THE PLATTEVILLE JOURNAL CITIZENS OF THE YEAR
1985: Wilson Boldt
1986: Gary Tuescher
1987: Tom and Wendy Collins
1988: Nancy Ziegenfuss
1989: Thomas Geyer
1990: Delmer Duggan
1991: John and Carol Edge
1992: Pat Plourde
1993: Chris and Drew Cardin
1994: Patty Chryst
1995: Keith and Suzanne Buchert
1996: Dennis and Rita Noble
1997: Greg and Ed Faherty
1998: Rita Eversoll
1999: Mike Mair
2000: Jim and Karen Schneller
2001: John Dutcher
2002: Bob Masbruch
2003: Tom and Karen Heiser
2004: Maj. Christopher A. Splinter
2005: Cindy Martens
2006: Dorothy Genthe
2007: Bob Bodden
2008: Rev. Jeff Pedersen
2009: Dr. Ralph and Kathy Bjork
2010: Kay Helker
2011: Wilma Stanton
2012: Dick Brockman
The last name Brockman was on every copy of The Platteville Journal for 70 years.
Harold Brockman purchased The Journal in 1933. In 1952, Harold started getting help from his 5-year-old son, Richard.
In 2003, Dick Brockman ended his 51-year association with The Journal by selling to Morris Newspapers Corporation of Wisconsin.
Brockman’s newspaper retirement didn’t last long, though.
“I got out of the newspaper business,” he said. “I was basically out of it for a year, and then I purchased the Linn News–Letter in Central City, Iowa. We [also] did printing, and I did that until I got ill.”
Brockman wrote a column for the News–Letter for seven years.
Nor did selling The Journal end Dick Brockman’s involvement with Platteville.
Most people don’t know the depth of Brockman’s involvements, financially and otherwise, in Platteville over the decades. The list of events and institutions that got Brockman’s anonymous support includes Dairy Days, the Historic Encampment, Thursday’s Child, the Avalon Theatre restoration, the City Park gazebo, and Building Platteville.
“My parents owned the paper, so I stuffed papers when I was 5,” he said. “Basically I did simple things like that. And then as I got older, when I got into about seventh grade I did writing and some photography.”
Those photos were taken with a Graflex Speed Graphic camera, the first editions of which required changing film with every photo.
“I still like that camera,” he said. “Sometimes you enjoy older things … but you can’t exist anymore on the older stuff. You have to use newer stuff.”
Brockman’s journalism experience dates back to when newspaper type was set by hand. Machines that printed type and headlines on film paper came in the 1960s.
“When I first started, you had to create something, a headline, that fit within the space allowed,” he said.
Dick Brockman purchased The Journal from his parents in 1971, shortly after he graduated from UW–Platteville. That put him in charge of not only the newspaper, but his commercial printing operation, Mastercraft Press.
“I used to work seven days a week, I guess,” he said. “Monday wouldn’t be so hard as far as physically doing things, and Tuesday was always city council meetings. That took care of Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday we were busy with commercial printing, and Friday we had sports and so forth. And then sports grew and they had sports about every night of the week.”
Brockman credits his work ethic to Harold, whom he described as “a tireless worker. Very kind, very gentle, very understanding, but a tireless worker. If there was work to be done in our family, work always came first.”
Shortly after purchasing The Journal, Brockman decided to add a second edition each week. That lasted until he sold The Journal in 2003. Between the newspaper and printing, Brockman employed as many as 17 people.
A weekly newspaper editor’s or reporter’s work involves numerous meetings of governmental bodies.
Back in the days when Platteville had a mayor, one Common Council meeting started at 7 p.m., and ended at 2 a.m.
That, however, didn’t compare to the meeting in which two aldermen, sitting on opposite ends of the Municipal Building council chambers, got into such a heated discussion that one got up to take a swing at the other.
Journalists are supposed to cover the meeting, not comment on what’s happening at the meeting … at least not at the meeting.
“I’d bite my tongue all the time because I’d disagree with what they were doing,” he said.
One Common Council decision Brockman witnessed was the decision to switch Main Street back to two-way traffic. Main Street, the original route of U.S. 151 through Platteville, switched from two-way to one-way in the 1950s after 151 was shifted to Platteville’s south side on what now is Business 151.
“Probably the biggest historical question I got asked was when did Main Street go one-way,” he said. “And I’d say I don’t know and they’d ask are you going to find out, and I’d say no, I didn’t find it that interesting.”
Two-way traffic returned July 1, 2002 at 8 a.m.
“There were about 30 or 40 cars all lined up on that morning to be among the first to go both ways on Main,” he said. “And I thought, OK, they’ve done it, let’s go home, but they kept going around and around and around.”
Newspapers often assisted law enforcement in taking photos of crime scenes or car crashes in the days before digital cameras.
“In those days they didn’t have cameras, so I’d get called out any time of the day or night — 2 a.m., 3 a.m.,” he said.
In four decades of covering stories, certain stories stick out. Shortly before Christmas one year in the early 1960s, children died in a house fire between Platteville and Union.
