By Jeff Johnson
The Brookfield Enterprise was started in 1932 by Porter Reubendahl, a former linotype operator and publisher of The Melrose Parker newspaper, as a weekly paper full of advertisements from Brookfield businesses.
In a personal tape recording from 1982, my grandfather Elmer Johnson recounted first meeting Reubendahl:
"I first met Mr. Reubendahl in the early 40's when I was interested in becoming a newspaper owner. I had worked for the "news" for almost 15 years and was interested in going out on my own- I read an ad in the Trib for a newspaper for sale in Brookfield, I had only heard of Brookfield before as home of the zoo and I had visited the zoo only once previous to visiting Mr. Reubendahl's office on Prairie avenue in Brookfield. The paper was for sale for $5,000, on inspecting the shop, I found that it was very badly equipped, the linotype was very old, the press was a small four-page dealer, capable of printing four full-size pages or eight tab pages at one time, but was not in the best condition. I decided at the time not to buy the business, not to invest any money in the Brookfield shop."
At this time, Elmer had moved with his wife Genevieve from his boyhood home in Gage Park to a small apartment in Arlington Heights that they now shared with their first child Kathie Rose. As he has stated so many years later Elmer was actively looking for an opportunity to become a newspaper owner and put in to practice all that he had learned and yearned to do. And yet, while he was passionate about taking the reins and shaping a newspaper to his vision, he was also cautious, as he was a husband and father with a young family in need of stability.
Passion and stability are a tricky mix- It's difficult to feel the drive, desire, and danger deep down where your creativity meets your adventure and still feel the need to nurture. We're all chasing mountains (big or small) and it's easy to leave others behind.
But Elmer wisely bided his time and soon enough (strangely enough) he was rewarded.
"As strange as life is- it wasn't many years later that I was answering another ad in the Tribune, where a newspaper wanted an editor. I corresponded and found out the job was in Brookfield at the Enterprise Publishing Company- it was then owned by Robert Hladik and Morrel Gross. I set up an interview and was hired as editor of the paper. I told Gross that I would only take the job if he would give me a two year contract, as I had a good job at the Daily News and had been working there for fifteen years, where I learned my printing trade, as a printer; as an apprentice and a journeyman printer. I had learned and been the make-up editor of the front page of the daily news for the last two years before I left- and I learned the trade of linotype and make up of pages from the Daily News and was very well educated in their style."
In 1949 Elmer Johnson bought Gross and Hladik out to become sole owner of the Brookfield Enterprise. Beginning in the Early-1950's Elmer billed the paper as "Brookfield's Picture Newspaper" and "A Picture News-Weekly" which all but guaranteed that the new look and content of the paper would reflect Elmer's concentrated interest and previous experience in news and with photography.
Indeed, in that same recording from 1982, Elmer proclaimed, "My career in photography didn't really start until I became editor of the Brookfield Enterprise."