‘Student run since 1951’: A Calumet history lesson

Ray Gorman displays photos of his father in retirement, and as a young man when he was the first editor of the Calumet in 1951. The younger Gorman visited the Calumet in March and donated the earliest editions of the student newspaper.

By Sharon Adasme
Editor in chief

Calumet Editor Sharon Adasme, left, and staffer Mikaela Hoover look through the Calumet’s first edition.

The Calumet has been a student run newspaper at Muscatine Community College since October 1951. Earlier this year, Calumet advisor Mark Ridolfi received a very interesting email from a man named Ray Gorman. Gorman said that his father, also named, Ray Gorman, had been the first Calumet editor, and was wondering if the Calumet would like some of the archived issues from that time. A package was sent, and Ridolfi brought a taped up package to the Calumet newsroom. What was inside inspired the Calumet members.
The smell of old book.
Yellowed photographs.
Simple pages printed off a typewriter.
These archives showed how, even back in 1951, the Calumet was supposed to be something, mean something more than just a newspaper. It connected people. It drove Calumet staff to research and interview and write and report. The Calumet staff then and now, though different in time and atmosphere, were the same. It was like walking into a time machine.
The Calumet editorial staff thought it was important not only to highlight the incredible feelings those archives gave them, but also to bring back some of the aspects the old Calumet papers had: the simplicity, the positivity, and the connectedness of a community newspaper.

New transitions

The first Calumet issue

The Muscatine Journal reported that in the fall of 1951, Ray Gorman would be the next Muscatine Junior College newspaper editor. Along with a new editor, the paper would receive an entirely new name. From the “Tattler” to the “Calumet,” the student newspaper broke away from the past and forged a new future.
The first Calumet issue, Oct. 26, 1951, the new editor reported, “This first issue of ‘The Calumet,’ we hope, will bring about a change in the attitude of students toward their publication. In the past, the junior college paper has been a matter of little significance, except to those who were on the staff. ‘The Calumet,’ however, is for all, and this then is to be our policy.”
Advised by Dean James Loper and MJC president Miss Willetta Strahan, the new Calumet paper began. With a fluctuating number of staff members, and more and more reader-involvement, the Calumet has grown to what readers see today. Technology has advanced. Printing has advanced. But the ideas that the staff held then, and hold today, remain the same. This is MCC’s paper, the reader’s voice, to put in art and share stories and unite this campus and community.

Hats off to Ray Gorman

Muscatine Journal story announcing Gorman’s appointment as editor of “The Tattler,” a predecessor to the Calumet.

Ray Gorman said, “The original reason for contacting the Calumet was to see if you would be interested in some original copies of the Calumet.” Gorman had come across some older things of his dad’s after his dad passed away on Nov. 2, 2017.
“They were in an envelope just marked ‘school papers,’ said Gorman. So he reached out the Calumet, not knowing how students and staff would react to the archives he would be sending. Calumet staff struggled with all the tape, and finally managed to open the package and share the archives. Advisor Mark Ridolfi videotaped the experience to show Gorman.
Gorman lives in Brooklyn, whereas his dad raised his family in Bayshore, New York. Calls and emails were the only ways to reach him. After the video was sent with current Calumet staff thanks, Gorman was touched. He said, “I just watched the videos. Pardon me if I’m a bit sniffly and I have something in my eye… I was just taken aback by the reactions of the students and librarian. I guess hearing Dad’s name and the reverence they had for the material just got to me a bit. I’m sure my father would be proud of the fact that so much care will be taken to keep these archives safe for future reference.”
Students were awed. This whole experience was so moving, so touching. To hold a part of the past with bare hands, to feel and smell the past. It was all so surreal.
Gorman said in another email, “I know you would like to learn about the origins of the Calumet – unfortunately, I know very little. I DO know that he worked on his HS Newspaper “The Seraph” while attending St. Francis Prep in Brooklyn before attending MJC.” He said he thinks his father mentioned something about how MJC either had no paper or there hadn’t been one in a very long time by the time Gorman senior got to school.
“Since he just came from working on a paper in high school, maybe he thought, ‘Why not start or restart one here?’” Gorman said he knows his father was very proud of the Calumet beginning, and was “pleasantly surprised to see what a big time operation it had become when we visited in 1999.” He said his father only came to MJC for a year and returned to Brooklyn after, so, “it was probably something he could not have imagined would still be going strong 60 years later.”

