From the Echo Press archives: A tribute to Erc Aga, columnist of the past
This week in history in Douglas County.
Many local historians have graced the pages of the Echo Press, our newspaper. The name of the paper has changed through the years, as have the people who wrote the history. It is my honor to follow these writers. I began writing for this column in 2013 when Marge Van Gorp retired. She followed Mavis Salt.
Magel Boyd had a popular column titled “Portraits by Magel” and Harold E. Anderson had a column by the name of “Our Heritage” during the Bicentennial. All of these writers inspire me, and there are more I could list.
If you are “from around here” you have heard of Erc Aga. I like to insert his words every now and then in this weekly “Observations from Archive” column. I begin this New Year with a tribute to Erc.
Erc Aga started writing for the Echo Press 63 years ago. In his book, “So You’ll Know,” Reporter Dennis Dalman wrote, “In 1960, the Echo-Press was known as the Park Region Echo. One day its editor, John Obert, asked Erc Aga, then president of the Alexandria Jaycees, if he’d be willing to write an occasional column about Jaycee’s doings and various goings-on about town. Aga gave it a try, and it was a hit from the beginning. At first the column was known as “Potpourri”...later it became “Under My Hat,” and finally, simply, “Erc Aga.”
In January 1963 – 60 years ago, Erc wrote (I believe while reading a 1933 issue), “I love to browse through old copies of the Echo occasionally...It sure brings back memories. I had trouble in recalling the Home Trade Shoe Store until I remembered Art Nelson there before it became Lund’s. I was surprised to see that a party-line phone has only gone up a $1.00 a month since 1933...from $1.75 to $2.75. And today we get 10 times the service. A and P was selling lard at 4 pounds for 19 cents...and ladies’ hats at Penney’s were 49 cents. Rudy Swore was president of the Chamber of Commerce. He had Otto Tessmer, Leo Barthelemy, C.W. Knauf (I had a crush on his daughter), Pat Robards, Knute Hong (remember him?) and R.S. Thornton on his board of directors. The State Theatre was showing “Lawyer Man” with William Powell and I can still see Charlie Watters, who ran the machines in the projection room, as he strutted up the aisle to start the show. I could go on and on for pages...the snow was so deep that winter that an air-mail plane stranded at the local airport had to wait three hours for trucks to get through the drifts to get gas to them. Yep...those were the days.”
In another 1963 column Erc wrote: “Wonder why it is the east side of Broadway always fills up first with parked cars? Must be more coming from the south than the north.”
Three years into his Potpourri column, Erc wrote in January 1967: “We’re sure getting around with the publicity our Bellanca people are receiving these days. This month’s Flying Magazine, which is the tops in its field, has a full color picture of a brand new 300 Bellanca for its cover feature. This means that both Bellanca and Alexandria will be read all over the world. I hope you round up a copy to keep as a souvenir, for it’s apt to be a long while before a 'Made in Alexandria' product makes the cover of a national magazine. I know you’ll easily recognize the smiling face of Harold Chandler at the controls of the Bellanca 300.”
And in January 1973 – 50 years ago – Erc wrote: “It’ll be awhile before I visit Millerville. Last week I mentioned the six bankers that originated there...and said, ‘Millerville has never had a bank.’ That’s when the sky fell in on me. Millerville did have a bank and a good one. Matter of fact so did Nelson, Urbank and Garfield to name a but a few. One good thing came from my boo-boo...I got phone calls from folks I haven’t talked to for years.”
There will be more of Erc and others who wrote the news “back in the day,” whether it was 100 years ago or 10. I look forward to sharing who, what, where and when each week in this column in 2023.
Rachel Barduson of Alexandria is a regular contributing columnist to the Echo Press Opinion page.