Phoenix, Arizona / Monday, April 14, 2008
© 2008 by JPB Publishing Ltd.
Avenue Weather: Partly cloudy with possible late afternoon showers. High 86 / Low 53
Crusader turns 40
(BP) - JPB Publishing Ltd. and Joan De Arc Avenue today celebrate four decades of journalistic excellence as the venerable Joan De Arc Crusader newspaper observes its 40th birthday.
Originally conceived as a simple street newspaper by founder John Bueker in 1968, the Crusader has evolved over the years into an online empire embracing everything from local street news to biting social commentary and celebrated Web sites of Phoenix nostalgia. In 2000, the paper established the Crusader Foundation, which administers the organization’s vast archive of documents and memorabilia, and directs its program of advanced studies in Joan De Arc history.
Initially christened “The Sloppy Gazette” by Bueker in early 1968, the paper was soon renamed to its famous appellation at the suggestion of John’s father Carl Bueker, and began its run on April 14, 1968.
In the early years, the newspaper faithfully reported on stories of local interest such as the birth and death of family pets, and the importance of observing holidays like “Children’s Day.” In more recent times, the focus of the paper has shifted to an endless rehashing of the events of the early years.
In honor of the historic anniversary, Bueker has given all Crusader employees the day off without pay.
Newspaper born amid turbulent ‘60s
By J. Beaver
By any imaginable measure, 1968 was an extraordinarily eventful year.
The Tet Offensive erupted across Vietnam. The assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy shocked the world and traumatized the nation. The Democratic Convention in Chicago descended into bedlam and paved the way for the election of Richard Nixon. The Soviet Union suddenly invaded Czechoslovakia. The Summer Olympics in Mexico City promised diversion but then delivered yet more political discord. The Beatles released the incomparable “White Album.” Apollo 8 circled the moon on Christmas Eve, ending the year on a hopeful note and foreshadowing the triumphal lunar landings the following year.
And the “Crusader” came to Joan De Arc Avenue.
In one sense, it is not surprising that a period of such momentous change would witness the inception of such a singular entity as the Joan De Arc Crusader. After all, the late ‘60s were a time of seemingly endless possibilities, and the Phoenix area a place of palpably rapid metamorphosis. What remains baffling is the enduring popularity of this kid’s street newspaper from 1968. Why didn’t this thing die out in 1970?
Oh wait, that’s right. It did.
The story of the Crusader actually begins a year earlier in 1967, with a disgruntled Sue Bueker and her increasingly frustrated attempts to persuade her father to take his children to the popular Phoenix tropical fish shop Neptune’s Garden. Not one to surrender easily, Sue shrewdly settled on the “cuteness” angle, hitting upon the idea of protesting the situation through the novelty of a newspaper page, which she swiftly executed on the family typewriter. Carl Bueker was so delighted and amused with this imaginative gesture that he carefully crafted a charmingly witty response on the very same typewriter. And then still refused to go to Neptune’s Garden.
Nice try there, Sue. You did give it a hell of a shot.
Meanwhile, this whimsical journalistic exchange did not go unnoticed by nine-year-old John Bueker, on whom it left a decisive impression. Young Bueker soon responded by proposing the publication of an ongoing family newspaper, and by late 1967, he was diligently working on the new enterprise. The light bulb was alit.
The name “Crusader” emerged as a direct inspiration of the turbulent times in which the paper was born. As legend has it, Carl Bueker’s disapproval of John’s original name for the new publication, “The Sloppy Gazette,” led him instead to suggest “Joan De Arc Crusader,” a clever and thinly veiled reference to wife Barbara’s penchant for vociferously engaging the popular political and social movements of the day. The name stuck, and thus was Joan De Arc history made.
The Crusader debuted on April 14, 1968, reporting on such diverse news stories as the joys of Easter vacation, the death of Timothy the Dickey family turtle, and the eagerly anticipated end of the academic year at Sahuaro School. No fewer than eight separate editions of the newspaper were issued that first year. The Crusader staff quickly expanded to include reporters Chuck Bueker, Mark Wells and Chris Dickey, and the Mitchell and Russell families became the first regular subscribers. The Crusader was a hit.
Success however proved fleeting. Interest waned. The paper’s staff wandered off to explore other pursuits. The Crusader eventually entered an extended period of hiatus in 1970, reemerging only in 1993 to announce the sudden and unexpected employment of publisher John Bueker as a public school teacher. Intended as a one-time novelty knock-off, the “25th Anniversary Edition” actually signaled the revival of the long lost street newspaper. Further editions began to appear.
In 1998, Charles Bueker III rejoined the paper and began his spectacularly popular “Chuck’s Corner” column, which features the writer’s assorted musings regarding life during the Joan De Arc years and in the here and now. The Crusader went online that same year, dramatically increasing its readership by an estimated eleven readers.
The Joan De Arc Crusader’s run has not been without controversy. A 1968 column protesting the non-stop television coverage of Robert Kennedy’s demise drew a mixed response from readers, as did the paper’s unsuccessful attempts to organize a millennium street block party for New Year’s Eve 1999. The most popular features in recent years have included a scintillating interview with Joan De Arc veteran residents Bill and Helen Mitchell in 2002, and extensive coverage of Barbara Bueker Stewart’s 75th birthday celebration last year.
When asked about his future designs for the Crusader, Bueker said, “I don’t foresee any major changes in the years ahead. I think we’ve achieved the perfect mix of overt silliness, sappy nostalgia and obscure local news stories. This is what our readers have come to expect from us, and it is this public whom we so proudly serve.
“Not that much has changed since ’68, really.”
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