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The nicest ogre I’ve ever known

The nicest ogre I’ve ever known The nicest ogre I’ve ever known

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This month marks the ninth anniversary of the loss of former owner and publisher of the Courier Sentinel, Trygg J. Hansen. Trygg was the publisher for 37 years. He was not only my former boss, but a treasured friend who I miss immensely.

Trygg had the persona of being gruff and abrupt, and at first glance, seemed an intimidating, imposing figure. But for those who really knew him, he was a generous, warm, kind individual with a sharp wit. I want to share with you the man I knew.

It’s embarrassing to admit, but when I first started working for Trygg, I was a dumb, green kid, who didn’t have the faintest notion of what working for a weekly newspaper entailed. More often than not, Trygg would yell at me for some careless, inept mistake and I would cry. Not my proudest moment, to be sure, but I had recently divorced, just moved to Cornell, and started a new job working for an ogre. (Yes, I’ve always been melodramatic.) This was a daily routine, until one day, instead of crying, I yelled back. Trygg’s face registered surprise, then approval as he snorted humph at me, then gave that half smile he gave when he was up to mischief. That was the day I finally understood Trygg. He was all bark and no bite. It took me a few months to realize that Trygg could handle anything but tears. He didn’t know how to cope with tears.

I have great memories that make my heart happy when I think about them. First of all, he was a huge supporter of anything for children. It didn’t matter if four elementary students came into the office selling items for the same fundraiser, he would impartially buy from each child.

The Cornell Theatre used to sponsor a free Christmas movie, offering a photo taken with Santa after the show, and giving a goody bag of peanuts in a shell, a candy cane and an orange. When the theater closed, I remarked to Trygg it was a shame that someone couldn’t organize an event so the yearly Santa visits could continue.

Trygg’s response was, “So do it.”

I replied, “Maybe I will.”

He told me if I undertook the task, he could guarantee the Cornell Lions Club, being a member himself, would sponsor it. And that is how the Kids Community Christmas Party came about.

We often reminisce in the office how some of the Courier’s delivery vehicles weren’t exactly in pristine working condition. Though I wasn’t employed here yet, at one time a hearse was used for newspaper deliveries. We have been regaled with the tale by Brenda, a delivery person then, how the defrost/ heater was broken and she lined lit tea lights across the dash to keep the window from fogging over. Can you imagine the sight of a hearse, with lit candles in the front window, rolling past?

We used a van as conveyance that was sketchy, at best. The ABS (anti-lock braking system) light always stayed on. It was disconcerting, but widely accepted as the norm. The only time we actually became alarmed was driving over a bump while delivering papers. The van hit the bump with such force, the ABS light went off. Extremely disturbing, since it was commonplace to see it on. That same van had a transmission that would slip. Even driving up the slightest incline, the motor would rev excessively. Which was the forewarning to brace yourself, as it kicked into gear, so as not to endure permanent, debilitating whiplash.

The windshield wiper blades and washer fluid mechanism had issues, as well. On an early morning trip to pick up the newspapers from the print shop in Osseo, the fog and bugs were equally thick. Fortunately, I had a bottle of water with me. I kept throwing water out the driver’s side window onto the windshield to keep it clear enough to see.

The vehicles weren’t the only source of amusement. The old Courier building provided plenty of laughs over the years. The day Joy Dain, ad design specialist, came for a job interview, it was a torrential downpour. There was almost as much rain inside the building as there was out. The roof had leaks everywhere. Trygg’s solution was to wrap a flannel shirt around one of the hanging lights to help absorb the excess water. (No fire or electrocution hazard there.) At any given time, various coffee cans, buckets or wastebaskets could be found in strategic locations catching drips.

There was an apartment above the front part of the office, where the editor, at that time, lived, that contained a bathtub with inadequate drainage. Somehow, the grease trap would overflow and spill onto the ceiling tiles down below, making them constantly waterlogged. I held my breath walking into the office every morning, for fear I would find the bathtub, containing said naked editor, sitting on top the printer.

There are so many additional stories to share, but those can be saved for another day. It was my great fortune to get to know the real man behind the “ogre.”