By BILL DUNCAN
The Elder Statesman
I have to eat crow. Ever since I lost my favorite writing tool – the Underwood #5 typewriter – I have cursed computers and every attached electronic marvel that has made my life miserable. But, on this occasion, I have to eat crow. Saturday as I was about to write a column on a different subject until I checked my email. There was a message from the son of my newspaper mentor, Bob Geivet.
I had not seen Gary Geivet since he was a teenager living with his parents in Santa Ana, Calif. I had written a column years ago about Geivet, While surfing the net Gary found the column and my email address. He said the information I shared about his Dad was not surprising “as it was exactly what I would have thought him to do.”
On my first newspaper job, I was assigned to work with Geivet covering a murder in which the police had in custody a suspect, Henry Ford McCracken. He was being questioned about the kidnapping of ten-year-old Patty Jean Hull from a Saturday movie matinee in Buena Park, Calif. on May 19, 1951. I was given instructions by my editor to do everything Geivet did, but not to get in his way. Days of investigation into the crime brought newspaper reporters and television news crews to the small town.
On May 24, Patty Jean Hull’s body was found wrapped in a yellow chenille bedspread in a shallow grave in a mountainous area in an orange grove in Live Oak Canyon, 35 miles from Buena Park.. The press corps was held at the edge of the road while the sheriff homicide personnel processed the crime scene.
Geivet called me aside and instructed me to go to the only general store in the canyon and to telephone the newspaper. He cautioned me not to relinquish the phone to anyone until he got there. Reporters began coming into the store to use the phone. I took much verbal abuse that day, but did not give up the phone until Geivet arrived. The other news reporters had to drive miles to find another telephone.
That was one of my first lessons in enterprising reporting one of many I learned from the master. He said he would never retire, but finally did after 50 years in the news business. He turned down promotion after promotion because as he said; “I am a reporter. Editors just put in the commas.”
He was also a genius at black and white photography and maintained his own darkroom to print his prize-winning photographs. Gary noted in his message to me yhat when his Dad died he had to deal with file cabinets filled with negatives of news photos Geivet had taken during those 50 years.
“I could not bring myself to dispose of them, so I donated them to the Orange County Courthouse Museum, which was formed to preserve the old historic courthouse structure,” Gary said. “My Dad’s photo collection became the core of the photography history of the county. Several Orange County writers have used his pictures to illustrate their books about Orange County history.”
I checked the web to refresh my memory on the Buena Park murder case where I first met my mentor and there was a photo Geivet had taken of Henry Ford McCracken consulting with his attorney, George Chula. That was one of many famous trials Geivet covered in his career.
Thanks for the memories, Gary, even if I have to eat crow about the electronic miracle that made it possible. But I still prefer my Underwood #5 typewriter.
(Bill Duncan can be reached by writing to P.O. Box 812, Roseburg, OR 97470.)