8/29/2013 3:01:00 PM Letter: Verde Independent made Jerome a 'ghost town'
Re: The Naming of Jerome as a ghost town: In the early 1950s Bill and Fran Wright owned the Verde Independent. On their decision to take a vacation they asked a friend from the East to come and spend a couple of weeks as a guest editor. The friend was Joe Laiten, who had been on the U.S.S. Missouri when the peace treaty for World War Two was signed, working for Reuters out of London. I was doing a column, and Fran and I were friends so she asked me to come in as his assistant while they traveled (I believe back to Pennsylvania) which I was both honored and happy to do.
Joe and I struck it off well and I tried to be his guide over the scenes of the Verde and to give him as much local color (gossip) as I thought he might need to know. He made a friend of the man who was head custodian of Tuzigoot and we often went to coffee together.
One of the first coffees was at the Twin's Café in Cottonwood. Joe was moaning that there was no "headline news" for the week's paper and I smarted off "Flash! Jerome is a Ghost Town." The two men laughed and then they put their heads (and hands) together and painted the famous sign and installed it. Then a picture was put on the front page of that issue of the Independent, which Joe promptly sent to his friends back East. The picture showed up in Life Magazine and Look Magazine and I am not sure where else, and the reaction in Jerome according to the letters to the editors was vitriolic. After all of the publicity the tenor of the letters changed and not only was the idea accepted, it was embraced. Thus Jerome received national coverage in its new role.
The last I heard of Joe was as an Under Secretary to the Navy Department in Washington, D.C. I am sorry I cannot remember the other man's name for sure but Brewer comes to mind, and I know it should all be in the newspaper's archives along with the letters pro and con.
It has been a long time ago but I would like to set the record straight. The Independent is the real "source of the "Ghost Town."