Who was Ray Gorman senior?

Gorman liked to write, but was not a journalism or english major. Which is one of the beautiful things about a newspaper – anyone can be a part of it. He actually studied accounting, working his way up to being an accounting manager at CBS. “You know, the pencil pushing and number crunching kind of guy,” said Gorman junior in a Feb. 25 interview over the phone.
He said his father had polio as a child, and “he wore [leg] braces for 3-4 years” in his childhood. During the time of the draft for WWII, his brother was drafted, but because of his previous polio, Gorman senior received a 4F, meaning “Registrant not acceptable for military service.” (For those comic book lovers, that’s what Steve Rogers always received).
Gorman senior attended school in his home of Brooklyn before he came out to visit his sister who lived in Grandview, Iowa. That’s when he learned about MJC. Because it was so much cheaper, he decided to go there.
“He commuted to MJC from Grandview every day. He was living with his sister and her husband at the time. Most often hitchhiking both ways because the bus rarely was on a good schedule,” said Gorman junior. He said his father would also sometimes sleep at the school if time or weather didn’t permit safe travels back to Grandview.
After his time at Muscatine Junior College, Gorman said his dad went back to New York and took some night classes, though he was never really sure which particular school. He went on to work for CBS as a messenger, like a mail runner. Instead of sending emails between departments and such, his dad would be the one to carry around messages and memos to various departments. He said his dad, “always had big stories about crossing the street with millions of dollars in his pockets. Those jobs don’t exist anymore. People don’t write checks.”
Ray Gorman was at CBS for 36 years before he retired, but not before his son was offered a job there as well. In 1984, the floor that Gorman senior worked on was the same as the engineer department. It wasn’t a given, but after the interviewing process, Gorman junior accepted the position. Their family became a legacy, as at one point Ray Gorman, his son, wife, and sister all worked there.
Gorman remembers working at CBS before his dad retired. He could always hear when Dad was walking down the hall. “He had a very distinct walk because of the polio.” Click drag. Click drag. Especially with those specific hard shoes he would wear. After his dad retired, Gorman junior said he would, “still run into his dad’s old cronies.”
His dad retired to Florida after his time at CBS. He had kept his school papers in a cardboard gift box, never in an attic. They were always treated with respect, “in a reasonable environment,” said Gorman about his dad’s archives.
In 1999, he took his son on a trip back to Iowa to see Grandview and revisit what is now Muscatine Community College. Back when Gorman went to school, it was still housed in the basement of Central High School. They put 10,000 miles on the car in two weeks.
Gorman said he felt like Iowa was flat and dark, with lots of farmland. His dad would drive them out on a country road, turn the car off, and step out into the darkness. “It was unbelievable, a kid growing up in suburbia, you maybe saw 10 stars. It was awe inspiring to see all the stars.”
“Dad never forgot that place, he always talked fondly about Muscatine,” said Gorman.

Life lessons from Mr. Gorman

• “You write what you know”
• Read. (Gorman enjoyed reading religious and historical texts)
• Find something that makes you laugh. “Dad was a really big fan of British comedies, like “Dad’s Army” and “Are You Being Served.” You knew if it was Tuesday, not to call him until 10 p.m.!”
• Stay active. “He was always active, volunteering at church, teaching citizenship tests or courses, even teaching ESL. He loved words and languages and wanted to help people use it better.”
• Keep learning. From all his years of studying Latin, Mr. Gorman learned to read French, but never speak it. A typical sentence he might misspeak would say, “My feet are on fire, how do I get to the hotel?”
• Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself.