Jimmy O'Neil came from a family of newspapermen and printers. His dad and several brothers were publishers in Washington state; in years to come his son Wayne, his daughter Carol, and his granddaughter Peggy would all help run the Observer.

"We consider a newspaper public property," O'Neil had written to his readers in his first issue of the Chinook Observer. "The plant [is] to be privately owned. But the newspaper belongs to the people and the editor's obligation first, last and always, is to see that the publication is handled for the best interests of the majority and may God help us all to live up to that standard."

J. M.'s work was a matter of being on call around the clock throughout the week. During the War, the Observer was so short-handed that O'Neil composed copy while seated at the Linotype; there just wasn't time to draft articles and then typeset them.

He didn't get a real break until 1952.

"A Whole Week of Vacation," smiled the pleased headline. "By the time you folks read this week's editorial, the 'Old Man' and his family hopes to be east of the mountains on a vacation trip ...

"Never in the past fourteen years has this writer been on a full week's vacation, until this time, when we plan to be away for 10 or 11 days. Always before, our vacations have been made between press days; but now with Wayne [O'Neil], our mechanical superintendent, and Lee [Marsh], linotypist-printer, two very capable boys being on the job, we see no reason for making a race of our leave ... we will likely burn on the Eastside for our pains."

-Aug. 15, 1952

Not shy about hard work and long hours, O'Neil was also not shy about calling his community's attention to things it needed to heed.

"Editorial. Let a Blinker Save a Life. Once again a bad accident took place at the intersection of Highway 101 and Peninsula Road, and once again this newspaper calls attention to our worthy state highway department officials for need of a blinker light over said intersection. Those overhead blinkers seem to get attention where roadside signs fail.

"One bad accident averted at 101-Peninsula Rd. intersection through use of a blinker would be money well spent. This writer has witnessed results of some mighty bad wrecks at the spot above mentioned, and it would seem very good sense for our highway department to invest in a blinker for this particular intersection."

-Aug. 14, 1953

• • •

"Editorial. Stop for the School Bus and Avoid A Tragedy. Once we make the mistake of not stopping for a school bus and thereby maim or fatally injure some child, it will be too late for caution. In that instance, and our mind will be stamped with an everlasting regret.

"Let's remember: That an ounce of prevention is worth many pounds of cure.

"Our attention was brought to the stop-for-a-school-bus law by a local school bus driver who, in this early part of a school term, reported three passenger car drivers as having disregarded his bus stop signal, just sailing right on past the stopped child-carrier which was unloading pupils. In fact in one instance, it was a narrow escape for two children."

-Oct. 2, 1953

The editor was so right. In two decades his son Wayne would be reporting the tragedy of a school child killed getting off the bus south of Ocean Park.

This editor loved his community, and he expressed it. One time he reflected about the change coming in the telephone system; another he reported a friend's career advancement.

"For some time now, since writing about dial systems, I've thought along the line of severely missing these gals who at present not only operate the switchboard, but run errands, give information about where to find your desired party, and many other favors which we'll find missing from the hard-hearted automatic system routine.

"But of all this discomfort, the thing I'm going to miss most is saying: 'Hello Jenny, Myrtle, Mabel, Hope or Maltman.' It's practically the same difference as between living in the country and the city; and we can't beat those country friendships ..."

• • •

"My friend Arnie Suomela has made another advanced step in fisheries for which we're all very glad. Arnie started over here in Washington where fisheries people are made for the universe. He later was won away by Oregon, now our federal government comes along and takes him from Oregon for the 'No. 2 job in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,' according to the daily press; and again it's good for Arnie, a former Ilwaco boy who grew up with the fish."

-Dec. 4, 1953

While O'Neil wasn't a flowery writer - he managed upon occasion to mangle the language - he was clear and colorful. He wrote an bits-and-pieces editorial column known to the community as the Cow Column. At its end each week - and it sounds like he finished it just at, or just slightly after, press deadline - he came up with a different folksy sign-off:

"Excuse for now, I have to go commit murder on a million flu germs ... I'll be having flat feet if I don't pull on the throttle, and get those goats milked before supper ... Summer had better soon be here, I'm about out of applesauce ... Oh well, I could go on for years like this, but there are chores to be done .... Well, I gotta go see a man about a horse. Keep your earmuffs handy until froggin' time."

Scrappy, entertaining, hardworking - Jimmy O'Neil ran a breezy and opinionated country weekly which served its community well.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.