Monday, July 03, 2006

Editor, Writer Bill Maurer Has Vivid Memories Of Iowa's New Wall of Famers. Read How Ike Skelley Taught a Then-Young Bill a Valuable Reporting Lesson

I had the pleasure a number of years ago of being a colleague of a very talented newspaper editor and writer named Bill Maurer.

Bill worked at the Des Moines Register and Tribune when there was still an afternoon paper called the Tribune. To illustrate how long ago it was that he and I fought deadlines in the same newsroom, the Tribune ceased publication Sept. 25, 1982.

It's a shame Bill, an intelligent and witty guy, isn't still making his tremendous management decisions at 8th and Locust in downtown Des Moines.

The paper needs him more than he needed the paper.

He was a newspaperman deluxe.

Anyway, Maurer sent me a very nice e-mail after reading what I wrote the other day aobut the University of Iowa naming 20 of us as charter members of the Wall of Fame in the new press box at the spruced-up -- to the tune of about $90 million -- Kinnick Stadium.

Maurer knows and knew a number of the Wall of Famers, and I'd like to share his views of them with you.

Here's his e-mail:

"Dear Ron,

"Congratulations on being honored with your mug being among the first 20 to be hung on the Wall of Fame in the new Kinnick press box. It is most deserving and puts you in some great company.

"Reviewing that list also reminded me of how fortunate I have been over the years to work with some truly wonderful people, some of them journalists! During my five years (yeah, and a summer school, too!) at Iowa, I became pretty good friends —- or at least acquaintances -- with many of these people. Consider:

"Ike Skelley — When I went to Iowa for summer school in June, 1957, right out of Laurens High School, I had a job with the AP as a stringer. I covered everything from murders to track meets and learned a lot. One of the best lessons I ever learned was that one should never try to pull the wool over the eye of an experienced reporter. One of my AP jobs was to go to football practice every night, then call in a short story to the AP. One of my fraternity brothers was a manager on the team. Since the Hawks did the same old thing week after week, I figured I could just interview my fraternity brother, then call Ike with my story. After I did that a couple of times, he started asking questions I couldn’t answer. He knew I wasn’t at practice! From then on, I went.

"One big game, I don’t remember which, Jerry Liska came out from Chicago to cover the game. I was assigned one of the dressing rooms for postgame interviews. Then I was to come back to the press box and write up my quotes for Ike and Jerry. When I sat at the typewriter, I literally froze. I couldn’t type a word. Ike took pity on me —- I dictated to him. I shall never forgive how embarrassed I was and how kind he was to me.

"Al Grady —- What can you say! I worked Wednesday and Saturday mornings at the Press-Citizen, calling coaches for game results, then putting together little stories. Also covered University High for him. I liked Al. He was odd, but he was good to me. He helped me a lot.

"Bert McGrane —- Bert was the grand old man of the press box. When he came to Iowa City to look over the Hawks at practice, it was like having a legend in your presence.

"Gus Schrader —- I got to know him a bit as an AP stringer, really knew him best when I worked in the sports information office for the last year I was there.

"Eric Wilson —- I knew him from the first week I hit campus until I left. He called me and asked me to work in his office my last year in school. I could have graduated in January, but to get the job (it paid $2,000 for a so-called halftime position that ran a lot more hours than 20 a week) l I told him I would stay all year. No regrets. I really enjoyed it.

"Bud Suter —- Bud and Eric had side-by-side offices. Bud was a good guy with a great voice.

"Gene Claussen -- He was a faculty adviser at my fraternity, so I knew him on a personal as well as professional level.

"Bob Brown —- When I worked for Eric, it turns out the high school basketball tourney was transferred to Iowa City because Vets Auditorium was booked for a bowling tournament!! (God, can you believe that!!) Well, what a deal: My Laurens High School Elks made it to Iowa City. Laurens was in Bob’s trade territory, and he covered Laurens as well as any sports writer in the state. My folks had a hospitality room at the Jefferson Hotel. Bob would show up for drinks. When I went back to Laurens to work, I had lots of dealing with Bob at the Messenger. (Laurens was runner-up—edged by Cedar Rapids Regis!)

"Maury White —- My mom taught school in Manilla. The only place teachers could go to drink and smoke was at the White residence. I think Maury had graduated, but hadn’t yet gone to Drake. Did he work a year or so at the paper there before he went to Drake? At any rate, I met him when I was 16 when he was up at Spencer covering the Northwest Amateur. We were at Okoboji on vacation and he came to our place for drinks. A lot of them, as I recall.

"Buck Turnbull -— Bucky is a fraternity brother. I got to know him some when I was in Iowa City, much better when I was at the Register.

"Ron Maly —- Gee. How do I know this guy?!

"Of course, I had some contact with the radio guys, but didn’t ever consider them friends. But among those I remember working with were Bob Brooks, Tait Cummins, Frosty Mitchell and The Z. I always liked Johnny O’Donnell, but couldn’t call him a friend. Same with Jerry Jurgens. l didn’t know Gonder, Smith or Wine.

"That’s a lot of rambling, but you sure have stirred up some great memories. Once again, congratulations to you."

Bill Maurer

[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: Bill, thanks for the sensational stuff. You've brought some great memories back to life. You also mentioned plenty of things I wasn't aware of. I certainly didn't know Ike Skelley of the Associated Press as well as I knew Bert McGrane and Maury White of the Register and, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading your comments about how Ike mentored you in your young writing life. Things like that are why Iowa and outgoing athletic director Bob Bowlsby are paying tribute to Skelley and others in a Wall of Fame project that I feel will be an outstanding feature in the new press box in historic Kinnick Stadium. Included among the Wall of Famers pictured above are Maury White, the late Des Moines Register sports columnist, at the lower left; Jim Zabel of WHO-radio, whom Maurer refers to as The Z, at the upper right and Bob Brooks, the longtime Cedar Rapids radio and TV announcer who still covers Iowa's football and basketball games home and away, at the upper left].