Election Day brings back memories


By David Lindeman

Contributing columnist

Election Day always brings back some good memories.

It’s not that my candidates or causes always win – far from it. I’ve never run for office myself, so that’s not it, either. But back in the days before the Internet, Election Day was about as much fun as a newspaper person could have. So last week as I waited on Election Day to see if the Troy school bond issue was going to pass, I started thinking about Election Day at the old Troy Daily News.

Before the Internet, if you wanted to know how things were going on Election Day, you could listen to the radio, watch the TV or call the newspaper. Every Election Night we would order up a bunch of food from Ording’s and bring everyone in to work. The reporters would be at the Board of Elections. We would have a group of people manning the phones back at the office. We told our readers to call. Then, in between roast beef or ham and cheese sandwiches, we’d answer the phones. Reporters would get the latest results as they were counted and call us. We would relay the information on to anyone who called in.

And lots of people called. There were a couple hours when the phones would not stop ringing. If, for some reason the vote counting happened to be delayed, which seemed to happen a lot back then, people would keep calling and calling until all the votes were in.

That’s when the work really started. The reporters got comments from candidates and wrote their stories. The photographers would return to the office and start banging around in the darkroom to produce pictures. I would start to put all those stories together and would end up working most of the night getting them ready for the next day’s paper. It sounds kind of rough now, but back then I just remember it being lots of fun. The writers weaved the stories and we put them together to make sure the next day’s paper had everything anyone wanted to know about local elections.

I can still remember some of the most amusing calls we’d get throughout the day. Invariably, someone would call in the middle of the afternoon, long before the polls closed, and ask, “Who’s winning?” We’d have to explain to them that no votes would be counted until the polls closed, so there wouldn’t be any results until later in the evening.

If there was a delay at the board of the elections counting the votes, people would decide it was our fault and start to give us a hard time because we didn’t have the results yet. It didn’t do much good to explain that we weren’t actually counting the votes. We’d just tell them to call back later.

On the other hand, if a local tax issue was doing well, supporters might thank us for winning the election.

You could count on there being problems. It was always tricky getting results from contests such as Congressional races or statehouse races or even some issues that crossed county lines. We sometimes would have trouble getting other counties to provide the results. In some of these races, you could win Miami County but still lose the elections. We had to be sure people understood that things could change by the time they woke up in the morning.

Even in those days, there would be inevitable technological glitches. I remember one night we had trouble with our phones. It seemed like the Board of Elections always was having trouble with the vote-counting process or someone who was bringing a box of ballots in from a faraway precinct would turn up AWOL for a while. Disappointed candidates would hide from reporters. A photographer would have trouble with some film (yes, cameras used film back then). But the unexpected was part of the appeal. We never knew exactly what the next day’s paper would look like until it rolled off the press (and even then sometimes we would discover some unwanted surprises).

One thing was certain: that food from Ording’s always was good. It took on an extra special flavor on Election Night.

Once upon a time, Election Night at the newspaper was like our Super Bowl and Academy Awards celebration rolled into one day. The reporters and photographers and editors at least for that one night worked like a perfect team. It was like a symphony – well, if your symphony included people throwing things at you and cussing you out and the lights going out and various other potential catastrophes cropping up all through the performance.

It’s all different now. Even Ording’s is gone. No matter how much things change, though, those nights in past Novembers always will be special.

David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected].

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