Demolition of the Post Bulletin building at 18 First Ave S.E., began this week, and we're sure at least one of those watching the spectacle said, "If only those walls could talk."
For 65 years, they did. At one point, those walls and the people within them talked to more than 40,000 Southeast Minnesotans six days a week. After all, there was a lot to say: crimes to cover, state titles to memorialize, wars to document. Births, weddings and deaths were made all the more real on tangible ink and paper.
Every generation has its "big story." For some, it was, "War's Over," at the conclusion of World War II. Or, "President assassinated" when John Kennedy was felled by an assassin in Dallas. On Sept. 11, 2001, the Post Bulletin's front page carried the headline: TERROR FROM THE SKIES. The editor called "stop the presses!" four times that day as the story unfolded.
The Post Bulletin's staff covered many memorable stories from First Avenue -- tornadoes, blizzards, murders, accidents, the construction of skyline-changing buildings.
Owners Bob and Chuck Withers built the main Post Bulletin building in 1955 and operated the newspaper until 1977, when the operation was sold to The Small Newspaper Group, a family-owned media company based in Kankakee, Ill.
John Withers, Chuck's son, spent many of his formative years at the Post Bulletin and worked there as an adult. He recalled the flood of 1978 and the shifts of workers needed 24 hours a day for six days to keep flood water from damaging rolls of newsprint and equipment in the basement.
He also recalled that in the late 1960s, smoking was banned in the building.
"Boy, that was a big deal, especially in the newsroom," he said.
The building also heard a lot of laughs.
Withers was charged with working with the contractors building a new distribution center on the northeast corner of the facility, and some jokesters buried a plastic skull right where crews were supposed to start digging.
"I didn't fall for it because the skull was bright white, and I knew it shouldn't have been," Withers said
.Jeff Lansing, the Post Bulletin's press and facilities manager for decades, recalled the morning they found a broken window and a naked man asleep in the trimmings pile (imagine a haystack built out of narrow strips of newsprint). The man had apparently received bad news from the clinic and ended up wandering downtown in the frigid darkness.
"He'd gotten cold and needed a place to crash," Lansing said. "There never were any charges."
Last year, Forum Communications Co. acquired the newspaper from the Small family, and moved operations to the second floor of the Think Bank complex at 1698 Greenview Drive SW.
Though made of glass, the new building's walls will no doubt have their own stories to tell, and the Post Bulletin will continue to share them with the people of southeastern Minnesota.