SCHUYLER, Neb. — Back in the frontier days, the Schuyler Sun slugged it out with 12 other newspapers for readership in this Platte River town.

By 1955 the only survivor was the Sun, which merged that year with the community’s “Democrat paper,” the Colfax County Call.

Like lots of small-town papers, the Sun chronicled the events of the community, from birth announcements and obituaries to catastrophic fires and high school athletics, to the police blotter and social news such as who ate with whom that week.

Subscribers were so eager to get the weekly paper that on publication day, Wednesday, vehicles used to circle the Sun office, waiting for the paper to come “hot off the presses.”

“Not Yet” read a big sign posted in the Sun’s window on press day.

“You’d drive around and drive around until the ‘Not Yet’ sign was down, and then you could pick up your paper,” said Betty Brichacek, a board member of the Schuyler Historical Society.

Now, the “Not Yet” sign and the machinery, files and furnishings needed to put out a community paper are part of a unique museum, set up by local townspeople to save the history and memories of a publication that chronicled the town’s heart and soul.

Two years ago, citing a need to cut costs, the Iowa corporation that owns the 146-year-old newspaper closed the Sun office in Schuyler and moved operations 17 miles away to Columbus.

The contents of the Sun office, which includes some sturdy iron printing presses dating back to the 1880s, were destined for auction, and probably the scrap heap.

Brichacek and her husband, Lloyd, refused to let that happen.

The retired couple used to order handbills, business cards and posters printed by the Sun for their auction business. When asked to explain their emotional attachment to the old office, they pointed to a cabinet full of bound copies of newspapers that date back to when Schuyler was a stop on the Union Pacific line called Shell Creek Station.

“That’s our history there,” Betty said.

“It would have been a shame for all this to go,” Lloyd said.

The couple and more than a dozen volunteers have faithfully cleaned up the old Schuyler Sun office and turned it into an annex museum of the historical society.

Betty put up half of the $20,000 purchase price herself; the city of Schuyler, a community of 6,200 about 70 miles west of Omaha, put up the rest. Donations and fundraisers keep the heat on.

When the historical society took possession of the Sun building, a half-eaten sandwich still sat on one of the desks, attesting to the sudden closing of the office.

The place is filled with relics of newspapering’s past, such as an Intertype machine; a remelter, where the lead type was melted and reused; and drawers full of wood-block type and images. One displays the logo of the Schuyler Warriors, the high school sports nickname.

Machines that cut paper, folded it, stapled it, then collated the pages and bound them up with string sit waiting for visitors. There are laminators, platemakers and a darkroom where a red light eerily illuminated the process of developing film and printing photos.

The place even smells like a newspaper office, an amalgam of ink, paper, wax and developing chemicals.

“We wanted it to stay like it was when the Schuyler Sun was in business,” Lloyd said.

Closing down the office was a bitter pill. To illustrate the hurt, the Brichaceks have left the clock in the front office frozen at 5 p.m. and have placed an “x” on the date the paper closed: April 29, 2015.

It’s sort of like the “day the music died” — the song lamenting the death of rocker Buddy Holly — except it pays homage to the demise of a local newspaper.

At one time 30 people worked at the Sun, folks with archaic titles like “printer’s devil” and “Linotype operator.” When the Sun office closed, only one reporter remained.

“They were proud of the work they did,” Betty said of the employees.

There is still an editor for the Schuyler Sun, but he is located at the Columbus Telegram, whose staff also helps provide content.

But the Brichaceks say it isn’t the same. An important local business is gone, as is the connection with a local editor, available in a local office, who focused solely on local news.

The Sun had been owned for decades by the Svoboda family until it was sold in 1998 to Independent Media Group and later to Lee Enterprises, based in Davenport, Iowa.

“You always hate to lose local ownership of stuff. But when you sell out to a big company, they do what they want to do,” said Michael Rea, one of the last local editors.

Saving the old newspaper office was a great idea, said Rea, now a librarian.

The Schuyler Sun annex museum is open during town festivals and by appointment. Call Betty or Lloyd Brichacek at 402-615-0353 or 402-615-0857 to visit.

* * *

After cuffing suspects at the conclusion of a recent two-state high-speed chase, deputies with the Boyd County Sheriff’s Office made a startling discovery.

Among the items found in a car carrying two South Dakota fugitives was a pile of Iraqi dinars, the currency of that war-torn country.

How a haul that added up to 280,000 dinars ended up in the vehicle in Lynch, Nebraska, is a mystery, according to Deputies Grant Hitchcock and Albert Lee.

Lee, who’s worked 40 years in law enforcement, said that counterfeiters sometimes bleach foreign currency and reuse the paper in their criminal endeavor. But that didn’t seem like the case in the Feb. 9 discovery.

Maybe, the deputies guessed, the Iraqi money had been taken in a burglary. Neither of the suspects had a military past, so the cash wasn’t a souvenir of their tours in Iraq.

Whatever the source, the Iraqi cash wasn’t worth much.

At the current exchange rate, the foreign money would be worth only about $234 American., 402-473-9584

Reporter - Regional/state issues

Paul covers state government and affiliated issues. He specializes in tax and transportation issues, following the governor and the state prison system. Follow him on Twitter @PaulHammelOWH. Phone: 402-473-9584.

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