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Did you know that until 1952, the police department in the town of Milan Mi (aka small town USA), was located within the home of a one man police force by the name of Tom Goodridge. Deputized in 1923 (as a volunteer until 1935) Goodridge followed in his father’s footsteps as the town law enforcement until 1965 when he retired.

How do I know this … I stumbled across an article written on Feb 28, 1979 by then local reporter Isabelle Schultz from then newspaper named “The Milan Leader.”

Meeting Isabelle Schultz almost two years ago, I have learned a great deal about this well rounded astute “young lady.” To say the least, Isabelle is a vibrant and spirited 87 year old woman with deep roots within the Milan, Mi community.

Written Art in it’s purest form?

The box containing the aforementioned article contained 40-50 additional articles spanning over the 30 year period Isabelle reported for local newspapers. As Isabelle was sharing these with me, she would light up and say, “oh! This is a fun one – I remember this one like it was yesterday!” Then, it occurred to me, why I felt compelled to share the moment. It was based on Isabelle’s obvious ownership of her written art.

Try to remember the last time you read a news article and could tell the writer was fully engaged in their work? Picked up a paper and read about a World War I veteran finally receiving his forgotten Purple Heart? The story of a local man building a pig farm from the ground up and how he did it? Stories about ordinary people doing ordinary things? The “box” was full of gems such as these and I could have read each one word for word.

Back to Marshal Goodridge

Not only was it astonishing to see the Marshal’s salary of $22.50/week. Goodridge’s wife answered police and fire calls and issued drivers licenses at the couple’s dining room table, for no compensation!! In fact, for a number of years Goodridge used his own vehicle until Ford Motor Company provided him one for police business (Tom still paid for the oil and gas commenting the V8 was 110 horsepower and got 7 miles to the gallon).

Another thing that stuck out was the portion of the article where Tom talked about taking “young troublemakers home to their parents.” Of course that was far worse than spending the night in the fire barn single jail cell, as one was going to be accountable for their actions immediately to their folks.

Officers of the Peace or Racist Killers?

Enamored by this box of history, reminded me of being in an episode of “Back to the Future.” It wasn’t long ago when local police knew you and your family by name. In that era, a teenager being taken home by an officer for making poor choices had long lasting consequences. Shaming your family name was harder to face then a booking officer at the local jail. Goodridge knew this and used it to his advantage.

Fast forward a few decades. Turn on the medium that has replaced the newspaper (TV, smart phone or a PC) and our local police are made to look like instruments of death. Why are the youth of America taught not to “judge a book by its cover”, but yet extremists sensationalize the uniform of 21st century police as overkill and militaristic? One would have to assume a police officer’s goal is the same as a non officers, at the end of their work day, they get to go home…Alive and Unharmed.

Reports indicate these public servants are iniquitous racists with little regard for diversity or human life within their own communities. Do these type people exist? Absolutely! However, one would have to think for the most part, they are the exception and not the norm. In today’s society, wouldn’t someone “whistle blow” in the event this lawless behavior was occurring unchecked as often as the media would have one believe. A caveat, the statistics being reported with reference to our nation’s local police – the crime results involve more people than just an officer of the peace.

Enough about law enforcement – what about good journalism?

Mrs. Schultz was a marvelous reporter. For no other reason than she wrote to her audience and told them an interesting story. Something that may impact them and even if it didn’t, the reader could and often times were able to relate to it.

She wrote about things important to her and her audience and always kept in mind facts are far superior to individual opinion (or falsehoods) when it comes to reporting. Can the journalists of today make the same proclamation?

There is an Isabelle in your town. He or she may not have a box of articles spanning decades of local history. But they may! One thing is for sure, if we as a society would be more grateful and considerate of our elders – they would in many cases be able to provide us with significant guidance toward a simpler and more relaxed future.