(More or less) True stories from an old journalist

By Mike Steely

I’ve covered thousands of stories in my many years as a reporter. Some I never wrote about because the facts were too unbelievable. I’d like to share a few with you.

 

The Bootlegger Winked at Me

I got a call one afternoon that a raid on a local bootlegger was going to be held and I was invited to tag along. I was running a weekly newspaper in the town of my birth and knew the police chief well.

I followed the state and local policemen from the city hall to the suspect’s house. I didn’t realize until I got there that the bootlegging raid was taking place at the home of one of my distant relatives.

The older man, who I’ll refer to as “Uncle” because he was an uncle of my mom, met the lawmen at his front door and invited them in. For several minutes the police looked through his small home and found nothing.

As they left my “Uncle” winked at me.

About a week later I had a cousin visiting from Florida who wanted some moonshine. I called my “Uncle” and he said come on over.

We arrived and he brought us a mason jar of moonshine for a few dollars. I recall asking him how he knew the police were coming and he said he always knows. Obviously he had friends in the police department.

 

Grocery Owner Gets Married

I once worked as the advertising manager for the local weekly newspaper at a county seat in Kentucky. Each week I’d drive out to the large supermarket just outside town to pick up the ad information for the weekly advertisement.

Often the owner would ask me to drive him down by his main competitor where he would look at the window ads, copy the product and price, and then designate what he wanted in his advertisement.  That way he constantly undercut the prices the other store had posted.

The supermarket owner called me one day and asked me to please not run his name in the public records section of the paper. Seems he and his long-time girlfriend, whom everyone thought was his wife, had only recently wed.

The wedding announcements were public records, as were arrests, etc. He begged me not to include his wedding in the paper. I spoke with the editor and was told we could not withhold the information and would publish it.

I told him most people didn’t read that portion of the paper but he said if we ran it he would cancel his ad. We did and he did. In a few weeks he came back to advertise and never mentioned the event again.

 

The Upside Down Ad

I once had a new business that wanted to advertise and I met with the owner, designed the ad, and showed him what I had put together. He wanted a full page and for it to appear on the back of the paper. He had one other stipulation, it had to run UPSIDE DOWN.

He thought it might get more attention. We had a verbal agreement and I agreed to bill him for the ad and special attention he requested.

A week later he called complaining that the ad wasn’t working and he had few customers. I tried to tell him that advertising only once probably won’t draw much attention. He didn’t listen and wasn’t going to pay for the ad.

A couple months later we took him to court and he told the judge the ad didn’t work and he wasn’t going to pay for it. The judge asked him if everything in the ad was approved by him, including running it upside down, and the man said “Yes.”

The judge told the store owner to pay the bill. He never did.

 

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