“Why would two people with good jobs, congenial friends, and a home without a mortgage, suddenly abandon all these and at an age when security is the better part of valor, move 2,200 miles and go into business for themselves?”
Such are the words of Charlotte Paul, in the opening pages of her 1955 memoir, “Minding Our Own Business.”
In her book, she memorializes the first five years of owning a weekly newspaper in Snoqualmie Valley, Wash. She and her husband, a newspaperman at a daily metro paper in Chicago, decide to quit their jobs and move across the country with their two small boys, then 4 and 3, to a part of the country where they have no family or friends and set out to run the weekly newspaper.
To say that there are similarities between their story and the story of the McIntoshes moving to Kuna, Idaho, would be a gross understatement.
We, too, had a home “back East” without a mortgage, I was working at the local metro daily paper, we had our friends in Rochester, N.Y., our move was 2,300 miles and we had two small boys, Luke and Robert, then 4 and 1.
Nicola and I both read “Minding Our Own Business” while we were looking for a newspaper to buy. It is fitting for both of us to go back to read that book now, on the fifth anniversary of when Nicola and I packed up our house in Rochester, took an exhausting, day-long flight to Boise and settled into our rented house on a sweltering August day in 2006.
At once, that moment seems like only yesterday and ages ago. Luke was so little, and Robert wasn’t even walking or talking yet. In some ways, the time has flown by. In others, it has been the longest five years of our lives.
What’s nice about revisiting the book, “Minding Our Own Business,” now five years into our own business adventure is to recognize how much harder Charlotte Paul and her husband, Ed Groshall, had it in the newspaper business.
Just like every other newspaper back then, they printed their own paper, which meant they had their own press, which broke down often, and their own press operators, who quit and drank often. They had to pay an engraver any time they wanted to run a photo in the paper. Their weather was much worse, and their experiences with an uninsulated rented house with a coal furnace in a blizzard make our own experience seem like a vacation to Disneyland. Sure, Luke got a double ear infection one year, but he didn’t contract polio like Charlotte and Ed’s sons did back in the day before the polio vaccine. I, myself, have been worn down to near exhaustion, but I haven’t (yet) had a heart attack like Ed did. Then there was the time Ed and Charlotte announced in the paper that they wouldn’t be available for a couple of weeks because they were going to California on vacation — and someone robbed their empty house.
Yes, we’ve had our share of hardship, late nights, frustrations and heartaches, but our journey in a lot of ways has been a cakewalk compared to what Ed and Charlotte went through. And for that I take great comfort.
Comforting, too, to know that the emotions and ups and downs that we’ve experienced these past five years are most certainly not unique to us. Reading “Minding Our Own Business” is sometimes like reading our own story.
“Compliments were many and complaints few, but one word of criticism threw us into a fit of blues that twenty of praise couldn’t pull us out of,” Charlotte Paul writes.
Their 6-year-old asked one time, “Daddy, did we get enough advertising this week?”
Then, toward the end of the book, as she reflects on five years of owning a newspaper: “We’ve learned that success does not come to the man who has no problems; if nothing ever goes wrong, the chances are nothing goes at all, for action brings problems as surely as planting potatoes brings bugs. The man of spirit goes after the bugs, he doesn’t quit planting potatoes.”