A Time of Transformation

A Time of Transformation

Copyright 2007, Traffic World, Inc.

Traffic World in my days boasted a number of luminaries, but any reminiscing would have to start and end with the incomparable Joe Scheleen.

Scheleen was "Mr. Traffic World" to the transportation industry. To me he was always "Mr. Scheleen," one of only a few colleagues in the newspaper business that I ever felt compelled to call "Mr." If he didn''t like what you did, he could be a terror. But if he did like it, he would be the first with the compliments. Joe was a lot of things, but above all he was a real "pro."

Our only major run-in occurred in the first year or so that I joined Traffic World as associate editor. In covering a meeting of the Delta Nu Alpha Transportation Fraternity - one of Scheleen''s pet organizations - I quoted extensively from remarks made by an official of the Interstate Commerce Commission - another Scheleen favorite. The speaker didn''t like what I wrote and complained to Scheleen, who backed me up publicly but in private asked me to write a "clarification just to keep the peace." I did.

A stickler for accuracy and great detail, Scheleen once spotted an error in a cover highlight and insisted on writing a long correction the following week, also on the cover. His editorials always were a source of much discussion, in and out of the office. Joe insisted on writing all of them, even if he was under the weather, on vacation or covering a meeting out of town. Those were the times we dreaded, because he would mail us a five or six-page editorial - all in long hand.

Delton Pattie, his long-time managing editor, made many a telephone call to Joe to decipher a word or sentence before it was typed and dispatched to the production room.

It was a long time before the "young turks" on the staff convinced Scheleen of the merits of a byline, even though their stories did not originate at an out-of-town event. It was longer still - not until 1973 - that we persuaded him to recognize the existence of women in the transportation industry. Before that, the little box at the top of the masthead described Traffic World as "A working tool for traffic and transportation men."

After much prodding, he changed it to, "A working tool for the traffic and transportation profession."

I look on 1982 as the year that began the transformation of Traffic World to the publication that it is today. That was the year that Scheleen, who joined the company in 1940 in Chicago, retired, sort of - he continued to write the editorials - and Delton Pattie took over as editor.

The next step in the transformation came in 1986, when in two short months Traffic World lost its long-time paternal publisher to cancer and the inimitable Scheleen to a stroke. E.F. Hamm Jr., was 76 when he died in March and Scheleen 80 when he died two months later. Delton continued at the helm through early 1986 when, after 51 years with the company, he too retired. A sad postscript to Delton''s retirement is that he barely had time to settle into his real passion - working his farm in Pennsylvania - when he suffered the first of two strokes in September 1987 and was confined, partially paralyzed, to a wheelchair.

The year 1986 also found the Traffic Service Corp., parent company of Traffic World, sold to International Thomson Transport Press. That date also marked the end of my 23-year association with Traffic World.

I have to admit that I am not often given to reminiscing. But I have to admit, too, that this assignment gave me the singular opportunity to recall numerous memories, some happy, some sad, but all of them priceless.