“I was standing out there and it was about 10 below zero, and [their mother] wanted the firefighters to comb through the rubble and see if they could find any remnants of her children, and they did that just for her,” he said.
Brockman was a Platteville State University student in December 1964 when student Kathleen Moan was shot to death in the cafeteria in the basement of what now is Ullsvik Hall.
Brockman remembers talking to then-chancellor Bjarne Ullsvik afterward.
“He was just sick about the whole thing,” said Brockman. “He was a very sensitive individual. He said the hardest thing he ever did as an individual was call up the parents of this young girl and tell her parents she was dead.”
A few years later, Brockman covered an airplane crash that killed four UW–Platteville students when the plane hit a guy wire.
“When I was out there, the firemen couldn’t really tell if there were four people in the crash or two people or what they had,” he said. “At that time they could count seven legs.”
A community newspaper gets to report good news, too. Around one Christmas, Brockman wrote about the Grant County Department of Social Services’ request to help 10 to 15 families. The response from Journal readers far exceeded what Social Services had sought.
“We were always able to help those people in many ways,” he said.
Another story was of a handicapped boy who needed funds for equipment tied to his disability. “We had many, many replies to that story,” he said.
One of the more enjoyable stories to cover was UW–Platteville’s men’s basketball team under coach Bo Ryan. Under Ryan, the Pioneers won NCAA Division III championships in 1991, 1995, 1998 and 1999. The 1995 and 1998 teams went undefeated.
“That was from the sports standpoint a real joy,” he said. “We’d go see a playoff game in Springfield, Ohio, and there’d be several hundred Platteville fans making that trip.”
The Final Four was held in Salem, Va., and “That was a long trip, but we enjoyed it. And Bo was kind of fun to be around. He needed some help in promoting the program, so we helped him with a lot of publicity, he developed — not totally because of what we did — a program that was just a tremendous thing for Platteville. It was a lot of fun.”
Brockman also got to see the Chicago Bears come to Platteville in 1984, and leave in 2001.
“It did a lot of good for Platteville,” he said. “It was to some extent hard on Platteville. It was costly and so forth, but on the other hand people came in and they spent a lot of money. It was a great thrill to meet Walter Payton — a tremendous individual.”
There also was Brockman’s unusual encounter with coach Mike Ditka.
“I got kissed by Ditka,” he said. “I hosted the chamber picnic the first couple of years, when it wasn’t so big, when there were maybe 200 people out there. One time I introduced Ditka, and he came up and kissed me. So that was kind of different.”
Although Brockman’s name wasn’t attached to most of his stories or photos, his work appeared prominently in one spot in each edition — his front-page column, The Gospel According to Eddie Tor.
Brockman wrote about what was happening in the Platteville area and beyond each week. Column ideas came from the numerous meetings he covered, or state, national or world events. The most talked-about Gospels, though, were based on local issues.
“Sometimes they wouldn’t talk to me for several days,” he said. “Sometimes I’d get a kind of mean-spirited look. But it was just my way of doing things, and I never gave up on it.
“I just figured if I was going to write a column I’d write that kind of column. I got more of my comments in the paper from that column, and most of them were positive.”
Every few weeks, Brockman would set his column in a fictional barnyard, with various characters representing participants in the issue of the day.
“There just were occasions where that was the best way to get my message across,” he said. “And everybody in town knew who I was talking about. There was no question about that.”
Brockman has seen Platteville change considerably in his 65 years.
“It’s certainly more modernistic, I’d guess you’d say,” he said. “The changes have almost all been positive.”
Brockman is most proud of being part of the effort to revive Platteville Dairy Days when it appeared the festival might be dying out.
“Dairy Days was just about ready to end, and I and a group of about five others tried to revive it, and we were successful,” he said. “We put a lot of money into it.”
Dairy Days was one example of community efforts for which Brockman got little public credit for his behind-the-scenes participation, financial and otherwise.
“They knew that I was there, they probably knew I was the chairman, but I don’t think they realized how much money went into it,” he said. “There were years when I had spent $15,000 of my own money to keep it going.”
Another effort was the Platteville Mining Museum. That effort began when an effort was made to find out what was in the mine underneath the east end of downtown Platteville.
“Nobody really knew at the time what was down there,” he said. “It showed there was quite a variety of things down there, and it proved that there was enough down there to go ahead with the project. Without that there probably wouldn’t be a mining museum today.”
Brockman decided to sell The Journal for two reasons.
“It was getting too costly for me to operate,” he said. “Morris made me an offer that I couldn’t refuse.”
Morris also publishes the Grant County Herald Independent in Lancaster, the Tri-County Press in Cuba City, the Darlington Republican Journal, the Fennimore Times, the Boscobel Dial, the Muscoda Progressive, the Crawford County Independent and Kickapoo Scout in Gays Mills, and the Hillsboro Sentry–Enterprise.
The other reason? His wife, Kathy.
“I got married, and when you get married, you have to give up some things and do others,” he said. “And I could not ask Kathy to handle all of those meetings, having me be gone, all the meetings that I would go to and she wasn’t there, and I wasn’t there to be with her.”