For the sixth anniversary issue, the first real editor of the Times, Bill Terry, spun a lively history of the early days. Given what he had to say, our biggest story ever might just be that we're still around after all these years. Here's an excerpt.
People often ask: How did the Arkansas Times get started? The answer is that no sane publishing organization in the state or the southwest would have anything to do with the fellow who wanted to publish the magazine, Alan Leveritt, nor with the person what had been approached by Leveritt as a potential editor mainly because Leveritt, at age 21, had a particularly hard time listening to reason (particularly to his mentors at the Arkansas Gazette, where he was trying to find wisdom and fulfillment on the obit desk) and because the editor to be (myself) at age 43 had practically no reason left at all, or so was the general consensus at the time, and is still partly true.
What all this means is that the people at the Gazette told Alan that if he wanted to publish a magazine, he couldn't write obits anymore, and Alan said "OK," and they fired him. My story is that I had got fired at the Democrat for activities like throwing antique typewriters into wastebaskets and for, in general, not doing right. Like, for example, I was the wire editor, and on the day J. Edgar Hoover died, I was playing chess in the sports department with a guy named Fred Morrow and missed the first 20 minutes of the breaking story, one considered fairly important at the time.
So, we met, Alan and I, two unemployed and unemployable writers, one who wanted to publish a magazine and one who wanted to know why, and after some discussion on the subject, it was decided there really wasn't a good reason why not.
In the beginning, Alan and a fellow named Vernon Tucker were the co-editors, but after a few months, Vernon decided he wanted to be a musician (with the Greasy Greens) and moved out. I came on part-time in the fall of 1974 (the first issue was printed Sept. 5, 1974) and full time in July 1975 on the terms that I would receive no pay for at least a year and would not be allowed to take a pencil home.
I will never forget that first day at the office. Back then, Alan had one pair of pants, two shirts, and a pair of shoes with one sole that flapped. He drove a 1961 black and white Ford that was scarred like a cueball and had tires slick as cannonballs, and he lived in the Terminal Hotel in a $10 a week room with a warehouse view and neighbors down the hall who went to bed and got up in the morning thinking of muscatel. Alan had come into the office a few minutes before, and it was raining. The door wouldn't shut tight, the rain was blowing in and there were two or three leaks in the roof that splattered on the floor making a sound like a very slow and half-crazy clock. A cat came in, looked around and went back out into the rain. The place was drafty: on the order of driving a car with the windows down, and it had a chain-pull toilet that flushed with a kind of wail and groan that reminded you of a boatload of people sinking. On one wall was an art drawing of a woman wrapped up with a large snake around her shoulders and waist and an expression on her face that was somewhere between dehiscent terror and reptilian love. The furniture was what you would call gothic salvage, and included ripped chairs, leaning desks, a table made of unfinished plywood set on concrete blocks and a couple of typewriters with unreadable keys. Not the New York Times.
Alan wasn't the only one there. His partners included Rodney Lorenzen (now owner of the Paperback Writer Bookstore), Rodney's girlfriend (now his wife) Lindy Fair, and David Glenn, a New Yorker who lived in the back of the building because he couldn't afford even the Terminal Hotel. They were all sitting around rolling up 32-page pulp magazines with rubber bands and pitching them into a dry corner for later delivery, free, to potential subscribers, of whom there were some 40 or so at the time. Alan got up to shake my hand, and I said, looking around at everything: "We're going to set the world on fire!"
It was a way of saying we didn't have a chance, and it seemed like a humorous way to put it. But Alan leaned forward a bit and looked into my eyes, deeper than my mother ever has, and said: "You bet your ass!"
Right then, I knew I was going to lose it and that I would never get it back again.