Goodbye old building, hello old friends
I knew saying goodbye to the Des Moines Register was going to be tough but also a joy, and it was. On Saturday, June 8, 2013, a bunch of us — 100 or more — gathered on the fourth floor of 715 Locust to say goodbye to the building that has housed the Register (and the Tribune) for 95 years.
I learned two months ago about the impending move and two weeks ago I had heard that the building might be demolished, which really upset me. I felt this “reunion” was not long about seeing the people but also the 13-floor building. After all, I had spent more than half of my journalistic career in that building. In hindsight, focusing on the building allowed me to avoid just how emotional the day was going to be.
With my friends Lisa and Larry, we started on the 13 1/2 floor — yes, that’s what it was called, also known as the attic. That’s where decades of Register and Tribune history had been stored, in the form of bound volumes and film negatives. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get in. Fortunately, the contents of the attic had been saved.
As we worked our way down from 13, what we saw was a building that has long been neglected. It was a shame to see water fountains on every floor with “Do Not Use” signs and windows that could no longer be used.
By the time we got to the newsroom on 4, the place was hot, humid and only partially lit. It reminded me of what we suffered through in the summer of 1995, during the flood that knocked out power and water to the building. After all of this, it was easy to let the building go.
We were among the first to arrive for the event and it didn’t take us long to shift our focus from saying goodbye to saying hello — to old friends with whom we had grown and share so much. We retold story after story — most of which were the personal kind that would never has seen the ink of the newspapers. We recorded a lot of history together at the newspapers, but there were personal stories, about roller skating up and down the halls, about telling a co-worker that he didn’t intimidate me, about company cars that were misplaced and who was dating whom. It was great stuff.
Editor Rick Green gave a great speech to us, wonderful words of thanks for what we had done there and encouragement that he and his crew would carry on the very proud tradition that is The Des Moines Register.
It turns out that I really can’t do justice here to what this event — what these people — mean to me. I’m still too emotional about it. Go to Doug Wells’ Facebook page for more photos from the day. He did a good job, as he always does.