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Beacon on the hill

A longtime Capitol Hill newspaper closes after 109-year run.

Angela Botzer March 26th, 2014

Growing up in the newspaper publishing business, David Sellers had journalism and publishing in his blood. When he recently sold the newspaper originally purchased by his father, Eugene Sellers, in 1945, a lot of fond memories were packaged up in the two-story brick building on SW 25th Street.

David Sellers
Photo by Mark Hancock

The Capitol Hill Beacon was established in 1905 as the Capitol Hill News, and David Sellers became a publishing partner in 1967 after learning printing and presswork and earning his journalism degree. He is also known as a leader in the Capitol Hill and south side area of OKC, with a strong bond that runs deep in volunteerism throughout the community.

Over the decades, society and publishing changed rapidly.

The difficulty was when there was an exodus of businesses and residents from the Capitol Hill area to the suburbs in the 1970s.

“There were many factors that led to the crossroads,” Sellers said. “Businesses hold the publication together, [and] when businesses moved out, school population dropped off by half.”

Fortunately, there is a Main Street program underway to bring new life and revitalization to the Capitol Hill area.

As the area has experienced ups and downs, Sellers too has had to adapt to his changing neighborhood and to changes in the publishing business.

In 1945, when Eugene Sellers bought the paper, foundry type was still in use. In the 1970s and 1980s, offset printing swept the industry. In 1985, the Beacon was the first newspaper in Oklahoma to embrace Macintosh computers. Sellers still has one of those old computers in his possession. It was on display at a recent farewell party for the paper at Grill on the Hill, 324 SW 25th St.

The newspaper has focused on local news coverage, business, community events, classifieds and sports, but it has also covered the odd story or two; one of the most infamous is the “bear story” in 1958. Sellers recited the story with his own unique flair.

Buck Robinson, a rodeo clown, entertainer and rather rough character, had a rodeo act that included a black bear.

As a practical joke, Robinson walked his 600-pound bear on a leash into the former Capitol Hill Coffee Shop, at the time on S. Robinson Avenue (near the Beacon office). Knowing ahead of time that this was going to happen, a Beacon photographer was there, poised to capture the moment.

The coffee shop’s cook was frying chicken and became terrified and ran out the door when the bear entered the restaurant. When the photographer snapped the picture, the flashbulb exploded, scaring the bear and causing it to run out into the street, dragging Robinson after it.

What does Sellers think will remain the same in journalism throughout time?

“There will always be a need for journalists to digest the news for others,“ he said.

In February, it was announced that the Choctaw Times purchased the Capitol Hill Beacon and transferred its subscriber base and legalities to the Mustang Times.

When asked about his philosophy on life, Sellers recounted his take on the nursery rhyme “Row, Row, Row, Your Boat”:

“Row, row, row your boat. Work your own boat; don’t work other people’s boats.

Gently down the stream — not upstream, down the stream; go with the flow.

Merrily, merrily, merrily merrily; enjoy life, enjoy yourself!

Life is but a dream. Life is a memory.

It’s what’s left. You can’t see the future. You can’t change the past. It’s a dream. All you have is right now, the present.”

Members of the community expressed their sadness that the interminable paper was finished.

“David Sellers is an amazing man, a pillar of our community, and losing the Beacon and his honest perspective on news through his eyes leaves a void in our neighborhood,” said Elaine Lyons, president of South Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce.

With the paper sold, Sellers and his wife, Gay, plan to move to Arkansas to be closer to their family. The couple plans to collect and organize all of the Beacon archival material and eventually put it on the Internet.

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