.
Offset printing is a technique in which the inked image is transferred (offset) from a plate to a rubber blanket and then to the printing surface.
Another favorite assignment for me, 50 years ago as a Fargo Forum summer intern, was interviewing the three college presidents in Fargo-Moorhead. They included Roland Dille of Moorhead State College, Joseph Knutson of Concordia College and Laurel Loftsgard, a man of vision at North Dakota State University.
Those were the days of student activism and controversy over the Vietnam War.
After graduation four of us (me, Kathy, Nancy and John) stayed with journalism and communications as careers. Wendy became a minister.
Some somber days in 1969
Wendy Ward, a retired minister who was a summer intern at the Fargo Forum in 1969, spent a week on the obituary desk when the regular employee was on vacation.
“Most everything came in over the phone, and of course I had to make sure that all the names of all the survivors (let alone the deceased) and their hometowns were spelled correctly,” Wendy said.
“The most difficult obituary to write was one that a tired and sad-looking woman brought into the office, with information handwritten on a piece of paper, and asking what the charge would be.”
She was from a small town outside of Fargo and the obituary was for her son, who had been killed in Vietnam.
“There I was, about the same age as that young man, and at a loss for what to say to this grieving woman,” Wendy said, “except to assure her that there would be no charge and that we would make sure her son’s obituary was in the paper.”
Wendy added, “There I was, a shy 20-year-old trying to be professional but stunned by this unexpected face-to-face with grief. After all these years, I still get choked up when I think about that encounter.”
Tom Hintgen is a longtime Daily Journal columnist. His column appears Saturdays.