From the miscellaneous drawer or the publisher's desk

by Anne Swenson

In 1975 Ely’s big news was that Gibson (now Pamida) was moving to Chapman Street, the Echo was moving from 429 to 2 East Sheridan, the Ely Area Credit Union was moving into a new building at 35 East Chapman, Bill Rom was retiring from Canoe Country Outfitters, a dead body had been found in a car, snowmobiles were being banned in the Boundary Waters and Lincoln School was closing.<BR><BR>A far smaller matter is that it was the first time that articles I wrote appeared in the Ely Echo. Those articles were about Winton Sawmill Days and America’s Bicentennial, local projects at the time.<BR><BR>I wasn’t being paid by the Echo. I brought in the articles hoping that publisher Miles Aakhus would allow them to be printed. And that’s how I met Miles. He had been an engineer at Control Data who started a newspaper elsewhere which failed and wound up in Ely where he started the Ely Echo, a fresh newspaper challenging the somewhat stodgy, old fashioned Ely Miner.<BR><BR>Miles had many ideas of what makes a newspaper interesting to read and appealing. He also had many thoughts of where his editorials should be aimed and at least half of them missed the mark or were so flamboyant they were potentially libelous.<BR><BR>Echo employees in 1975-76 included managing editor Bob Cary, ad manager Lolita Schnitzius, features writer Mary Brown and graphics Lil Cary. Jeanne Tome wrote the school board news. Columnists were Bob Cary, Mary Ellen Levander, Jerry Peterson, Louise Leoni, Kathy Lahti, Pat Smith, Micki Scholtus, Millie Simonich, Norman Kainz, Dick Roloff, Eric Marleau, Sandy Biebl and Jackie Jensen, Allen Thoren, Marion Sandell, Larry Mischke, Gayle Meskill, Charles Ingersoll, John E. Anderson and Lorene Mauser. Not all were writing at one time, of course. Some were seasonal or seldom.<BR><BR>It was a busy time for the Ely area. The Fernberg Road was being restructured to Winton and beyond. The State Legion Baseball Tournament was held. Toni Klun was named Miss Ely. What was to become Miners Lake was gradually filling up. The dam at Prairie Portage was nearing completion and reservations for BWCA canoe camping were introduced.<BR><BR>Early in 1976 it was announced that the VCC Interpretive Center, a museum and theatre, was to be built that year. John Artisensi (senior) was named Citizen of the Year. Dorothy Molter offered front page New Year’s greetings to the community from her home on Knife Lake. <BR><BR>Ely’s All American Sled Dog races were again being held in mid-January. Jim Grahek was competing as a ski jumper in Squaw Valley. The new tourism center for the Ely Chamber of Commerce was to be a log cabin originally from Basswood. Patty Barich and Jeff Anderson were homecoming royalty and the 1976 Valentine Sweetheart was Chris Grahek.<BR><BR>Miles Aakhus was a blustering, bigger than life character. He dabbled in politics, loved taking photos of pretty girls for the paper and was prone to have a volitile reaction to anything which didn’t go as he imagined it would.<BR><BR>Walking into the Echo office at that time would find Miles at his desk situated mid center, dominating the left side of the long narrow room from his desk command center. <BR><BR>Aside from the typesetter Connee Schmidt and Bob and Lil Cary, the rest of the staff for the most part were short timers. Miles hired and fired people frequently and additionally would insult employees with his temper or challenge them to react and many quit as a result.<BR><BR>So it was as a somewhat shy, cautious mother of two, recently moved to the northwoods, that I found myself joining the group of columnists on April 7, 1976. <BR><BR>My column was named “Renascence” since my life had changed dramatically with a relatively mild cancer and the family move from Illinois. It was as if a “rebirth” had occurred. I felt I had survived, renewed my life and gained strength.